Higher rank means more visitors, and more visitors mean more sales, or more advertising revenue. Everyone who has a website wants it to rank high in the search engines like Google and Yahoo.
If the phrase(s) you're trying to rank well for aren't competitive (that is, few other sites are using the same phrase) then getting good placement is pretty easy: Just put the phrase(s) you want to rank well for in the <title></title> tag and in at least one other area on the page. For some reason this isn't obvious to everyone: I can't remember how many times someone has sought my advice about how to rank well for some phrase, and I check out their page and that phrase is nowhere to be found!
But many webmasters don't get this. They write to 6WSEO asking such things as:
Follow standard website design tips and avoid the problems listed on Problem Websites. Your site should be not only attractive, but super-easy to use, and completely free of annoyances.
How many times should my keywords appear on my pages?
What's the optimum ratio of keywords to non-keywords?
Should I seek links from several PR4 sites or one PR6 site?
Will doing [insert some trick here] cause me to rank higher?
Such webmasters are missing the point. You get good rankings by building a quality site, not by trying to figure out exactly how the search engines rank pages. It's counter-intuitive, but you get good rankings by ignoring rankings and focusing on quality. Focus on quality and the rankings will follow. It works the same way in business: If you focus on the money you'll probably make less money. But if you focus on creating a great customer experience then the money will follow.
Algorithm -- The long, complicated, secret set of formulas that a search engine uses to figure out where sites should rank.
Many webmasters also can't see the forest for the trees. Google wants them to create quality pages, which have certain attributes. Many webmasters mistakenly focus on those attributes rather than the quality of the page. Here's a good analogy: Years ago scientists found that people who ate more fruits and vegetables and less meat and dairy were much healthier and lived longer, and noted that fruits and vegetables are low in fat. The proper response then would be to eat more fruits and vegetables. But instead Americans started eating processed low-fat junk food instead, which didn't do them any good. Google doesn't want you to fill your pages with crap in hopes of impressing them, nor do they want you to get links from any and everybody. Google wants you to build a high quality website. Why would they want anything else?
As Google says on its philosophy page, "Focus on the user and all else will follow." Google wants webmasters to feel the same way -- that if you build the best site possible, your good rankings will follow. This isn't the answer that most webmasters want to hear. They want a few simple "tricks" that will rocket them to the top of the SERPs. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Even if that were possible, twenty sites all employing the same tricks couldn't all fit on the front page of Google.
So what attributes does a page need to be considered "quality" by a search engine? The same things it would need to impress most of us, such as:
The page is relevant to the terms being searched for
The page is considered an authority about its topic
Relevancy -- How well a page matches a user's query (more...)
The page has good, useful content
The page has been around for a while
The page is part of a site with lots of information
Keywords -- Search terms that a webmaster wants to rank well for. A "keyword" is usually actually a short 2- to 4-word phrase.
The page loads quickly
The page doesn't have a bunch of broken links
The page isn't filled with a cheap list of keywords
So ranking well generally means:
Creating many fast-loading, content-rich pages, with the words you want to rank for on the page and in the <TITLE> tag, and
Getting links to your pages from other sites, especially from pages similar in content
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