, it is unlikely you will get much traffic from any search engine. A number of people never go past the first page in a search result. As such, a top 10 ranking is needed to bring lots of visitors to your site.
Know search engines today, didn’t come into being until 1993. It was developed by Matthew Gray, and it was called Wandex. Wandex was the first program to both index and search the index of pages on the Web. This technology was the first program to crawl the Web, and later became the basis for all search crawlers. And from there, search engines took on a life of their own. From 1993
to 1998, the major search engines that you’re probably familiar with today were created:
___Excite — 1993
___Yahoo! — 1994
___Web Crawler — 1994
___Lycos — 1994
___Infoseek — 1995
___Inktomi — 1996
___Ask Jeeves — 1997
___Google — 1997
___MSN Search — 1998
Classifications of Search Engines With a decent understanding of how search engines work and how people use those search engines,
you can now concentrate on some more detailed information about these engines. For example, you know that all search engines aren’t created equal, right? But did you know that there are different types, or classifications, of search engines? There are. Search engines can be broken down into three different types (in the broadest of terms): primary, secondary, and targeted.
Primary search engines
A primary search engine is the type you think of most often when search engines come to mind. Some index most or all sites on the Web. For example, Yahoo! Google, and MSN are primary (also called major) search engines. Primary search engines will generate the majority of the traffic to your web site, and as such will be the primary focus of your SEO efforts. Each primary search engine differs slightly from the others. For example, Lycos has been around much longer than Google, yet Google is the most popular search engine on the Web. Why is that? Most likely because people find that, when searching the Web, Google provides better search results.
The difference in those search results is all in the search algorithm used to create the search engine. Most primary search engines are also more than just search. Additional features such as e-mail, map-ping, news, and different types of entertainment applications are also available from most of the primary search engine companies. These elements were added long after the search was established, as a way to draw more and more people to the search engine. Although those features don’t change the way people search, they might affect which search engine people choose.
Overview of Google
Each of the major search engines differs in some small way. Google is the king of search engines, in part because of the accuracy with which it can pull the results from a search query. Sure, Google offers all kinds of extras like e-mail, a personalized home page, and even productivity applications,but those value-added services are not what made Google popular. What turned Google into a household word is the accuracy with which the search engine can return search results. This accuracy was developed when the Google designers combined keyword searches with link popularity. The combination of the keywords and the popularity of links to those pages yields a higher accuracy rank than just keywords alone.
However, it’s important to understand that link popularity and keywords are just two of hundreds of different criteria that search engines can use in ranking the relevancy of web pages.
Overview of Yahoo!
Most people assume that Yahoo! is a search engine, and it is. But it’s also a web directory, which basically means that it’s a list of the different web pages available on the Internet, divided by category and subcategory. In fact, what few people know is that Yahoo! started as the favorites list of the two young men who founded it. Through the acquisition of companies like Inktomi, All the Web, AltaVista, and Overture, Yahoo! gradually gained market share as a search engine. Yahoo!, which at one time used Google to search its directory of links, now ranks pages through a combination of the technologies that it acquired over time. However, Yahoo!’s link-ranking capability is not as accurate as Google’s. In addition, Yahoo! also has a paid inclusion program, which somethink tends to skew search results in favor of the highest payer.
Overview of MSN
MSN’s search capabilities aren’t quite as mature as those of Google or Yahoo! As a result of this immaturity, MSN has not yet developed the in-depth link analysis capabilities of these other primary search engines. Instead, MSN relies heavily on web-site content for ranking purposes. However, this may have a beneficial effect for new web sites that are trying to get listed in search engines. The link-ranking capabilities of Google and Yahoo! can preclude new web sites from being listed for a period of time after they have been created. This is because (especially where Google is concerned)
Search Engine Basics the quality of the link may be considered during ranking. New links are often ignored until they have been in place for a time.Because MSN relies heavily on page content, a web site that is tagged properly and contains a good ratio of keywords will be more likely to be listed — and listed sooner — by the MSN search engine. So, though it’s not the most popular of search engines, it is one of the primaries, and being listed there sooner rather than later will help increase your site traffic.
Secondary search engines
Secondary search engines are targeted at smaller, more specific audiences, although the search engine’s content itself is still general. They don’t generate as much traffic as the primary search engines, but they’re useful for regional and more narrowly focused searches. Examples of secondary search engines include Lycos, LookSmart, Miva, Ask.com, and Espotting. Secondary search engines, just like the primary ones, will vary in the way they rank search results. Some will rely more heavily upon keywords, whereas others will rely on reciprocal links. Still others
might rely on criteria such as meta tags or some proprietary criteria. Secondary search engines should be included in any SEO plan. Though these search engines might not generate as much traffic as the primary search engines, they will still generate valuable traffic that should not be overlooked. Many users of secondary search engines are users because they have some loyalty to that specific search engine. For example, many past AOL users who have moved on to broadband Internet service providers still use the AOL search engine whenever possible, because it’s comfortable for them.
