Hi Npearson ~
As you can imagine, every website owner would like their site's pages
to appear at the top or in the first two or three pages for any search
query. Obviously, they all can't occupy that space.
Your statement, "You'll find that many web sites appear before us even
when their information and product range does not at all compare to
ours," is only partially accurate. The Russian Store may have more
products for sale, but the sites on the first page of results actually
contain more *relevant content* about nesting dolls than I can find on
Be careful not to assume that every searcher using the query "nesting
dolls" is looking to purchase them. Google and the other important
search engines know that it isn't necessarily so. As a searcher's
queries become more sophisticated, so too, are the search engines'
returns for the query.
Using your search term, "nesting dolls", a searcher using that query
could be looking for:
1. Information ABOUT nesting dolls with no intention
to purchase them;
2. Information about nesting dolls WITH a selection to
3. Nesting dolls for sale.
Google recognizes different purposes for search queries and has
redesigned its search engine results page accordingly. Once again
using your choice of search terms, "nesting dolls", here are the
There are about 56,000 + results for this query. Google lays out the
results like this:
1. A couple of clearly marked "sponsored links" at the
top, with some other sponsored links down the right
2. Category: Shopping > Crafts > Dolls > Wood (this is
a link to Google's directory listing).
3. Product search alone with a link to Froogle (Google's
search for products with comparisons that can be set
by the searcher).
4. Google's free listing of *relevant* web pages.
Actually, from the searcher's point of view, these are really great returns.
If the searcher is looking for information, he can go directly to the
web pages returned in number 4 above.
If he's looking to buy and doesn't want to wade through a bunch of
content, but just get to product, he can use No. 3.
If he's not really comfortable using a search engine or wishes a
directory, instead, he can choose No. 2.
And finally, a lot of searchers don't bother wading through the
results, but go directly to the sponsored links and look to see what's
there. Google's AdWords are obviously working, or there wouldn't be as
many merchants clamoring to sign up and be included.
to the Searcher
It helps to understand that Google, and all the important search
engines, consider their responsibility to the searcher, not to the
As a site owner, it is your responsibility to design your site in such
a way that it is user-friendly. As a rule, following those rules, you
also make the site search engine (or "crawler") friendly as well.
Google takes this to heart and has published its mission or 'pledge'
to searchers in "Corporate Information - Google Today",
It may seem a bit "hokey" to some people, but I highly suggest you
read and understand what it is Google, and the other search engines
trying to become as popular and good as Google, is trying to
"The perfect search engine," says Google co-founder Larry
Page, "would understand exactly what you mean and give
back exactly what you want."
There is also a very timely article in the Red Herring about search
engine results and how search engines are working to deliver exactly
what the searcher is looking for. While the emphasis of this article
is on Yahoo's current endeavors, there is still the inevitable
comparison to Google. You can read the article here,
Gogle's results for "nesting dolls" do a pretty good job of achieving that goal.
Having just "content" isn't enough, though. To rank well for a search
engine query, there are other considerations which are weighted into
the algorithms used to produce the ideal results. These include links
TO a site, good html design, and as mentioned - *relevant content*.
Google removes the mystery, too, by offering specific recommendations,
suggestions and prohibitions in its information for webmasters ...
links to that information will be listed below at the end of this
The Russian Store is currently the 311th listing for the term "nesting
dolls". Using the criteria mentioned above, I'll compare The Russian
Store with the number one listing for the search term.
The Russian Store -
You offer many products, but little "content" regarding either the
specific products or "nesting dolls" in general.
Russian Crafts -
A great deal of relevant content about nesting dolls, including their
history, the type of dolls, etc., plus links to the 'store' to
purchase their products.
2. Links to the site
The importance of links TO your site, especially *relevant* links, is
discussed in Google's "Page Rank Explained",
and in Google's Page Rank Information,
- PageRank Information
Using Google's Link:Tool (that is, entering link:www.domain.com) in
the search bar, returns the following information for the two sites:
The Russian Store - 4 links
Russian Crafts - about 128 links
The two sites are about equal in design, although Russian Crafts
relies more on basic rendered HTML than Cold Fusion.
