Knowledgebase: Other Products > Hello Engines!
How do I get a top ranking?
Posted by Markus Paulsen on 07 February 2011 17:12
There is currently a real paranoia regarding the ranking of websites: Everybody wishes to be at the top of the result page of search engines, preferably at position one - irrespective of the search terms that are entered. If you have also been taken in by this panic, be warned: this article will cure you for good!

Search engines, especially the big ones such as Google and Yahoo and Bing, can undisputedly lead many visitors to your site. To ensure that one's site is always the first listed on a result page would be a license for printing money. The reason is obvious: generally, only the first sites get a lot of visitors. This simple truth has resulted in the recent ranking paranoia.

All websites which are among the first 20 hits in Google for "shareware" are winners, as "shareware" is one of the most frequently keyed in search terms.

The picture is not that good for websites that are listed in position 30, 300 or 3,000 on the result page. This is not surprising. Paging through hundreds of result pages is just not fun!

Webmaster have obviously become aware of this since the first days of the Internet, and have immediately tried to find ways and means by which their own sites can be pushed upwards in the list. And solutions were soon found. As hackers have in the past been able to manipulate data at the Pentagon and the CIA, they are obviously also able to hack into the algorithm applied by a search engine for the generation of result listings.

In the old days, it has for example been possible to improve the position of a website by simply repeating a relevant search term (e.g. "shareware") thousands of times at the end of the website in black writing on black background. Another very simple method was to repeat the term dozens of times in the meta tags.

There were more tricks, such as this one: That "sex" attracts people is a well-known fact. It is actually the most frequently keyed in search term on the Internet. Therefore, people simply generated a lot of HTML pages, packed with the terms "sex", "porn", etc., and registered them with search engines to attract huge numbers of visitors. The content of these pages had of course nothing to do with "sex", but contained only an automatic link to the actual website - and traffic soared...

However, these tricks definitely belong to the past. Search engine provider have of course not been standing idly by and have improved their search algorithms so that none of the above tricks works anymore. Today, if you wish to push your website to the top position in a result page, or, more precisely, if you wish to outwit search engines, you must try much harder.

Is it possible to influence the ranking?

Yes, it is. But you should first ask yourself why you would try to do this! Today, it is not too difficult to illegally obtain somebody's credit card details and to shop on other people's expense. However, would you do this just because it is possible? There might be a temptation, if this were not a criminal offence. Well, we have to leave it here, as this is not an article on ethics and morality.

However, there are a few common features between credit card fraud and pushing your site to the top in a search engine result list, although the latter is not a criminal offence. There are a number of reasons why you should refrain from doing this:

  • If you are caught, you will be banned from the search engine. And the probability of getting caught is actually quite high!
  • You cannot know how long the game will last and whether it actually works!
  • If your visitors find out that your are not playing straight, their esteem for your company might suffer. (Imagine the website of Barclay Bank containing terms such as "sex" and "porn", only because they are frequently used in searches ...)
  • Operators of search engine are investing huge resources to detect tricks and manipulations. Most of the important search engines are much smarter than commonly thought and know and detect most of the tricks. "Tricks" published on-line are mostly out of date.
  • High skills and a lot of time would be required to find out the algorithm that is applied by the individual search engines. However, as soon as you have cracked it, they might introduce a new algorithm! Have you got the time for such games?
  • Visitors that have accessed your website under false pretenses are normally not particularly inclined to recommend you to others. (Who likes to end up on a pornographic site while searching for "shareware"?)

And last but not least:

  • Virtually all sources for tricks that might have worked at some time in the past have been read by many others before you - including the operators of search engine. There is a good chance that they are already useless before you even have implemented them for your site.

There are also lots of tricks that might even work, but are too time-consuming to be applied. Another absurd suggestions that is reiterated by many "experts" is the approach of submitting your website to free-for-all link lists in order to increase the number of links pointing to your site.

