The search results you see after a keyword search in Google or other search engines are not in random order, they are ranked based on a number of criteria. The most important are:
- How well a given site satisfies your search criteria,
- Is the website a good fit for you (based on your previous web browsing and search history)
- The website has “authority”, i.e. it is a reputable source of information
The practice of optimizing your site for search engines (google, yahoo, bing etc.) has evolved over the years. In a sense, it is a kind of cat and mouse game. There are two sides to this game:
1. Search engines
Search engine providers attempt to hone algorithms that determine the “authority” of particular sites in relation to the topics they address. More authority means higher ranking in the presented search results. SEO algorithms have changed considerably over time. There are two main reasons for this:
- Increased computing power means more sophistication
- The importance of the user experience (i.e. viewers of your website) has grown over time
2. SEO Practitioners
The practice of SEO is in a constant state of flux, as practitioners try to stay current with the latest SEO algorithms (not publicly available), and to adapt each website to the new standards of what constitutes authority. There is some science at work here and some educated guess work.
Paid website Traffic
Most current SEO practices understand how to work with both “organic” searches (unpaid traffic) and paid traffic. You can utilize both techniques independently for a given website. Paid traffic (usually pay per click ads), is a good choice if you are selling a product or service on your site.