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Does Your Site Deserve a Top Ten Search Engine Ranking? (Part 1)

By Donald Nelson, copyright 2005

“Can you get my site a top ten ranking in Google?” Many people ask this question to search engine optimization professionals, but how many people have ever asked them selves whether their site “deserves” a top ten ranking in the leading search engines?

Look at it from the point of view of the search engines and the users of the search engines. The search engines are trying to offer the best possible matches for queries that people make, and the searchers want to see the most relevant sites in the first page of results. So, is your website really among the ten best in your field? Before you answer the question here are a few things to consider.

1. Are you an industry leader? Be Realistic. If you are a one-man or one-woman outfit working from a computer in your basement, you may not be able to provide the same services, information and products as competitors who have larger, more-experienced and better equipped staff.

Although, the search engine robots do not “know” that you are a new start-up operation, the differences between industry leaders and beginners is usually reflected in some of the parameters that search engines measure, and more often than not, the well established firms wind up at the top of the heap.

2. Does Your Site Look Good? While robotic search engines can’t tell whether a site is pleasing to the eye, the human editors who decide which sites get listed in directories, such as the Open Directory Project, are definitely influenced by a site’s design. If you want to compete with the leaders in your field, your site will have to measure up to the standards set by professionally designed sites.

3. Is Your Site Content-Rich? This is one of the factors that separate the top sites from the others. If you offering ten gift baskets for sale, while your competitor has two hundred items on display, then his or her site will have more references and links with the keywords “gift baskets” and this will certainly be reflected in search engine rankings.

If your competitors have pages and pages of information, articles and reviews about their products, while you have a skimpy brochure-like website, then which sites do you think will have the advantage in the rankings?

4. Is Your Website an “Authority” Site? An authority site is a site that is recognized as an important source of information in a particular field. It is often mentioned, and linked to by other sites. Such a site does not have to go out and search for links. The websites of the World Bank, United Nations, American Cancer Society and Greenpeace are examples. You don’t have to be this famous to be an authority site, but you should have an industry-wide reputation for excellence.

5. Have You Been Around a Long time? A site that has been on the web since 1996 usually has an advantage in search engine rankings over a start-up. A site that has been on the web for many years will have acquired more links and will probably have built up rich content, and this will usually give it a better placement in search engine rankings. You can check out your competitors by doing a “whois” search and see when their website was launched. The whois searches can be conducted from the websites of the large domain-name registrars like GoDaddy, Directnic and others.

I haven’t written this to discourage anyone from entering the Internet or with purpose of asking the small sites to fold up and let the big guys monopolize the web. Despite the obstacles, the Internet offers a tremendous opportunity for anyone wishing to spread ideas or do business, and, if you “pay your dues” and work skillfully, the day will come when your website will be among the top sites in your field.

In part two of this series, I will outline steps that you can take to make your site “deserve” a top search engine ranking.

Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He has been working on the Internet since 1995, and is currently the director of A1-Optimization (, a firm providing low cost search engine optimization, submission and web promotion services. 

(The article above may be republished on websites or distributed in electronic newsletters, or used in print media as long as it is left intact and the author paragraph at the end is published attached to the article)

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