Search engine experiments



47° 34' 54.6528" N, 2° 39' 31.2876" E

From time to time I run some simple search engine tests, both on my clients’ sites and on my own. This helps me get some insight into how well these sites are being tracked by the SEs. I did this again yesterday – and the results are interesting!

(Firstly, a caveat: these results are relevant to 10th March 2009. If I run them on another day, the results may differ.)

I searched for the phrase English website developer in France. I wanted to see where my site showed up in the results with different search engines. I don’t think my site uses this exact term, although the individual words themselves can be found in different combinations throughout the site. Here were the results:

  • Google UK: somewhere on page 28
  • Yahoo UK: page 1, #1
  • AltaVista: page 1, #1
  • Lycos: page 1, #7
  • WebCrawler: page 1, near the bottom
  • DogPile: page 1 excluding sponsors
  • Ask: page 1, #2
  • HotBot lyGo: page 1
  • Go: page 1, #7
  • Excite: page 2, aggregated #14
  • Fast: page 1, #1
  • cuil: page 1, #1

The above results pointed almost exclusively to pages that I know didn’t exist on my site before the latest re-design in December 2008. They had therefore been available for indexing by the SEs for no more than 3 or 4 months.

So what’s going on – with Google?

Google is the only search engine I have submitted my website to. Aside from a paid advert in The Connexion, and a listing or two in various on-line expat directories, I do virtually nothing by way of marketing/advertising.

So one important factor here is that because there aren’t many sites out there that link to my website, my ranking in Google is dismal. That’s largely because Google provides query results based upon the number (and quality) of links to a website, in addition to the search terms. I haven’t been around long enough – as a website developer — to get a better ranking for that search term in Google.

– and with the other search engines?

Which leaves the obvious question: how do I account for the extraordinarily high ranking in all these other search engines? The answer, I’m sure, relates to one of the central arguments running through the content of this site: web standards and making a website findable because it complies with web standards.

I keep saying: there’s no trickery to this – no cunning or dubious search engine optimisation skulduggery; it’s all about making a site’s content honestly transparent to search engines; use proper semantic mark-up; don’t clog up pages with complex tables; use well-formed XHTML and CSS; make every page conform to web standards; make every page cleanly understandable to any search engine. This alone is a website’s best chance of getting its message across.

But, I hear you say, what about Google? Surely, getting a high ranking in Google is what it’s all about? Yep, Google matters – and to please it, your site needs quality links from lots of other websites…and that takes time.

So for new websites, ones which haven’t been around long, the web standards approach is your absolute best bet. Once that’s in place, start the longer-term business of getting linked to by other websites and see how that influences your ranking in Google.