If there is one rule that should be referred back to as the refrain in search engine positioning, it is this:

The best way to move up the search result list is to learn what kinds of things affect your rankings, and then to analyze the pages that ranked higher than yours for real clues on how you can achieve a higher ranking.

Search engines change their ranking algorithms from time to time. A page in your Web site that earned a top ranking last week might drop in the rankings a few months later. Then, left untouched, that same page could climb right back into its old search position a while later, although this is unlikely to happen by chance.

The trick to always being on top is to learn the variables that you can make adjustments for, and analyze the contents of the top Web sites to see what they're doing better than you.

Literally, click on the listings for sites that place ahead of yours. When you visit a site, select the "View" pull-down menu in Netscape and then the "Document Source" selection on that menu. You can do the same in Internet Explorer. This allows you to view the actual HTML code that makes up the page. Ask yourself, "Is a particular keyword more prominent or used more frequently in the title tag than in mine?" "Is a particular keyword more prominent or used more frequently in the keyword meta tag?"

You should also consider whether a keyword is repeated more often in the site's description META tag, the first 25 words of the viewable page. This can be in a headline (ffiH1?to ffiH6? tag) or in the actual body copy that makes up the page. Count the total number of occurrences on the competing page, note where the keyword is placed, note the total words, and rework your Web page to emulate the page's keyword concentrations and placement. Perhaps the page uses the keyword in the heading tags, or maybe keywords appear in hyperlinks to other internal pages or some other way that you had not considered. Do not copy the page. Copying your competitor's HTML code or language could constitute plagiarism and possible copyright violation.

This is the proven way to isolate the variables and climb ahead of other sites in search engines.

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