Targeted search engines
Targeted search engines — sometimes called topical search engines — are the most specific of them all. These search engines are very narrowly focused, usually to a general topic, like medicine or branches of science, travel, sports, or some other topic. Examples of targeted search engines include CitySearch,Yahoo! Travel, and MusicSearch, and like other types of search engines, ranking criteria will vary from one to another.When considering targeted search engines for SEO purposes, keep in mind that many of these search engines are much more narrowly focused than primary or secondary search engines. Look for the targeted search engines that are relevant to your specific topic (like pets, sports, locations,and so on).
Putting Search Engines to Work for You
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 optimiz-
ing 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 for you. 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:
Entry and exit pages Page titles Site content Graphics Web site structure In addition to these elements, however, you also have to consider things like 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 ele-ments included in your web pages and still have a relatively low search engine ranking. Factors such as advertising campaigns and update frequencies 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 ele-ments and strategies. And it’s 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 because
it is, that means that it’s a constantly moving target. If you’ve ever played a game of Whack-a-Mole, you can understand how difficult search engine optimization is to nail. In the game, a little mole pops up out of a hole. Your job is to whack the mole on the top of the head before it disappears back down the hole and appears in another. Search engine optimization is 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, he 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. Search Engine Basics So what exactly can and can’t you do? There’s a list. 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 relevant. Encourage web site traffic through many venues, including keyword advertising, recipro-cal links, and marketing campaigns. Submit your web site to search engines manually, rather than waiting 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 by 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 will detect 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 safe-guards, 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 repeat-edly 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 key-word as soon as the site is picked up. It could 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 over and over again throughout the course of this book and any other research that you might be doing on search engine optimization.
Creating an SEO Plan
Before you can even begin to optimize your web site for search engines, you need to have a search engine optimization plan in place. This will help you create SEO goals and keep those goals in focus as the pur-Understanding why you need SEO B pose of your site changes, and as the methods for search engine optimization
Setting SEO goals change — and they will change. Your SEO plan will help you see where you need to concentrate your efforts at Customizing your SEO plan any given time. This need will change over time. In the beginning, you’re most
Understanding black-hat SEO
likely to be focusing on getting started with SEO. However, after you’ve put all of your SEO strategies into place, the focus of your SEO activities will change.Avoiding black-hat SEO Note that I said they will change, not that they will end. Once you’ve started Creating your SEO plan SEO, if you plan to continue using it, you’ll need to constantly monitor and What is organic SEO?
update your SEO plan, strategies, and activities. There was a time when the only thing you had to worry about was which keywords or links would be Achieving organic SEO most effective for getting your site ranked high in relevant search results.
Today, very few search engines focus on a single aspect of search engine opti- mization. This means that over time those who focused only on keywords or only on links have found themselves with diminished SEO effectiveness. Search engines will naturally change and mature, as the technologies and prin- ciples that enable SEO and the engines themselves change. For this reason, the SEO plan should be considered a dynamic, changing document. To keep up with that document, you need to be evolving or changing as well. And that’s where your SEO plan will help you stay on track. Using the SEO plan, you can quickly and easily tell where you are and where you need to be with your search engine optimization efforts.
These criteria are also different in importance. For some search engines, links are more important than site maturity, and for others, links have little importance. These weights and measures are con-stantly changing, so even trying to guess what is most important at any given time is a pointless exer-cise. Just as you figure it out, the criteria will shift or change completely.
By nature, many of the elements are likely to have some impact on your site ranking, even when you do nothing to improve them. However, without your attention, you’re leaving the search rank-ing of your site to chance. That’s like opening a business without putting out a sign. You’re sure to get some traffic, but because people don’t know you’re there, it won’t be anything more than the curiosity of passersby.
