One search engine thinks our coverage of the 2012 Illinois Marathon is the best, the other the greatest!
Both the Google and Yahoo! search engines index our website on a regular basis. It is fun to ask both questions to see where the PhotoNews site ranks periodically or after we have added new content. Both respond by listing web sites in a specific order based on relevancy programmed into the the search engine’s search algorithm. Where a site sits on the list is known as the search engine return position (SERP).
For grins and giggles after doing a search for this year’s race photos to see what was available, we tried a search using “best Illinois Marathon photos" with both Yahoo! and Google. The PhotoNews website was at the top of the list! Certainly both search engines have excellent photographic taste.
When we substituted the word ‘greatest’ for best, the PhotoNews ranked #8 in Yahoo! SERP. Above PN, there were three sites that were not about last weekend’s huge running event that brought close to 20,000 runners to Champaign-Urbana. Google, of course, still ranked us #1 - good for them.
But, search engines can be fickle. SERPs can change daily - sometimes hourly - and with the smallest of changes to the search string. Add the word ‘the’, for example, and on both search engine giants’ sites, the SERP for the PhotoNews as well as all other related Illinois Marathon sites and blog post shuffles. While “the greatest Illinois Marathon photos” search returned our site one step down with Google, Yahoo! didn’t think that highly of us as “the greatest” and displayed a link to our site at #30.
Changing the word photo to pictures, Google still lists the PhotoNews as the place for the “greatest illinois marathon pictures”, but add the word “the” again and the SERP drops to #4. With Yahoo!, PN doesn’t even ranked in the first 50 sites for “the greatest illinois marathon pictures” and 49th if you remove the word ‘the’. Apparently, Yahoo! likes our photos but hates our pictures.
There is a lesson here for both website owners as well as for those searching the web for specific information.
For website owners and bloggers who use search engine optimization to make their content findable, using keywords, tags and phrases that describe their content is crucial. For example, we know we rarely use the word “picture” to describe the content on the PhotoNews site. With Google, it is not so much an issue, but with Yahoo! the sparing use has a big impact on PhotoNews’ SERP.
For surfers using search engines, it is important to note that if you can’t find the info you are looking for in the first pass, try again adding or removing or using alternate words to describe what you are looking for. You might even want to come back and try again a few hours later.
Remember above where we said SERP can change hourly? After typing this post we checked Google again for “the best illinois marathon photos”. PN moved down to #4, but that’s okay as long as you find us in the top ten.