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Achieve Ranks Through Content - Not Money
By Eric Lander - September 13, 2001

In the past few weeks, many articles and discussions within the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry have focused on the importance that money plays in deciding the fate of search results and rankings on the many search engines that we use daily.

While no one in the industry can deny that GoTo.com is the most influential database of search results (powering over 75% of the searches we conduct) more and more attention is slowly being focused on the content of ranked websites that are displayed.

While my opinion on GoTo is anything but hidden, my respect for their abilities remains unchanged. Thankfully, the onslaught of newer and more extensive search indexes have begun to buzz around the Internet (See: Teoma, WiseNut), showing us that one aspect of searching is yet to be tampered with.

It has been said before, and now again. People use search engines to find relevant content. While some of us as Internet users are willing to aid in the commercialization of the industries' vast resources (i.e.: GoTo's business model), I am not. I have always been (and will continue to be) an advocate of providing quality content at any cost. Thankfully, most search engines agree, but understandably still need to remain in business.

I want to clarify my intentions of this article. In order to do that though, I need to establish an immediate diversification of paid advertising listings versus the paid ranked placements that engines like GoTo offer their clients.

Advertising listings such as Google's AdWords, Yahoo!'s Sponsored Listings, and others offer paid placement on pages, but they are simply advertisements. In essence, you are paying to be displayed on a page with true results for that search as well. Paid rankings however, are purchased positions to be shown in priority of endorsement on engines such as GoTo's. Both methods of purchased link space are very attractive, generating targeted users to your site. But, paid ranking systems like those at GoTo are disguised far too much and cause many to eventually discontinue using such indexes.

In order to obtain top results in true search indexes though, your site should offer an abundance of refined content that is both relevant to search terms and dense in wording that is relevant to that topic. In order to accomplish this, one must understand just how to write for the web audience they are targeting.

Many resources regarding the creation of web content have been documented and compiled by gurus of usability and research. Rather than reiterate these points further and offer my interpretations, I think it would be best for me to simply list a few of the resources that I have found to be particularly informative:

- http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/
- http://kbs.cs.tu-berlin.de/~jutta/ht/writing.html
- http://www.webreference.com/content/writing/

The most important thing to realize when creating site content is that there should be a defined targeted user in place. Relevant, informative, quick and resourceful - That is how content should be prioritized and delivered on all sites. Rather than writing pages upon pages of somewhat-relevant content in hopes of getting seen by the major search engines, simply approach a site with intent to assist the user. From there, rankings will come as more and more revisit your content due to its complete and accurate coverage of any topic.

In short though, you must be able to know what you are writing about, and who will be reading it. Once that can be defined, outline your content and be brief enough to capture readers while being extensive enough to encourage further reading. If you go on and on, ranting and raving in your publications - you can do wonders for your ego. But it will kill the interest of your readers.

From there, spend your money wisely in marketing efforts, and don't contribute to resources and advertising avenues that will not convert your visitors to clients. The dot-com fallout has lasted long enough.