Setting SEO Goals
Okay, so you understand how important it is to put time into SEO. Now, how exactly do you go about it? One thing you don’t do is begin trying to implement SEO strategies without some sort of goal for what you want to accomplish. One of the greatest failings of many SEO plans, like all technology plans, is the lack of a clearly defined goal. The goal for your SEO plan should be built around your business needs, and it’s not something every business requires. For example, if you run a simple blog, SEO might be more expense than it’s worth. But if your plans for that blog are to turn it into a brand, then the simplest of SEO strategies might be just what you need to build the traffic that begins to establish your brand. If you have a larger business, say a web site that sells custom-made silk-flower arrangements, one way to increase your business (some estimate by more than 50 percent) is to invest time, money, and considerable effort into optimizing your site for search. Just don’t do it without a goal in mind. In the case of the silk-flower web site, one goal might be to increase the amount of traffic your web site receives. Another might be to increase your exposure to potential customers outside your geo-graphic region. Those are both good reasons to implement an SEO plan. One other reason you might consider investing in SEO is to increase your revenues, which you can do by funneling site visitors through a sales transaction while they are visiting your web site. SEO can help with that, too. So before you even begin to put together an SEO plan, the first thing you need to do is determine
what goal you want to achieve with that plan. Be sure it is a well-articulated and specifically defined goal, too. The more specific, the closer you will come to hitting it. For example, a goal to “increase web site traffic” is far too broad. Of course you want to increase your web site traffic. That’s the overarching goal of any SEO plan. However, if you change that goal to “increase the number of visitors who complete a transaction of at least $25,” you are much more likely to implement the SEO that will indeed help you reach that goal. Make sure the goal is specific and attainable. Otherwise, it’s very easy to become unfocused with your SEO efforts. In some cases, you can spend all your time chasing SEO and never accomplish anything. Search engines regularly change the criteria for ranking sites. They started doing this when internal, incoming, and external links became a factor in SEO. Suddenly, every webmaster was rushing to add as many additional links as possible, and often those links were completely unrelated to the site. There was a sudden and often meaningless rise in page links. It wasn’t long before the linking criteria had to be qualified with additional requirements. Today, link strategies are quite complex and must abide by a set of rules or your web site could be banned from some search engines for what’s called SEO spam , or the practice of targeting a specific element or criteria of search engine ranking, with the intention of becoming one of the highest ranked sites on the Web. If an SEO goal has been established, however, you’re more likely to have a balanced traffic flow, which will improve your search engine ranking naturally. In addition to well-focused goals, you should also consider how your SEO goals align with your business goals. Business goals should be the overall theme for everything you do with your web site, and if your SEO goals are not created with the intent of furthering those business goals, you’ll find the SEO goals ultimately fail. Be sure that any goal you set for optimizing your site for search is a goal that works well within the parameters that are set by your overall business goals. Finally, remain flexible at all times. Get a goal, or even a set of goals. And hold tightly to them. Just don’t hold so tightly that the goals get in the way of performing great SEO activities. SEO goals and plans, like any others, must be flexible and must grow with your organization. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to review your SEO goals and plans periodically — at least every six months, and quarterly is much better. Creating Your SEO Plan Once you have a goal or set of goals in mind for your web site, it’s time to create your SEO plan. The SEO plan is the document that you’ll use to stay on track as you try to implement SEO strate-gies on your site.
Creating an SEO Plan
For many people, the thought of implementing SEO on a web site that includes dozens or even hundreds of pages is overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be, though. Prioritizing pages Look at SEO in small, bite-size pieces. For example, instead of looking at your site as a whole, look at each page on the site. Prioritize those pages, and then plan your SEO around each page’s priority. Taking a single page into consideration helps to eliminate the “everything has to happen right now” issue and makes it possible for you to create an SEO plan that will maximize your web site’s poten-tial in the minimum amount of time. Top priority pages should be the ones that your visitors will most naturally gravitate to, such as your home page, or pages that will generate the most in terms of traffic or revenue. When prioritiz-ing pages, you’re also creating a roadmap for your marketing efforts. If three of the pages on your site are your top priority, those three will have the lion’s share of time, capital, and effort when it comes to SEO and marketing. Site assessment After you have prioritized your site, you should assess where you stand and where you need to be with your current SEO efforts. Again, assess each page individually, rather than the site as a whole. In SEO, individual pages are equally important (if not more so) than the entire site. All of your efforts are designed to rank one page above all others in search results. Which page is the most important should be determined by your business needs. Your SEO assessment should be a document that outlines the current standing of the main SEO elements of each page. It should contain columns for the element of the site you’re assessing, the current status of that element, what needs to be improved in that element, and the deadline for improvement. It’s also helpful if you have a check box next to each item that can be marked when improvements are completed and a column for follow-up, because SEO is a never-ending process. The elements that should be considered during an assessment include:
Site/page tagging: The meta tags that are included in the coding of your web site are essential to having that site listed properly in a search engine. Tags to which you should pay specific attention are the title tags and description tags, because these are the most important to a search engine.
Page content: How fresh is your content? How relevant is it? How often is it updated? And how much content is there? Content is still important when it comes to search results. After all, most people are looking for a specific piece of content, whether it’s information or a product. If your content is stale, search engines could eventually begin to ignore your site in favor of a site that has fresher content. There are exceptions to this generalization, however. And one exception is if your content is, by nature, very rich but not very dynamic. Because of the usefulness of the content, your site will probably continue to rank well. But it’s a dif-ficult case to determine. In most cases, fresh content is better. Site links: Site links are essential in SEO. Crawlers and spiders look for the links into and out of your site in order to traverse your site and collect data on each URL. However, they also look for those links to be in-context, meaning the link must come from or lead to a site that is relevant to the page that is being indexed. Broken links tend to be a large problem when it comes to search engine ranking, so be sure to check that links are still working during the assessment process.
