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Online Library > Site Links > Search and Search Engines



Search Engine Marketing and Website Optimization 101
By Enrique De Argaez, webmaster


In search engine marketing (SEM), there are many terms and activities that cause confusion. For example, some firms that specialize in search engine optimization (SEO) are involved in search engine advertising, then there are search engine marketers that optimize websites. SEM and SEO are two different things, this article will try to clarify the different meanings and how they relate to the overall website optimization and search marketing process.

Search engine marketing (SEM) encompasses a wide variety of skills such as search engine optimization, directory paid inclusion, search engine paid inclusion, vertical search, keyword selection, search engine advertising and several other elements.

From a practical point of view, in SEO, the object is to get high rankings in the search engine results. In SEM the mission is different and the object is to get as much targeted traffic as possible. This article will address the various elements that take part in the process, the terms used in the business, their different meanings and how they fit into the Search Engine Marketing picture.

Ever wonder how or why your competitor gets better search engine rankings than you do? Does he know something you don’t? Well, maybe he actually does know something that you didn't know till today, that is, so without further ado, read on this SEM 101.

We will not get involved too deeply in the procedures, we will explain the meanings, and why each term is important in the optimization process.


Search Engine Spiders

Search engine spiders are also known as crawlers. Search engine spiders find and fetch Web pages, and build a list of words found on each Web page.

If a search engine is unable to spider a page, then it cannot include the information about that page in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Common reasons that search engines are unable to spider a site include:

· Problematic site navigation schemes

· Problematic URL structures

· Poor crosslinking

· Web server issues

Interestingly, your Web analytics software (WebTrends, ClickTracks, Omniture, Urchin, Hitbox, etc.) will tell you how often your site is crawled by search engine spiders. If you change your content frequently, search engine spiders will revisit your site more frequently because search engine companies want to deliver the most accurate, current, and relevant search results.

However, a page will not rank higher just because a spider visits your site more frequently. Spidering and ranking are quite different processes. The terms spider/crawler, index, and rank have three completely different meanings that we will try to clarify.


The search engine index

After a search engine is able to spider a page and records the words and phrases on a page, it places that data into an index. Whenever you perform a search on Google, for example, the data about a URL is stored in the search engine index. Some search engine marketers call the index a "search engine database."

A page can be included in a search engine index but not have rank. However, a page cannot rank unless it is in the search engine index.

Web site owners should monitor their sites' index count every month. An index count is the number of pages that are in the search engine indices. Each search engine has its own way of determining the index count. This can be done manually or with the help of specialized tools.

The following are current ways of determining the index count of your site in the main search engines:

· AltaVista
domain:www.yourdomain.com

· Google and Teoma
site:yourdomain.com yourdomain.com

· FAST Search
domain:www.yourdomain.com

· MSN Search
site:yourdomain.com

· Yahoo
site:yourdomain.com or domain:yourdomain.com


Take the time to perform these types of searches. Do not rely on link popularity checkers and other software that perform automated queries to the search engines. Unless the software owners have permission from Google, Yahoo, MSN Search, Teoma and other search engines to perform these queries (none of them do), the results might not be accurate. This is evident if you compare the results you obtain from using the various tools and observing the great variation in the results.

In case you are pressed for time and need to use a tool, try the
PR Search . This is a new search engine checker that is free and allows you to check how your website is positioned in Google and Yahoo. It also works as a search engine and gives you the page rank of each site.

If your web pages are not included in a particular search engine index, this may be due to the site having problems with server issues, site navigation, or URL structure. In addition, a site can be spidered by a search engine but not necessarily be included in the search engine index.


Search engine rankings

Okay everyone, repeat after me: No SEO knows what the search engine algorithm is. Say it five times. Say it 10 times. Say it 100 times or say it more until it sinks in.

No search engine marketer knows what a search engine's algorithm is. Nice sales pitch, but one that is just not true.

No one knows exactly how a search engine ranks Web pages. What ethical search engine marketers do is follow the terms and guidelines set forth by the search engines. Unethical search engine marketers try to exploit the loopholes in the terms and guidelines. It is often the unethical search engine marketers who claim to know Google's search engine algorithm.

