Thursday, August 28, 2003

Manipulating (and being manipulated by) search engines

Search engines evolve all the time, and of course it is not only "paid placement" that gets listings on the first page. The search engine optimization field is all about understanding the methodologies of each of the search engines and configuring your site to exploit the peculiarities of those methodologies.

So the top listings we see are usually a result of the marketing efforts of the owners of those sites -- they buy a high place or they set up their systems to engineer a high place. There is nothing inherently devious or wrong about this -- when you go to a shopping mall for your own convenience, you know that the stores present pay a premium for being located there. To find the little independent stores, you have to go to the other side of town and search around a little.

Fortunately, many non-commercial sites get ranked high by search engines like Google because (all credit to the Google algorithm folks) the engine favors sites that many other sites link too. So if your content already has a large audience, its popularity will get it even better exposure. If it is not popular, there are always those batteries of dummy links that you can buy into to fool the search engines...

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