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SEO Optimization for Google, Yahoo and MSN searches and your website

May 22, 2008
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Optimization for Google

By this point, you should have a pretty good idea of how Google works, including how your sites are indexed and what you should avoid doing. But there are a few more things to understand about Google and how your site is ranked. These additional tips will help you to improve your rankings.

The first thing you need to understand about Google is that, given time, if your site is on the Web and has at least one link to it, you will eventually be crawled. As an example, I have never done anything with my personal web site by way of SEO. I haven’t checked the code to ensure that it’s written with search engines in mind. I haven’t used or invested in keywords, and I haven’t submitted my site to a search engine.

Yet, if you type my name into the Google search engine, my personal web site will be the first result returned. I’m ranked number one for my name, because (presumably) there is only one of me. If someone searches for my name, I’m at the top of the list. And that’s good.

But your site is probably going to be much more diverse than mine, so how do you get Google to take notice? Again, be patient. Google will crawl your site in a short period of time (sometimes it takes less than a week). And once your site has been crawled, you can begin the slow climb through the search results.

On my personal site, it took nearly a year to reach the top ranking slot for my site. But I never did anything to boost that rank. It’s my personal web site, so I don’t put a lot of effort into it. In short, it is what it is, without any type of SEO strategy at all.

If your site is topically related to other sites, however, you probably won’t be able to throw your site on the Web and wait for it to be indexed at number one. And although you will be indexed automatically, you’ll have to compete for top placement.

Google doesn’t sell placement, either. There are ads above and to the right side of the search results, but ads are the only placement that’s available for purchase. That means that where your site places is based on your SEO and search marketing efforts.

Understanding Google PageRank

Google’s proprietary ranking algorithm is what makes it different from the other search engines. An element of that algorithm is Google PageRank.

Google explains PageRank like this:

  • “PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the Web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at considerably more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; for example, it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.” Using these and other factors, Google provides its views on pages’ relative importance.

  • Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines dozens of aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.”

In other words, a PageRank is based on a ballot system that compares your site to all the other pages on the Web that are related. The comparison allows the algorithm to determine which pages are most relevant to a search query based on numerous elements of the page. A hyperlink to a page counts as a vote of support. The PageRank of a page is defined recursively, or in comparison to the other pages that Google is also ranking, and depends on the number and PageRank metric of all pages that link to it. A page that is linked to by many pages with high PageRank receives a high rank itself. If there are no links to a web page, there is no support for that page.

Google assigns a numeric weighting for each web page on the Internet; this PageRank denotes your site’s importance according to the PageRank algorithm.

So if you want to successfully rank on the Google search engine, you should follow the guidelines that are laid out in Google’s Webmaster Central (http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/). There is also a set of tools available in Webmaster Central that allows you to analyze and add to your site to help make it more Google-friendly. Those tools include the following:.

  • Site Status Wizard: Determines if your site is currently being indexed by Google.

  • Webmaster Tools: This is a set of tools designed to help you improve the indexing and ranking of your site. You can also find the Google Sitemap Generator here.

  • Content Submission Tools: Use these to submit your site to Google, or to add products to Google Base or content to Google Book Search.

  • Google’s Webmaster Blog: Find tips and strategies for ranking well in Google on this blog. You’ll also find changes to the Google algorithm and other information that you’ll need to stay on top of your site rankings.

  • Webmaster Discussion Groups: Talk to others about what they’re doing to improve their Google rankings.

  • Webmaster Help Center: If you don’t understand something about Webmaster Central, here’s where you’ll find an explanation.

Optimization for MSN

MSN is now powered by Microsoft Live, and although you can go to the MSN.com web page and still access MSN search capabilities, the underlying technology has been rebranded as Microsoft Live. But it’s still one of the top three search engines, and it’s definitely not one that you should ignore. Studies have shown that searchers who enter your site from MSN searches may be fewer in number than those from other search engines, but they routinely have higher conversion rates.

As with other search engines, the basic optimization techniques that you’ve learned are the best way to get listed with MSN search. MSN also does not allow paid ranking, so your organic efforts will be the deciding factor for your rankings.

The one difference with MSN is that this search engine puts more emphasis on the freshness of content than other search engines. Specifically, sites that update high-quality, relative content on a regular basis have a better chance of ranking high with MSN. So if you have not yet implemented a content strategy, and if you want to rank well with MSN, you should plan and implement that strategy.

MSN, like Google, indexes pages according to a proprietary algorithm. And like Google, MSN (or more accurately, Microsoft Live) has a set of guidelines that you should follow if you would like your site to rank well. Those guidelines can be found by going to MSN or Microsoft Live and using the search string: Site Owner Help. The guidelines that you’re seeking should return as the top search result.

MSN also looks at your meta description tags, and the title tags on your pages. So pay close attention to creating the most useful and relevant tags you can. Also include keywords and important information as near the top of each of your pages as possible.

Over time it’s certain that the MSN brand will be folded into and eventually replaced by Microsoft Live Search. Branding is likely to be the only thing that changes when this happens. MSN had long used Microsoft technology (MSN, after all, does stand for Microsoft Network). This means that your SEO efforts will remain viable even as the MSN/Microsoft Live rebranding takes place.

for Yahoo!

Every search engine differs a little bit from the others, and Yahoo! is no exception. Where Google focuses on elements like relevance of content and links, and MSN focuses on freshness of content and the tags on your site, Yahoo! is more focused on keyword density and keywords in the URL and title tags.

So if you’ve used basic SEO techniques, you’ll likely be listed with Yahoo! in a matter of time. Your rank on Yahoo! will depend on competition, of course. So you’ll need to focus carefully on the keywords that you select if your industry is a highly competitive one. Just be careful, because using a higher density of keywords so you’ll rank well in Yahoo! could cause you problems with MSN and Google. It could look to those search engines as if you’re stuffing your site with keywords.

The Yahoo! Search Crawler

The Yahoo! search crawler is called SLURP, and it will rank your page based first on your keyword density. The optimum keywords density according to Yahoo! is:

  • Title tag — 15 percent to 20 percent: Yahoo displays the title tag content in its result page. Therefore, write the title as a readable sentence. A catchy title will attract the reader to your web site.

  • Body text — 3 percent: Boldfacing the keywords sometimes boosts the page’s ranking. But be careful not to overdo it. Too much boldfaced content irritates readers.

  • Meta tags — 3 percent: The meta description and keyword tags provide important keywords at the beginning of your web page. Just be careful not to use the keywords repeatedly in the keyword tag, because Yahoo! may consider that practice spam. Write the description tag as a readable sentence.

Yahoo! also looks at the inbound links to your site. And of course, there are other factors SLURP looks at while it’s crawling your site.

Even when you’re optimizing for three (or 15) different search engines, there are a few basic optimization strategies that are essential and relevant for all of them. Rather than focusing on all of the differences and stressing yourself out, focus on all of the actions that are similar for each search engine, and then think of how you could change or improve your site so that it will be the most relevant, and the most locatable, for your potential visitors.

Put customers and visitors first, and your search engine rankings should follow naturally.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2009 7:05 pm

    Finally someone who can write a good blog ! . This is the kind of information that is useful to those want to increase their SERP’s. I loved your post and will be telling others about it. Subscribing to your RSS feed now. Thanks

  2. January 30, 2011 3:16 am

    Another great method to maximize the effectiveness of your Web business, with a minimal spending budget, is to take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) marketing methods. The rise of the search engine (e.g. Google, Yahoo and Bing) has provided totally free and instant access to vast volumes of info and education.

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