Search Engine Rankings: Free Advice & Tips

Search Engine Buster: Search Engines - Improving Your Site's Ranking.

Boosting Your Web Site's Search Engine Ranking

How can I increase my web site's ranking with the major search engines?

Everyone wants a good listing with the search engines – and therein lies the root of the problem as, by definition, only 10 sites can have a top 10 listing! However, luckily for you, many people are not conscious of the importance of search engines to business success on the web or they are unaware of the tricks of the trade and therefore their web sites appear way down in search engine rankings or are not even listed at all.

Generally, if a link is beyond the 3rd page of search results it will not be viewed by the searcher – this means that while coming 34th out of 10,396 might be an achievement to be proud of if you were running a marathon it's not much use to you if it's your business' search engine ranking!

There are a number of quite easy ways that you can help to optimise your web site so that it will be easily accessible by the search engines and be in a format, and have the necessary content, to help ensure your target market will be able to find you without too much bother. First lets discuss how search engines go about ranking pages.

Go to your favourite search engine, type something in and pretty much instantly the search engine will filter the millions of pages it knows about and present you with ones that match your search. What's more, matches will even be ranked, so that the most relevant ones, according to the particular search engine's algorithm, come first – it's incredible when you think about it.


The search engine's algorithm for determining the relevancy of a web page in its index to the search is a set of rules that involve for example the location and frequency of keywords on a web page. Pages with keywords appearing in their Title are assumed to be more relevant than others to the topic – which is a fair assumption. Search engines will also check to see if the keywords appear near the top of a web page, such as in the headline or in the first few paragraphs of text. They assume that any page relevant to the topic will use those words early on in the page.

Frequency is an important variable used by search engines in determining a web page's relevance to an entered search. A search engine will monitor how often keywords appear in relation to other words in a web page, i.e. keyword density, and those pages containing a higher frequency of the selected keywords are deemed more relevant than other web pages.

Note however that while you would be forgiven for thinking that a search engine would rank highly a page which repeated the same word or phrase over and over again relentlessly (sometimes done as small text or text having the same colour as the background…) many search engines have got wise to this form of spamming and penalise this behaviour often by excluding the site from the index - so don't be tempted!

Meta tags are also important although some search engines don't use the information contained in meta tags for ranking purposes.

Core Keywords

To do this you need to change your hat. Pretend you are your potential customer looking for the products or services that you supply… what will you type into the search engine? Remember to use your customer's terminology not only yours!

Each page on your site should make use of a different set of core keywords inline with the page's specific content. The page's core keywords should always be at least two words long as usually far too many sites will be relevant for a single word and this shear bulk of pages containing the same single word acts as competition for your page which means your chances of success are reduced. Therefore pick phrases of two or more words and you'll find it easier to stand out from the crowd.

Keyword Positioning

Your page's core keywords need to appear in the most effective locations on your web page. The page Title is the most important place and failure to insert your core keywords in the title all but guarantees your site a poor ranking.

Also search engines prefer for keywords to appear towards the top of the page as they see it, so use your keywords in your page's heading, if applicable, and in the first few paragraphs of the page.

Having said that I should make the point that search engines do not 'see' web pages the way that we do. For instance, we read content in tables row by row down the page whereas search engines read tables column by column across the page. This difference can mean that tables can have the effect of moving your keywords further down the page, if they are not in the left most column, and this in turn has the effect of making them less relevant because they appear 'lower' on the page as far as the search engine is concerned. I'm not saying don't use tables, just to give this issue some thought when designing your page's layout.

In a similar way large sections of JavaScript can produce the same effect since the search engine reads the file sequentially rather than what actually appears on the page. If you can, then it is wise to position your script further down the page. Also, the appropriate use of met tags can help to overcome keyword positioning problems that tables and JavaScript may induce.

Content Quality

As I touched on above changing your page titles and inserting meta tags alone are not necessarily going to help your page get into the top 10 hits of a search for your core keywords. It is important that the page's core keywords are a true reflection of the content of the page – i.e. your page needs to contain HTML text rather than having large glossy graphics containing the copy. Aside from increasing download times (which I won't go into here) the graphics can't be read by the search engines and so any keywords contained within them will not taken into account in the eventual ranking of the page. Some of the search engines consider the information contained in the image's ALT text, so make sure you've included this part of the image tag, but it is best to use HTML text where possible.

Also, in speech and often in writing too we tend to use short cuts and once the subject of discussion has been established, say for instance a page describing search engines(!), it would be easy to talk about the subject saying things like:

  • 'they will not rank this phrase'
  • 'the main ones are…'
  • 'some engines look for…'
    Given the page is about 'search engines' then to increase the relevancy of this page I should have used those keywords rather than the italicised text in the above phrases.
  • Search Engine Stoppers

    Picture this…
    Image maps cannot be read by some search engines and therefore links contained within the maps will not be indexed by the search engine. For this reason it is advisable to have HTML links to your pages as well as your image map if you want the pages the map links to to be indexed by the search engine. This is good page design also as not all browsers are able to read image maps.

