Earlier this week, I talked about my Netflix reviewer rating and my associated questions of how it was determined. Aside from my love affair with Netflix, there was a greater purpose in sharing it, namely to pave the way for this post on a parallel business topic, my website search engine rank, aka Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Since most people find websites via search engines, it is imperative that websites do everything possible to be accepted and loved by these search engines, especially Google, the king of search.
Just as I am unaware of how my Netflix reviewer rating is determined, I am likewise in the dark of how Google (and other lesser search engines) determines their rating for my websites. I have theories as to what to do—and what to avoid—to improve my standing in the search engine results, but there is no way to verify them. In fact, I can spend hours tweaking, adjusting, and improving the things I think will help, only to see traffic drop (correspondingly, there is sometimes there is a tangible improvement). Other times I make little or no changes only to see usage improve.
Of course, there is no way to do a controlled test. As I am tweaking my site for better results, competing sites are also making changes. Therefore, I can improve my site in the eyes of the search engines, but if others improve their’s more, then my results will actually be worse. Although this seems like a wasted effort, at least it keeps me from falling even further behind.
Another confounding thing is that no one knows for sure what Google really looks for and how they prioritize these parameters. In fact, it is common for SEO “experts” to disagree on what to do and what to avoid, even to the point of making opposing recommendations.
Lastly, as people discover ways to “trick” search engines into giving better placement than warranted, Google and others correspondingly change their assessments of sites in order to not reward those who employ questionable tactics. So, for Google, just as I surmised with Netflix, the rules can suddenly change and my ranking will be affected as a result. Sometimes it improves and other times it doesn’t, which can be exciting or disheartening, but that’s life.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.