Wiley Publishing, Inc.Jerri L. LedfordSEOSearch Engine OptimizationBible75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page i
75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page vi
Wiley Publishing, Inc.Jerri L. LedfordSEOSearch Engine OptimizationBible75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page i
For James — Because your faith wasstrong even when mine began to fail.Search Engine Optimization BiblePublished byWiley Pu...
About the AuthorJerri Ledford is the author of more than a dozen technology books and hundreds of articles aboutbusiness a...
ivAfter having written more than a dozen books, there is one thing that I can say for sure: no book iswritten without a to...
vIntroduction................................................................................................................
Appendices. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279Appendix A: Optimization for ...
viiIntroduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvPart I: Understanding SEO 1Chapter 1: ...
viiiContentsPart II: SEO Strategies 31Chapter 3: Building Your Site for SEO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33Befo...
Chapter 5: Pay-per-Click and SEO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73How Pay-per-Click Works ......................
ContentsxChapter 9: Managing Keyword and PPC Campaigns . . . . . . . . . . . . 133Keyword Budgeting .........................
Chapter 12: The Content Piece of the Puzzle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177How Does Web-Site Content Affect SEO?...........
Chapter 15: Pay-for-Inclusion Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219When to Use Pay-for-Inclusion Services ......
Find yourself ..........................................................................................................27...
Appendix D: Worksheets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359SEO Plan ......................................
xvWelcome to the Search Engine Optimization Bible. Search engine optimization has cometo mean a lot of things to a lot of ...
So, use the information that you’ll find in the following pages to improve your search engine rank-ing. Use it to improve ...
also find four separate appendices, which provide guidelines and support for the various strategiesand actions that are re...
Conventions and featuresAs you read through these pages, you’ll also find different icons that indicate important informat...
Understanding SEOSearch engine optimization (SEO) is such a broad term. Itcan be quite overwhelming if you try to take the...
75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 2
What do you do when you need to find something on the Internet?In most cases, you pop over to one of the major search engi...
Archie wasn’t actually a search engine like those that you use today. But at the time, it was a programmany Internet users...
Today, search engines are sophisticated programs, many of which allow you to search all manner offiles and documents using...
Query interfaceThe query interface is what most people are familiar with, and it’s probably what comes to mindwhen you hea...
FIGURE 1-2Yahoo! Search allows users to make their search page more personal.When it comes to search engine optimization, ...
If you’ve spent any time on the Internet, you may have heard a little about spiders, crawlers, androbots. These little cre...
this is very much how the Web is set up. Tree searches, then, are more useful when con-ducting searches on the Web, althou...
Ranking plays such a large part in search engine optimization that you’ll see it frequently in this book.You’ll look at ra...
Characteristics of SearchUnderstanding how a search engine works helps you to understand how your pages are ranked in thes...
For example, Lycos has been around much longer than Google, yet Google is the most popularsearch engine on the Web. Why is...
the quality of the link may be considered during ranking. New links are often ignored until theyhave been in place for a t...
Search engine optimization is essentially the science of designing your web site to maximize yoursearch engine rankings. T...
So what exactly can and can’t you do? There’s a list. Here is part of it.You can:Create a web site that contains meta tags...
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Before you can even begin to optimize your web site for search engines,you need to have a search engine optimization plan ...
Understanding Why You Need SEOBefore you can understand the reasons for using SEO, it might be good to have a definition o...
Link contextTopical linksTitle tagsKeywordsSite languageContentSite maturityThere are estimated to be at least several hun...
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  1. 1. Wiley Publishing, Inc.Jerri L. LedfordSEOSearch Engine OptimizationBible75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page i
  2. 2. 75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page vi
  3. 3. Wiley Publishing, Inc.Jerri L. LedfordSEOSearch Engine OptimizationBible75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page i
  4. 4. For James — Because your faith wasstrong even when mine began to fail.Search Engine Optimization BiblePublished byWiley Publishing, Inc.10475 Crosspoint BoulevardIndianapolis, IN 46256www.wiley.comCopyright © 2008 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, IndianaPublished simultaneously in CanadaISBN: 978-0-470-17500-2Manufactured in the United States of America10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from Publisher.No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means,electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorizationthrough payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA01923, (978) 750-8400, fax (978) 646-8600. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the LegalDepartment, Wiley Publishing, Inc., 10475 Crosspoint Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46256, (317) 572-3447, fax (317) 572-4355,or online at http://www.wiley.com/go/permissions.Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and the author make no representations or warranties withrespect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties, includingwithout limitation warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales orpromotional materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for every situation. This workis sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professionalservices. If professional assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Neitherthe publisher nor the author shall be liable for damages arising herefrom. The fact that an organization or Website isreferred to in this work as a citation and/or a potential source of further information does not mean that the authoror the publisher endorses the information the organization or Website may provide or recommendations it may make.Further, readers should be aware that Internet Websites listed in this work may have changed or disappeared betweenwhen this work was written and when it is read.For general information on our other products and services or to obtain technical support, please contact our CustomerCare Department within the U.S. at (800) 762-2974, outside the U.S. at (317) 572-3993 or fax (317) 572-4002.Trademarks: Wiley and related trade dress are registered trademarks of Wiley Publishing, Inc., in the United States andother countries, and may not be used without written permission. All other trademarks are the property of their respectiveowners. Wiley Publishing, Inc., is not associated with any product or vendor mentioned in this book.Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be availablein electronic books.75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page ii
  5. 5. About the AuthorJerri Ledford is the author of more than a dozen technology books and hundreds of articles aboutbusiness and technology subjects. Her books and articles have been published in many languagesthroughout the world. Jerri also writes and teaches technology courses online for organizations suchas HP, Forbes, AOL, and Sony. When she’s not buried in a writing project, Jerri spends all of her timeworking on other writing projects or on the Alabama and Florida beaches with her children.About the Technical EditorMicah Baldwin is recognized as a leader in the search engine marketing industry, having helpedauthor several books on search engine marketing and often speaking at industry events. Micah startedCurrent Wisdom, a full-service search marketing agency, in 2003 after building ServiceMagic’s searchmarketing initiative. In January 2007, Micah sold Current Wisdom to Indigio Group, a Denver-basedinteractive agency, where he currently works as senior vice president, media strategy.Acquisitions EditorKatie MohrDevelopment EditorWilliam BridgesTechnical EditorMicah BaldwinProduction EditorAngela SmithCopy EditorKim CoferEditorial ManagerMary Beth WakefieldProduction ManagerTim TateVice President andExecutive Group PublisherRichard SwadleyVice President and Executive PublisherJoseph B. WikertProject Coordinator, CoverLynsey OsbornCompositorLaurie Stewart, Happenstance Type-O-RamaProofreaderSossity SmithIndexerJohnna VanHoose DinseAnniversary Logo DesignRichard PacificoCredits75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page iii
  6. 6. ivAfter having written more than a dozen books, there is one thing that I can say for sure: no book iswritten without a ton of helpful people guiding, pushing, and providing for the author. Before evenacknowledging that team, though, I must say thanks to God for giving me a talent that few peoplepossess and the means by which to use that talent.There is an entire team at Wiley that I owe a huge thank-you to. These people — Katie Mohr, MaryBeth Wakefield, Tom Dinse, and a good dozen or so other people whom I never get to speak to —are responsible for making this book a reality. They handle production from beginning to end, andwithout them, there would be no book.My favorite development editor in the world is among those I owe thanks to as well. Bill Bridgeshas worked with me on several books now, and he’s the reason that my words are spelled andordered correctly and not full of clichés. Without Bill, the book would be half the quality thatit is now. Thanks, friend!And then there’s Micah Baldwin. Micah put lots of hours into ensuring the technical accuracy ofthe text within these pages. His suggestions (and saves) have kept my facts true. Thanks, Micah.All the interviews included in Appendix B were also gifts to me. Thanks to each of you who tookthe time to talk to me, to answer my sometimes dumb questions, and to allow me to pass yourwisdom on to our readers. Your help provided valuable insight for me, as I hope it will for thereader as well.Thanks, too, to my Mobile family. Big Jennifer and Little Jennifer, Rick, and James — you’re mysupport system. And you’re there when I need you; you leave when I need space, and you under-stand that brain drain from writing is a temporary situation and love me still. Without you andour weekly dinners, I wouldn’t be able to function nearly as effectively. Thanks, guys!And thanks to you for reading the book. I hope you find all the information you seek.75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page iv
