How often each day do I talk to folks about search engines? Always, I feel like I'm dancing on thin ice. My best advice today could be out-of-date tomorrow. The search engine war for dominance is hot and heated, and those of us with websites are on the front lines as the weapons of choice. We are the ammunition that they use to succeed. If they provide the best results, they will get the highest ranking. The site with the highest ranking gets the advertising dollars.
So, as of today, the rankings are: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask. Don't let that make you run out and pander to Bing, however. Google still has a whopping 74% of the market share.
If you've never seen the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, I suggest you watch it. I grew up in Silicon Valley and watched these battles evolve. The search engine battle for dominance is much the same. We can argue keywords and meta tags until we actually understand what they mean, but in the end it won't be the keywords and meta tags that make or break a site. Pretend you are Google...or Bing. A customer comes and asks you for information -- a search query. You want that customer to come back, so you have to give them THE BEST answer. Take it a step back. Forget about the big guys for a minute. Your friend calls you for advice. You want to give them the best advice you can. If you give them bad advice, they aren't going to call you again. If you like this friend, you want to give them what they need. Google LIKES that 74%. They'd really like to get the other 26%. So, they want to give each person who asks them a question THE BEST answer.
Ah, but that's the problem and that's where website designers and search engines come into conflict. Hey, we all think we're the best. So, we tell the search engine what we do -- and that we do it better than everyone else. Let's face it: the current search strategies don't work very well. I don't have the statistics at hand, but I've read recently that most people are dis-satisfied with the results they are getting from their search engine a large percentage of the time. Think about the wealth of information that the search engines have to index! Why do they give bad results? Because someone said they were the best...and they weren't.
Each search engine has a "quality index" built into its results. When they recommend a site, they watch to see if the customer is happy with that answer or if they click back. THAT ONE EVENT is worth more than 100 perfect key words, in my opinion. You have seconds to catch your audience's attention and HOLD them on your site. If you can do THAT ONE thing, you will rise in the search engine rankings. You have to do it well and you have to do it consistently.
If you aren't happy with your search engine rankings, stop messing with your keywords. Step back and look at your site like a first-time customer. If you can't get the distance, ASK someone to look at your site. Then listen to their comments. You may not like the answers. The information I have is that they aren't attracted to the fanciest images in most cases. They have come with a question...a specific question. If you answer that question in the first second, you have them. If you don't, you lose.
Target your site to meet the needs of your customers, not to please a search engine. BE the sharpest weapon in the arsenal for your area of expertise. Believe me, the search engines will find you as long as you don't hide your content behind a wall of Flash. Your rise in the rankings may not be instantaneous, but it will happen.
The old adage is still the best: Content is King.