Search engines have come a long way since their beginning. They have evolved to keep with the times and ever-changing Internet. The search engines that did not keep up, such as AskJeeves, got lost along the way and the ones that did, such as Google and Yahoo, now dominate the search engine market. Google has become so widely known that the word “Google” went from being a proper noun to a verb (“Google it!”). Businesses today have come to the realization that their customers are “Googling” businesses like theirs, so they need to be as visible in the search engines as possible.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the way to achieve that. But from a search engine’s perspective, SEO is a type of marketing strategy that is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, SEO can help search engines do their job. On the other hand, SEO can be used to dishonestly manipulate search results. So search engines have to work hard to ensure that SEO does not compromise the integrity of their business.
The Search Engine Business
Most people think of search engines as a tool of convenience for them. People forget that Google and Yahoo are actually businesses that depend upon income in order to survive. To stay alive, search engines must remain competitive to keep getting business, which are their users. To remain competitive, they must offer the best product possible, which in this case are search results. If a search engine consistently produces bad or irrelevant results for what a “customer” is looking for, that person will stop using their search engine completely. So from a search engine’s point of view, it’s important to prevent search results from being manipulated and keep them as pure as possible.
In order to produce the best results for the user, search engines must display relevant results. If I search for “fitness tips” and receive nothing but sites selling running shoes, I am not going to be satisfied with my search. I received nothing relevant, so I may switch to another search engine that can provide me with more relevant results. Search engines are constantly refining their algorithms to keep providing customers with better and better results. They spend endless time and energy to ensure that they are producing the best results for their users so that the users continue using their “product”.
Many sites make it difficult for search engines to produce the best results. Sites that basically claim (via keywords, titles, links, etc.) to be something they are not put a kink in the search engine process. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo never fully disclose their entire formula or algorithm for producing search results, but people have always found ways to manipulate the systems to a certain degree. This method is called search engine optimization, or SEO, but SEO is not always a bad thing. If a site uses SEO techniques and provides relevant results for a search engine and its users, then the process has not become disruptive and everyone is satisfied. SEO has a negative effect when the process is manipulated and ends up producing irrelevant results for the searcher. Again, searching for fitness tips and receiving nothing but sites selling running shoes is not helpful to the customer, but instead is essentially a dishonest tactic by the websites and pages that positioned themselves as those about fitness. They have manipulated the process in a negative way. Eventually, though, they will get discovered and suffer a huge drop in rankings, which will be difficult or impossible to regain. So trying to manipulate search engine results with dishonest tactics in the end never wins.
If you can understand these basics about how a search engine works, you can understand what you need to do to rank high in them. Since the job of search engines is to produce relevant results for the searcher, you need to ensure that your site’s pages show up for relevant searches. The way to do that is to make sure that every page of your website has unique, targeted content and correct title and description meta tags, which basically tell the search engines what that particular web page is about. If you try to rank high for search terms that really do not apply to that particular page, it will eventually get discovered and search engines will no longer trust your site. Any short-term benefits that are gained by means of dishonest or unethical SEO will be overshadowed by the long-term consequences. In the end, your goal should always be to create content that is appealing to humans first, search engines second. And in today’s world of search engine rankings, relevancy and honesty win.
About the author: Christy Rasmussen strikes again. She continues to assist the dynamics of SEO in Dallas, TX.
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