  7. 7. vIntroduction..................................................................................................................................xvPart I: Understanding SEO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1Chapter 1: Search Engine Basics......................................................................................................3Chapter 2: Creating an SEO Plan ..................................................................................................17Part II: SEO Strategies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31Chapter 3: Building Your Site for SEO ..........................................................................................33Chapter 4: Keywords and Your Web Site ......................................................................................59Chapter 5: Pay-per-Click and SEO................................................................................................73Chapter 6: Maximizing Pay-per-Click Strategies............................................................................97Chapter 7: Increasing Keyword Success ......................................................................................115Chapter 8: Understanding and Using Behavioral Targeting..........................................................125Chapter 9: Managing Keyword and PPC Campaigns ..................................................................133Chapter 10: Keyword Tools and Services ....................................................................................151Chapter 11: Tagging Your Web Site ............................................................................................167Chapter 12: The Content Piece of the Puzzle ..............................................................................177Chapter 13: Understanding the Role of Links and Linking..........................................................193Part III: Optimizing Search Strategies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209Chapter 14: Adding Your Site to Directories ..............................................................................211Chapter 15: Pay-for-Inclusion Services........................................................................................219Chapter 16: Robots, Spiders, and Crawlers ................................................................................227Chapter 17: The Truth About SEO Spam ....................................................................................239Chapter 18: Adding Social-Media Optimization..........................................................................247Chapter 19: Automated Optimization ........................................................................................257Part IV: Maintaining SEO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263Chapter 20: SEO Beyond the Launch..........................................................................................265Chapter 21: Analyzing Success....................................................................................................27175002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:57 PM Page v
  8. 8. Appendices. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279Appendix A: Optimization for Major Search Engines ..................................................................281Appendix B: Industry Interviews ................................................................................................287Appendix C: SEO Software, Tools, and Resources ......................................................................347Appendix D: Worksheets ............................................................................................................359Glossary......................................................................................................................................373Index ..........................................................................................................................................381viContentsContents at a Glance75002ffirs.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 8:59 AM Page vi
  9. 9. viiIntroduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvPart I: Understanding SEO 1Chapter 1: Search Engine Basics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3What Is a Search Engine? ......................................................................................................5Anatomy of a Search Engine ................................................................................................5Query interface............................................................................................................6Crawlers, spiders, and robots ......................................................................................7Databases ....................................................................................................................8Search algorithms ........................................................................................................8Retrieval and ranking ..................................................................................................9Characteristics of Search ....................................................................................................11Classifications of Search Engines ........................................................................................11Primary search engines..............................................................................................11Secondary search engines ..........................................................................................13Targeted search engines ............................................................................................13Putting Search Engines to Work for You ..............................................................................13Manipulating Search Engines ..............................................................................................14Chapter 2: Creating an SEO Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17Understanding Why You Need SEO ....................................................................................18Setting SEO Goals ..............................................................................................................19Creating Your SEO Plan ......................................................................................................20Prioritizing pages ......................................................................................................21Site assessment ..........................................................................................................21Finishing the plan......................................................................................................22Follow-up..................................................................................................................23Understanding Organic SEO ..............................................................................................23Achieving Organic SEO ......................................................................................................24Web-site content........................................................................................................24Google Analytics........................................................................................................25Internal and external links ........................................................................................26User experience ........................................................................................................27Site interactivity ........................................................................................................2875002ftoc.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:59 PM Page vii
  10. 10. viiiContentsPart II: SEO Strategies 31Chapter 3: Building Your Site for SEO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33Before You Build Your Site ..................................................................................................34Know your target ......................................................................................................34Page elements............................................................................................................35Understanding Web-Site Optimization................................................................................39Does hosting matter? ................................................................................................39Domain-naming tips..................................................................................................39Understanding usability ............................................................................................41Components of an SEO-Friendly Page ................................................................................43Understanding entry and exit pages ..........................................................................44Using powerful titles..................................................................................................46Creating great content ..............................................................................................47Maximizing graphics ................................................................................................48Problem Pages and Work-Arounds ......................................................................................49Painful portals ..........................................................................................................50Fussy frames..............................................................................................................51Cranky cookies..........................................................................................................52Programming Languages and SEO ......................................................................................52JavaScript ..................................................................................................................52Flash ........................................................................................................................53Dynamic ASP ............................................................................................................53PHP ..........................................................................................................................54Other Design Concerns ......................................................................................................54Domain cloaking ......................................................................................................54Duplicate content ......................................................................................................55Hidden pages ............................................................................................................56After Your Site Is Built ........................................................................................................56Beware of content thieves ..........................................................................................56Dealing with updates and site changes ......................................................................57Chapter 4: Keywords and Your Web Site. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59The Importance of Keywords ..............................................................................................59Understanding Heuristics....................................................................................................61Using Anchor Text ..............................................................................................................64Picking the Right Keywords ................................................................................................65What’s the Right Keyword Density? ....................................................................................67Taking Advantage of Organic Keywords ..............................................................................70Avoid Keyword Stuffing ......................................................................................................70More About Keyword Optimization ....................................................................................7175002ftoc.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:59 PM Page viii
