All this information about search engines has one purpose — to show you how they work so that you can put them to work for you. Throughout this book, you’ll find various strategies for optimizing your web site so it appears high in search engine rankings when relevant searches are performed, but this requires that you know how to put search engines to work.
Search engine optimization is essentially the science of designing your web site to maximize your search engine rankings. This means that all of the elements of your web site are created with the goal of obtaining high search engine rankings. Those elements include the following:
■ Entry and exit pages
■ Page titles
■ Site content
■ Graphics
■ Web site structure
In addition to these elements, however, you also have to consider things such as keywords, links, HTML, and meta-tagging. Even after you have all the elements of your page optimized for search engine friendliness, there are other things to consider. For example, you can have all the right design elements included in your web pages and still have a relatively low search engine ranking. Factors such as advertising campaigns and update frequency also affect your SEO efforts.
All of this means that you should understand that the concept of search engine optimization is not based on any single element. Instead, search engine optimization is based on a vast number of elements and strategies. It’s also an ongoing process that doesn’t end once your web site is live.
SEO is a living, breathing concept of maximizing the traffic that your web site generates, and as such it is a constantly moving target. If you’ve ever played a game of Whack-a-Mole, you can appreciate how difficult search engine optimization is to nail. In that game, a little mole pops up out of a hole. Your job is to whack the mole on top of the head before it disappears back down the hole and appears in another.
Search engine optimization operates on much the same concept. Search engines are constantly changing, so the methods and strategies used to achieve high search engine rankings must also change. As soon as that little mole pops up in one hole, it disappears and then reappears in another. It’s a frustrating game, but given enough time and concentration, you can become very good at it.

Manipulating Search Engines
There’s one more topic to touch on before this chapter is finished. SEO is about manipulating search engines — to an extent. Beyond that, the manipulation becomes something more sinister and you run the risk of having your web site removed from the search engine rankings completely. It’s true. It happens. What exactly can and can’t you do? There’s a list, and here is part of it.You can:
■ Create a web site that contains meta tags, content, graphics, and keywords that help
improve your site ranking.
■ Use keywords liberally on your site, so long as they are used in the correct context of your
site topic and content.
■ Include reciprocal links to your site from others as long as those links are legitimate and
■ Encourage web site traffic through many venues, including keyword advertising,
reciprocal links, and marketing campaigns.
■ Submit your web site to search engines manually, rather than wait for them to pick up
your site in the natural course of cataloging web sites.
You can’t:
■ Trick search engines by imbedding hidden keywords in your web site. This is a practice
that will very likely get you banned from most search engines.
■ Artificially generate links to your site from unrelated sites for the purpose of increasing
your ranking based on link analysis. Most search engines have a built-in mechanism that
detects this type of deceptive practice.
■ Artificially generate traffic to your web site so that it appears more popular than it is.
Again, there are safeguards in place to prevent this from happening; and if you trip those
safeguards, you could end up on the banned list for many search engines.
■ Force your web site to appear in search engine rankings by submitting the site repeatedly
for inclusion in the rankings. A good general rule of thumb is that you should submit your
site once and then wait at least six weeks before submitting it again. Submitting it repeatedly
will, again, only lead to something nasty like being banned from the search engine.
■ Expect search engines to automatically rank you at the top of your topic, category, or keyword
as soon as the site is picked up. It can take a little time to build the status that you
need to reach a high search engine ranking. Remember, SEO is a process.
These are just basic rules for putting search engines to work for you. There are many more,
which you will discover in the coming chapters. As you get started, however, keep these in
mind because you’ll see them repeatedly throughout the course of this book and any other
research that you might be doing on search engine optimization.