Search engine placement is the practice of modifying a website, using certain techniques, so that it can achieve a higher ranking in a particular search engine. When a web surfer visits a search engine and types in a search term, they are then presented with a list of web pages that are relevant to that search term. Exactly how the search engine determines relevancy is at the core of search engine placement.
Every search engine has a formula that they use to determine what web pages are spit out once a user enters a search term. That formula is known as an algorithm. To say that a search engine’s algorithm is a trade secret would be a gross understatement. When search engines first developed, their algorithms were dependent upon information contained in a web page’s meta tags. The meta tag contains basic information about a web page such as the title, description, keywords, copyright information, and more. It wasn’t long before some webmasters realized that they could enter thousands of keywords, most unrelated to their site, into the meta tag and boost their site’s rankings in the search engine. This is only one of many unscrupulous methods that were used.
Those were the glory days of search engine placement. During that time, search engines were still in their infancy. Many webmasters became rich overnight once they learned how to turn web traffic into affiliate money. Like any infant, search engines eventually grew up. Once Google and Yahoo changed the way that search engine ranking was determined, the rest of the search engines followed suit. This radically changed the way that search engine placement was practiced, and a new industry was born.
No longer would a webmaster be able to build a web page, load it up with a million keywords and text, and achieve a high search engine ranking overnight. Search engines developed new algorithms to go along with their new attitude about their result pages. The new algorithms made it much more difficult for a webmaster to cheat the system. For the first time, it would take actual work to accomplish a high ranking. The idea of having to work drove many of the amateurs out of town, and legitimized the search engine industry.
One new method that the search engines use to rank pages is link popularity. Link popularity is a way for the search engine to determine just how relevant a web page is to a certain search term. In theory, if Site A links to Site B and Site C links to Site B, then Site B must be more relevant than the rest. In response to this new method, webmasters spend countless hours building links with websites that are relevant to their own. One technique that webmasters use is to build links with “authority sites,” which are websites that have already achieved a high search engine ranking. Having links to authority sites improves a page’s ranking in the search engines.
Building link popularity is just one technique that webmasters use in search of engine placement, there are countless others. Keyword frequency, headings, titles, alt tags, image descriptions, web addresses with keywords in them, and meta tags are amongst the many methods webmasters use to improve their rankings. While a web page’s ranking in the search engines is never a sure thing, what is definite is that search engine placement is evolving on a daily basis. Just when webmasters think they have figured the search engines out, the search engines change their tactics.