  11. 11. Chapter 5: Pay-per-Click and SEO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73How Pay-per-Click Works ..................................................................................................75Determining visitor value ..........................................................................................76Putting pay-per-click to work ....................................................................................77Pay-per-Click Categories ....................................................................................................77Keyword pay-per-click programs ..............................................................................77Product pay-per-click programs ................................................................................78Service pay-per-click programs..................................................................................79Understanding How PPC Affects SEO ................................................................................79Keyword Competitive Research ..........................................................................................81Keyword suggestion tools ..........................................................................................81Choosing Effective Keywords ..............................................................................................88Creating your first keyword list ................................................................................88Forbidden search terms and poison words ................................................................89Forecasting search volumes ......................................................................................91Finalizing your keyword list ......................................................................................93Writing Ad Descriptions......................................................................................................95Monitoring and Analyzing Results ......................................................................................96Chapter 6: Maximizing Pay-per-Click Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97Understanding Keyword Placement ....................................................................................97Alt and Other Tags and Attributes ......................................................................................97Title tags....................................................................................................................98Meta description tags ..............................................................................................100Anchor text ............................................................................................................102Header tag content ..................................................................................................106Body text ................................................................................................................108Alt tags ....................................................................................................................109URLS and File Names........................................................................................................112Chapter 7: Increasing Keyword Success . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115Writing Keyword Advertisement Text................................................................................116Create Great Landing Pages ..............................................................................................119Understanding and Using A/B Testing ..............................................................................122Avoiding Keyword Stuffing................................................................................................123Chapter 8: Understanding and Using Behavioral Targeting. . . . . . . . . 125What Is Behavioral Targeting? ..........................................................................................126Taking Advantage of Behavioral Targeting ........................................................................127Additional Behavioral Targeting Tips ................................................................................129ixContents75002ftoc.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:59 PM Page ix
  12. 12. ContentsxChapter 9: Managing Keyword and PPC Campaigns . . . . . . . . . . . . 133Keyword Budgeting ..........................................................................................................133Understanding Bid Management ......................................................................................136Manual bid management ........................................................................................136Automated bid management....................................................................................137Tracking Keywords and Conversions ................................................................................140Reducing Pay-per-Click Costs ..........................................................................................143Managing PPC campaigns........................................................................................143Negative keywords ..................................................................................................145Dayparting ..............................................................................................................145Improving Click-Through Rates ........................................................................................147The ROI of PPC ................................................................................................................149Chapter 10: Keyword Tools and Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151Google AdWords ..............................................................................................................152Campaign management ..........................................................................................153Reports....................................................................................................................155Analytics..................................................................................................................156My Account ............................................................................................................157Print ads..................................................................................................................158Yahoo! Search Marketing ..................................................................................................158Dashboard ..............................................................................................................159Campaigns ..............................................................................................................159Reports....................................................................................................................161Administration ........................................................................................................162Microsoft adCenter............................................................................................................163Campaign................................................................................................................163Accounts & Billing ..................................................................................................164Research ..................................................................................................................165Reports....................................................................................................................166Chapter 11: Tagging Your Web Site. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167What’s So Important About Site Tagging? ..........................................................................168How Does Site Tagging Work? ..........................................................................................168Additional HTML Tags ......................................................................................................170Nofollow ................................................................................................................170Strong and emphasis ..............................................................................................171Noframes ................................................................................................................171Table summary tag ..................................................................................................172Acronym and abbreviation tags................................................................................173Virtual includes ......................................................................................................173Using Redirect Pages ........................................................................................................175Contents75002ftoc.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:59 PM Page x
  13. 13. Chapter 12: The Content Piece of the Puzzle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177How Does Web-Site Content Affect SEO?..........................................................................178Elements of Competitive Content......................................................................................179To Use or Not? Duplicate Content ....................................................................................181Stay Away from Search Engine Spam ................................................................................185Doorway pages........................................................................................................185Hidden and tiny text ..............................................................................................186SEO oversubmission................................................................................................186Page jacking ............................................................................................................186Bait and switch........................................................................................................187Cloaking..................................................................................................................187Hidden links............................................................................................................187Considerations for Multi-Lingual Sites ..............................................................................188Content Management Systems ..........................................................................................189When should you use CMS?....................................................................................189Choosing the right CMS ..........................................................................................189How CMS affects SEO ............................................................................................190Understand and Use Viral Content....................................................................................191Chapter 13: Understanding the Role of Links and Linking . . . . . . . . . 193How Links Affect SEO ......................................................................................................194How Links and Linking Work ..........................................................................................197Snagging inbound links ..........................................................................................198Creating outbound links..........................................................................................200Taking advantage of cross-linking............................................................................202The skinny on link farms ........................................................................................204The Basics of Link Building ..............................................................................................205Using Internal Links..........................................................................................................206Judging the Effectiveness of Your Links ............................................................................207Part III: Optimizing Search Strategies 209Chapter 14: Adding Your Site to Directories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211What Are Directories? ......................................................................................................212Submitting to directories ........................................................................................213Major online directories ..........................................................................................215Paid vs. free directories............................................................................................215Geo-Targeting SEO Strategies ............................................................................................216Using Submission Tools ....................................................................................................217xiContents75002ftoc.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:59 PM Page xi
