Search Engine Optimization

search engine optimization

Our overall approach to Internet Marketing relies on first taking advantage of the nature of the medium - it's infrastructure. If you think of the World Wide Web as a giant database, with every website being a collection of files, the challenge is in being found. We've all had the misfortune of wasting time looking for misplaced files - paper and digital. We either didn't save it to the proper folder or we left it on the desk only to have it disappear. The point is that the more stuff there is to find, the harder it becomes to find it. To complicate matters further, there are so many businesses or organizations with similar offerings, that web users have completely lost patience with the "surfing" process; thus the need to focus and refine both the content and the technical skills required to make it stand out.

Working with Search Engines

Not too many years ago any discussion of search engines had to begin with an explanation of what a search engine was. Today, if you have a website, the odds are you know what a search engine is, if for no other reason than you are probably bombarded with emails from search engine experts.

Guaranteed top rankings! Submission to over 500 search engines! ...NOT FOR LONG

No one can legitimately guarantee top rankings, not for any length of time and not by playing straight with the search engines. People who make these claims are probably "spamming" the search engines. Once caught (note we did not say "if") the spammer and his client are in for trouble. So we suggest you refrain from responding to the top rank guaranteed siren song and prepare for the longer, legitimate road to SEMAX.

The best way to understand how to work with search engines is to put yourself in the user's shoes. We've all been there: type in the keyword or phrase and off you go.

The search engine's job is to give you results that are relevant to you. The better the results, the more likely you are to use that search engine again. The more times a search engine is used the more it can charge for all the money making activities it performs. Simple.

So how does a search engine generate consistently relevant results?

It weighs and measures words taken from your website. Though each search engine uses, in essence, a different scale, the raw material it weighs is pretty similar. If, for instance, your website has to do with residential real estate, a search engine is going to look at how many times you use the words "residential real estate," as well as the placement of those words (how they are tagged in the code). So a website named residentialrealestate.com starts with an advantage. If the site has residential real estate in its main headline, it has another advantage. If it also uses those words with a certain frequency in the homepage text, it will score yet again.

But that's only the beginning.

Once the search engine has negotiated your site and selected the words it will use to establish relevancy (typically culled from the first 500 words on each page), it indexes the site or every page in the site, depending on the search engine. Once indexed, the search engine will determine what keywords are appropriate and how highly your site should be ranked relative to others evidencing the same keywords. Here are some of the factors used to determine relevancy:

  • Meta Tags
  • Keyword Frequency
  • Link Popularity

Meta Tags are words used in the HTML of the site that name, describe and offer keywords for each page. While Meta Tags are not as important as they once were, they should still be updated for top level pages.

Keyword Frequency - because search engines appeal to people, their measurements try to mimic how a person might relate to a page of content. If your page is about something specific, a visitor might expect to see certain words used several times. Of course this is easy to do on a content heavy site but much more difficult on a brochure-type site. Simply put, your keywords need to appear often enough on the page, but not TOO often or the search engine will think you are spamming.

Search engines continually refine their approach in an effort to both determine as objectively as possbile what a site is about AND to keep search engine experts from manipulating the results. For instance, while most search engines still give extra weight to text in headlines, they also now look to words contained within link tags and image tags. The idea, we presume, is that of all the words on a page, the words contained in these special areas are likely to be most representative of the site as whole while simultaneously being less easy to manipulate.

Link Popularity - this is a concept and technology developed by Google with variations used by others. The basic idea of link popularity is that by measuring the number and type of sites linked to yours good assumptions can be made regarding the relevancy and credibility of your keywords, and thus how important your site is likely to be compared to competitors. If you have never seen a report detailing the sites linked to yours, it's interesting and educational. The key to link popularity is content. The more you have, the more focused and specific it is, the better. As other website owners find your site they will link to it because you have content they believe their visitors will want to read. The idea is that one site owner is not going to steer his visitors to more content that is either not good or is unrelated to his own.

Link Quality - The quality of sites linked to yours is also an issue. Directory sites - sites that specialize in assembling links to other sites by topic (Yahoo and Open Directory are two of the largest) - are examples of "quality links." Directories have been around as long as the Internet. They break content/topics and the sites that apply to them down in a limitless number of ways. Horizontal directories include everything from Yahoo to a local mytown.com. Vertical directories focus on industries and single topics. Getting your site listed in these directories, a long and labor intensive process, is a key to link popularity.

Please note: all search engines and Google in particularly change their search criteria regularly. Over the last year or so, Google has worked hard to refine the relevance of its Inbound Links (IBL) approach to ranking. In doing so, they have effectively eliminated mass linking (also called link farms or automated reciprocal linking programs) from being a viable SEO activity. Reciprocal links, unless they are narrowly relevant to your site, no longer carry the weight they once did. In fact, a site with many unrelated reciprocal links may actually be penalized by Google.


There's still more...

All the content in the world won't do you any good if it isn't kept updated. Remember, a website isn't something you create once and don't revisit for years. A website is NOT a brochure. Rather a website is an evolutionary marketing/communication program best designed to change and grow over time.

Once again, recall your own experiences. What happens when you come across a site that obviously hasn't changed in a long time? You probably don't stop to think about the current validity of the content: you simply move on.

When a search engine spider returns to your site, as they will every 4-6 weeks, it is specifically looking for changes. If it gets to the homepage and determines that nothing has changed, it, likewise, moves on. If your site is not re-indexed periodically it will begin to lose rank, and depending on how competitive the environment is for your keywords, your site could fall quite quickly.

The solution? Make changes regularly. Add timely or topical content that is easy to keep up to date. Create news articles and link them to the homepage. Add topical or time sensitive content of the kind that gets your attention on other websites.

OR pay a professional group that specializes in PRO-Active website management to manage the site for you. As it happens, Just Imagine is just such a group.



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