Search engine companies such as Google and Yahoo are constantly changing the algorithm that determines which pages appear where in their search result pages in an attempt to deliver better and more reliable results to visitors using their search engines.

What the search engines are interested in is providing search results that match up with what their users are searching for. In order to do this they examine dozens of characteristics of a website to determine essentially two things: 1) What is this page about? and 2) How important is this page compared to other pages about the same thing?

To determine what a page is about, search engines will use contextual clues such as what the title of the page is, what text is in the headings of the page, what text is in the content of the page, and even what text on other websites is used to link to the page.

To determine how important a page is Google will look at a number of characteristics such as how old the domain is and how important other websites linking to the page are: Are they just a collection of small personal sites? or are they well-known 'authority' sites such as CNN, Slashdot, and so on?

Despite all the intricacies involved in how webpages are ranked, I find that following a relatively simple principle will at least provide a very good basis for ranking well in search engines:

Sites with well-written and unique content of interest to the target market and are well-coded rank well.

Of course it’s not as simple as it sounds, let’s take a look at what some of the phrases in the above ‘secret’ actually entail.

Well-coded sitesSearch Engines

A well-coded site is a site where the site’s content is easy to read and parse, the relationships between the content is made clear by the use of semantic html. This entails the following:

  • Externally linked scripts such as CSS and Javascript
  • Tableless, CSS-based layouts
  • Compliant with web standards and coded semantically
  • Appropriate use of meta-tags. Different title and description tags on each page.

Original, useful

Ideally a site should have original content, search engines penalize for duplicate content within the same domain and across the entire web using increasingly sophisticated methods. Moreover content that is original and useful is more likely to retain visitors to your site and entice owners of other sites or blogs to provide a link to your content or to your site.

Well-written…Target Market

The site content should contain terms and speak to the target market. Site copy should be written to include and incorporate keywords without sacrificing readability. Accomplishing these goals requires analyses to determine the target market and the appropriate keywords to use on the particular page/site.

Chris Olberding Chris Olberding

Co-founder and Creative Partner at Station Four

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