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Why Search Engines are Important for Your Website
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Search engines are the method many people use to find your website. If your site is not listed in one or more search engines, there is a reduced chance of someone finding your products, your services, or your business. Search engines offer two types of listing: paid and organic.
Paid results, such as Google's AdWords program, are ranked on a combination of amount per click paid, number of user clicks the listing attracts and the Google-assigned quality score of the landing page. Organic results, also referred to as natural results, are decided by the search engines' closely-guarded internal algorithms.
It is estimated that 90% of Internet users look for things using a search engine such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing. When they search for a keyword or phrase to find what they are looking for, they then select from the results that are displayed. Estimates vary, but it is believed that at least 80% of people using a search engine will click on one of the first three results displayed.
However in practice, things are not quite so clear cut. Click through rates can vary greatly depending on what is being searched for and what types of results are presented first. User behavior can be influenced by a compelling listing headline and body text. In many cases, results will depend on the various strengths and weaknesses of the competing results.
For example, if someone uses Google to search for the key phrase "natural dog food" then they may discover many shopping results on the first page. If they wanted to read reviews instead, or discover what ingredients natural dog food is made out of, they might continue on to other result pages to find the information they desire. If they are slightly more experienced and comfortable with using search engines, they may simply refine their search query to help return more appropriate result listings.
Regardless of how people use search engines, if your website is not listed for keywords and phrases relevant to its topic, you will not be able to take advantage of potential searchers since you will never be displayed to them.
Many webmasters mistakenly believe that there is only one search engine which matters: Google. This is because Google often sends 80% or more of their website visitors, thus they do not feel that it is important to bother with other search engines. However, there are actually three primary search engines and several dozen smaller ones which can send trickles of traffic too. These trickles of traffic can add up quite nicely, so it usually pays to not ignore smaller search engines.
If you rely on Google alone to send you website visitors, you run the risk of losing all your traffic overnight when Google makes a minor change. By making sure your website is listed and ranked well in many engines, you can ride out any minor or major search engine changes that arise over the years.
Getting listed in any search engine is usually a matter of topic and links. Many people will tell you keywords are important and technically they are, but that is just a subset of topic. When your website is on the topic of vegetable gardening for example, you are usually using words and phrases which are highly relevant to that topic, thus you find yourself using the appropriate keywords automatically.
You can increase your chances of ranking well in a search engine by selecting specific keywords and phrases within your topic, and this is why keywords are talked about so much in webmaster forums, courses and tutorials. Some keywords are used more often by searchers than others. "Vegetable gardening" is used by searchers more often than "veggie gardening" for example, so designing your website to take advantage of that difference can mean you receive much more traffic from search engines in the long run.
Search engines have grown more intelligent over the years though, so if you overuse a keyword or phrase on your website it could actually hurt more than help. Overusing keywords is often referred to as keyword stuffing, and this is considered to be spam from a search engine perspective.
When you create something which appears to be spam, the automated parts of search engines will automatically penalize your site so that it cannot rank very highly. The major search engines are also increasingly employing humans to manually review websites. Under some circumstances, your website can be removed from the search engine database entirely, a process also known as deindexing.
Working with search engines requires an artful balance of providing what the search engine wants, so that you will get the traffic you need, while not going overboard and breaking rules. However, your primary goal should always be to design for humans, not spiders or bots. Search engine software code will not respond to your advertisements and calls to action, or buy your products/services, only humans can do that.
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