How Search Engines Rank Your Website

Written by K Suresh

25/01/2016

three biggest web search engines

Search engines use a concept known as keywords and phrases (as found in your page titles, headers, meta tags, and your body text) to determine if a particular URL is relevant to what a user is searching for. This is logical since that is what the user sees but webmasters in their zeal to rank higher have often overemphasized keywords and so today search engines are placing a higher importance on keywords included in Anchor Text links ( links in the form <ahref=”http://www.yoururl.com> Anchor text </a> where the bolded portion is where your keywords go). Either way, the proper use of keywords on your site has much to do with your search engine rankings and the resultant traffic.

A keyword can be one or a combination of several words that best describe what your web page is about or has to offer. This page is, for instance, targeting the term SEO and keywords.

Given that there are over 1.5 billion active websites as of this writing there is no likelihood that any of your web pages can be accurately described by a unique keyword or phrase. So when a search engine needs to decide which of the billions of pages in their index may be relevant to your particular search, they use a variety of algorithms that are primarily based on their analysis of the word content of the sites they have indexed. 

What keywords should you use?

Your very first priority should be to determine what words and phrases your potential customers are likely to use when searching for your products and services. Don’t rely on your judgment alone, since it is common for your customers to see things differently than you do. Ask your customers, friends, and colleagues for suggestions on key search words and phrases. If yours is an international market you should also remember that the language usage in different countries (or even regions) may differ markedly and your keywords and phrases need to take these variations into account. 

Finding good keywords and phrases

Now that you have an initial list of keywords and phrases that you feel are right for your site, you need to know what words and phrases real-live searchers are actually looking for so that you can begin to tune your keyword list according to actual market searches. You may also want to do some searches on these keywords to see which sites are ranking highly on your keywords and analyze what they have done to achieve these results. Web Position Gold software can almost totally automate these searches and comparisons. Remember that there are some 1.5 trillion web sites out there, many of which are competing with you, and so you need to find a niche that has a good number of hits relative to the competition for that keyword or phrase.

At present, I feel that the most effective tool for finding your keyword niches is the WordTracker service. This service will give you access to an ever-growing database of over 320 million actual searches performed in the past sixty days and will suggest alternative keywords, and give you information on the number of searches for this term. If you are at all serious about obtaining high search engine rankings for your site, I suggest that you consider purchasing a subscription to WordTracker. You can subscribe for periods ranging from one day to a year. This is a very powerful tool, and your first hours use may well change your outlook on what keywords to use. You can also get information from alternative sites such as Google Ads and Bing Ads, which are more directly related to those search engines.

You may also consider using a free tool for doing this research. Good Keywords is a freeware that can be downloaded by clicking on the link. This program will give you a good deal of information but not so much as the Word Tracker. There are also many new free tools such as Neil Patels’ Ubersuggest but these do not provide the full power of Wordtracker.

In order to differentiate your site, you need to research phrases that are directly applicable to your website and which are also used by many searchers. In general, the more popular a search term is the more difficult it will be to get rankings for, but this is not always the case. In any event, I like to target rankings on the first page of the search engine results pages, and so feel that I only have those ten pages to compete with.

How your keywords will be used by the Search Engines

The way you use your keywords and phrases have to appeal to the preferences of the search engines. Some general guidelines are that they only display roughly 60 characters in your page title and 160 characters in your description meta tag. Most major search engines will read the entire content of the average page, but Google, for instance, will not index more than 100 kilobytes of content.

At this time Google does not use the contents of your meta description or keywords tag in their evaluation of your site, but both Bing and Yahoo (and all the sites they distribute results to) do. We will offer specific details for some of the major engines later, but you can see that you will have to use short concise phrases in your title, meta tags, and text, and keep your pages between 500 to 800 words long to please them. Keeping your pages to this length will also help reduce the time needed to load them.

Location may be important to your customers

Now that you have a basic list lets fine-tune it; to do so we need to branch out a bit. If your site offers goods or services only to a local area the first thing you need to do is to use that area as a part of your primary keywords. For instance, if your site promotes a restaurant located in San Francisco, the keyword San Francisco (or perhaps “San Francisco bay area”) is most important, as the hungry customers in London or Karachi may not be interested in your offerings. After that, the customer needs to know what you are offering and what is special about you.

On the other hand, if you are selling software by download the inclusion of your location in your keywords is most likely irrelevant and distracting.

Lets next look at using your keywords in more detail.

How do search engines use your keywords?

When search engines index your site, they award points to each word depending on the location of the word and its relevance to your site. They are likely to award more points for words in the page title, words in headers, words in the first 25 characters or so of the body text and sometimes words in the meta “description” tag.

They also award more points if the word is used several times in a page or tag, if the word is in italics, large or bolded text or contained in an H tag. Words used in anchor text will be read as a part of the page but will have more ranking power for the page that they point to rather than the page they are on.

Where to put your keywords

There are many places that spiders look for keywords, some locations more valuable than others. Here are some places you should be using:

  • URL address
  • Page title
  • Headers
  • Description tag
  • The title attribute
  • Body content
  • Text links
  • Alt Tags
  • Comments
  • No Frames Tag
  • No embed tags
  • Graphic file names
  • Page names

As you can see there are plenty of areas available for your use. Your job is to determine which words to use, how many times to use them, where to use them and how your keywords relate to your site’s other content.

Lets next look at the use of your keywords in your page titles…

Tips

Keywords are perhaps the most important ranking consideration on your site. The choosing of the best keywords (and ranking well for them) can result in excellent traffic, while choosing inappropriate keywords may result in effectively no traffic even with high search engine rankings.

Selection of keywords which include your location if you only service a particular geographical region will make it easier to rank well and will result in more traffic that converts.

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