Getting Good Position in Search Engine Results

Search Engine Position

Search engines can bring visitors to your site who are actively looking for information that’s on your site–what a marketing opportunity that is! Not only that, the search engines will bring you these visitors for free. How do you go about getting a good position in search engine results? How can you get that elusive position on the first page of search engine results for the terms that are most relevant to your offering?

This issue doesn’t provide hints or tricks on how to get onto page one–instead, the goal here is to provide a foundation for techniques that will come in later issues. Here we talk about what search engines try to do as businesses, and which sites the search engines want to put onto page one–the foundation, in my view, for the soundest methods for getting that coveted position.

This approach has worked for my clients, time after time, and they can work for you too.  The best way to get the search engines to reward you with a page one position is for you to help them achieve their business goals, a win-win deal.

Search Engines Are Businesses

Let’s look at what a search engine tries to do, as a business. The company wants as many people as possible to use the search engine, so that they’ll see and react to revenue-generating advertising that’s on the site. So the search engine wants to deliver content that’s highly relevant in the listings on page one. All of the other discussion about what search engines do and don’t do has its origins in that one, simple goal–delivering relevant content.

This observation leads to an approach for getting good position in search engine results. Treat your relationship with search engines as a business relationship. The best way to succeed in a business relationships is for each party to meet its own business objectives. And the best way to succeed with search engines is for your site to help the search engines meet their objectives of delivering relevant content–that is, have a lot of current, relevant content!

What This Means

How can we use this approach? The best way to get good search engiine position is to provide a site that the search engine would love to see on page one. A site that’s highly relevant to the topic being searched, a site that presents a lot of fresh content, a site that’s referenced by many other sites, especially authoritative sites. Just provide such a site and you’re on your way to page one! Fundamentally, if you want good search engine position, do this:
  1. Put at least 200 words of relevant content on each page of your site;
  2. Provide each page with a title that’s relevant to its content
  3. Regularly add new content to your site
Without considering any technical issues, if you follow these three guidelines, your site will rank high in search engine results. Whether that alone will get you all the way to page one depends on the competitiveness of the particular topic of interest. In a very competitive topic, you’ll need to deal with technical issues as well.

Can Technology Help?

Of course, a search engine doesn’t have a human being to read and judge the relevance of your site’s relevance to every query–it uses computer programs for that assessment. Those programs use measurements that can be automated and used for hundreds of millions of pages; the goal is to approximate human relevance judgments. If we’re clever, we’ll understand how these programs make their measurements, and we’ll use those measurements as our guide to developing our site.
Now the complexity arrives! Unfortunately, the search engine companies don’t tell us how their programs work, so we have to figure them out, largely by trail and error, but also be reading everything the companies tell us, including even their patent applications. Google has a blog that’s useful, and they have Webmaster guidelines that are helpful as well.
We can also learn from a wide array of paid and free publications and newsletters. In my experience, a lot of the iinformaton that’s circulated in these forums is not helpful or correct and needs to be viewed through the lens of experience. Someone who does this work over time gradually learns what works and what doesn’t work.
Technical measures that are taken to improve search engine position are often labelled white hat and black hat. White hat techniques attempt to align the site with the search engine’s goals, and seek to produce a site that will be judged by search engine software to be what it is. Black hat methods seek to make the site look more relevant than it is. These methods involve risk, because the search engines keep refining their methods to discover black hat techniques, because those techniques interfere with the search engines’ business objectives, so sites discoveed using these techniques can be seriously penalized.
On more than one occasion, my clients have received advice from some friend or “expert” who employed black hat techniques that were discovered by the search engines, resulting in significant losses of traffic for an extended period. Their financial penalities were significant. In my opinion, trying to fool the search engines is just not worth the risk. Yes, the methods may work for a while and appear to be a great way to gain business; but getting zero traffic from a major search engine for months is a heavy price to pay.

The Bottom Line

Improve your search engine position by providing your site with lots of high-quality, relevant content and add more content often. And don’t try to fool the search engines.
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