What Search Engines Look For

Search engines look for information. It’s a common misconception among website owners that the search engines’ job is to publicise their websites. It is not. The search engines’ job is to provide reliable information to people who are searching for reliable information.

When deciding how to match websites to search terms, they look for:

Relevant Content

This is by far the most important factor. Search engines are in the business of providing reliable information. Without good quality content, it doesn’t matter what tricks and techniques your website uses — the search engines won’t take much notice of it.


Search engines tend to penalise websites that they consider to be neglected. Once the search engines become aware of your website, they will visit it most days, and perhaps several times a day. They will notice whether and how often the content of a website changes. It’s always a good idea to freshen up the content from time to time.


The search engines notice websites that appear to be popular. Visitors and especially links from other websites are suggestive of a website’s popularity. Search engines are, however, very picky about where those links come from. It is far better to have a small number of links from respected, relevant websites than many links from poor–quality, irrelevant websites. The best way to encourage a link from a respected website is to have good content on your own website.


The longer a website has been active, the more important it is considered to be. Sadly, new websites start near the bottom of the list, but a good website will work its way upwards steadily.


Search engines are blind, and do not experience a website in the same way as most of the site’s human visitors. Search engines are not aware of the visual features that a sighted human would notice. They give importance to the website’s content according to how that content is marked up in HTML code, not according to its visual representation. Poor–quality code, such as the inappropriate use of tables and frames, acts as a barrier to search engines.

Having an accessible website is about more than making gestures to visitors with poor eyesight. If a website is created professionally with correct HTML and CSS code, accessbility is automatic. A large majority of websites are put together by amateurs, which is bad news in many ways but good news for owners of professionally designed Lab 99 websites.