Different Search Engines Treat Keywords Differently

photo of John Michael Pierobon By: John Michael Pierobon

Alfie runs a company that makes water purification products. They use a process called "reverse osmosis" to purify water. Naturally, his company has a Web site. Who doesn't?

Alfie came to me because he is unhappy with his Web site. The problem is that no one seems to be visiting his Web site. I just do not see people going to a search engine and searching for "reverse osmosis", but Alfie does. So when one goes to a search engine, such as AltaVista, and types in "reverse osmosis", AltaVista will find 14,344 Web pages. Other search engines will return even more pages.

The point is not to find more pages on "reverse osmosis"; it is to have Alfie's page appear within the top ten. Right now Alfie's pages on "reverse osmosis" are buried way down the list. So what does Alfie have to do to his Web pages to get them into the top ten?

Basic factors affecting a page's ranking are: the words in the title, META tags, word frequency in the document, and document length. Suppose you have your home page on the Internet. If you give it a title (which will appear on the top of the frame of your browser window) of "my home page" chances are you are not going to appear in the top 10,000 on a search engine because the title, although appropriate, is not specific enough. A title of "John Doe: My Home Page" or "The home page of John Doe" will make it easier to find because it is specific to John Doe. An even better title would be "Running with John Doe: 10K Race Results".

META tags are keywords and a description about the web page which do not appear in the browser window. For example, if you searched for Shakespeare, you would find plays such as "King Lear", "Romeo and Juliet, and "Julius Caesar". In none of those plays does the word "Shakespeare" appear, but all of them were written by Shakespeare. Hence there would be a META tag stating that the author is Shakespeare. META tags provide information about the document such as author, words that would be used to index, and a description of the document.

The main reason why you get different results from different search engines when you type in the same phrase is because each search engine has a different criteria to determine what is important and relevant. What might not appear in the top 1000 listings in one search engine might be number one in another. So if you are not able to find exactly what you are looking for in AltaVista, try HotBot, or Lycos, or Infoseek, or WebCrawler. Dogpile and Metacrawler are two search engines which search multiple search engines, thus saving you having to go from search engine to search engine.

Perhaps if you cannot find Alfie's company under "reverse osmosis" try "water purification". I had no trouble finding it in AltaVista.

John Michael Pierobon is an Internet consultant based in Fort Lauderdale.
John Michael may be reached by sending electronic mail to pierobon@pierobon.org

Home | Résumé | Courses | Comments | HTML | Definitions | Articles | Books

Thank you for visiting.

© 1999 - 2006 John Michael Pierobon