The changing landscape of search

It’s amazing how often you need to step back and reassess aspects of the search engine optimisation industry. Sometimes you catch yourself trotting out a piece of advice or information that you’ve been giving for ages and you suddenly realise that the last few projects have shown that those general guidelines have changed.

For one thing I really must stop talking about MSN – it’s been Live Search for months now and the search algorithm appears to be entirely different from the old MSN one if the results I see are anything to go by.

Fast Google results?

A good example of the changes that creep up on you is how easy and in what order you can get improved search results in the big three engines. We used to regularly tell potential clients that for a new site you could get MSN Live Search and Yahoo results in a couple of months but Google would seldom produce anything useful for about six months due to ageing filters. Now it seems things have moved. A new jewellery design site I built from scratch has seen some excellent results inside three months from the initial files going live and from this and others I’m working on I’m increasingly convinced that if you get the structure and content right from the start you can get Google to pay attention much more readily than was previously the case.

That’s the key though – building the site correctly, and having everything in place – no spider stoppers, good structure, good navigation, and good content well formatted. This shows how important it is to involve an SEO expert at the earliest stages, preferably before the design is finalised. It makes it a lot harder if the site is already built with structural problems in any of these areas; even if the SEO gets to it quite quickly and rectifies matters it may already have got off on the wrong foot with the search engines and that may set you back a few months.

And what about links I hear the old hands asking? Well my experience is that a small number of trusted and relevant links are far more useful than large numbers of lesser ones to set a new site on the right track. Of course in a highly competitive market where your main rivals have massive numbers of backlinks you’ll need more, but quality wins over quantity every time, and by that I don’t mean PageRank either! And that’s something else that’s changed a lot – though you wouldn’t think so by the way some of the link requests that come in are worded.

Must go and do a search-and-replace on MSN in my reports…

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