  14. 14. Chapter 15: Pay-for-Inclusion Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219When to Use Pay-for-Inclusion Services ............................................................................221Understanding the Business Model....................................................................................221Managing Paid Services ....................................................................................................222Hiring the Right Professionals ..........................................................................................223Contract Considerations....................................................................................................224When the Relationship Isn’t Working................................................................................225Chapter 16: Robots, Spiders, and Crawlers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227What Are Robots, Spiders, and Crawlers?..........................................................................228What’s the Robot Exclusion Standard? ..............................................................................229Robots Meta Tag................................................................................................................232Inclusion with XML Site Mapping ....................................................................................233Creating your own XML site map ............................................................................234Submitting your site map ........................................................................................238Chapter 17: The Truth About SEO Spam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239What Constitutes SEO Spam? ..........................................................................................240Why Is SEO Spam a Bad Idea? ..........................................................................................243Avoiding SEO Spam ..........................................................................................................244Chapter 18: Adding Social-Media Optimization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247What Is Social-Media Optimization? ................................................................................250What’s different about social-media optimization? ..................................................251The Value of Social Media..................................................................................................251Social-Media Strategies......................................................................................................252Measuring Social-Media Optimization ..............................................................................255Chapter 19: Automated Optimization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257Should You Automate? ......................................................................................................258Automation Tools..............................................................................................................260Part IV: Maintaining SEO 263Chapter 20: SEO Beyond the Launch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265It’s Not Over......................................................................................................................265Using Content Management Systems ................................................................................268SEO Problems and Solutions ............................................................................................268You’ve been banned!................................................................................................268Content scraping ....................................................................................................269Click fraud ............................................................................................................269Chapter 21: Analyzing Success. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271Analyzing SEO Successes ..................................................................................................271Managing SEO expectations ....................................................................................272xiiContents75002ftoc.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:59 PM Page xii
  15. 15. Find yourself ..........................................................................................................273Analyzing web stats ................................................................................................273Competitive Analysis ........................................................................................................275Conversion Analysis..........................................................................................................276Analyzing Server Logs ......................................................................................................277Appendices 279Appendix A: Optimization for Major Search Engines. . . . . . . . . . . . 281Optimization for Google....................................................................................................281Understanding Google PageRank ............................................................................282Optimization for MSN ......................................................................................................284Optimization for Yahoo!....................................................................................................284The Yahoo! Search Crawler......................................................................................285Appendix B: Industry Interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287Eric Bloomfield, Vice President of Client Service & Technology, SendTraffic......................289Jessica Bowman, Director of SEO, Business.com................................................................291Brian Combs, Founder and VP of Services, Apogee Search ..............................................295Rhea Drysdale, Internet Marketing Manager, MPS Group..................................................299Paul Dyer, Senior Account Executive, Marketwire ............................................................303Miki Dzugan, President, Rapport Online Inc.....................................................................307Rand Fishkin, CEO and Co-Founder, SEOmoz ................................................................311Duane Forrester, Founding Co-Chair for the In-House Committee with SEMPO ..............315Stephen Harris, Consultant, SPH Associates......................................................................321Ryan Hoppe, Director of Product Marketing, Fast Search ..................................................325Diane Kuehn, President, VisionPoint Marketing ................................................................329Matt Naeger, VP and General Counsel, IMPAQT ..............................................................333Simon Otter, Technical Manager, thebigword ....................................................................337Sarah Skerik, VP Distribution Services, PR Newswire........................................................339Andrew Wetzler, President, MoreVisibility ........................................................................343Jill Whalen, Founder and CEO, High Rankings ................................................................345Appendix C: SEO Software, Tools, and Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . 347Major Search Engines and Directories................................................................................347Secondary Search Engines ................................................................................................348Meta Search Engines..........................................................................................................352Keyword Tools ..................................................................................................................353Content Resources ............................................................................................................354RSS Feeds and Applications ..............................................................................................355Search Engine Marketing Resources and Articles ..............................................................355Registration Services and Programs ..................................................................................356Link Resources and Software ............................................................................................357Pay-per-Click ..................................................................................................................358Social-Media Tools ............................................................................................................358xiiiContents75002ftoc.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:59 PM Page xiii
  16. 16. Appendix D: Worksheets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359SEO Plan ..........................................................................................................................360SEO Checklist ..................................................................................................................362Current State ..........................................................................................................362Keyword Research ..................................................................................................362Web-Site Design ......................................................................................................362Write Clean Code ....................................................................................................362Make Use of Tags and Attributes..............................................................................363SEO-Approved Content ..........................................................................................363Manual Submissions................................................................................................363Linking Strategies ....................................................................................................363Conversions ............................................................................................................364Keyword Worksheet ..........................................................................................................365PPC Keyword Worksheet ..................................................................................................366Keyword Checklist ............................................................................................................367Keyword Performances Worksheet ..................................................................................368A/B Testing Worksheet ......................................................................................................369PPC Competition Worksheet ............................................................................................370Link-Tracking Worksheet ..................................................................................................371Rank-Tracking Worksheet ................................................................................................372Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 381xivContents75002ftoc.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 1:59 PM Page xiv
  17. 17. xvWelcome to the Search Engine Optimization Bible. Search engine optimization has cometo mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. In the strictest sense, SEO is aboutthe on-page and off-page design strategies you can use to improve your search engineranking. This usually means tweaking your web site, using design elements and content. And in mostcases, it also means spending no money at all.SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, is not just SEO. More accurately, SEM includes PPC or pay-per-click advertising. Search engine marketing is about doing whatever you need to do to ensure thatyour web site ranks as high as possible in search engine results. This means not only that you makethe needed changes to your web-site design, but that you also employ other tactics, like using a paidadvertising program or investing in content strategies.I lump them all into one category. The ultimate goal of SEM is to bring more people to your website. And you can do that by improving your search engines results. You can also do that by takingadvantage of a growing phenomenon on the Web, social media. Social media is a viral form of shar-ing information on the Web. You might think of it as a more sophisticated method of sharing yourfavorites or information that you think will interest other people. And using social media to improvethe traffic to your web site is called Social Media Marketing, or SMM.I vote we do away with the alphabet soup completely. All these marketing efforts have one thing incommon: reaching your target audience. And today anyone who is not an SEO purist places all thesemarketing methods under the SEM umbrella. All of them are methods for optimizing your web sitefor the audience that you’re trying to reach. And as social media grow in popularity, they’re going tobe affected by and included in search engine results as well.Every now and then, you need to step away from the crowd and stop doing what everyone else isdoing. In SEO, stepping out alone is usually rewarded with better traffic results. Everyone is doingthe same thing. And that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. What it means is that you should do thesame thing in a different way. And that’s where the Search Engine Optimization Bible comes in.Throughout the pages that follow, I’ll show you the best practices for search engine optimization andprovide insight into the theory behind the strategies that you’ll learn. These strategies are tested. Theywork. For thousands of web sites. Use them to build on. Follow the best practices of search engineoptimization but do it creatively. Try something different. That’s how blogs became such a huge phe-nomenon. It’s how social bookmarking and social communities caught on. Someone looked at mar-keting in a different way and came up with a new angle.75002flast.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:05 AM Page xv
