Getting honest with the search engines
June 25, 2002
I spend a lot of time reading newsletters and forum postings about Search
Engine Marketing. More often than not, people are asking about methods
used to improve Search Engine rankings: what works, what doesn't, and
what will get you in trouble.
A program that searches documents for specified keywords and returns
a list of the documents where the keywords were found.
A formula or set of steps for solving a particular problem.
Frankly, no one can predict what will happen from day to day with the
Search Engines. Only the Search Engine companies themselves know if the
algorithms will change from one day to the next. Even the Search Engine
rules change from month to month, sometimes daily. Think of the changes
that have happened since pay for inclusion and pay-per-click have taken
over the market for Search Engine results.
It seems so simple to try and comply with the Search Engine rules. Even
though optimization adds to the basic content of a site and source code,
there are ways to approach this without stepping over the line.
We personally do not use the methods mentioned below (methods to avoid,
methods to be wary of) in order to play it the absolute safest way, using
a long term plan in providing you optimum ranking in the Search Engines.
Methods to avoid
- Keyword stuffing. "Stuffing" keywords into places
where keywords don't belong, such as comment tags, image ALT tags where
the keywords have nothing to do with the specific image
- Invisible text. Text color the same as background color
- Automated submissions. Using automated tools to deliver huge
numbers of pages to submission pages of Search Engines
- Submissions to "thousands" of Search Engines. A waste
of time, since the major Search Engines/Directories drive the majority
of the traffic to websites
- FFA (free for all) links. Link popularity is good, but only
when the links are relevant; a link from a page of random links is not
worth nearly as much as a link from a site that is relevant to your
- Search Engine Marketing companies hosting your pages on their server.
The marketing company "owns" your pages, and if you decide
you want to move them, you may have a hard time wresting them away.
(This is not always the case with marketing companies that also provide
hosting, but you need to carefully choose when using this option.)
Methods to be wary of
- Doorway pages
- Maintenance programs
Also known as stealth, a technique used by some Web sites to deliver
one page to a Search Engine for indexing while serving an entirely different
page to everyone else.
Cloaking is very difficult to do correctly, if you do not have an expert
providing this service you could well be banned by the Search Engines.
There are ways for this to be done that are accepted by some Search Engines.
In general, cloaking is not always accepted by the Search Engine rules
and can be a gamble unless you are certain your service provider knows
what they are doing. Check credentials and get referrals from people who
have used their services.
A page made specifically to rank well in Search Engines for particular
keywords, serving as an entry point through which visitors pass to the
Doorway pages are not accepted as they used to be by the Search Engines.
A carefully crafted doorway page done by hand is entirely different from
an automated doorway page generated by software. A few well-designed pages
are a far cry from mass generated automated pages sent in large numbers
through the Search Engine submission page, which are often considered
as spam. Again, check credentials and get referrals from people who have
used their services.
There are times when a page drops from the Search Engine listings or
you re-design the page which might give you a reason to re-submit the
page to the Search Engine. Re-submitting your pages every month is not
always necessary. Having a log stats program in place will help you see
which pages are still listed, along with a monthly ranking report. If
you have these tools you should be able to see if any of your pages have
changed. Be wary of people who consistently re-submit your pages, since
re-submission can sometimes cause your pages to be dropped if they are
already listed in the database.
My own experience with a very large website I did Search Engine marketing
for, showed that the older (longer) the pages were in the Search Engine
results, the better for link popularity and ranking. Of course, paid inclusion
can give you more security in having your web pages stabilized in the
Search Engine results.
A good maintenance plan will include providing a ranking report, tweaking
keywords in your source code as needed for a monthly/six month/yearly
fee and may also include log stats so you can see where your traffic is
coming from and what keywords your visitors are using to visit your website.
Methods that work
Content is one of the most important items you need for your website.
Once visitors arrive, you need to keep them there. Adding keyword-rich
text that makes sense and serves the concept of the web page improves
your ranking and keeps your visitors interested. The more text, the better
for Search Engine spiders when they index a website.
There is nothing worse than arriving at a website and having difficulty
understanding where to go for the information you are seeking. Have easy
to use, clearly marked navigation so your visitors click through instead
of click-away in frustration. Search Engine spiders (robots) index text
and links; having good navigation is important to the indexing of your
Individualized Title and META tags for each of your important web pages
gives you the best chance for optimum success in ranking. Title tags are
necessary for Search Engine ranking, in particular with Google's Search
Engine. META tags have decreased in importance, but are worth using for
clarity and search results. The META description is still used by some
Search Engines as the default text indexed by Search Engine spiders for
the search results. The keyword tag is the least important but is still
used by some engines. My theory is, you never know when the rules of the
Search Engines will change, or a new engine will want them, so take the
time to include these tags in all your web pages.
Links from other popular websites back to your website are one way of
increasing your site's popularity. Finding websites with similar content
(but not your competitors) and high link popularity, then trading links
to be posted on each site, is one way of increasing your site popularity.
Good content is vitally important because visitors who stay longer while
visiting a website help measure the popularity of the site in the Search
Paying a one-time fee or (as is most recently the case) a yearly renewable
subscription fee to be included in the Search Engine results. Directories
also use this style of service to accept submissions. Paid inclusion does
not guarantee that you will be listed with the Search Engine or Directory,
but gives a shorter time-line of acceptance if they do.
is the most popular PPC engine. You bid an amount per keyword phrase to
get the highest ranking in the Overture search results compared to your
Google AdWords Select
AdWords is a program that uses your chosen keywords in an ad in the
Google Search Engine results in order to promote click-throughs.
Log Stats programs
Having a log stats program is very helpful in tracking your visitors,
finding which keywords they are searching on to enter your website, tracking
which pages they leave from and much more. Analog
is a good free log stats program. WebTrends
is a popular paid logs program used by many businesses.
Free submissions take patience
After paying for inclusion, try submitting to some of the secondary Search
Engines and directories. Long before Google was a household word, I thought
it might become popular and submitted the company website. It certainly
paid off a year later when Google became the best of the upcoming Search
Another avenue to venture down are specialty directories. As the web
grows larger over time, specialty directories (also known as vertical
portals or "vortals") focused on your business area may help
you get more link popularity and your company name out to the public.
Stay honest, create good content and do your homework when hiring for
services. Using affordable Search Engine Marketing services you will add
to your audience exposure on the web. In this way you will always be ahead
of the game and hopefully, ahead of your competitors.
*definitions supplied from Webopedia website: http://www.webopedia.com/
**definition supplied from Marketing Terms.com website: http://www.marketingterms.com/
|About the author
Daria Goetsch is the founder and Search Engine Marketing Consultant
for Search Innovation Marketing (http://www.searchinnovation.com),
a Search Engine Promotion company serving small businesses. She has
specialized in search engine optimization since 1998, including three
years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly & Associates,
a technical book publishing company.
Copyright © 2002-2004 Search Innovation Marketing. http://www.searchinnovation.com
All Rights Reserved.
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