The search engine perspective

Search engine companies and shareholders expect to make money through advertising revenue. Key to this is providing the best possible results for their visitors in order to attract as many people as possible to their particular search engine. So for any search engine, the search results are just a means to an end and it will favour those websites which are well-structured, easy to parse and that are useful to their target market; it will do what it can with badly structured websites with meagre content; and it will penalise those websites that go in for link farms, cloaking and other dubious practices.

There are three key components of a search engine:

  • a ‘robot’ that crawls all the websites it can find;
  • an index that algorithmically reduces the vast amount of collected data into manageable form ready for producing results;
  • the visible part – an index query and results mechanism.

Search engines treat your website as a whole, it’s not just a set of individual pages

For this reason, there is an advantage in having a good number of pages – but not so many as to confuse a human. Remember the UXO – User Experience Optimisation.

More pages gives you the opportunity to focus on different topics and pitch in the relevant words. But the downside of more pages is a greater maintenance burden.

The search engines are looking for signposts as to what your enterprise is all about

Creating these signposts is vitally important and takes skill and work to achieve. Occasionally you may have seen an epic failure where you have been to a website and been left wondering what the company actually does for a living.

If you’ve been left wondering, a robotic search engine certainly won’t know what to make of it.

Illustrated below is a outline of a hierarchical web page showing some of the heading levels used as signposts.

Main heading for the page - h1

Secondary heading level - h2

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Another secondary heading level - h2

More details for visitors and this text contributes to your word and phrase count. Phasellus ligula quam, ullamcorper ac, ornare vel, egestas vel, quam. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Nullam malesuada.

And now a lower level - h3

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The heading levels are indicators of what is important – more details on how to use these heading levels are given in the chapter on website structure. The emphasis in the first paragraph will also contribute to the search engine’s understanding of the page, though the actual weight given to the first paragraph is a mystery known only unto the individual search engines.

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