The fact that there are always certain pages among the first 10 in a search engine result page might lead you to the conclusion that there must be a way that brings you nearer to the top. However, please consider the following: There are several billion websites worldwide! One of them must simply be at the top of the search result page, as this position cannot be left blank! And this is normally achieved without any dirty tricks. In most cases, the respective site simply fits the current algorithm applied by the search engine best. Tomorrow, however, the result page might look totally different again.

There is of course still room for tricks, and there are surely a lot of freaks out there that spend day and night to work out the algorithm that will push a page to the top. Such specialists will again and again find a way to actually achieve this, at least for a limited period of time. However, real specialist are few and far between, and the above reasons to stay away from such manipulations equally apply to them.

How can I still optimize my website?

Despite the above warnings, we do not recommend that you should forget about trying to make your site more popular! In principle, there is nothing wrong with the desire to be at the top of a hit result list. The only question is how you want to pursue this goal, and whether it is worth while to try out all the tricks that are published somewhere on the Internet.

Your website has been designed with a lot of effort and it surely deserves to be found. Therefore, let's start with the basics!

Basics 1: HTML code

Before concentrating on the submission of your website to search engines, you must ensure that your site is technically correct, i.e.

  • Your site does not generate error messages (e.g. only viewable in standard browsers such as Firefox and Internet Explorer).
  • The graphics are optimized.
  • All meta tags and the title are complete.
  • If frames are used, there is a noframes section.
  • No links are broken.
  • etc.

Some of these aspects are covered in this help file and the software manual. However, there is more comprehensive information available. These basics are not new but are unfortunately still often ignored.

Basics 2: Content

It surely comes as no surprise that the content of your website will eventually decide on its success. Interesting and up-to-date content guarantees that visitors will come back again and again. Instead of spending valuable time on tricks and manipulations, have a second look at the content of your site. Do not hold back information but inform the world of your know-how and expertise. You will be awarded with loyal visitors and many recommendations and links to your site on other pages. Also here, there are numerous valuable articles published on the Internet on this topic.

Basics 3: Design

The design of a site is the second most important feature (after its content) to bring back visitors. This topic is however too complex to be covered by a few tips and hints. A number of experts voice their view on the matter on the Internet.

Methods of optimizing the ranking

Only now, after you have mastered all the basics, it might be time to look at the ranking of your website by search engines! Please also remember, that all this mainly applies to spider engines only, as you have virtually no means to influence the judgement of editors who are behind the ranking by, as they normally themselves define the title and the description of a site. Therefore, we must concentrate on spider engines where robots are sent out to index pages by means of software programs.

Step 1: Create small but specialized pages!

Do not attempt to generate one huge HTML file containing all your information but create various distinct pages.  If you are for example producing a website on animal wildlife, set up a separate page for elephants, one for giraffes, etc. Small pages with little text in which the term "elephant" appears frequently will normally be much better positioned than a 3 MB page in which "elephant" is only one word out of thousands! Even such a simple trick can do wonders and has the positive side-effect that your pages become much more attractive to readers.

Step 2: Use the < title> tag, meta tags and the robots.txt file!

All search engines look out for the title tag when generating the result list. However, there are still websites published that have no entry in the title. Also important are the meta tags "description" and "keywords". If your page for example only tells about "elephants", it is recommended that you only use this one term as a keyword meta tag. Set up a robots.txt file to support spider engine robots in the indexing of your site. For instructions on how to create such a file, go to this article! The shareware version of Hello Engines! includes an excellent meta tag generator that you can use for all your pages.

Step 3: Define your keywords, and stick to them!

Have a second look at your pages. Split them up by topic, and define keywords that are relevant to the content of these pages. Rather than using a generic term such as "Health", you might consider a more distinct keyword, e.g. "Alzheimer's". Limit yourself to a few terms (approx. 3 to 5).

Therefore: Forget about all the nonsense that you have read and heard about ranking and do not lose your head! In the end, we're all in the same boat. Let common sense prevail and create website with which you can identify. The above hints will help you to stay on the safe side.