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Search Engines

On this page I will try to explain a little bit about how Search Engines work, and what can be done to improve your ranking in them. There are also many things in the actual design and code of the web site that I will incorporate into your pages, but here I will explain what YOU need to know and what you can do regarding search engines in order to rank higher. I will try to answer the following questions:

WHAT IS SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

This refers to configuring your site so that it ranks well for particular search terms, and will have a better chance of being picked up by search engines you are not currently listed in. Getting listed does not necessarily mean you will rank well for particular terms, it just means the search engine knows you exist.
Achieving a high ranking in the search engines is an elusive, ever changing process. This is because the search engines themselves are continually changing their methods and continually conceiving new ways of making money form web site owners such as you.

WHAT IS A SEARCH ENGINE?

Search engines are "robots" which extract data from the internet through a "crawling" process (also called "spidering") and organizes it in a database (also called an "index"). This database is then searchable by people who type their search terms in the search box. The search engine then sorts the information in it's database according to "relevance".

HOW IS MY WEBSITE RANKED BY THE SEARCH ENGINES?

The search engines use complicated "algorithms" to sort the sites and rank them according to "relevance". These algorithms are a well guarded secret, and are constantly changing to improve search results and to thwart what they consider "spamming" techniques to trick the search engines into placing sites higher than they should be.

Relevance in search results is determined by two sets of factors - the content of the site and other external factors.

WEB CONTENT FACTORS IN RANKING:
EXTERNAL FACTORS:
There are many important things YOU must consider when organizing your site. We will go over what these important things are now.

HOW ARE KEYWORDS BEST INCORPORATED INTO MY SITE?

An important distinction is between "keywords" and "keyword phrases". It is important to get the right keywords on the page, but keyword phrases are even more important. Your page will rank higher in the results if it contains the exact phrase or same word order that is put in the search box. for instance, "Wedding in Maui" wouldn't generate the same results as "Maui Wedding". You should think of what search phrases people could use to find your site, and include those phrases in your text. You should phrase the same thing in different ways if it might be searched for in different ways.

HOW IS LINKING BENEFICIAL TO MY SITE?

Links from other sites are not only good for the traffic you may receive from them. They are also very important regarding search engines. There are three main advantages to having links to your site from other sites:
  1. If the link is from a well frequented site, you may get quite a few visitors through it.
  2. It can be the fastest way to get indexed by the search engines. When they spider the internet, they follow these links to your site and index yours also. The only ways a search engine will index your site is by you or me submitting your site to them (usually involving a fee), or by them following a link to you from an already indexed site.
  3. Search engines rank sites higher for what they call "link popularity". That is, if you have other sites linking to you, it can increase your standing in search results. Not all links are equal though. They must be links from sites somehow related to your site content, and high ranking sites linking to you help much more than lower ranking ones. A lot of links from very low ranking sites probably won't help at all, and links from "link farms" or "link rings" will probably hurt.

How can I find out who is linking to my site?

That is easy, just click here to find out how to find out!

What are some specific things I can do for my web site to rank higher?

First, read the above about keywords and linking, then do what is advised below.
REGARDING KEYWORDS:
Check your text on all your pages. Can you re-word it to get more of the important keywords and keyphrases in there, while still sounding good to read?
Can you add headings containing an important keyword or phrase?

REGARDING LINKS:
One of the most important things to do - and also one of the most difficult and time consuming is getting quality links pointed to your site. But, this is a MUST for gaining a higher ranking. You want to get links from high ranking web sites with related content. It takes contacting the web site owner, and many will be glad to link to you, especially if you offer to put a reciprocal link back to them on your site. It is a win-win situation.

