SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION. Introduction

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1 SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION Introduction

2 OVERVIEW Search Engine Optimization is fast becoming one of the most prevalent types of marketing in this new age of technology and computers. With increasingly more consumers going online to research, compare and purchase products and services, it is only natural that trying to capture these consumers to individual businesses and websites has followed. From the early and primitive stages of the internet search engines to the fast evolving and ever changing algorithms that these search engines use to rank, index and ban websites; the speed at which information and updates happen is incredible. Search engine optimization has currently come to rest on a few basic principles that are seemingly simple to understand, but much harder to truly implement. Businesses and the people that run them are constantly looking for work-around ways to rank quickly in searches and capture that online traffic. The search engines have been able to stay one step ahead; however, helping to level the playing field and truly giving the most popular, legitimate and savvy websites the lion s share of the visitors. PART 1 Background PART 2 What Do Search Engines Do? PART 3 Why Do Search Engines Index? PART 4 History of Search Engine Optimization PART 5 Components of Search Engine Optimization PART 6 Conclusion ii P a g e

3 Background Search engine optimization is the act of improving visibility of a website and its pages within the realm of search engines or online searches. Improving visibility relates directly to not only how often and how high in searches you show up for a user s search, but also how many user searches you show up under. The most common notation for a user search is that of a keyword or keyword term. Because of the fact that users of search engines type in a specific set of characters and words to find an item, it is possible to tailor a website and its pages to show up higher in rankings for that specific term. Ranking higher or showing up higher in search engines is the act of being as close to the top as possible. If you are searching website design the end goal for any business who wants to attract people searching that term is to be #1 or the first returned search. The higher you are ranking for a specific term or set of terms will determine how likely you are to receive the visitor who has searched it. A company ranked #1 for website design is much more likely to be click on when the search occurs then a company who is ranked #100. This also brings about the term of page. Almost all search engines split up the results by 10 search results per page. Therefore if you rank #101 for a specific search term you are on the 11 th page of the search results. If you rank #1 you are on the first page. The likelihood of a searcher going through 10 pages to get to you and click on your website link is much smaller than if you are the first result. Search engine optimization is comprised of on-page factors and off-page factors (described later) which ultimately add up to determine the strength of your website in the search engine and how you will be ranked. iii P a g e

4 What Do Search Engines Do? Search engines provide the functionality of indexing or archiving a large amount of sites thereby providing a tool to easily sift through the hoards of data, by retrieving the most relevant result or website. To do this a search engine most continually search the masses of sites, new and old to update its databases. In order to sift through such a large amount of data search engines utilize a tool called a spider. These spiders are little programs that are sent out via the search engine to go look over all the visible pages on the web. Spiders than crawl or look over the data on your website, categorizing it according to the meta tag and word densities (on-page factors) and links, popularity and rankings (offpage factors) to decide how well it fits in and compares to other sites with similar content, product and service offerings. The next step in a search engines progression is to return the best result. The definition of best is subject to opinion and is the platform of why search engine optimization itself has come about. Judging and ranking web pages accordingly varies by search engines, but fall on a couple sound premises that have stood the test of time. Accurately understanding these ranking methods is the whole key to properly decoding search engine optimization and is the topic of discussion from this paper on out. iv P a g e

5 Why Do Search Engines Index? Indexing or crawling a website is the ability of a search engine to gather data and archive the basic outline of your site within its databases. When a user searches a term or group of words that most closely relate to the content on your website it will return a link in its search results. Due to the advent and popularity of search engines to help organize and return relevant data to consumers it has become the job of the likes of Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask to index and crawl this data at the most efficient level possible. Search results that do not properly meet your expectations create despair and a resistance to using a particular search engines. The search engine that is able to provide the most basic yet effective search results and aids wins. Therefore it has become necessary for search engines to continually evolve to help users best find their intended results. v P a g e

6 History of Search Engine Optimization The beginnings of search engine optimization started in the mid-1990s with the advent of the internet. At the start of search engines it was as simple as submitting your URL to be indexed, content read and ranked accordingly in the engines. Businesses quickly seeing the benefit in ranking high in these search engines quickly started to manipulate their sites to achieve an edge. The term itself was expected to have come about in the late 1990s. The early algorithms (or set of mathematical equations a search engine uses to put weight on differing factors or website quality, content, etc.) were based mostly off of meta tags and a submission to the search engine with a file that helped define exactly what the URL of their pages were and what content was located on them. The pitfalls of such a simplistic algorithm and way to rank web pages were quickly found. As businesses inaccurately defined these tags to include meta tags that did not relate to their page or keywordstuffed with the goal of trying to attract anyone searching a term remotely close to the meaning of their site, search engines evolved to consider other factors. The major factors that affected rankings in search engines in the early days relied heavily on webmaster control. By including all types of keywords and keeping the word density on the page high, search engines were continually abused and taken advantage of by those who knew how to manipulate the tools. Google, founded in 1998, was the first search engine to advance their algorithm to include factors outside of the webmaster control. This helped to establish the division between what is known today as on-page optimization and off-page optimization. By incorporating off-page factors in rankings, the search engines were now able to take a survey of the surrounding data and only promote those sites which had a loyal following within the online realm. Factors such as the number and quality of links attributed to a website, traffic and PageRank helped to focus on practices outside the control of webmasters. Today search engines rarely disclose the extent and factors within their algorithms. By disclosing these influences they would again fall prey to manipulation by webmasters to artificially boost rankings solely by picking and choosing those influences which helped boost rankings the most. vi P a g e

