How Search Engines Work

by Ed Tsunoda on July 22, 2008

There are a million different ways a million different search engines rank and rate pages in their search results, but their are also some universally true axioms about how search engines work and how you can code your pages to be found more reliably and more often.

One basic rule to remember is that search engine search algorithims – while all completely different – in general reward you for trying to deliver accurate information about your content, and penalize you for any thing they have figured out is a way that people try and ‘sell’ getting you better position. All the search eninges make a significant chunk of their revenue selling the premium ad areas on their site, so they’re certainly not going to let another company charge you money to have top/better listings.

However, the flip side of that is they need to have accurate, reliable, useful content returned for any possible search for any possible keywords. They have to rely on someone to tell them the truth about a site’s content. The way they do that is by reading or ‘spidering’ your content, and gauging the relative accuracy of your web site based on the relative accuracy of the sites that link to you.

So, it’s not enough to stuff your site with keywords or great SEO friendly code. You have to create a) spider friendly content so they can ‘read’ all your content easily, and ALSO create a network of links that validate the quality of your site.  That means participating out in the Internet world in ways that get Bloggers to link to your pages, get your site listed in directories, send press releases to reliable news outlets, etc.

Another way to ‘network’ is to run crossmarketing ads amongst several site you own, or create a cooperative with friends, associates, or sites linked by a existing group like a local chamber of commerce. By creating your own network of even half a dozen ‘local’ sites that have decent content, you can boost everyone’s relevancy.

Making sure you code is compliant, text driven, and available to the search engines indexing spiders is another easy way you can upgrade your search engine positioning. All of the search engines use some formula to weight different parts of the content on your page more or less heavily.  Things like header tags, and bolding and the TITLE of the page and the headline and the first paragraph of text, etc. all facotr into how the search engine spiders ‘see’ the page, and what they think is the ‘most important’ stuff on the page.

If you’re not editing code yourself, you can make sure you have this part under control by using a SEO friendly theme or template for your blog or content management software. It’s as or more important than the ‘look and feel’ of your web site as to your site’s success in attracting new users.

Finally it’s important to set up a robots.txt file and/or a site map on your site so that spiders can easily find new content throughout your site regardless of how it’s linked to within the site. This is also something most blog software offers pre-coded so you don’t have to. Try WordPress Google Sitemap Generator here:

Each of the major search engines offers a submission form by which you can submit your sitemap.xml and have your content indexed more quickly as often as you update it.

Maybe the most important thing though is to post great content every day. As the search engines index your site, they start to recognize how often your site changes and how often the content is updated. If you update your site 3 or 4 times a day, the spiders will visit 3 or 4 times a day to check your content. If you only change your content every two years when your domain name expires, that’s how often the spiders will check, too. Every post you add, every piece of quality content you add, changes your site and the way it’s perceived by the search engines and the key words your site now is a ‘relevant’ result for.

By combining your great content with good code and a system for notifying the search engines to come index your site when you make changes, you can really maximize your site’s position in search results, without ever spending a dime on empty Internet Marketing promises.


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