Build Your Site for Search Engine Results

So you’ve got a Web site. It looks good and is packed with quality information, the kind your audience can really use. But when you checked how many hits your site had received, the numbers left you feeling anxious. Worse yet, when you searched for your Web site on your favorite search engine, it didn’t register.

For countless businesses, this isn’t uncommon. It’s a safe bet that your site isn’t properly optimized, registered or both, and that except for a few tumbleweeds here and there, traffic hasn’t been heading your way.

Web site design has made big strides in the past few years, and, to keep up, search engines have had their hands full trying to improve service and provide for strong returns. As Web standards and expectations have adjusted to advances in technology and user functionality, so have the demands placed upon Web designers by search engines. Today’s successful Web design is more formulaic than ever, with devout guidelines that leverage search engine functionality and relationships.

Getting Web designers and their benefactors to adhere to this winning recipe can be difficult. Compromises between function and artistic merit are hard to come by, and often not enough energy is focused on promoting visits or supporting a user’s search for a site. Bombarded with marketing messages, your pool of potential visitors may hang on to only a few scraps of information that, when entered as search criteria, may lead them to your site. But if your site isn’t designed to take advantage of common search engine methodologies and make the most of those scraps, it may end up so neglected that its value becomes questionable.

Search engines need quality fuel. Web sites aren’t magic; you get out of them what you put into them. Building the perfect beast begins with understanding the basics of how search engines locate and classify Web sites, then reversing the process to improve the likelihood of your site getting picked up during a search.

Search engines rely on automated indexing or human review for identifying and ranking Web sites. Applications commonly called spiders or crawlers traverse the Internet looking for site elements that match specified criteria. Indexing focuses on the use of metatags and HTML text and evaluates the general consistency of a site. Metatags include the HTML title, description and keywords tags in a Web site’s source code, but are not visible when viewing the site in a browser. Indexing scans these as well as HTML text, JavaScript and any linked pages for relevance to the search criteria or keywords entered into a search engine.

Your knowledge of how common indexing processes “read” Web sites should be the foundation for your site’s overall design. If your site has value, human reviewers will see it and rank it accordingly. However, indexing has no emotion or ability to view artwork/images, and looks for just the facts.

As for anyone thinking of trying to pull a fast one using tiny text, background text or any of the other popular varieties of search engine deception, indexing applications have grown sophisticated enough not only to scan specifically for this type of activity, but also to flag and remove offending Web sites from future searches.

Money changes everything. With enough money, you can accomplish about anything when it comes to securing a Top 10 placement on any search engine. If you’re willing to pay the registration fees – with enough options to make your head spin – you can nearly guarantee stellar results.

Remember that all search engines are not created equal, and your money can be spent more aptly on some rather than others. And many search engines even maintain powerful working relationships with each other that leverage individual strengths to compile and then draw from a common database. Examples of these relationships aren’t hard to find, and understanding how search engines may interact needs to be an important part of your Web strategy. After all, paying twice for inclusion into the same database doesn’t make good business sense.

Free alternatives exist for those who lack the budget or refuse to use paid registrations. Though these free registrations don’t promise anything, a well-designed site combined with the exposure and reach offered by the larger search engines may be your answer and your ticket to increased traffic and profitability.

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