  18. 18. So, use the information that you’ll find in the following pages to improve your search engine rank-ing. Use it to improve the traffic to your web site. But most importantly, use it to reach highly tar-geted customers who will take the actions you desire them to take on your web site. That customeraudience is always first. Remember this as you market, keep the audience as your focus, and yourefforts will be successful.Who Should Read This BookSearch engine optimization is not for the faint of heart. It requires a lot of time and a lot of hard work.But what it doesn’t require is a professional. Anyone with time and the desire to do it can learn themost successful strategies of SEO. And that’s probably why there are so many SEO consultants in theworld today.Anyone can be an SEO consultant. No official certification programs exist, and no industry standardsguide the development of an SEO consultant. And from one aspect, that’s good news for you. It meansthat you can become your own SEO consultant. And a good first step is to learn the information you’llfind in the following pages.Of course, not everyone wants to be an SEO consultant. Your goal in picking up this book might besimply to learn about the SEO process so that you can be certain your SEO consultant, or the SEOfirm you’re considering hiring, is doing the job they should be doing to help your web site rank high.That’s good.Two types of people will get the most out of the Search Engine Optimization Bible — people whoare interested in being their own SEO consultants and people who just want to know how SEOworks. If you’re an SEO expert, you’ll likely find that you’re already familiar with the informa-tion contained in these pages. There might be a few tidbits that are worth your while, though,so if you need a refresher course, keep reading.For those of you who are new to SEO, you’ll find the information you need to understand andbegin implementing SEO strategies that will help improve your search engine rankings and drivebetter targeted visitors to your site.How This Book Is OrganizedSearch engine optimization can be a complex process, but there are distinct areas of the process thatcan be addressed on their own. And that’s how you’ll find this book divided. It has four parts, eachof which represents a portion of the SEO process.Within each part are chapters that address different pieces for that step in the SEO process. Andwithin each chapter, there are sections to help you work through that piece of the process. You’llxviIntroduction75002flast.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:05 AM Page xvi
  19. 19. also find four separate appendices, which provide guidelines and support for the various strategiesand actions that are recommended.Part I: Understanding SEO: Understanding search engine optimization is half the battle in planningand implementing an effective SEO plan. It’s also the place where you need to start. The two chaptersin this part of the book will help you to understand SEO and then to work through creating an SEOplan. Chapter 1 covers the introduction by breaking down a search engine and explaining how searchengine optimization works. Chapter 2 explains why you need SEO and walks you through creatingyour SEO plan.Part II: SEO Strategies: SEO strategies are the various ways in which you can implement SEOboth on and off your web site. Chapter 3 covers the SEO factors that you should consider inweb-site design. Chapter 4 introduces you to keywords and keyword strategies. Chapters 5–10help you take keywords to the next level by explaining pay-per-click advertising and how youcan leverage it to improve your web-site traffic. Chapter 11 helps you understand how HTMLtags can improve your SEO rankings. And Chapter 12 provides insight into why content is soimportant in SEO strategy. To round everything off, Chapter 13 provides information and strate-gies for using links to improve your search engine traffic.Part III: Optimizing Search Strategies: Once you understand the basics of search strategies, youcan begin to improve upon those strategies to gain attention from people and from search engines. InPart III you’ll find six additional chapters that help you hone your SEO efforts. Chapter 14 includesinformation about adding your web site to indexes and search engines. Chapter 15 demystifies pay-for-inclusion services. Chapter 16 provides a closer look at the different requirements of search enginecrawlers. In Chapter 17, you’ll learn how to avoid using spamming (or spam-like) techniques. Social-media optimization is covered in Chapter 18. And automating elements of optimization is explainedin Chapter 19.Part IV: Maintaining SEO: Search engine optimization is not a do-it-and-forget-it strategy. It’s anongoing process that must be maintained. In Chapter 20, you’ll learn what to devote time to afterthe SEO launch is over. And Chapter 21 will show you how to analyze your SEO efforts to learnwhat’s working and what must be changed.Appendices: The appendices in this book offer additional insight into and tools for the SEO process.Appendix A is an overview of how to optimize your web site for each of the three major search engines(Google, MSN, and Yahoo!). In Appendix B you’ll find a collection of interviews with industry leaderswho are actually in the trenches, working with site optimization each day. Appendix C contains a largelist of the SEO software and tools that are available online, and Appendix D contains worksheets andchecklists that should help you as you work through the process of planning and implementing SEOstrategies.A lot of information is covered in these pages, so take your time getting through everything. Thisbook is also a great reference tool that you should keep on your desk so that, as you’re workingthrough SEO strategies, you can refer to the different strategies for clarification on what actionsyou should take.xviiIntroduction75002flast.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:05 AM Page xvii
  20. 20. Conventions and featuresAs you read through these pages, you’ll also find different icons that indicate important information.You should pay close attention to these special notes. They stand out from the rest of the text becauseit’s information that you don’t want to miss. The icons that you’ll find include:Note — Notes including information that’s not necessarily part of the section, but that willhelp you understand either a process or a theory in search engine optimization.Tip — Tips can be shortcuts, an easier way of doing something, or a short bit of informa-tion that will help you better comprehend the strategies and actions that are covered. Ingeneral, a Tip will make your SEO efforts easier.Caution — Pay particular attention to cautions. A caution includes information and advicethat could, if not followed, have less than pleasant repercussions. If there’s something youshouldn’t do or should use care in doing, it’s included in a Caution.Cross-Ref — Stands for a cross-reference, something of interest in another part of the book.Each of these features is designed to make the process of learning about SEO easier for you. So ifyou see one of them, take the time to read through it in the context of where it’s located. The addi-tional information should help you better understand the SEO process.Where to Go from HereBefore you even finish reading the Search Engine Optimization Bible, you’ll be itching to start put-ting some of the strategies that are covered here into place. Go for it. Just keep the book handy torefer to. And remember to come back and finish reading the sections that you haven’t completed.Also remember that implementing SEO is an ongoing process. You can start immediately, but youhave to keep it up, even once the desired increases are achieved. The effort you put into it will pay offin terms of the traffic increases to your site. And even better than the traffic increases is the improvedconversion rate you should experience. In other words, more people will show up at your site andtake the actions that you want them to take while they’re there.It’s not easy to achieve, but if you work at it, you can expect to see major improvements over time.Good luck!xviiiIntroduction75002flast.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:05 AM Page xviii
  21. 21. Understanding SEOSearch engine optimization (SEO) is such a broad term. Itcan be quite overwhelming if you try to take the wholeof it in a single bite. There are so many facets of searchengine optimization, from how search engines work (and theyall work a little differently) to how a web page is designed. Thereare enough elements to worry about that you could spend farmore time than you can afford to invest in trying to achieve theSEO you have in mind. However, search engine optimizationdoesn’t have to be such an onerous task that it can’t be accom-plished. Not if you understand what it is and how it works.Part I explains the basics of search engine optimization. This partincludes an explanation of what search engines are and how theywork. There is also an explanation of the concept of an SEO plan.Together, these two elements will have you up to speed and readyto begin implementing the right SEO strategies to build the website traffic that you need.IN THIS PARTChapter 1Search Engine BasicsChapter 2Creating an SEO Plan75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 1
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  23. 23. What do you do when you need to find something on the Internet?In most cases, you pop over to one of the major search enginesand type in the term or phrase that you’re looking for and thenclick through the results, right? But of course search engines weren’t alwaysaround.In its infancy, the Internet wasn’t what you think of when you use it now. Infact, it was nothing like the web of interconnected sites that’s become one ofthe greatest business facilitators of our time. Instead, what was called theInternet was actually a collection of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites thatusers could access to download (or upload) files.To find a specific file in that collection, users had to navigate through eachfile. Sure, there were shortcuts. If you knew the right people — that would bethe people who knew the exact address of the file you were looking for — youcould go straight to the file. That’s assuming you knew exactly what you werelooking for.The whole process made finding files on the Internet a difficult, time-consuming exercise in patience. But that was before a student at McGillUniversity in Montreal decided there had to be an easier way. In 1990,Alan Emtage created the first search tool used on the Internet. His creation,an index of files on the Internet, was called Archie.If you’re thinking Archie, the comic book character created in 1941, you’rea little off track (at least for now). The name Archie was used because thefile name Archives was too long. Later, Archie’s pals from the comic bookseries (Veronica and Jughead) came onto the search scene, too, but we’ll getto that shortly.3IN THIS CHAPTERWhat is a search engine?Anatomy of a search engineCharacteristics of searchClassifications of search enginesPutting search engines to workManipulating search enginesSearch Engine Basics75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 3