Search engine rankings tend to rely on three components:

1. Keyword rich text - A page must contain the words and/or phrases that people type into search queries.

2. Search engines must be given easy access to that text.

3. Other people must consider a page's content to be valuable. If a person thinks content is valuable, that person tends to link to the page that contains the content.

Of course, no search engine measures these components in the same manner. For example, all search engines remove common words from a page, called stop words or filter words. Filter words are common words (a, an, of, or, and, the) that the search engines ignore during a search. Search engines filter out these words because using these words in a search query can slow down the retrieval of search results without improving accuracy.

Google's stop word list is not going to be the same as Yahoo's stop word list. Additionally, no keyword density checker (from any search engine marketer) is going to have the same stop word list as Google. Likewise, each search engine measures link popularity in a different way.
Does that mean that you have to create different pages for different search engines? Of course not. A well-written, user-friendly, and spider-friendly site can get plenty of traffic from all of the search engines without resorting to search engine spam.

So remember, being ranked in a search engine does not have the same meaning as being indexed in a search engine.


Improving Search Engine Rankings

There are two fundamental elements in any website that can help its position in SE rankings. If you know this, you can improve how your site ranks without forking out a lot of money to the search engines or to the so called SEO experts. The two main elements for improving web site rankings are:

1. Content (which is king)

2. Linking (which is queen)

It is not that difficult. It really is quite simple, so read on as we unlock the secret chest of information that your competition is probably using to get better rankings. The rewards could be a nice surprise in your SE rankings.


Content is King

Content is easily viewable and just as easy to measure. It essentially includes what you see on the site: that is, the text. If your competition has more text than you, consider increasing yours; if he has more keywords, consider increasing yours; if he has bigger headers, consider increasing yours. By all means, we are not suggesting to make a carbon copy of his site, but to look at the on-site factors that your site may be lacking, then evaluating whether to increase them.

A note of caution: Make sure that any changes you make actually improve the site and increase its value for your customers. In other words, never sacrifice quality for quantity unless you believe that the added text actually serves to better the overall look, feel and quality of your site. I have gotten a PR5 for a very small page with very small text, but with the right outbound links. I have also had the bad experience of a PR7 page go to PR5 just because we added one bad link.

Some ideas to increase the quality and the quantity of your website content:

  • Write a monthly article about your topic
    and upload it to your site
  • Write a page about your main key phrase,
    product or service

  • If your headers don’t have your key phrase
    in them, then be sure to add it

  • Make sure the titles on all your pages relate
    to the content of the page

  • Write, write, write (and then write some more).

  • Check the spelling and avoid typos.



Linking is Queen

Linking requires more research. Look up a competitor's site on Google by typing in: link: http://www.competitorsdomain.com/ into the search box (replace competitorsdomain with the URL of your competitor). The results page that you will see is a list of all the sites that link to your competitor. Go through that list, and for each site, figure out how he got that link. Some links might be paid, some might be link exchanges, some might be directories like dmoz.org or Yahoo! and others might be references or testimonials.

Make a spreadsheet with each site linking to your competition, and jot down how he got the link. Then, for each site that is appropriate, get it to link to you. Remember to stay away from link farms and low quality links. Link farms are sites that have nothing but links. Low quality links are sites with little to no content. These sites will often try to exchange links with you: don’t do it! Only link to a site if it will enhance the experience of your users.

Getting links takes time and patience, and writing is not usually done overnight. To top it off, once these projects are done, you then have to wait for the search engines to discover and re-evaluate your site. Both the link campaign and the writing projects should be regular activities, rather than something you do as a one-shot injection. Try to create new pages every month, and to add to your links every month. That way your site will gradually climb to the top.

…And that’s all for now. I hope that this 101 has been useful and given you a quick view of the secret tricks of the trade that may help you get that much-needed edge over your competitor in search engine rankings, without skipping a beat or spending an arm and a leg.


Take care,
Ricky



About the Author:
Enrique De Argaez is the webmaster of the
"Internet World Stats" website. Since 2000 he has been collecting Internet Usage Statistics, and publishing the data for over 233 countries and regions of the world for free use by the academia, the global business community and the general public. For more information on Internet World Usage, please visit: http://www.InternetWorldStats.com




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