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There are many tactics used to drive a website up in the search rankings and they all have benefits with the various search engines.
But each of these engines uses a different algorithm to determine which pages should rank highly, so how can you impress each of them?
Well, a fundamental issue for us SEO professionals is that the search engines won’t reveal their criteria, for fear these could be exploited. Instead, we use a variety of measures that we know from experience make websites more appealing – ethical or ‘white hat’ tactics, which are approved by the search sites.
But different search engines place different values on different elements of a website. Here are the key engines and how best to impress. All these tips work for the various search engines but some place more faith in certain elements than others.
As always, if you disagree or want to add your tips, please feel free to add them below.
Let’s start off with the search behemoth. Google is by far and away the most popular search engine for most searchers and many SEO companies sell their services based solely on driving a site’s pages up in its rankings.
Content is king for all the engines, and for obvious reasons, but especially for Google. The search engine is arguably one of the best at determining exactly what a visitor is looking for and whether or not the page is the most suitable for their search. So make your pages useful, easily found, well and clearly written, and information rich.
Google likes inbound links from relevant websites – these act like votes of confidence and drive your page up in the results pages.
Make sure the site is easily navigable, with at least one static link pointing to every page. Keep human visitors in mind and build a site that will appeal to them.
Bing, the search engine formerly known as Live Search, is a new development and could well be Microsoft’s strongest attempt at winning more of the lucrative market. It allows searchers to see suggestions in real time as queries are entered.
So, how to optimise for it… Well, Bing says that all the top tactics already used hold true for it, the algorithm appreciates relevant and popular content. However, many analysts have invested hours in discovering how the engine differs to Google.
There is talk that it is more likely to return websites with the searched-for words in the URL more than Google. One example I've found is the website www.travel.co.uk ranking highly for the query "travel" in Bing based largely on the keywords used within its domain. This will no doubt become more obvious as the engine is more widely studied.
Oh, what’s the point? Yahoo! has finally succumbed to Microsoft’s advances and agreed a partnership with the software giant, with Yahoo! search to be powered by Bing.
Having said that, while this looks like a sad day for competition in the search market, it does move towards the creation of a credible rival for Google. That can only be good.
After a fanfare of press attention, the inevitable and relentless discussions of a ‘Google-killer’ and much excitement among the SEO world, poor old Cuil really was a bit of a flop.
It is not as popular as it perhaps should be, nor has it gradually built a steady following. It seems unlikely to ever smash Google now. However, some people do use it, so how can you optimise for the site? Well, interestingly, Cuil is much less concerned by inbound links than Google.
It looks for the most relevant onsite content and displays those pages, so well-optimised sites will rank well, even without large volumes of inbound links showing it’s trustworthy.
It is hard to see why anyone would pay much attention to AOL specifically when optimising a site these days. Its market share has become negligible and it only really drives traffic to sites because many of its customers still use its homepage and services.
AOL’s search results are enhanced by Google – not powered, but enhanced. So, Google’s content obsession applies here too, make the pages friendly, navigable and information rich.
The search engine blind taste test
I recently came across a brilliant new toy, a search engine blind taste test! The clever creator has set up a search page that allows you to enter a search and then see three sets of results without knowing which engine has generated them.
You can then pick the results set you think is best and see what search engine generated them all. It’s a very basic page and there is no promise to reveal the most popular engine (which would be fascinating), but it is fun and informative to see the results without the branding.