The search engines try to be good at keeping their methods of ranking websites top-secret. You never quite know exactly why such-and-so company wound up in the #1 slot and your company is way down on page 3. You wonder if it’s because the search engines like it better. Or because it knows the secret handshake.

So, you start doing research—and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there:

  • Maybe Google will rank you higher if your site doesn’t have Flash. But then you hear that it might be able to read your Flash presentation text after all.  


  • Or, the search engines might favor you if your site’s URL has keywords in it. But those keywords might have to be separated by dashes. Or underscores might work…



  • You’ve heard that filling your site with keywords is the only way to get noticed by the search engines. But what if you want to have a very simple, clean, neat-looking site with few words? Isn’t there a way you can hide all that icky-looking SEO stuff somewhere in the code of your pages? Shouldn’t your web designer be able to help out? 



  • And, what’s this about links? Do you need to have a big links page with the addresses of every site you’ve ever heard of? Will that help? 



  • Sometimes, your site can rise or fall in the rankings without you making any changes at all. One week, you’re #4, then the next you’re at #32, and then you rocket back up to #11. How does that even happen if you have been on vacation the whole time and haven’t touched your site?



The more research you do, the more hopeless the entire ordeal seems. Why bother trying to figure out the mysteries of the search engines? It certainly seems easier to just give up on SEO entirely and to do something else with your time.


Are they just out to confuse you?


Why would the search engines go to all this trouble to keep their logic and qualifiers so secret? Why not just publish their requirements and make it easy for you, the overtaxed small business owner, to get exactly what you want?


That would make it too easy for everyone—not just you.


The answer is that if the search engines published their requirements, it would be almost too easy for anyone to get the results they wanted. And this means not only would it be easier for you—the small business owner—to get attention, but it would also be easier for big corporations to lock your site out of the top 10 results and for sleazy old site spammers to pull the search engines’ attention away from your awesome site and over to their crummy ones.


In a way, it would probably make getting into the top 10 even more difficult for you—because it would increase the level of knowledge your competition has about search engine processes as well.


They want to get to know you, not have you tell them what they want to hear.


Also, the search engines want to hear what you’ve really got to say. If they told you exactly how to get into the top 10, straight from the horse’s mouth, it would be like walking into a job interview where the interviewer has already given you answers to the questions they’re planning to ask, and all you have to do to get the job is to read the answers. Now, while that might make the interview easier and less stressful, the interviewer isn’t going to get a picture of your capabilities, personality, or really anything about you. They’re going to get the answers they want to hear, but when you come in to work, they may be sorely disappointed by your performance.


The search engines would have a similar problem if they gave everyone the answer to how to get well-ranked. The search engines’ goal is to give people who are looking for a particular resource or an answer to a question—searchers—the best and most impartial answers they possibly can.


If they laid out a simple process for getting well-ranked, they’d have everyone telling them what they want to hear, and then they’d have a harder job of sorting the information they get into the type of referrals and information that searchers want. They’d have to develop more hurdles and filters just to deliver results that make sense for their users.


They’re not just being mean.


The search engines aren’t trying to confuse you or to keep you out of a secret club. They’re not trying to make your life hard. They’re just trying to keep their results fair and to give high-quality answers to the searchers using their services.


If you want them to rank you well, keep that in mind. Make sure that your site is a good resource for people who are looking for the types of products and services you provide. Add information to your site as well as promotional copy and images, so that searchers can get the answers they’re looking for. The search engines appreciate that.


Make your site a resource instead of just a sales force, and along the way, you’ll make the search engines happy to recommend you to information seekers.