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Understanding the Search Landscape

shear-aaron
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As you know, there are many search engines out there, and rankings on the engines will always vary. As a leader of a large-scale Web site, you will receive many questions and/or requests from the management about search rankings. Some of the queries you will get from upper management include:

  • Why do we rank on one engine but not on the others?

  • We have a very similar ranking on all the search engines for a keyword, so why do we get most of our traffic from Google?

  • Why does our competitor rank higher than we do?

  • Someone wrote some nasty information about us and it ranks for our company name. I want you to remove it.

Over the past eight years, I have heard these questions time and time again. To make matters worse, many executives will either forget what you tell them or not listen at all and keep asking the same questions over and over.

As many in-house SEOs know, no matter how much experience you have, it's not always a bad thing to bring in an external expert to reiterate what you are preaching. It's amazing how far this type of advice can go, even though in most cases, the advice is exactly the same. Let's examine a few of the possible answers you can provide for the above questions.

So, why do we rank on one engine but not on the others?

Every search engine has a different algorithm and will react differently to each site based on its own proprietary algorithm factors. Some of these factors include the amount of content appearing on the page and how many links are coming into the page. These links can be either external or internal.

It's unlikely that you will ever rank the same on all the search engines all the time for these factors. Take the time to research your competitors and make sure you know where they rank before you answer this question for your executives.

We have a very similar ranking on all the search engines for a keyword, why do we get most of our traffic from Google?

In most situations, Google tends to drive the most traffic based on any given keyword due to the greater number of users it receives over any other search engine. There may be instances where other engines can provide higher traffic levels based on their user demographics; however, this is rare and not the norm.

Why does our competitor rank higher than we do?

Many executives are worried about ranking over their competitors to a fault. They may care much less about the profits the site is generating than how much better they are doing over their competitors. This annoys me more than most questions I receive, but it's common enough, so make sure you are prepared for this.

Most top-tier competitors use PR companies that use optimal methods of sending out press releases that will be picked up by major news sites. If your PR company is merely sending out e-mails or faxing releases, it's time to find a new PR firm. Why train your PR firm on how to help you out when you are paying them for those services? You will wind up paying for training time that will help their other clients.

Someone wrote some nasty information about us and it ranks for our company name. I want you to remove it.

My favorite question received over the past years is about sites that are built in revenge by upset clients. These clients are so upset that they build sites focusing on all the problems they've had, and some of these sites will even tell you how to cheat or reveal practices that may cost millions of dollars as a form of revenge.

You can never really remove a site from the index; however, you can use SEO and reputation management techniques to build out your own rebuttal content site, increasing its link popularity to such a level that you will push the offending pages much further down the index. When building link popularity, your best bet is to work with sites that have been around for a while and have a long history; these sites will move the rankings faster than a new site would.


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