Search Engine Optimisation
There are billions of websites on the Internet and therfore it is essential that a website is optimised (focussed) for a topic in order to rank well on the primary search engines.
What is search engine optimisation?
It is the structuring and fine tuning of a web site to meet as best as possible the search engine ranking criteria with the aim of achieving the best search engine ranking possible under the circumstances.
Unfortunately, different search engines have different criteria so that it is not possible to optimise equally for all of them. Thus in practice one has three choices:
- optimise for Google and partners, which is currently the most important search engine, and neglect the others
- optimise for Yahoo or MSN and neglect Google
- or compromise and try for decent (but not brilliant) ranking all round
There is no single "right" strategy; each site needs to be examined on a case by case basis. It is sometimes possible to achieve very good ranking on Google in a niche market after optimising for the other search engines.
Submission to the Search Engines
Once optimised a website needs to be submitted to the search engines. This may seem trite and yet many websites are "invisible" to the search engines since they were not submitted.
To which search engines should a web site be submitted?
There are thousands of search engines in existence but the plain fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people surfing the net use a mere handful. Google, Yahoo and Bing between them account for the vast majority of searches.
There is also a small number of national search engines such as Ananzi and Aardvark in South Africa which mop up most of the remainder of searches within their own national markets. The remaining horde of search engines accounts for almost nothing.
There exist programs which promise to automatically submit your site to huge numbers of search engines. These offers are of no value as the major search engines, which matter, do not accept automatic submissions while the rest do not matter anyway.
How do search engines treat a web site?
Submission is not enough by itself. For instance, if you go to Google and search for "accommodation London" there will be millions of "finds". Even to be number 5 000 in such a list is useless as no-one is going to search that far before finding something that suits them.
Clearly it is important to be as close to the top of the list as possible in at least one relevant search expression. In other words, you need a good ranking on the search engines.
Search engine ranking is determined by the search engines themselves using a wide range of criteria; Google has been reported as looking at more than 200 factors to establish its ranking.
Some of these factors are quite beyond the influence of the web site designer; a website about football may attract millions of visitors while one about the use of pogo sticks on the island of Lombok is likely to attract very limited interest. In that single respect, the football site will have a definite advantage. On the other hand, the second site has the potential to become the leading site in its field.
Others of these factors can be addressed. This is where search engine optimisation becomes important.