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Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


Search Engines Owe You Nothing

Mark Kawabe - Monday, July 05, 2010

There seems to be a persistent belief that when one has a website, it will somehow rank in the top results automatically for a variety of keywords of your choosing.

Sorry if this is the first time you've heard someone tell you this, but it's a lie.

Search engines are in the business of providing the most "relevant" results. Defining "relevant" is therefore key to understanding how results are ranked. Here's a primer:

  1. Your beautifully-designed, well thought out and sparkling website is not automatically "relevant" in the eyes of a search engine.
  2. You can "optimize" your website until it hurts, but that may still not benefit your "relevance" to a search engine.
  3. If you are under the illusion that your site "should" rank well in the search engines, keep in mind that search engines owe you nothing. It is your responsibility to understand how THEY work. The onus is not on any one search engine to understand how fantastic your website is.

How search engines work is a well-understood mystery. There are practices that most search engine marketers "know" work, but exactly how they work is a mystery - and the mystery changes from time to time as search engines update their formulas.

For example, it is "known" that Google "loves" inbound links to websites. This is why there are now things called link farms. These are also thinly disguised as web "directories". Link farms add links by the thousands to other people's websites - mostly for free but often people will pay to submit their website's link to hundreds or thousands of these sites. Have you ever been told or read that to be successful in Google they need to get as many inbound links to your website as possible? This is a half truth.

The other half of the formula is something called link "relevance". Let's say you're a breeder of Border Collies. If you ask your fellow Border Collie breeders to put a link to your website from theirs and you reciprocate, those links have some "relevance" as they're coming from one Border Collie breeder's website to another. If you also get a link from a link farm where there is no theme to the page your link is found on, that link will have lower "relevance" in comparison to the one from the other breeder's website. So, you could have thousands of largely "irrelevant" links to your website and still not rank highly in Google.

This is just one area of misunderstanding when it comes to search engines. There are dozens more criteria that make up the ranking formulas of the search engines. How each of them fits into the search engine marketing (SEM) puzzle are generally known by people in the SEM industry.

I will be covering search engine optimization and more during my next seminar series. Contact me if you want to know when our next seminars will be held this fall.

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