Organic Search Ranking--An Introduction


This is lesson ten of our ongoing Internet Income course to enable you start and run a profitable online business in today's fluctuating global market by breaking down important principles in simple English. In this course, the author, George Little, continues to reveal tips, real-world advice, and in-depth, step-by-step instructions on setting up your Internet-based business. Read the 9th lesson here.

This lesson will provide a brief overview of organic search ranking. More detailed coverage of the strategies involved in obtaining a good organic search rank position will appear later in the course.

The Balance

As we stated in the last lesson, search engines have to balance the usefulness of their search results with the production of ad revenue. If a search engine's results generated only ads and eliminated the organic pages that match the keywords, people would soon quit using that search engine as it would be of little use. If the results concentrated exclusively on generating useful organic results and left out the ads, the search engines would have little income and would soon go out of business. It is a balancing act.

Usefulness of a search engine is a factor of how quickly and efficiently it delivers relevant, useful results for any particular search. For an example, let's revisit our friend from an earlier lesson, the pileated woodpecker. If you had seen a large woodpecker in the trees near your house, thinking it may be a pileated, but not sure, you might go to your favorite search engine and compose a search for information to help you identify pileated woodpeckers. What you hope to find are pictures and descriptions of what pileated woodpeckers look like, audio of what they sound like, lists of their identifying characteristics, information about which regions they may inhabit, and other similar information. If the only results that came up from your search were for exotic birds for sale as pets, the search would of little help to you. If all searches yielded results so unhelpful, you would soon quit using that search engine. On the other hand, if your search produced links to several helpful pages that helped you to identify the bird you had seen, you would return to the search engine again when you needed information.

As we all know from our experience, the Google, Yahoo!, and Bing search engines can all be relied upon to yield mostly good results. If we are good at composing searches, we can usually find the information we seek fairly quickly and efficiently. Yet, on most searches, we will also see a few ads.

Ads that we see will be placed there by the algorithms used for Pay Per Click advertising. As we discussed in the last lesson, an ad's position is determined by a combination of relevance to the search and the amount of the bid. In organic search results, relevance to the search is the only factor.

The term "organic search results" was first used in a 2004 article on paid search marketing. The term was developed to distinguish paid advertising results from results that were shown because they best matched the search word or phrase. For a search engine user, the main difference between the two is that organic search results are likely to be more helpful. For the Internet marketer, the main difference between the two is that you have to pay to show up in the ad results, while it cost nothing to be included in the organic results.

Since there is no charge for site views obtained from the search engines' organic results, it is the most economically efficient way to promote your site. While many entrepreneurs use paid ads to gain immediate results as they are building their organic position--and later to supplement the results of their organic position--it is organic search engine placement that truly makes Internet marketing profitable. And, since many of the same factors that promote your organic results also make your ad results better as well, it is necessary that every serious Internet marketer devote substantial time to obtaining good organic search placement.

"I Can Put You on the First Page of Google"

Wherever I answer the telephone and hear "I can put you on the first page of Google," I immediately hang up. Whenever I see an e-mail with that statement as the subject, I immediately delete that e-mail. Why such a harsh reaction? Because that sentence, without any qualifiers, is meaningless nonsense. There are no sites listed on the first page of Google! There are no search results on the first page because no search has yet been initiated. What shows up after a particular search is what matters--yet that is not even mentioned in this common sales hook.

I could get almost any site on the first page of Google for some search results by tying that page to some very unusual search phrase. I'm pretty confident I could get your page, in just a matter of a few days, to show up on the first page of the results for the search "vladded singatoo binkdos." But, that is not "the first page of Google." It is simply the first page of results for that particular search. It would have no value. No one ever searches for "vladded singatoo binkdos." It is a nonsense phrase. No one would ever see your site. What would be of value to your site is to show up on the first page of the results for a search that is highly relevant to what your site has to offer.

No one can guarantee placement of your site on the first page of Google for the competitive searches that would bring you relevant, targeted traffic. They might be able to do that over time, but they can't guarantee it. It might not be possible given the competition for the keywords that matter to your business. Thus, I suspect anyone who opens with a promise to obtain that for my site. They have already lost my trust. They are more interested in getting business than in being honest with me.

There are some very professional, highly effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) firms, but there are also some unprofessional, ineffective ones. Some may only succeed in getting your site penalized by the search engines--in a worse position than when they started. If you can find the right one and can afford it, a professional, effective SEO firm can do wonders for your organic search position. You must use extraordinary care in choosing the firm with which you do business, however.

Search Engine Optimization

Thus, anyone serious about Internet marketing needs to devote substantial time to learning about SEO (search engine optimization). Knowledge of SEO may allow you to optimize your site yourself or, if not, it will at least help you to find a knowledgeable and honest professional to do it for you. You will be better able to judge the claims they make and follow the techniques they use. This course attempts to give you a good, basic understanding of SEO.

As a brief introduction to the mechanics of SEO, let me tell you how I would go about getting your page on the first page of Google for the search phrase "vladded singatoo binkdos." First, I would title the main page of your site with that phrase. I would do this by placing an HTML title tag in the head section of the HTML on your page. Then, I would add a "keywords" HTML tag and I would include that phrase as a keyword. I would first put the entire phrase, then a comma, then the letters "vladded" and another comma, then the letters " singatoo" and another comma. Finally, I would add the letters "binkdos" and close the quotation marks for the keywords tag.