7 Components of Search Engine Optimization On-Page Optimization The first major influence in search engine ranking and indexing; on-page optimization deals solely with factors on your website that directly affect search engine indexing and ranking. It falls again into another two categories, that of Meta tags and word density. Every website, whether HTML, PHP or Flash, has a structure and code behind it. While all languages tend to borrow and revert to HTML characteristics, there are some small differences. Those differences are relatively negligible as the keystone and way that all search engines read your website is through the HTML scripting available to it while indexing. A website has coding beyond the visual that a user sees while navigating through a website and is invisible to the naked eye. It is located within the source code and includes what is called the head section. Within this section is a plethora of different Meta tags available for definition by the webmaster. While the effectiveness of these Meta tags has declined significantly from the early days, it still provides a framework and definition for a search engine to base its conclusion off of. These Meta tags can include but are not limited to definitions about keywords on your website, what your page is about, the location and geography you aim to cover, the ability to have search engines follow and not follow certain pages, and much, much more. While it is crucial to define these variables in your coding it is always questionable how much they really help in the end and cannot be depended on for ranking high. The second method within on-page optimization comes to that of word density. Word density is the amount of percentage of times a single word or phrase appears throughout the readable content of your website. If you have one hundred words and you repeat the word website ten times you have a word density of 10% for the term website. Likewise the words density is calculated for two-word, three-word, etc. runs that you have located within your content. The higher the word density of a particular term, the more favorable a possible high ranking is placed on your page. The search engines assume (whether rightly or wrongly) that if you have a high word density of a specific term your page must most likely be about that topic. Of course the caveat that all search engines are attempting to address is spammers or scammers who simply increase on-page factors to rank highly, not really providing valuable content. vii P a g e

8 Off-Page Optimization The ability to decipher between spam-like sites and legitimate sites providing valuable content has spawned the second component of search engine optimization known as off-page optimization. Offpage factors rely mostly outside the realm of webmaster control and involve things such as the number of links leading to your site, the traffic coming to your pages and most famously the Google termed PageRank. Off-page optimization can be thought best of the trust and legitimacy that your website provides to internet users. A site that has people sharing and creating links over and over is assumed to have valuable content that people wish to share. It is almost a vote of confidence and trusts that search engines are trying to measure and maintain. Therefore it also brings into account the quality of such links. Websites with thousands of links leading to it from low ranking or unknown sites are weighted much less than websites with thousands of links coming from reputable and high ranking sites. Ten links from an extremely high ranking site can help you rank higher than one thousand links from lower ranked websites. The second major input of off-page optimization is the number and quality of visitors coming to your website. Continually high traffic numbers and length of stays and click-through helps to validate to search engines that individuals are really using your website. A website drawing 10,000 people a month will have much heavier a weighting in showing up in relevant search rankings than one with 10 people a month. The last and most vicarious of the factors is that of Google s termed PageRank. PageRank acts as a mathematical collaboration of various factors that Google deems relevant in off-page optimization which than translates to a number. The higher the number the better. It is never fully disclosed what exact variables are used to calculate PageRank and continuously grows more complex. The factors within off-page optimization work in a vicious circle, feeding off each other to some extent. With no links you are less likely to have high traffic from visitors and therefore will not have a high PageRank. It is almost a chicken and egg argument but it starts with tried and true search engine optimization strategies that are not spammy in nature. viii P a g e

9 Conclusion Search engine optimization has evolved within the standards that the search engines have set. In order to rank highly in a particular search engine s results a webmaster must follow the best-set rules and guidelines put out by that engine. While failing to comply to such rules and guidelines could mean abolishment from search results; following the basic on-page and off-page optimization best practices help to build a foundation for a business to become searchable on and start ranking on the most prevalent keywords. A constant battle between webmaster and search engine ensues, and ever evolving algorithms helps to ensure that no one way of doing search engine optimization will withstand the test of time forever. The only bet is that by following the latest updates and practicing legitimate search engine optimization policies will companies continue to rank for the terms they deserve to be ranked on. ix P a g e

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