Sunday, October 14, 2007

How search engines rank your site

Back to basic theme. By now you may have ambitious goals in your mind and you know how to measure conversions. Your ex-SEO consultant hasn't tell you all the search engine secrets and you want to raise your own awereness. Good, that's the way things go, as I have talked with several directors lately. Although search engines won't ever reveal their search algorithm, it's not hard to understand the basics of how they rank your site, or actually how they rank different pages of your site.

I give you two explanations and advice how to test these with your own site, just to simplify little bit the principles of how search engines work:

  1. Every page has so called off-page factors. They are query-independent factors, so the keyword or content of the page doesn't matter...yet. Every page have starting points by how popular they are. This means how many links there are from different sites to your site and how qualified links these are. Search engines also value the most visited and updated pages.

    Type into Google a search - - and you'll get the result of how many links you have to your frontpage. By searching with - - I found out that we have 62 links total, 48 of them as outbound and 14 internal links. And that's how some a site can be on top of the search results even they don't have single keyword in their site. Of course you can change the URL in search to find out another page's link popularity.

  2. And now, the most crucial thing, the query factors. Every page has some content and search engines are trying to decide what pages are the most relevant for different kind of searches. We try to sell our content management system, it would be great to know which page is most relevant for search as "CMS" at the moment. Type into Google a search - keyword - and you'll get the best page to match the selected keyword.

    By searching with - cms - I found out that our page is the second result, mostly becase the first result has more links (I compared these two pages with earlier link search). When you pick out the right page for right keyword (I'll get back on this one), you have to look about content of that page. Here's a list of the most relevant things search engines look for:
    • Page titles - your keyword should be first in line and the title should include some call to action
    • URL - your URL should be not like
    • Navigation - you should have (sub) navigation in text format and keywords in there
    • Headings - you should have your keyword in different headings
    • Pictures - if you have pictures in the page related to keyword, they should be named as keyword.jpg and they should have alternative text as keyword etc...
    • Body text - you shoud have your keyword more enough (look out spamming the keyword too much)
Here is just a quick review about how search engines give credit to your site and rank them either well or badly. And it all depends on how much qualified traffic (potential customers searching with the right keyword) you want to generate to your site. If you want to do this search engine optimization by yourself, look out for unethical techniques and consult a professional if needed.