It is generally accepted that
Each search engine (except directories like Yahoo, which use real people to look at web sites) uses a robot to index the site. The robot looks at each page it is asked to index and examines that page for
How does it judge relevance of content?
Wouldn't we all like to know the individual search engines algorithm. Trouble is if we did, then all sites would be written against that algorithm and chaos would reign. So each web site writer takes a stab at what they think the search engine is looking for and writes their page accordingly.
Trouble is that there are around a dozen aspects of the programming that have to be maximised, which is a long, difficult progress. Apart from the URL itself being important, there is the "title", the "meta tags" for description and keywords, the headings, the pictures, the links, as well as the copy itself and how it is written. And in the background is the knowledge if you put in too many keywords, then you get penalised.
The net effect is that any one page can only be maximised against one or two keywords, need any more and you need another page for them.
Then every month or so, the search engines change their algorithm and your well positioned site may suddenly disappear to number 750. The page has to be re-written and re-submitted. Its not an easy business managing to maintain search engine positioning.
Luckily, although important to a sites commercial success, search engine positioning is not the be all and end all of things. More visitors will come from links than from search engines. Why is this you may ask? The answer lies in the way the Internet user surfs the web. Let us say I want a hotel in Cornwall, I go to a search engine and type in "hotel Cornwall", back comes the first 10 suggestions - not all are individual hotels some may be information sites. The user clicks on one of these links, gets to the information site, and from there finds a link to your hotel site.
Still you want the best possible search engine positioning, so how do you get it. Answer is that none of us that know are going to tell you, its too valuable a secret to give away :-))
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