  24. 24. Archie wasn’t actually a search engine like those that you use today. But at the time, it was a programmany Internet users were happy to have. The program basically downloaded directory listings for allof the files that were stored on anonymous FTP sites in a given network of computers. Those listingswere then plugged into a searchable database of web sites.The search capabilities of Archie weren’t as fancy as the natural language capabilities you’ll find inmost common search engines today, but at the time it got the job done. Archie indexed computerfiles, making them easier to locate.In 1991, however, another student named Mark McCahill, at the University of Minnesota, decidedthat if you could search for files on the Internet, then surely you could also search plain text forspecific references in the files. Because no such application existed, he created Gopher, a programthat indexed the plain-text documents that later became the first web sites on the public Internet.With the creation of Gopher, there also needed to be programs that could find references withinthe indexes that Gopher created, and so Archie’s pals finally rejoined him. Veronica (Very EasyRodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives) and Jughead (Jonzy’s UniversalGopher Hierarchy Excavation and Display) were created to search the files that were stored inthe Gopher Index System.Both of these programs worked in essentially the same way, allowing users to search the indexedinformation by keyword.From there, search as you know it began to mature. The first real search engine, in the form that weknow search engines today, didn’t come into being until 1993. It was developed by Matthew Gray,and it was called Wandex. Wandex was the first program to both index and search the index ofpages on the Web. This technology was the first program to crawl the Web, and later became thebasis for all search crawlers. And from there, search engines took on a life of their own. From 1993to 1998, the major search engines that you’re probably familiar with today were created:Excite — 1993Yahoo! — 1994Web Crawler — 1994Lycos — 1994Infoseek — 1995AltaVista — 1995Inktomi — 1996Ask Jeeves — 1997Google — 1997MSN Search — 19984Understanding SEOPart I75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 4
  25. 25. Today, search engines are sophisticated programs, many of which allow you to search all manner offiles and documents using the same words and phrases you would use in everyday conversations.It’s hard to believe that the concept of a search engine is just over 15 years old. Especially consider-ing what you can use one to find these days!What Is a Search Engine?Okay, so you know the basic concept of a search engine. Type a word or phrase into a search boxand click a button. Wait a few seconds, and references to thousands (or hundreds of thousands) ofpages will appear. Then all you have to do is click through those pages to find what you want. Butwhat exactly is a search engine, beyond this general concept of “seek and ye shall find”?It’s a little complicated. On the back end, a search engine is a piece of software that uses applica-tions to collect information about web pages. The information collected is usually key words orphrases that are possible indicators of what is contained on the web page as a whole, the URL ofthe page, the code that makes up the page, and links into and out of the page. That informationis then indexed and stored in a database.On the front end, the software has a user interface where users enter a search term — a word orphrase — in an attempt to find specific information. When the user clicks a search button, analgorithm then examines the information stored in the back-end database and retrieves links toweb pages that appear to match the search term the user entered.You can find more information about web crawlers, spiders, and robots in Chapter 14.The process of collecting information about web pages is performed by an agent called a crawler,spider, or robot. The crawler literally looks at every URL on the Web, and collects key words andphrases on each page, which are then included in the database that powers a search engine.Considering that the number of sites on the Web went over 100 million some time ago andis increasing by more than 1.5 million sites each month, that’s like your brain cataloging everysingle word you read, so that when you need to know something, you think of that word andevery reference to it comes to mind.In a word . . . overwhelming.Anatomy of a Search EngineBy now you probably have a fuzzy picture of how a search engine works. But there’s much more to itthan just the basic overview you’ve seen so far. In fact, search engines have several parts. Unfortunately,it’s rare that you find an explanation for just how a search engine is made — and that information isvitally important to succeeding with search engine optimization (SEO).CROSS-REFCROSS-REF5Search Engine Basics 175002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 5
  26. 26. Query interfaceThe query interface is what most people are familiar with, and it’s probably what comes to mindwhen you hear the term “search engine.” The query interface is the page that users see when theynavigate to a search engine to enter a search term.There was a time when the search engine interface looked very much like the Ask.com page shownin Figure 1-1. The interface was a simple page with a search box and a button to activate the search.Today, many search engines on the Web have added much more personalized content in an attemptto capitalize on the real estate available to them. For example, Yahoo! Search, shown in Figure 1-2,allows users to personalize their pages with a free e-mail account, weather information, news, sports,and many other elements designed to make users want to return to that site to conduct their websearches.One other option users have for customizing the interfaces of their search engines is a capabilitylike the one Google offers. The Google search engine has a customizable interface to which userscan add different gadgets. These gadgets allow users to add features to their customized Googlesearch home that meet their own personal needs or tastes.FIGURE 1-1The Ask.com search page shows how most search engine interfaces used to look.6Understanding SEOPart I75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 6
  27. 27. FIGURE 1-2Yahoo! Search allows users to make their search page more personal.When it comes to search engine optimization, Google’s user interface offers the most ability for youto reach your target audience, because it does more than just optimize your site for search; if thereis a useful tool or feature available on your site, you can allow users to have access to this tool orfeature through the Application Programming Interface (API) made available by Google. This allowsyou to have your name in front of users on a daily basis.You can find more information about Google APIs in Appendix A in the section“Optimization for Google.”For example, a company called PDF24.org has a Google gadget that allows users to turn their doc-uments into PDF files, right from their Google home page once the gadget has been added. If thepoint of search engine optimization is ultimately to get your name in front of as many people aspossible, as often as possible, then making a gadget available for addition to Google’s personalizedhome page can only further that goal.Crawlers, spiders, and robotsThe query interface is the only part of a search engine that the user ever sees. Every other part ofthe search engine is behind the scenes, out of view of the people who use it every day. That doesn’tmean it’s not important, however. In fact, what’s in the back end is the most important part of thesearch engine.There’s more in-depth information about crawlers, spiders, and robots in Chapter 14.CROSS-REFCROSS-REFCROSS-REFCROSS-REF7Search Engine Basics 175002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 7
  28. 28. If you’ve spent any time on the Internet, you may have heard a little about spiders, crawlers, androbots. These little creatures are programs that literally crawl around the Web, cataloging data so thatit can be searched. In the most basic sense all three programs—crawlers, spiders, and robots—areessentially the same. They all “collect” information about each and every web URL.This information is then cataloged according to the URL on which they’re located and are stored ina database. Then, when a user uses a search engine to locate something on the Web, the referencesin the database are searched and the search results are returned.DatabasesEvery search engine contains or is connected to a system of databases, where data about each URLon the Web (collected by crawlers, spiders, or robots) is stored. These databases are massive storageareas that contain multiple data points about each URL.The data might be arranged in any number of different ways, and will be ranked according to amethod of ranking and retrieval that is usually proprietary to the company that owns the searchengine.Search algorithmsAll of the parts of the search engine are important, but the search algorithm is the cog that makeseverything work. It might be more accurate to say that the search algorithm is the foundation onwhich everything else is built. How a search engine works is based on the search algorithm, or theway that data is discovered by the user.In very general terms, a search algorithm is a problem-solving procedure that takes a problem, evalu-ates a number of possible answers, and then returns the solution to that problem. A search algorithmfor a search engine takes the problem (the word or phrase being searched for), sifts through a data-base that contains cataloged keywords and the URLs those words are related to, and then returnspages that contain the word or phrase that was searched for, either in the body of the page or in aURL that points to the page.This neat little trick is accomplished differently according to the algorithm that’s being used. There areseveral classifications of search algorithms, and each search engine uses algorithms that are slightlydifferent. That’s why a search for one word or phrase will yield different results from different searchengines. Some of the most common types of search algorithms include the following:List search: A list search algorithm searches through specified data looking for a singlekey. The data is searched in a very linear, list-style method. The result of a list search isusually a single element, which means that searching through billions of web sites couldbe very time-consuming, but would yield a smaller search result.Tree search: Envision a tree in your mind. Now, examine that tree either from the roots outor from the leaves in. This is how a tree search algorithm works. The algorithm searches adata set from the broadest to the most narrow, or from the most narrow to the broadest.Data sets are like trees; a single piece of data can branch to many other pieces of data, and8Understanding SEOPart I75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 8
  29. 29. this is very much how the Web is set up. Tree searches, then, are more useful when con-ducting searches on the Web, although they are not the only searches that can be successful.SQL search: One of the difficulties with a tree search is that it’s conducted in a hierar-chical manner, meaning it’s conducted from one point to another, according to theranking of the data being searched. A SQL (pronounced See-Quel) search allows datato be searched in a non-hierarchical manner, which means that data can be searchedfrom any subset of data.Informed search: An informed search algorithm looks for a specific answer to a specificproblem in a tree-like data set. The informed search, despite its name, is not always thebest choice for web searches because of the general nature of the answers being sought.Instead, informed search is better used for specific queries in specific data sets.Adversarial search: An adversarial search algorithm looks for all possible solutions to aproblem, much like finding all the possible solutions in a game. This algorithm is difficultto use with web searches, because the number of possible solutions to a word or phrasesearch is nearly infinite on the Web.Constraint satisfaction search: When you think of searching the Web for a word orphrase, the constraint satisfaction search algorithm is most likely to satisfy your desire tofind something. In this type of search algorithm, the solution is discovered by meeting aset of constraints, and the data set can be searched in a variety of different ways that do nothave to be linear. Constraint satisfaction searches can be very useful for searching the Web.These are only a few of the various types of search algorithms that are used when creating searchengines. And very often, more than one type of search algorithm is used, or as happens in mostcases, some proprietary search algorithm is created. The key to maximizing your search engineresults is to understand a little about how each search engine you’re targeting works. Only whenyou understand this can you know how to maximize your exposure to meet the search require-ments for that search engine.Retrieval and rankingFor a web search engine, the retrieval of data is a combination activity of the crawler (or spider orrobot), the database, and the search algorithm. Those three elements work in concert to retrieve theword or phrase that a user enters into the search engine’s user interface. And as noted earlier, howthat works can be a proprietary combination of technologies, theories, and coding whizbangery.The really tricky part comes in the results ranking. Ranking is also what you’ll spend the most timeand effort trying to affect. Your ranking in a search engine determines how often people see your page,which affects everything from revenue to your advertising budget. Unfortunately, how a search engineranks your page or pages is a tough science to pin down.The most that you can hope for, in most cases, is to make an educated guess as to how a searchengine ranks its results, and then try to tailor your page to meet those results. But keep in mindthat, although retrieval and ranking are listed as separate subjects here, they’re actually part of thesearch algorithm. The separation is to help you better understand how search engines work.9Search Engine Basics 175002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 9
