When it comes to delivering traffic to websites, high ranking positions in organic listings (i.e. non-sponsored results) in any of the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN can result in a large volume of highly relevant visitors.
For commercial websites, this flow of visitor traffic can represent a valuable supply of potential customers who are pre-qualified to convert at a much higher rate than visitors delivered by other means. Think of it this way, a first page ranking for a popular and competitive search term on a major search engine can result in hundreds or even thousands of visitors landing at your website on a daily basis. In this way, search engines can act like business directories that direct prospects to what is considered to be the most deserving businesses.
Consider the effect on your business if your local Yellow Pages telephone directory always suggested your business as the one that prospects should consider first?
Given the massive potential for building awareness, lead generation and financial gain it’s little wonder that the inner workings of search engines are such closely guarded secrets because any such knowledge could be used to manipulate search engine results. Likewise, it’s hardly surprising that many website owners devote a significant amount of their time and resources on improving their website’s search engine ranking positions (SERPs).
There is much, often heated, debate about search engine marketing and this draws many similarities with those about religion. Depending on who you ask, you’ll often get a different opinion of how best to improve a website’s SERPs, but the only people who know for sure are the creators of the engines themselves.
Despite the futility of forever trying to crack the ‘search engine code’, webmasters will continue to chase the holy grail of higher ranking positions for relevant search terms with varying degrees of success. Since the inception of search engines for the World Wide Web, there have been a countless number of different tactics employed by those wanting to improve their SERPs. Some of these tactics were considered illegal (black hat), some were considered to be legitimate (white hat), some were considered to be legitimate and were later reconsidered illegal, some never really had any kind of impact on SERPs at all, some depended on finer individual characteristics, and some continue to benefit SERPs to this day.
Regardless of the tactic employed, there’s always one thing that’s always remained constant and if it was taken into consideration then any consequent action that followed had the highest probability of improving SERPs. That one thing is that search engines have a job to do and that’s to consistently supply their users with the most relevant search results for their queries. Appreciating that job and helping them to satisfy the demand can be very beneficial to your own website.
A question I’m often asked by website owners is,
“How do I improve my website’s search engine rankings?”
My reply usually consists of advising the enquirer to disregard their own wants and to consider those of the search engines,
“If you were running a search engine, what factors would you take into consideration when ranking websites?”
Turning the original question around in this manner often forces the webmaster to approach their problem from a new perspective; one which allows them to have a better understanding of what might have a beneficial or detrimental effect on their website’s SERPs.
Of course, even this way of thinking about search engine ranking isn’t necessarily more accurate than any other, but it would certainly seem to be logical to consider satisfying someone elses needs in order to have them help you satisfy your own.
By John Hester