This logic simply doesn’t make sense. If search engines didn’t want people’s websites to rank highly in the search engine results, they simply wouldn’t have a business model. People use search engines to find relevant sites – so, if your site is relevant to the search, why would it be penalised?

Search engines want you to succeed – most publish guidelines to help Webmasters, site owners and Web developers to get better search engine results and to avoid pitfalls that could compromise their rankings. Now that’s not the action of companies that want you to fail.

So what stops websites being listed high at the top of the search engine results? There are many factors, and not all of them are openly documented or fully understood. To stop less ethical people from rigging search engine results in their favour, the fine details of how search engines rank sites are kept secret – but the broad concepts are openly published.

Your site might not include what people are searching for

Many times, organisations have said to me that they don’t understand why they can’t be found for specific searches – and yet their websites don’t even include the words in those specific searches.

Your site may be listed higher than you think

Sometimes, website owners have wrongly assessed the search phrases that their customers are using – and when they analyse the problem correctly, they find that they are actually doing better than they think.

Your site may be poorly optimised for search engines

If a phrase appears once on your site, and that phrase is used many times on many sites, then there’s little chance that you’ll get to the top of the search engine results – simply because other sites will look more relevant to the search engines.

Your site may not be popular

Search engines, especially Google, use the number of good quality inbound links to assess the popularity of a website or Web page. The more links, the more likely it is to be useful – and the more likely it is to come high in the search engine results pages. Many unethical search engine optimisation companies use inbound linking from ‘link farms’ – sites which are only there to provide inbound links – to skew search engine results. Not only are search engines getting wise to this and can counter it, it’s a lame strategy. For best effect, the pages containing the links to your site need themselves to be linked to – so they are ‘popular’ too. Getting links from lots of unpopular pages is a waste of time. What counts is links from popular pages – which are far harder to get.

Your site may not deserve to be at the top

This is a hard one – and one which organisations find hard to accept or assess objectively. Just as they think that their Timmy should win the long jump, they feel their site should be at the top of the search engine results. Sadly, it won’t get there (just like Timmy) unless they put in the effort – relevant content, content which changes, well optimised text, good quality inbound links, all of these take time and effort. But that’s what’s needed.

Search engine success comes to those who deserve it

Websites that get these basics right will typically do well in the search engine results pages. No tricks, just following published guidelines and putting in some good old-fashioned hard work. Yes, tricks can skew search engine results – but any success achieved in the way seldom lasts, once search engines adjust how their algorithms work (something which happens every few months) then sites which use less ethical optimisation methods will fall down the rankings. Ethically optimised sites continue to do well, because they’re built on better foundations. The success is there because it’s deserved.