Getting to the Top: Search Engine Optimisation, Promotion and Ranking

Before making any judgement about the quality of our advice, we’d like to show you the search engine positions we have achieved for the products we have actually tried to promote through ‘search engineering’. Here are some of the places achieved (correct at the time of writing):

And just to prove that we can do the same on less popular search engines:

Is it worth the effort?

Is it worth getting to the top of search engine results? In most cases, the answer is decidedly yes!.

A minority of mega corporations needn’t bother. They ‘own’ large enough captive audiences (e.g. Microsoft, broadcasters, publishers, etc.) to ensure that people go directly to their sites for information, and their voice is powerful enough to direct web surfers to partner pages.

The sweetheart deals which IT and media megacorps do with their partners (vassals) provides one of many good reasons for doubting everything they say about the web. Especially since most are terrified that low-cost web operators are undermining their captive markets in offline broadcasting, publishing and PC desktops.

Ranking Matters

If you are not a media megacorp, a good search engine ranking can put you in front of every web user looking for goods and services like yours. So why do the vast majority of web designers produce sites that can’t be ranked at all, still less, ranked well?

Usually because they, and the people who write the textual content on websites, haven’t got the faintest idea about how search engines work with web page code!

Most web designers and programmers employ ‘rapid application development tools’, or editing software, which writes the code (and often does their thinking) for them, i.e. they often don’t see the code, still less edit it for search engine ranking. This also reminds us why the big software houses have no interest in publicising the techniques that actually work.

Clever PR wordsmiths have even less excuse. All they need to do is put the same words and phrases in their text, that customers will use in search engine queries? How hard can that be? Perhaps their bosses should buy them a dictionary of synonyms to hold whilst performing an anaesthetic-free jargonectomy?

Finding Out How Search Engine’s Rank Web Sites

GBdirect have identified over 50 distinct, and many more compound, criteria which search engines and directories use to rank the web pages they list. Given enough interest, intelligence and motivation, almost any organisation can find out as much as we have from freely available public documents (mostly on the web itself).

On the other hand, the research process is so labour intensive that most organisations will find it cheaper to have us train their staff, than it would be to reproduce our work for themselves.

Just Enough to Get Top Search Engine Position

No one needs to know all of these ranking criteria in order to get to the top of search engine lists.

On occasion, GBdirect has succeeded in occupying all of the positions on the first page of a search engine’s results, merely by addressing half a dozen of the criteria which almost every search engine uses.

The struggle for search engine position is, however, an arms race. It is always worth knowing a lot more promotional tricks than you actually deploy. Thus, even the most hyped page on the GBdirect website employs less than 20% of the tactics we have in our play book.

By using no more than sufficient force, we make it harder for competitors to copy us, whilst retaining the ability to trump them should they do so.

Search Engine Ranking Criteria Are Not ‘Secret’

Anyone who claims to know anything about search engine optimization, should be able to list tips like those we outline below. We are publishing them to demonstrate:

  1. Our conviction that we have understood search engines better and can exploit them more effectively than others.
  2. Our confidence in the unpublished tactics which we only teach and implement for our fee-paying customers.

This is, however, no tease. If a GBdirect competitor were to fully implement these tactics without restraint, they would easily surpass our visibility for as long as we failed to respond ... which could be as long as ... oh, say one whole working day ;-)

Some Tips for Search Engine Optimization

  1. Paying for the top position rarely works - the most popular search engine doesn’t allow it, and users ignore the paid-for listings anyway (just like they ignore banner ads).
  2. The most important ranking criterion on almost all modern search engines is the number of in-bound links an individual page has from the rest of the internet. Getting such links is the most powerful single thing you can do to optimize your position.
  3. Search engines rank individual pages, not whole sites — because users typically want to know about the information on pages, rather than about the organisation which owns them.
  4. Forcing users to enter your site through a Macromedia Flash Animation is currently the best tactic we know of to ensure that the rest of your site will not feature in search engine results.
  5. You don’t appear in any search results at all unless your page contains the words and phrases that people actually search for.
  6. Beautiful graphics and stunning animations usually reduce your search engine ranking!
  7. Matching users’ search phrases is much more effective than matching individual words, because you will be included in a smaller result set and, hence, be more likely to appear on the first page.
  8. Massive lists of repetitive keywords don’t work — search engines use natural language syntax checking and frequency analysis to eliminate such pages from consideration.
  9. Multiple synonyms for the same word or concept dramatically increase your chance of appearing in a small result set — no one uses the identical phrase for a concept, every time they employ it.
  10. Meta tag keywords don’t really work — they merely compensate for an invisible web site design with no matching words on it.
  11. Keywords and phrases are often worth more if they appear at the top of a page.
  12. Preventing users from exiting your site through external links will almost always reduce your position in search engine rankings — search engines aim to map the internet, so they reward sites that tell them about new, unexplored parts of the web.
  13. Using large amounts of specialist or technical language which is known to potential customers, significantly increases your chances of appearing in their search results.
  14. Using jargon which is unknown to, or unused by, customers has the opposite effect.
  15. Puttting key words and phrases in HTML title tags usually increases their value.
  16. Building a massively complex site with many layers is a really good way of reducing the search engine position of web pages lower down the hierarchy.
  17. Putting key words and phrases in HTML link ‘anchors’ can improve the value of those links.
  18. Linking to a page using scripting JavaScript or ASP/VBScript links is guaranteed to render it invisible — poor programmers often let their software put rubbish like this into their code.
  19. Key words and phrases in a web page’s URL are favoured by some search engine ranking algorithms.
  20. Serving up web pages as Microsoft ActiveX controls is a very successful way of rendering them invisible.
  21. All other things being equal, a page with greater keyword density will rank higher than similar pages.

The above is merely a list of what should be obvious, but obviously isn’t — judging by most of the corporate web sites we see.

Our web visibility consultants can tell you a lot more which is either generally applicable or specifically honed to your company’s unique position.