    You've been framed…
    Similarly some of the major search engines can't follow frame links so be sure that there is an alternative method for them to enter and index your site. If you can avoid using frames then this is a good idea but if you feel you must use them then it is important that you make full use of the

    Dynamic disaster…
    If your site generates pages on the fly, for instance from a database or using CGI scripts, then do not expect the pages to be indexed. Consider generating static pages where applicable and avoid the symbol '?' in your URL if you want to make your pages to be search engine friendly.

    Magic Meta Tags?

    Despite what you might have heard about meta tags:
  • Meta tags have no magical powers
  • Meta tags will not guarantee your page ranks highly
  • Meta tags are not as important as keywords in your title
  • Meta tags are only one of a set of tools you can use to improve your ranking
  • Meta tags are simply HTML tags around text that goes in the header section of your HTML page.

    Description and Keywords Meta Tags

    Meta tags are an important ingredient that you should not overlook when cooking up your web site, and what's more meta tags are easy to include! There is quite an array of different meta tags but the most important tags from a search engine's point of view are the Description and Keywords meta tags.

    The description meta tag returns a description of the page in place of the summary the search engine might otherwise generate. The keywords tag provides keywords for the search engine to associate with your page.

    The keywords meta tag increases the relevancy of your page for the words you insert – you should guard against repeating the same phrase again and again in the keyword meta tag but rather enter variations on your core keywords, plurals, related keywords and perhaps even the main keywords with typos!. For example consider the keywords meta tag for a page describing meta tags… the keywords meta tag might include the following words seperated by spaces:

  • meta
  • tag
  • metatag
  • keywords
  • description
  • search
  • engines
  • searchengines

    Robots Meta Tag

    The robots meta tag is worth adding also as it indicates to search engines which of your site's pages it should and should not index.

    We can compile the HTML code for meta tags specifically for your web page for free - see below...

  • If you fill in the form below and click the 'Send' button we will visit your home page and email you the HTML code for meta tags to insert into your home page to help ensure that your site is search engine friendly and makes full use of the Keywords and Description meta tags.

    Just cut the tailored HTML code from the email we will send you and paste it into the header part of your home page. It really couldn't be any easier and we don't charge for this service and we don't give your details to anyone else.

    Your Name: E-mail:
    URL: http://
    Main Product / Service:

    Submit Your Key Pages

    Search engines tend to index the pages on your web site by following links from the page you submit to them. But this cannot be guaranteed so it is best to submit your site's main few pages to the search engines. While there are automated programs that will submit an entered URL to any number of search engines you should submit this information manually to the main search engines so you can make the most of the individual submission options and also note any submission problems that the search engine may return.

    Also, don't submit every page on your site as, aside from wasting your time, some engines penalise multiple submissions (i.e. about 10) from the same domain name on any one day. For similar reasons you should refrain from resubmitting a page more frequently than monthly but in reality you should only need to resubmit a page's details when you have made significant changes to it as the search engines will revisit your page on a regular basis once it has been indexed for the first time.

    Once submitted check your pages and ensure they get listed. Once your pages are listed in a search engine, monitor your listing every couple of weeks to make sure it still appears and also that your ranking has not slipped substantially for your selected core keywords. If your listing has disappeared then resubmit your page!

    Here is a list of links to the main 'search engines':

  • YAHOO!
  • Search Engines in Perspective

    The importance of search engine rankings to the success of online businesses means that it is easy to become obsessed with your site's position in search results. While this tendency is understandable it doesn't mean that it's wise - spending a disproportionate amount of time trying to improve your site's ranking a position or two will not do your business any good.

    Search engine ranking is a crucially important part of your business' overall marketing strategy but it is not the only part. Aside from managing and running the other aspects of your business you should allocate you time appropriately between search engine optimising your pages and monitoring your ranking and also investing (time and money) in traditional advertising, developing customer loyalty, newsgroup postings, banner exchanges, reciprocal links with complimentary businesses and so on.

    You may decide that your time is best spent running your business rather than worrying about search engine rankings – and with our wide range of cost effective services you can do this and rest assured that your web site visibility is optimal. Using our services make sense if you are too busy to pay the attention required to your site's ranking or if you need input from a specialist to get the ranking you want because the cost of our services will pay for themselves!

    It's false economy to overlook search engines or to just live with a poor ranking for the sake of a small investment especially when we are prepared to take the risk out of the investment process – if we don't perform you don't pay us a bean! The only wrong decision you can make is not to use us! [learn more]

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