  30. 30. Ranking plays such a large part in search engine optimization that you’ll see it frequently in this book.You’ll look at ranking from every possible facet before you reach the last page. But for now, let’s lookat just what affects ranking. Keep in mind, however, that different search engines use different rank-ing criteria, so the importance each of these elements plays will vary.Location: Location doesn’t refer here to the location (as in the URL) of a web page. Instead,it refers to the location of key words and phrases on a web page. So, for example, if a usersearches for “puppies,” some search engines will rank the results according to where on thepage the word “puppies” appears. Obviously, the higher the word appears on the page, thehigher the rank might be. So a web site that contains the word “puppies” in the title tag willlikely appear higher than a web site that is about puppies but does not contain the word inthe title tag. What this means is that a web site that’s not designed with SEO in mind willlikely not rank where you would expect it to rank. The site www.puppies.com is a goodexample of this. In a Google search, it appears ranked fifth rather than first, potentiallybecause it does not contain the key word in the title tag.Frequency: The frequency with which the search term appears on the page may also affecthow a page is ranked in search results. So, for example, on a page about puppies, one thatuses the word five times might be ranked higher than one that uses the word only two orthree times. When word frequency became a factor, some web site designers began usinghidden words hundreds of times on pages, trying to artificially boost their page rankings.Most search engines now recognize this as keyword spamming and ignore or even refuse tolist pages that use this technique.Links: One of the more recent ranking factors is the type and number of links on a webpage. Links that come into the site, links that lead out of the site, and links within the siteare all taken into consideration. It would follow, then, that the more links you have on yourpage or leading to your page the higher your rank would be, right? Again, it doesn’t neces-sarily work that way. More accurately, the number of relevant links coming into your page,versus the number of relevant links within the page, versus the number of relevant linksleading off the page will have a bearing on the rank that your page gets in the search results.Click-throughs: One last element that might determine how your site ranks against othersin a search is the number of click-throughs your site has versus click-throughs for otherpages that are shown in page rankings. Because the search engine cannot monitor sitetraffic for every site on the Web, some monitor the number of clicks each search resultreceives. The rankings may then be repositioned in a future search, based on this interac-tion with the users.Page ranking is a very precise science. And it differs from search engine to search engine. To createthe best possible SEO for your site, it’s necessary to understand how these page rankings are madefor the search engines you plan to target. Those factors can then be taken into consideration and usedto your advantage when it’s time to create, change, or update the web site that you want to optimize.10Understanding SEOPart I75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 10
  31. 31. Characteristics of SearchUnderstanding how a search engine works helps you to understand how your pages are ranked in thesearch engine, but how your pages are found is another story entirely. That’s where the human ele-ment comes in. Search means different things to different people. For example, one of my colleaguessearches the Internet using the same words and phrases he would use to tell someone about a topic oreven the exact question that he’s trying to get answered. It’s called natural language. Another, however,was trained in search using Boolean search techniques. She uses a very different syntax when she’s creat-ing a search term. Each of them returns different search results, even when each is using the samesearch engines.The characteristics of search refer to how users search the Internet. This can be everything from theheuristics they use when creating a search term to the selection the user makes (and the way thoseselections are made) once the search results are returned. One interesting fact is that more than halfof American adults search the Internet every time they go online. And in fact, more people searchthe Internet than use the yellow pages when they’re looking for phone numbers or the locations oflocal businesses.This wealth of search engine users is fertile ground for SEO targeting. And the better you under-stand how and why users use search engines, and exactly how search engines work, the easier itwill be to achieve the SEO you’re pursuing.Classifications of Search EnginesWith a decent understanding of how search engines work and how people use those search engines,you can now concentrate on some more detailed information about these engines. For example, youknow that all search engines aren’t created equal, right? But did you know that there are differenttypes, or classifications, of search engines? There are.Search engines can be broken down into three different types (in the broadest of terms): primary,secondary, and targeted.Primary search enginesA primary search engine is the type you think of most often when search engines come to mind. Someindex most or all sites on the Web. For example, Yahoo! Google, and MSN are primary (also calledmajor) search engines.Primary search engines will generate the majority of the traffic to your web site, and as such will bethe primary focus of your SEO efforts. Each primary search engine differs slightly from the others.11Search Engine Basics 175002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 11
  32. 32. For example, Lycos has been around much longer than Google, yet Google is the most popularsearch engine on the Web. Why is that? Most likely because people find that, when searching theWeb, Google provides better search results.The difference in those search results is all in the search algorithm used to create the search engine.Most primary search engines are also more than just search. Additional features such as e-mail, map-ping, news, and different types of entertainment applications are also available from most of the pri-mary search engine companies. These elements were added long after the search was established, asa way to draw more and more people to the search engine. Although those features don’t change theway people search, they might affect which search engine people choose.Overview of GoogleEach of the major search engines differs in some small way. Google is the king of search engines, inpart because of the accuracy with which it can pull the results from a search query. Sure, Googleoffers all kinds of extras like e-mail, a personalized home page, and even productivity applications,but those value-added services are not what made Google popular.What turned Google into a household word is the accuracy with which the search engine can returnsearch results. This accuracy was developed when the Google designers combined keyword searcheswith link popularity. The combination of the keywords and the popularity of links to those pagesyields a higher accuracy rank than just keywords alone.However, it’s important to understand that link popularity and keywords are just two of hundredsof different criteria that search engines can use in ranking the relevancy of web pages.Overview of Yahoo!Most people assume that Yahoo! is a search engine, and it is. But it’s also a web directory, whichbasically means that it’s a list of the different web pages available on the Internet, divided by cate-gory and subcategory. In fact, what few people know is that Yahoo! started as the favorites list ofthe two young men who founded it. Through the acquisition of companies like Inktomi, All theWeb, AltaVista, and Overture, Yahoo! gradually gained market share as a search engine.Yahoo!, which at one time used Google to search its directory of links, now ranks pages through acombination of the technologies that it acquired over time. However, Yahoo!’s link-ranking capabil-ity is not as accurate as Google’s. In addition, Yahoo! also has a paid inclusion program, which somethink tends to skew search results in favor of the highest payer.Overview of MSNMSN’s search capabilities aren’t quite as mature as those of Google or Yahoo! As a result of this imma-turity, MSN has not yet developed the in-depth link analysis capabilities of these other primary searchengines. Instead, MSN relies heavily on web-site content for ranking purposes. However, this mayhave a beneficial effect for new web sites that are trying to get listed in search engines.The link-ranking capabilities of Google and Yahoo! can preclude new web sites from being listed fora period of time after they have been created. This is because (especially where Google is concerned)12Understanding SEOPart I75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 12
  33. 33. the quality of the link may be considered during ranking. New links are often ignored until theyhave been in place for a time.Because MSN relies heavily on page content, a web site that is tagged properly and contains a goodratio of keywords will be more likely to be listed — and listed sooner — by the MSN search engine.So, though it’s not the most popular of search engines, it is one of the primaries, and being listedthere sooner rather than later will help increase your site traffic.Secondary search enginesSecondary search engines are targeted at smaller, more specific audiences, although the search engine’scontent itself is still general. They don’t generate as much traffic as the primary search engines, butthey’re useful for regional and more narrowly focused searches. Examples of secondary search enginesinclude Lycos, LookSmart, Miva, Ask.com, and Espotting.Secondary search engines, just like the primary ones, will vary in the way they rank search results.Some will rely more heavily upon keywords, whereas others will rely on reciprocal links. Still othersmight rely on criteria such as meta tags or some proprietary criteria.Secondary search engines should be included in any SEO plan. Though these search engines mightnot generate as much traffic as the primary search engines, they will still generate valuable trafficthat should not be overlooked. Many users of secondary search engines are users because they havesome loyalty to that specific search engine. For example, many past AOL users who have moved onto broadband Internet service providers still use the AOL search engine whenever possible, becauseit’s comfortable for them.Targeted search enginesTargeted search engines—sometimes called topical search engines—are the most specific of them all.These search engines are very narrowly focused, usually to a general topic, like medicine or branchesof science, travel, sports, or some other topic. Examples of targeted search engines include CitySearch,Yahoo! Travel, and MusicSearch, and like other types of search engines, ranking criteria will vary fromone to another.When considering targeted search engines for SEO purposes, keep in mind that many of thesesearch engines are much more narrowly focused than primary or secondary search engines. Lookfor the targeted search engines that are relevant to your specific topic (like pets, sports, locations,and so on).Putting Search Engines to Work for YouAll this information about search engines has one purpose — to show you how they work, so thatyou can put them to work for you. Throughout this book, you’ll find various strategies for optimiz-ing your web site so it appears high in search engine rankings when relevant searches are performed.But this requires that you know how to put search engines to work for you.13Search Engine Basics 175002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 13
