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Visibility on Search engines

The visibility of a website is its market reach and in particular this is determined by how well your web pages are positioned on search engines and how other sites link to yours.

In the early days of the internet you could get top search engine rankings by simply optimizing your META tags, however it is not so straight forward any more, for 2 reasons.

  1. Search engines have advanced

  2. Search engines have become commercialized.

1. Search Engines have advanced

A few years ago, the search engines could be tricked into giving pages higher rankings, with the use of techniques such as creating "doorway" pages and web page "cloaking", which resulted in non-relevant results being returned in the search engine results. This still works on some search engines but the major ones have improved their ranking technology to exclude such web pages from their indexing.

Also more and more sites have been established, so it is now much more difficult to achieve top search engine rankings.

A search engine is judged by how relevant its search results are, so search engine companies have continually tried to improve their technology to return the most relevant results. One major advance they made was to include "link popularity" as a factor to rank web pages.

Link popularity tries to estimate how popular a website is compared to other websites in the same category.

Link popularity

When a search engine ranks your web page, it places a relevance on a number of different web page attributes, such as meta-tags, keyword density, and link popularity. The more weight your web page has compared to other pages found in a search, the higher it will rank. The objective is to return the most relevant results.

Pages that have many incoming links are likely to be more relevant than sites with fewer incoming links - these pages have a higher link popularity.

However, the story doesn't end here. Some search engine promotion services started "link farms" which basically placed your link on hundreds of other sites in exchange for them placing a link on your page, so the relevance factor disappeared.

The search engines have a way round this. They first gather the results of a search based on meta-tags, keywords, and link popularity, and then rank these results using the link popularity within this cluster of results. This means that if your site is about "web design" and you have other "web design" sites linking to you, you will get a higher ranking than if you have "pet food" or "garden equipment" sites linking to you.

Although link popularity is now used by some of the major search engines as the most important factor in ranking a web page, it is still very important to remember that the building blocks of a website are the words on the page and without these, your site would not even be ranked.

Although the link popularity factor may get the most weighting, it is only important in relation to the title, keyword and description tags, and the keyword density of the word or phrase being searched for.

2. Search engines have become commercialized

As the number of websites online has increased, so has the difficulty of maintaining a good search engine ranking, and the search engines have capitalized on this. Most of the major search engines now list "sponsored", "featured" or "paid" results at the top of the search results.

This pay-for-ranking model was originally implemented on a large scale by GoTo.com which then changed its name to Overture.com. Major search engines such as MSN, Yahoo, Google, etc... display such pay-per-click rankings at the top of their search results in return for some of the click-through revenue.

A website owner bids for "keywords" or "key phrases" at a pay-per-click search engine and if their bid is high enough to give them them top spot on the pay-per-click search engine (PPC), the website will be displayed in the search results whenever someone searches for that keyword or key phrase on the PPCs partner sites (eg: MSN, Google).

Although search engines have become commercialized, on average 70% of the first page of search results on most search engines are spidered results as opposed to being sponsored or featured listings, so it is still very important to optimize your website for search engine spidering.

Note: Most PPC search engines currently rank the website according to how much you have bid for a placement compared to your competitors for a particular keyword.

Next Steps

This calls for a new strategy, you need to know the keywords people are likely to use to find your site ... AND ... you need to know how to optimise your site to get this traffic. You can either get a SEO company to help you or if you want to do it yourself, then find out more about search optimisation here.

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