So, why is your website not number one? I’m talking about the coveted number one spot in Google and Yahoo for all of the keywords and key phrases that pertain to your business. For starters, you are not the only one that wants that top spot. Being on top of the mountain for a few key phrases can accelerate a company’s growth; likewise, losing the top spot can put a company in a downward spiral. This is why many large companies and web-based companies spend so much money and time on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

You may have heard that search engines use a mathematical formula to rank their websites? and you would be correct. But, do you know what that formula is? Google and Yahoo are not known for sharing this information. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter because the formulas change monthly. Sometimes the changes are slight and sometimes they are massive changes. Why change so often? To answer that question, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves how a search engine thinks. A search engine wants to give its users the most accurate response for each search. In plain English, if you search “New Orleans web design” you would want to see listings like Design the Planet, not Alaskan Crab Fishing.

Now, knowing this, what can we gather about the lengthy and complicated algorithms that search engines use? The good news is that there is a method to their madness and the items that weigh heaviest in the algorithm are content and links to your website. I call this the high school popularity method ? the best known and most liked website wins prom queen. When ranking each website, the search engine evaluates the text on your website and the number of links to your website from other websites.

The text on your website matters; all of it matters. Search engines evaluate the title of your pages, your headlines and each sentence – giving more weight to the headlines and sentences at the top of the page. For a search engine, it is better to title your page “Contact Design the Planet” than “Contact Us”. When in doubt as to how much text, remember one thing, CONTENT IS KING! When it comes to search engines, the more text, the better. Instead of having a few pages about your company and your products/services, you should have a book. This sounds like a lot, but search engines are looking for the authority for each keyword and key phrase. To provide the best search results to their users, search engines look for the master of each word, so providing more text presents you as the leader in your field. We all want to do work and buy products from the leader.

The other element of the algorithm that matters most is links. Not links on your website, but links to your website. Also, the more popular the website linking to your website, the better. In SEO talk, it is better to have links from websites with high PageRankings (we’ll discuss more later). It is important to take time to find non-competitor websites that will link to your website, especially if they are of a similar theme. For Design the Planet, a website of Louisiana web design firms or a web hosting company linking to our website is much better than a massive list of random websites. Also, when a website links to you, it is better to be descriptive saying “New Orleans Web Design Firm” instead of “cool link.”

How does a search engine like Google and Yahoo know what text is on your website or what websites link to your website? Simple, they use spiders. Yes, I’m serious. Search engines sends small robots (or bots) called spiders to crawl the web in order to gain this information. The spiders feed information about your website to a massive database and then the database ranks each website according to the previously mentioned algorithm. This ranking of websites is called PageRank. Google’s PageRank is number one of course. The search engine’s database then breaks down these rankings per keyword and key phrase. When it comes to links, Google considers each link to your website as a vote for your website and the better the PageRank, the more powerful the vote. Mostly democratic.

Surprisingly, traffic has little to do with your web rankings; partly because the search engines cannot determine traffic easily. They can, however, determine how much traffic you receive using the PageRanks of the websites linked to you and how long a user stays on your website after finding it through their search engine. If a user clicks on a website after searching a keyword and then quickly clicks back to the search engine, the search engine thinks that website was not the authority the user was looking for and eventually lowers the ranking of that website.

Now you have a few broad ideas of why your website is number one (or not number one) in the search engines. In later postings, we will discuss more specific methods of building your popularity and other things you can do to rank higher. We will even give you a few things not to do that will get you blacklisted from Google and Yahoo completely. Imagine what that will do for your web presence?