Search Engine Optimization
While SEO is critical to getting your pages ranked
in the search engines, it's not really all that
difficult. Trying to fool search engine users
with keywords and trick tags makes sense only
if your goal is to flash a lot of ad banners,
return traffic be damned. That used to be the
business model for an entire industry.
But most sites in business today hope to convert
first-time visitors into loyal customers by building
long-term relationships. Sure, searchers need
to find your site, but the results on Hotbot's
Top Ten lists show that the only results people
stick with are the ones that don't try to scam
them. Trap doors, redirects, keyword spam, and
multiple domains that host the same pages are
more likely to make people reach for the back
button (a move the Direct Hit technology behind
Top Ten results can detect), not their credit
The Yahoo directory used to account for half
the traffic referred to most sites. I is good
site listed on Yahoo, but today they are using
google to flesh out their pages so it may not
be worth the $299.00 they require from commercial
Traffic from Google has increased at an astonishing
rate over the past few years. Google, once considered
a niche site for nerds, is the Wall Street Journal's
pick for best search engine on the Net, and the
traffic numbers seem to agree. They are running
at around 78% of all search traffic.
Inktomi, another traffic generator, doesn't
run its own search site. Instead, the company
provides the technology behind MSN Search and
AOL Search, two top referrers, as well as Hotbot
and over a dozen more.
Portal sites like Excite, Lycos, and AltaVista
still draw lots of traffic, but together Google
outweighs the entire rest of the field. Add it
up and it's pretty clear how to maximize
your traffic for the least effort:
- Make sure your site is thoroughly crawled
by Google and Inktomi.
- Get lots of links to your site from domains
that a lot of other sites link to — that's
how Google and Inktomi determine relevance when
ranking search results.
- For all other search engines, implement a
blanket strategy that gets you reasonable results.
By not chasing each one of them separately,
you can put your company's time and money to
more important uses.
- Write lots of good content.
- Design your website
in an intelligent, straight forward manner.
Submitting Your Site
There are a lot of automated search
engine submission services that you can use to
submit your site to as many search engines as
possible. The one most recommended by people
I talked to is Submit It, an early player that
did so well, Microsoft bought them — Submit
It is now part of MSN bCentral, and it charges
a minimum fee of US$59 to keep a few URLs submitted
for a year.
You can avoid the fees by simply submitting
to individual search engines on your own. Start
with UseIt's list of top referrers — that's
where most of the traffic you can get will come
from. And while you'd think submitting your site
to one Inktomi-powered site would work for all
of them, optimization experts have told us it
works better if you hit them all.
Submit It does submit your site to the busiest
directory sites, except for the biggies: Yahoo,
LookSmart (which MSN serves under its logo),
and the Open Directory Project (which powers
Lycos, Hotbot, and Netcenter categories). Some
of these directories charge for submission, but
$400-500 total will get your most important pages
into the most trafficked places.
Yahoo still offers free submissions, except
for business categories, which cost $199. But
even the fee doesn't guarantee they'll accept
your site, just that they'll decide on it within
a week — with free submissions, you don't
even get the promise that they'll ever get around
to evaluating it, given the incredible volume
Once you've submitted your pages, be ready to
wait a month, two, or three before they're crawled
and indexed. It's frustrating, but processing
a billion Web pages takes time — at a nonstop
rate of one hundred per second, it would still
take almost four months.
It isn't necessary to submit every page on your
site to the search engines. Just make sure they
can find all the pages that matter by hopping
links from your home pager. To do that, make
a "Site Map" that contains nothing
but a link to every page you want search engines
to crawl. If your Site Map is over 100k in size
you should break it into smaller peices so the
webbots won't choke on it.
Most people that are concerned
engine optimization focus obsessively on
keywords and HTML tags. But when it comes to
getting ranked by search engines, the only tags
that matter are TITLE, and the META tags KEYWORDS
and DESCRIPTION. And you have to be very careful
about how you handle each one.
TITLE makes a big difference, especially
with Google. It should be short (less than 40
characters seems to work best) and, most importantly,
should match the search queries people will be
using to find your site. This could lead to a
struggle with the marketing managers: They'll
want your site's page titles to contain the company
name and/or a positioning statement. Ask them
what good that will do if no one ever sees the
This is a good TITLE tag that will generate
traffic from people searching for "picasso":
This is a mediocre one:
<TITLE>Artstuff: Pablo Picasso</TITLE>
This one will put you out of business:
<TITLE>Artstuff: Your Number One Online
Resource for Fine Art Solutions!!!</TITLE>
The keyword tag is less important than it has been,
but it still means a lot. Keyword spamming is the
number one favorite trick for search engine optimization.
But many of the sites that stuff a zillion keywords
into their pages are hoping to get clicks to their
pages just to show ads -- they don't care if they
get any repeat business. But if you want to draw
real customers, focus on the keywords you think
your users will be searching for.
For our Picasso page, something like this would
work (note that uppercase letters don't matter):
<META NAME="keywords" content="Pablo
Picasso, Pablo, Picasso, painting, cubist, painting,
ceramics, collage, Spain, Guernica, Paris, 20th
century, Girl Before a Mirror">
Repeating the most important keyword twice seems
to work with some search engines, but repeating
more than that will cause some of them to ignore
the whole page.
META NAME="Description" gets
used for the page summary on Inktomi and some
other engines, so don't cram it with keywords:
A scary-looking description on a search engine's
results page could discourage people from clicking
through to your page, even if it scores high.
It never hurts to have the search
terms you want to match near the top of the page.
But cramming in a list of spam-style keywords
can also backfire -- Google will display them
under the page title on its results page, and
Inktomi will show them (as do many others) if
there is no DESCRIPTION tag.
Stuffing long strings of repeated keywords into
pages used to magically get them to the top of
search engine results, but that was before the
search engineers realized what was going on and
learned how to prevent this from happening. Once
in a while you'll see a "spamdexed" page
near the top of your results, but this trick
works less and less frequently these days.
Look at the top results for the
terms you most want to match. Will those sites
link to you from their domain? If they do, some
of their relevance will rub off on your pages.
There are ways to use this dishonestly, but usually
sites only link to other sites they're comfortable
being associated with.
Even if your site does manage to claw its way
to a plum position in the search results, that
doesn't guarantee that users will follow the
link -- that still takes some convincing.
It is important to use anchor text to refer
to the various pages of your site form other
pages, and from other sites. To optimize
anchor text, click to www.cybermarketingpro.com/anchor.htm
By meeting the standards of web
accessibility, you can improve your search engine
optimization. Take a look at web