How to do it:
  1. Talk to local businesses you know which have web sites, and see if they will link to your site.
  2. Do a search on Google with your keywords. Those that come up are your main competitors who are ranking ahead of you. See who is linking to them, contact those people, and try to also get a link to your site. For info on how to see who is linking to them (or you), click here.
  3. Do a search on Google, and find related businesses that are NOT competitors. Contact them and suggest reciprocal links.
  4. In your search on Google using the keywords for your website, look for Internet Directories which list related businesses, and request to be added. Some may charge a fee for this. A suggestion: don't list in directories that send you spam emails, just list in the ones that come up in search results using your keywords.
  5. See if there is a professional organization you can join or are already are a member which has a website with links to it's members.
  6. Another way to find smaller places to submit is to search on Google for the words "Add URL" or "Submit URL" (or any other variation of related text such as "Submit site") and your keywords. This will find a slew of places for you to submit your site to. Be careful not to submit to link farms though, especially ones that require a reciprocal link. One clue as to whether it is a Link Farm or not is if the links are totally unrelated to one another.
When contacting other web site owners regarding linking, it is most effective to contact them in person or by phone if possible. If contacting them by email, try to use their name and make it as personal as you can, so as not to appear as some kind of spam.
Not all kinds of links are equal. If possible, it is best to have a text link made of important keywords. Another words, It is better for the actual link to look like this: Hawaii Web Site Design rather than this: www.alohasonline.com.
If you need any help with this, let me know.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION SCAMS TO AVOID

It seems wherever there is money to be made, there are scammers trying to make it the easy way, and the SEO business seems to have attracted a lot of them. SEO companies can help, but be sure who you are hiring if you go that route. Most important, don't respond to unsolicited emails from any company promising to improve your ranking. Most of these are spam coming from unscrupulous people who will take your money for little actual benefit to your, and possibly could do things to get you penalized in the search engines.

Here are some of the more common scams:
  1. "Let me charge you monthly for your optimized pages" scam.
    You should be charged only once for website optimization, not on a continuing basis. If they contend that they must do further work on your site, you should find out what it is and why it is necessary. If a site is properly optimized, continuing work is ordinarily not needed.
  2. "I need to host your optimized pages" scam.
    There is no advantage to changing hosting servers unless your site is currently a sub-domain with your domain name forwarded. There is a disadvantage if you would be paying more than you should for hosting and your pages are held hostage to their continuing monthly charges for questionable services. A good SEO company will NOT need to move your site.
  3. "Guaranteed ranking in major search engines" scam.
    Most of the time these guarantees are worthless. There are always conditions, such as being ranked high for a search term only your site would contain, which would put you high in the listings even without their help, or in a search engine you've never heard of (and neither have most others).
  4. "We will automatically link you to 100s of websites and increase your link popularity" scam.
    These automated link scams are really bad. They create "link farms" which are long loosly related bunches of links that plague the web. Search engines hate link farms, and being in them won't do you any good, and could cause you to be penalized.
  5. "Get Listed In 1000s of Search Engines for only $30!" scam.
    All these do is run your URL through an automated submissions program (which are banned by all the major search engines) and submit to thousands of search engines that few use. There are many tiny search engines that are foreign, or very specialized for things such as sports or pets etc. Usually all it gets you is lots of spam email.
  6. "Dear YourURL.com,
    We recently visited your website and noticed that you were not listed in major search engines..."

    Yes, I get these too, or some version of this. They never visited your website, their spam program automatically puts your domain name in the heading. This, or something like it, is an automated spam that everyone with a website gets.
If you do use an SEO company, be sure you know exactly what they are doing to your website and why. Some use what the search engines call "spamming techniques" which use trickery to gain higher ranking. While this may work for a time, the search engines can and do penalize or ban websites using these techniques. If that should happen, your best option would probably be to get a different URL and start over. Some also put dozens of hidden links on your pages to their site and affiliated sites in order to benefit their ranking (another thing considered "spamming" by the search engines). All this does is put your site at risk.

There are many reputable SEO companies also, and for a website competing for very popular keywords, they can make a difference. You must expect to pay quite a lot for their service, and for websites in areas not highly competetive or without a lot of income being derived directly from them, it becomes questionable as to when the cost is worth it.

When I do your web site, search engine accessibility is a major consideration of the design. I also give extended help to my clients in coming up with web site content which will give the best search engine results. Ordinarily, the additional cost of a SEO company is not required.

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search engines in a nutshell

 

 

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