The Development Source

Wendy Schollum: Website content vital for search engine rank

Most business owners recognise the financial importance of a good ranking on internet search engines. However, it is no small task getting into the elusive top 30 placing without a good understanding of how search engines work.

The first thing to understand is that search engine ranks are not actually decided by humans, they are decided by “bots” (also known as “spiders”). These bots are a computer programme sent out by search engines to scan through web pages and pick up new or revised content to display in the search engine results pages. Bots are simply pieces of software that automate a data gathering process, whether that is content from websites to email address harvesting (this technology is also used by spammers to build their email databases).

With this in mind, it is easier to understand why website content can have the biggest impact on your search engine ranking. After all, a piece of software will have no appreciation of the graphics on your website; all they can identify is text content. This is why image-heavy websites (or those built in Flash) often rank poorly.

To get the best possible ranking, you will need to decide on the keywords/phrases you would like users to be able to find your website using.

For example, at Xplore we have chosen the key phrases “web agency” and “content management system, nz”. Depending on the size of your company and website, you should choose between six and 15 keywords/phrases to target.

Choosing spurious keyword phrases may drive traffic to your website, but receiving hits from misdirected visitors won’t help you in selling your product or service.

Equally, targeting less popular keywords can generate more business than a more popular but broader term.

Your keywords must also be relevant to your website content. If one of your desired keywords is the word “soap”, and this word is not used in your website copy, then you will not receive a high ranking when users search for this word. However, don’t fall into the trap of repeating your keywords/phrases over and over again on a page, hoping this will help your ranking. Bots are programmed to be intelligent – they will identify websites that do this and can sometimes “black list” them.

The age of your website/domain name can also have an impact on your search engine ranking. Some programmers have identified that Google is reluctant to rank newer websites until they have proven their viability to exist for more than a period of “x” months. For this reason, any changes you make to your website (to improve your ranking) will take 6-12 months to result in an improved ranking – search engines take their time to ensure your content remains relevant.

Who links to your website can be another great way to boost your ranking. Finding complementary service providers who are willing to add a link to you (especially if their website ranks well) acts like a friend telling the bot that you are trustworthy. The more reciprocal links you can generate, the more exposure your website will get online.

Wendy Schollum is a web strategist and managing director of Xplore – your web agency ( If you would like more information on search engine marketing, follow the Xplore team on Twitter (, connect on Facebook ( or call the friendly team on 0800 100 900.

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