Referencing on search engines

The best website and an active presence on social networks will be worthless if these efforts are not reflected on search engines. Here is some advice and some explanations. 

All internet users carry out searches on the web, using Google, Yahoo or Bing for example. However, most people do not look beyond the first page of results. Positioning yourself on the first page of search engine results should be the aim of any internet marketing strategy. To do this, you need to understand how search engines work. 

Google criteria

Google, for example, indexes and ranks webpages according to two criteria:

  • Relevance. Relevance seeks to assess pages' relevance to the keywords specified.
  • Authority. The criterion of authority ranks the pages to be displayed according to their authoritativeness, that is, according to the number of links that connect these pages to other pages. In other words, the more often a page is cited on other pages, the better chance it has of rising in the rankings. But not all links have the same value: a link from a site that has numerous backlinks itself confers more authority than a link from a site which has none or very few. 

Optimization methods

There are two main methods for improving the indexation of a site on search engines:

  • Paid Search Engine Advertising (SEA). Paid SEA services (for example, Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing) help place the site in the first few search results. However, these links will be presented as adverts paid for by the company. The owner of the site signing up for this program pays a fee for each click on the link. This system can be particularly advantageous for niche markets, which use unusual keywords and are therefore less costly. Search engines typically have tools which make it possible to measure the impact of keywords used and to modify them where appropriate.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is based on the use of keywords and an increase in the number of backlinks. This method consists, for example, of adding relevant keywords to the site (in the code and in the presentation) to increase its chances of appearing in the first search results when a user enters these terms or other, similar terms. Particular care should be taken with choosing page titles, and also descriptions. Search engine results should ideally reflect the information present in the page description, in just a few words. For example, the first few lines of a page presenting your products or activities should already appear in the user’s search results. URLs – i.e. the full address of site pages – should also include a maximum number of keywords. The same applies for the architecture itself and the titles of sections, text, etc.

Increasing the number of backlinks

The most effective way of improving your referencing is without doubt to improve your site's ranking by increasing the number of backlinks from authoritative sites. Specialist companies can achieve good results in this area, although long-term results are not possible unless the website itself offers quality content likely to interest reference websites. To improve your credibility and increase your chances of being “referenced”, an entrepreneur in the watch industry for example, will write specialist articles in their area of expertise likely to be picked up by other websites having authority in the matter. Since these websites themselves have numerous backlinks, the fact of being cited by them will greatly increase the chances of the entrepreneur’s website improving its referencing and therefore its positioning on search engine results pages. 


Another way of improving your referencing, if the products or services are aimed primarily at the local market, is to sign up for a free location-based service, such as Google My Business, Foursquare or These platforms increase the company’s visibility if an individual combines their search with a locality. For example, in the case of use of keywords “garage” and “Zurich”, garages in Zurich registered on one of its sites will clearly have a much better chance of being at the top of the search results or on a map displayed on the screen. This type of service has been increasingly successful since the widespread adoption of smartphones. 

Regular monitoring

Once this optimization work has been done, you need to regularly check whether the methods used have produced results. The best way is to check your referencing on search engines yourself.

Sources: Réseaux sociaux et entreprise: les bonnes pratiques, Christine Balagué and David Fayon, Pearson, 2011; Le marketing en ligne, Jon Reed and Christine Balagué, Pearson, 2011.

Last modification 16.02.2020

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