Russian Crafts -
I can't say I care for the yellow background they use, but that's a
personal preference and doesn's alter it's friendliness.
The text is easy to read, the pages load fast considering the number
of graphics used, and everything is easy for Google and the users to
The Russian Store -
I love the clean look of the site, but you are using that grey text,
which is the current rage among those who can't figure out how
DIFFICULT it is for most people to read - and the text itself is so
small as to be totally unreadable for the average user who is
blissfully unaware he can change the size of his type - provided he's
using Internet Explorer or Mozilla.
While that small grey type doesn't hurt you as far as search engine
friendliness, I can guarantee you that it's not helping you with
visitors. It may be the current fad using content management software,
but it isn't making points with users. And in some monitors which
aren't calibrated "just right", it doesn't really show up.
Using Google's suggestion to "view" your sites in Lynx (a text-only
browser which tends to emulate search engine crawlers), your site
doesn't hold up as well as Russian Crafts' site does.
Important Google Links For Your Reference
As I mentioned above, I am including important links from Google's
site. This information will help you understand Google's goals and
responsibility to the web searcher (and not the webmaster or site
Webmasters who follow the guidelines and avoid Google's "Thou shalt
nots" usually have no problem getting listed and showing up under the
search terms they desire.
* Google Today (absolutely the best information you
can read about the "how and why" of Google's results
* How Do I Get My Site Listed on Google?
* My Web Pages Are Not Currently Listed (a good 'primer'
on how and why Google works so well)
* PageRank Information (covers both Google's PageRank and
* Webmaster Guidelines (contains both the dos and don'ts)
* Google Facts & Fiction (can you buy your way to a
high ranking in Google?)
* Search Engine Optimizers (some good advice on what to look
for if you're going to hire a Search Engine Optimizer)
* Frequently Asked Questions (pretty much what it says, but
definitely worth wading through)
* Remove Content from Google's Index (just in case you feel
a burning need to start all over again)
Other Sources of Information
There is also good information from many of the top search engine
optimization experts, such as
* Detlev Johnson, Search Engine Guide
* Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Watch
* Jill Whalen, High Rankings
* Shari Thurow, Web Pro News (and quoted all over the Internet)
who all have columns or newsletters to which you can subscribe and
keep abreast of the best way to use good content for better
positioning in search engine results.
In addition, Webmaster World - http://www.webmasterworld.com/ - has
discussion boards on most of the search engines. While some of the
discussions are anecdotal and/or questions for information, there is
usually enough discussion to keep abreast of what seems to be
There is an entire section devoted to Google at:
It never hurts to keep track of the discussions; but remember, trying
to optimize for search engines only is like trying to hit a moving
target. You'll notice among the more experienced contributors to the
discussions - plus the SEO experts listed above - that there really is
no substitute for content, relevant links and good HTML.
To rank well in search results placement, a site must provide a good
combination of relevant content, links to the site and user-friendly,
Search engines are constantly improving their search results and will
continue to do so. It is also incumbant upon the website owner to
understand the intention of a search, search terms used (and how
they're used) and ensure he provides the content relative to those
search terms. If he doesn't do so, there are plenty of other sites
willing to step up and to be listed.
Since "nesting dolls" can be a search for more than one type of result
(that is, for information, or information plus purchase), you need to
understand both the what the searcher is looking for, and how search
engines interpret such a generic search. If you want to rank well, you
need to provide that content.
Since your own site is related more toward purchasing nesting dolls
than toward providing information, you will either need to:
1. Either reconsider the search terms by analyzing the
actual search terms used for purchasing your products;
2. Provide relevant content to accompany your purchasing
3. Register your site and content with Froogle where buyers
are starting to search for the purchase of products (an
excellent idea in any case);
or any combination of the above.
Search terms used
Besides the specific searches mentioned above, I provided current
information available and which I reference on a regular basis.
I hope this helps you better understand both the responsibility of
search engines as well as what the website owner needs to do in order
to rank well.
Best of luck,
Google Answers Researcher