Site map: Believe it or not, a site map will help your web site be more accurately linked. But this is not the ordinary site map that you include to help users quickly navigate through your site. This site map is an XML-based document, at the root of your HTML, that contains information (URL, last updated, relevance to surrounding pages, and so on) about each of the pages within a site. Using this XML site map will help to ensure that even the deep pages within your site are indexed by search engines. If you don’t have a site map, you should create one. If you do have one, make sure it’s accurate and up to date. You can find an example SEO Assessment worksheet in Appendix D of this book. Use CRO SSS -REF this worksheet to create an accurate assessment of your web site.
Google is un-disputedly the most important search engine in the world today. A top 10 listing on Google can bring almost more traffic to your site than the other major search engines combined.
Google updates its main index more or less continuously although major “updates” still happen several times a year. These major updates correspond to major ranking algorithm changes. These updates have all been named – you may have heard bout Florida, Bourbon, Allegra or Jagger in the forums.
For new websites, I advise you to make your site live as quickly as possible, even before you are completed Given .hat Google prefers sites that are older, it no longer makes sense to wait until every \"i\" is dotted and \"t\" is crossed before going live with a new site. Instead, create an overall skeleton of your site, with a reasonably finished Home page and other important pages and make it live. Add new content, or update
The content, on at least a monthly basis. Google also prefers sites that add or update content regularly. This strategy has to do with what is called the Google Sandbox or the aging factor. The Sandbox is a set of filters applied to new websites whereby the site cannot rank well (or at all) for any competitive keywords for 6 – 24 months. Also called the aging delay . New sites can rank well for very niche, unique keyword phrases, such as their company name, but that’s about it. It is for this reason that new sites need to be made live on the Web as soon as possible in order to “start the aging clock”.
How Google Ranks Pages Google uses a sophisticated and proprietary algorithm for ranking Web sites that uses over 100 different criteria in the calculation, each of which is given a specific weighting which can change over time. Because the algorithm can change,specific techniques that used to work well may no longer work as well over time. This is important to remember when your site’s ranking seems to change for no apparent
On-page (keyword) factors. Keyword factors involve how, where and when keywords are used. Meaning how well your website is optimized for your most important keywords, and if those same keywords appear in your content and in links.Keyword factors determine page relevance. Off-page (link) factors. These include the quantity and quality of links that point to your site. Link factors determine page importance and are related to Google PageRank (PR). Links play a VERY important role in getting high rankings, particularly for competitive markets. Very simply put, Google finds pages in its index that are both relevant and important to a search for a particular term or phrase, and then lists them in descending order on search results pages. On-Page Factors and Page Relevance Keywords are intrinsically related to search terms – words and phrases that people enter into a search engine to find specific information. Most people enter 2 to 5-word phrases in Google to find what they are looking for. Google in turn analyzes all pages in its index and lists the pages which contain those search terms. Each web page usually contains one or two keywords that are repeated more often than others throughout the site. These keywords dictate the “theme” of a website.In addition, Google analyzes other sites that contain links to your site. Specifically, Google looks to see if the text of a link (the clickable portion) that points to your site also contain those same keywords.
Off-Page Factors and Page Importance Page importance is all about links - their quantity, quality, and strength, which we will
discuss later on. This part of the algorithm includes Google PageRank (PR).
Google looks for links that point to your site from other websites. Google believes a link from website A to website B is a “vote” for the importance of website B. In this way, other websites add votes for your website, which in turn helps increase a pages PageRank value on your site. Each page on your site has a PR value. Usually the PR value is the highest for the home page as most people will link to your home page rather than another page on your site.The more web pages that link to your site, and the more important in turn those pages are, the more important Google thinks your site is and hence the higher your PageRank value. Moreover, it is the quality, as well as the quantity, of links that matter – not all links are valued the same. Keep in mind that PageRank is but a single (albeit important) factor used in ranking. Sites that are highly optimized for on-page factors can outrank sites that are less optimized but have higher PageRank.PageRank value is assigned after comparing every page in the Google index against one another. This is billions and billions of web pages. Note that PageRank does NOT factor in keywords or phrases used on your site.
Top Things Google Looks For Although Google looks at over 100 different criteria (which can change in importance over time) for ranking pages, here are the top aspects or elements that are currently deemed a “must-do” if you are serious about a top ranking. Other elements will be discussed later on that are also important. The following are listed in approximate order of importance, with the first two items being more important than the others:____Keywords used in link text – both on your site and specially on other websites that point to your site. And the more links you have on other sites that point to your site and that contain your most important keywords, the better, all else being equal. This is extra important if you are targeting broad, generic or otherwise “competitive” search terms. ___Keywords used in the title of your Web pages(between the