Next, I would create a few paragraphs of content in the HTML Body section of the page and I would use the nonsense phrase at the top as the caption (in an HTML header tag). Then, I would add the phrase " vladded singatoo binkdos" in various places throughout the content– at least 3 or 4 times.

Finally, as icing on the cake, I would go to a couple of my other established websites and create links to this page using our nonsense phrase as the anchor text of the links. That should do it. Wait a few days for the site to be indexed and then run the search...and it should show up.

Because of the nonsense keywords we have used, this would be of no use to your site at all. I just used it as an example of the mechanics involved in tying a site to keywords. Thus, the example is rudimentary. It would be easy to accomplish this only because there is no competition whatsoever for the search phrase "vladded singatoo binkdos." It would also be easy for the next few sites that tried the exercise. But, competition would set in when the first page of results for this search was filed. Then, those coming later would have to do more optimization and do it better to beat someone out of a first page position.

The effort needed to get a page to show in search results increases when there is competition for the keyword. It increases exponentially in relation to the amount of competition. The efforts in our example would have no effect if the goal were to get the site to show up on the first page of a search for "work from home." "Work from home" is a highly competitive key phrase. Tremendous effort over a long period of time would be required to obtain first page placement for that search--and, it might not be possible at all given the heavy competition.

When Does Being on the First Page of Search Results Really Help You?

Being on the first page of search results for our nonsense phrase in the above example is useless because the keywords are of no relevance. On the other hand, being on the first page of a search using keywords that are highly relevant to your offering is extremely helpful and thus desirable.

The big deal about being on the first page of Google (or Bing or Yahoo!) for a particular keyword search is that studies show most people don't look past the first page when they make a search. According to a June 2013 study by Chitika, 9 out of 10 searchers don't go beyond Google's first page of organic search results.

Three Basic Principles of SEO

Why don't searchers look beyond the first page? It could be due to Google's efficiency. Searchers find what they seek on that first page and need not go further. It could also be due to the fact that people generally lack patience...and if they don't find what they need on the first page, they either try another search phrase or give up.

The fact that Google is efficient in providing the information sought on the first page of results reveals an important insight. For your site to have any hope of making that first page, it has to provide information that people seek.

Thus, the first principle of search engine optimization is to make your site as informative and/or entertaining as possible in relation to a specific topic.

To provide what is sought on the first page of the results requires the search engines to have sophisticated algorithms that are very good at tying sites to particular searches. This is why it is very important to choose the correct keywords for each page of your site--the keywords that best identify what the page provides. Getting your keywords right helps the search engines to do their job. Search engines will favor your site if you do it correctly.

Thus, the second principle of search engine optimization is to chose effective keywords and then properly integrate those keywords into your meta tags and your content. Not only use the keywords, but use synonyms for the keywords as well.

The third principle of search engine optimization is to stay current on the recent announcements from the search engines. You need to keep up with the search engines and provide them what they currently want. Remember that the guiding principle of the Internet is that things are constantly changing. To get your site--and keep your site--in a good position on the search engines, you have to keep up with what the search engines currently desire. There have been substantial changes in what one needs to do to get a good ranking as the search engine algorithms have evolved over time. The publishers who are continuously adapting to these changes are the successful ones.

What's New

As an illustration of the third principle of SEO, at the time of writing this lesson, Google has just made a major announcement. Google has now updated their algorithm to favor mobile-friendly content.

Many long-standing sites, which have for some time enjoyed good search engine ranking, will now start to lose their relevance on Google--at least for the search results that are visible to smart phone users. It can be quite a project to port an existing site to a mobile-friendly platform. But, at least some warning is given.

(This announcement will result in increase in the number of Wordpress blogs, as Wordpress offers the easiest way for a non-technical content creator to use a mobile-friendly platform, at least without hiring a professional design firm. Blogger too, owned by Google, is another easy platform for non-technical content creators. Various providers offer free or low cost "Wordpress Themes" or "Blogger Templates" that are "responsive." "Responsive" is a term that describes mobile-friendly themes or templates. With a responsive theme, the design of your site responds to the type of device being used to view it. It makes your site readable and attractive on all devices.)

However difficult this adaptation may be to many traditional Webmasters, at least Google has given some warning. By keeping up with search engine announcements, we can know what we need to do to gain and preserve search engine ranking.

Efficient organic search engine ranking of sites to particular searches is important to the usefulness of search engines. Thus, it is important to the promotion of your site. The same principles and techniques that increase your organic search ranking also help your site's performance with paid ad placement.

Whether you hire a professional to optimize your site for the search engines or do it yourself, it is extremely important to have a good basic understanding of the principles and techniques of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The first principle of search engine optimization is to make your site as informative and/or entertaining as possible. The second principle of search engine optimization is to chose effective keywords and then properly integrate those keywords into your meta tags and your content. The third principle of search engine optimization is to stay current on the recent announcements from the search engines.

In our next lesson, we will introduce you to the basics of using keywords and key phrases to obtain good SEO. Read the next lesson here: Organic Search Ranking--Keywords and SEO

By George Little, Panhandle On-Line, Inc. For more information on the Internet Income Course and other works and courses by George Little, see

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