Search engines use algorithms to rank web sites. Most take a look at certain aspects or parts of a page including the following:
- Number of times a keyword is used on a web page
- Location of keyword (used in title as opposed to in fourth paragraph)
- Number of visitors a web page regularly gets
- Number of sites that link to a page
Web site developers and marketers try to find ways to beat the algorithms to get their web sites to the top ranking. Reputable developers beat the system by providing good content and organically reaching their target market. Less reputable developers try to come up with schemes. (An old favorite was to repeat keyword phrases in white letters in the “white spaces” of a page.)
To keep ahead of the less reputable developers, search engines periodically change their algorithms. In November, Google changed the way they rank web sites – much to the dismay of many developers – reputable and less than reputable. Some people seem to think that Google did this to encourage commercial web sites to buy keyword ads. First, because nonprofit and informational web sites appear to rank higher than commercial sites. Second, because the greatest changes appear to occur for the most popular (and most expensive) keyword terms.
So what does this mean to you?
If you’re a searcher, it could mean that you’re going to find fewer commercial and therefore generally less biased sites for information. If you’re hoping to get your site found it could mean some confusion. However, I think the best strategy is to provide good content and forget about any tricks. One search optimization guide that has been suggested (by Google staff as well as others) is Brett Tabke’s Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone. Another strategy is to consider buying keyword ads – I’ll talk about that next week.
For more information on the Google Dance, check out What Happened to my Site on Google? by SearchEningeWatch. (It’s a great article with links everything even the greatest search geek would ever want to know about recent Google changes.)