Boost your site's search engine ranking
By Mike Slocombe for Internet Magazine, May 2004
As you've probably worked out by now, optimising your site for your search engines isn't exactly a fun activity.
For smaller sites it's merely an inconvenient chore, but for webmasters desperate to claim the top ranking it can turn into one long, dull, continuous slog.
But the rewards can be huge. A commercial site bumped to the top of the rankings can expect far more revenue-generating traffic, while a high ranking personal portfolio site will greatly increase the chance of its author being spotted by potential clients.
Although many search engines now charge for some services, there's still no reason why you can't get to the top of their ranking for free, although you'll have to be persistent and patient (free listings can take weeks or even months to be indexed).
A word of warning: watch out for spam promising fast track submissions, high rankings or the offer of getting your site listed on hundreds of (usually obscure) search engines
Achieving good rankings on search engines is a time-consuming, methodical process and one that isn't going to happen through a dodgy spammer's $19.95 / month service!
However, if you finally reach that coveted place at the top of the rankings tree that's no reason to sit back and think that your work is done.
To retain high rankings, you'll need to fend off any young whippersnappers who may have set their eye on your prized pole position.
Search engines are continually changing and updating their search engine algorithms, so you're got to keep track of developments - or be left behind.
For example, not so long ago, a site bristling with well-heeled META tags would be cock'o'the walk with the search engines. But now, after years of abuse by spammers, META tags hold far less sway.
Similarly, many of the sneaky spammer's tricks that helped scamming webmasters shimmy up the rankings pole now have the exact reverse effect.
So if you're thinking of slipping in a load of 'invisible' keywords in text the same colour as the background -forget it. Search engines are wise tricks like these now and sometimes punish anyone still fool enough to try them.
Even when you play by the rules, you may find that your listing has slipped down in the rankings or vanished altogether (search engines have been known to occasionally) 'lose' pages).
Keep a close eye on your listing with tools (Checking Your Listing In Search Engines) and always resubmit your site whenever you make significant changes to it.
Don't, however, get too enthusiastic and resubmit every week or month as you might end up being mistaken for a spammer. Alta Vista's president stated in November 1999 that 95% of pages submitted to the search engine were spam.
Achieving a high ranking with a search engine is a slow process and one that takes time and dedication.
It's also important to be realistic too - if your site isn't one of the best on a given subject why should you expect to get ranked number one?
Still, if you create a well-coded, kick-ass, regularly updated site and follow our guidelines, you should at least be able to get the ranking your hard work deserves.