  34. 34. Search engine optimization is essentially the science of designing your web site to maximize yoursearch engine rankings. This means that all of the elements of your web site are created with thegoal of obtaining high search engine rankings. Those elements include:Entry and exit pagesPage titlesSite contentGraphicsWeb site structureIn addition to these elements, however, you also have to consider things like keywords, links, HTML,and meta-tagging. Even after you have all the elements of your page optimized for search-enginefriendliness, there are other things to consider. For example, you can have all the right design ele-ments included in your web pages and still have a relatively low search engine ranking. Factors suchas advertising campaigns and update frequencies also affect your SEO efforts.All of this means that you should understand that the concept of search engine optimization is notbased on any single element. Instead, search engine optimization is based on a vast number of ele-ments and strategies. And it’s an ongoing process that doesn’t end once your web site is live.SEO is a living, breathing concept of maximizing the traffic that your web site generates, and becauseit is, that means that it’s a constantly moving target. If you’ve ever played a game of Whack-a-Mole,you can understand how difficult search engine optimization is to nail. In the game, a little mole popsup out of a hole. Your job is to whack the mole on the top of the head before it disappears back downthe hole and appears in another.Search engine optimization is much the same concept. Search engines are constantly changing, sothe methods and strategies used to achieve high search engine rankings must also change. As soonas that little mole pops up in one hole, he disappears and then reappears in another. It’s a frustratinggame, but given enough time and concentration, you can become very good at it.Manipulating Search EnginesThere’s one more topic to touch on before this chapter is finished. SEO is about manipulating searchengines — to an extent. Beyond that, the manipulation becomes something more sinister and yourun the risk of having your web site removed from the search engine rankings completely. It’s true.It happens.14Understanding SEOPart I75002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 14
  35. 35. So what exactly can and can’t you do? There’s a list. Here is part of it.You can:Create a web site that contains meta tags, content, graphics, and keywords that helpimprove your site ranking.Use keywords liberally on your site, so long as they are used in the correct context ofyour site topic and content.Include reciprocal links to your site from others as long as those links are legitimate andrelevant.Encourage web site traffic through many venues, including keyword advertising, recipro-cal links, and marketing campaigns.Submit your web site to search engines manually, rather than waiting for them to pick upyour site in the natural course of cataloging web sites.You can’t:Trick search engines by imbedding hidden keywords in your web site. This is a practicethat will very likely get you banned by most search engines.Artificially generate links to your site from unrelated sites for the purpose of increasingyour ranking based on link analysis. Most search engines have a built-in mechanism thatwill detect this type of deceptive practice.Artificially generate traffic to your web site so that it appears more popular than it is. Again,there are safeguards in place to prevent this from happening, and if you trip those safe-guards, you could end up on the banned list for many search engines.Force your web site to appear in search engine rankings by submitting the site repeatedlyfor inclusion in the rankings. A good general rule of thumb is that you should submit yoursite once and then wait at least six weeks before submitting it again. Submitting it repeat-edly will, again, only lead to something nasty like being banned from the search engine.Expect search engines to automatically rank you at the top of your topic, category, or key-word as soon as the site is picked up. It could take a little time to build the “status” thatyou need to reach a high search engine ranking. Remember, SEO is a process.These are just basic rules for putting search engines to work for you. There are many more, which youwill discover in the coming chapters. As you get started, however, keep these in mind, because you’llsee them over and over again throughout the course of this book and any other research that youmight be doing on search engine optimization.15Search Engine Basics 175002c01.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:30 AM Page 15
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  37. 37. Before you can even begin to optimize your web site for search engines,you need to have a search engine optimization plan in place. This willhelp you create SEO goals and keep those goals in focus as the pur-pose of your site changes, and as the methods for search engine optimizationchange — and they will change.Your SEO plan will help you see where you need to concentrate your efforts atany given time. This need will change over time. In the beginning, you’re mostlikely to be focusing on getting started with SEO. However, after you’ve put allof your SEO strategies into place, the focus of your SEO activities will change.Note that I said they will change, not that they will end. Once you’ve startedSEO, if you plan to continue using it, you’ll need to constantly monitor andupdate your SEO plan, strategies, and activities. There was a time when theonly thing you had to worry about was which keywords or links would bemost effective for getting your site ranked high in relevant search results.Today, very few search engines focus on a single aspect of search engine opti-mization. This means that over time those who focused only on keywords oronly on links have found themselves with diminished SEO effectiveness.Search engines will naturally change and mature, as the technologies and prin-ciples that enable SEO and the engines themselves change. For this reason, theSEO plan should be considered a dynamic, changing document. To keep upwith that document, you need to be evolving or changing as well. And that’swhere your SEO plan will help you stay on track.Using the SEO plan, you can quickly and easily tell where you are and whereyou need to be with your search engine optimization efforts.17IN THIS CHAPTERUnderstanding why you need SEOSetting SEO goalsCustomizing your SEO planUnderstanding black-hat SEOAvoiding black-hat SEOCreating your SEO planWhat is organic SEO?Achieving organic SEOCreating an SEO Plan75002c02.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:32 AM Page 17
  38. 38. Understanding Why You Need SEOBefore you can understand the reasons for using SEO, it might be good to have a definition of whatSEO — search engine optimization — is. It’s probably a safe assumption that if you’ve picked up thisbook, you have some understanding of SEO, so I’ll keep it simple.SEO is the science of customizing elements of your web site to achieve the best possible search engineranking. That’s really all there is to search engine optimization. But as simple as it sounds, don’t let itfool you. Both internal and external elements of the site affect the way it’s ranked in any given searchengine, so all of these elements should be taken into consideration. Good SEO can be very difficult toachieve, and great SEO seems pretty well impossible at times.But why is search engine optimization so important? Think of it this way. If you’re standing in a crowdof a few thousand people and someone is looking for you, how will they find you? In a crowd thatsize, everyone blends together.Now suppose there is some system that separates groups of people. Maybe if you’re a woman you’rewearing red and if you’re a man you’re wearing blue. Now anyone looking for you will have to lookthrough only half of the people in the crowd.You can further narrow the group of people to be searched by adding additional differentiators untilyou have a small enough group that a search query can be executed and the desired person can beeasily found.Your web site is much like that one person in the huge crowd. In the larger picture your site isnearly invisible, even to the search engines that send crawlers out to catalog the Web. To get yoursite noticed, even by the crawlers, certain elements must stand out. And that’s why you needsearch engine optimization.By accident your site will surely land in a search engine. And it’s likely to rank within the first fewthousand results. That’s just not good enough. Being ranked on the ninth or tenth page of searchresults is tantamount to being invisible. To be noticed, your site should be ranked much higher.Ideally you want your site to be displayed somewhere on the first three pages of results. Most peoplewon’t look beyond the third page, if they get even that far. The fact is, it’s the sites that fall on thefirst page of results that get the most traffic, and traffic is translated into revenue, which is the ulti-mate goal of search engine optimization.To achieve a high position in search results, your site must be more than simply recognizable by asearch engine crawler. It must satisfy a set of criteria that not only gets the site cataloged, but canalso get it cataloged above most (if not all) of the other sites that fall into that category or topic.Some of the criteria by which a search engine crawler determines the rank your site should have ina set of results include:Anchor textSite popularity18Understanding SEOPart I75002c02.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:32 AM Page 18
  39. 39. Link contextTopical linksTitle tagsKeywordsSite languageContentSite maturityThere are estimated to be at least several hundred other criteria that could also be examined beforeyour site is ranked by a search engine. Some of the criteria listed also have multiple points of view.For example, when looking at link context, a crawler might take into consideration where the linkis located on the page, what text surrounds it, and where it leads to or from.These criteria are also different in importance. For some search engines, links are more importantthan site maturity, and for others, links have little importance. These weights and measures are con-stantly changing, so even trying to guess what is most important at any given time is a pointless exer-cise. Just as you figure it out, the criteria will shift or change completely.By nature, many of the elements are likely to have some impact on your site ranking, even whenyou do nothing to improve them. However, without your attention, you’re leaving the search rank-ing of your site to chance. That’s like opening a business without putting out a sign. You’re sure toget some traffic, but because people don’t know you’re there, it won’t be anything more than thecuriosity of passersby.Setting SEO GoalsOkay, so you understand how important it is to put time into SEO. Now, how exactly do you goabout it? One thing you don’t do is begin trying to implement SEO strategies without some sort ofgoal for what you want to accomplish.One of the greatest failings of many SEO plans, like all technology plans, is the lack of a clearly definedgoal. The goal for your SEO plan should be built around your business needs, and it’s not somethingevery business requires. For example, if you run a simple blog, SEO might be more expense than it’sworth. But if your plans for that blog are to turn it into a brand, then the simplest of SEO strategiesmight be just what you need to build the traffic that begins to establish your brand.If you have a larger business, say a web site that sells custom-made silk-flower arrangements, oneway to increase your business (some estimate by more than 50 percent) is to invest time, money,and considerable effort into optimizing your site for search. Just don’t do it without a goal in mind.In the case of the silk-flower web site, one goal might be to increase the amount of traffic your website receives. Another might be to increase your exposure to potential customers outside your geo-graphic region.19Creating an SEO Plan 275002c02.qxd:Layout 1 11/7/07 9:32 AM Page 19

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