How does a website rank high in search engines?

19 February 2009

All search engines will use different algorithms and ways of ranking websites, but they all have the main objectives in mind.

For starters - any new website may take up to 3 months to first be crawled by search engines. This also means if you change your website, or hire an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) company to work their magic then again - it may be up to 3 months before you notice a difference.

Good web standards always help, as this makes all your content as easy as possible for the search engines to read your content.

When search engines look at your website they don't use your style sheets and so they just see un-formatted text.

Search engines can only read text, so flash productions will not be recognised, and complete websites built in flash are a bog no no, unless there's a text only version OR unless other SEO techniques are carried out extremely well (like link building - which we'll talk about later).

Images again are not seen by search engines, instead the search engines read the alt text which is added in the <img> tag when inserting an image into a website.

After good structure you need to ensure that you have good, keyword rich, copy.

First think of what people might search for in order to find the page. Make a list of keywords and key phrases (multiple keywords together) and make sure that these keywords and key phrases are used sufficiently throughout your page - but don't overdo it as search engines may think that you're trying to cheat them.

Which brings me nicely onto my next point - don't try and cheat search engines, as if they find out you will get black listed. C S Shyam Sundar's Thoughtpad.

Some ways that seach engines see as cheating are (and this is not the complete list)

  • Text on the same colour background
  • Text so small that it can't be read
  • Creating doorway pages - Pages filled with keywords but then do an automatic redirect to the content page, so search engines see all the keywords, whereas users get redirected on and don't see all the keywords on the doorway page
  • Blocks of keywords that would not be found in normal standard grammar
  • Areas of keywords that are hidden, or have a website element planted over the top

As well as these ways to get blacklisted, there is also a list of ways that penalise you in search engine rankings. These points don't blacklist you completely, but lose you page rank points.

This list, again, is not every way of getting penalised, but just a few to get you thinking

  • Don't link to your website from lots of small, spam-like websites as this will bring your overall page rank down
  • Only link to your website from other websites containing similar content - as this shows search engines that your website is a good resource, not just link building
  • Don't buy links to your website because, firstly a lot of website that promise this are scams and don't work, and secondly if you build too many links too quickly - again search engines may think that something's up
  • If you ping your website or blog to ping enabled websites then be sure not to do this too often as they may see you as spamming
  • Try to avoid query strings in your URLs as search engines can only crawl these for so long. Try and use user and search engine friendly URLs
  • Do not have a lot of redirects around your website
  • Search engines don't spend long on each page - just think how many pages they have to crawl! And so make sure that your page load time is fairly quick
  • Have text on your page, rather than images containing text - as like I said search engines can't read images, only the alt text. Some CMS (Content Mangement Systems) automatically convert text to images using JavaScript - this is not always a good idea

A difference between Google and MSN Live is

  • MSN Live likes a lot of outgoing links from your website - as this shows that your website is helpful acting as a portal directing people to other useful websites
  • Whereas, Google, likes a lot of incoming links as this means that other people think that your website is helpful and informative and so you should be ranked higher

I can see where both search engines are coming from - but if we look at the facts - over 80% of Internet searches are carried out using Google, and so for this reason alone I'd follow Google's advise. Also the more links back also means that people might happen to click on this link and therefore drive more traffic in your direction.

Because Google is the most popular search engine I would always do things to Google's standards and best practice.

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