Search Engine Optimization

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Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

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  • 1. Author: Stephanie Nardei, Tucson Design College January 11, 2004 Search Engine Optimization I. Introduction to Search Engine Optimization As you a user, when you need to find information on a topic, you use search engines to get a listing of web sites related to the topic of interest. As a webmaster, you want your site to be one of the first ones the user will see. With all the competition out there, how can you, the web designer, make sure you are noticed? That is where effective search engine optimization comes in. Basically, optimizing refers to fine-tuning a website to achieve optimum search results. This is not a one-time process. Optimization is an on-going process that requires key pages to be resubmitted every couple of months and important new pages as they appear. But, it’s not enough to optimize web pages for search engines. You still have to submit them for indexing. II. How Search Engines Work The term search engine is frequently used to describe both crawler-based search engines and human-powered directories. These two types of search engines gather their listings in very different ways. A. Crawler-Based Search Engines Crawler-based search engines, such as Google, produce their listings automatically. They act like a spider crawling through the website and then people search through what they have found. Hence the term, crawler-based. If you modify your web pages, crawler-based search engines eventually finds these modifications, and that can change how you are listed. Web page titles and headings, body content and other Page 1
  • 2. Author: Stephanie Nardei, Tucson Design College January 11, 2004 elements all play a very important role in achieving this. There are three major elements to crawler-based search engines—the spider, the index, and the search engine software. 1. Spider The spider, also called the crawler, visits a web page, reviews it, and then follows links to other web pages within the same site. This is what is referred to when a site is being “crawled” or “spidered”. The spider returns to the website on a frequent basis, perhaps every couple of months, to look for modifications. Everything the spider finds goes into an index, the second element of a crawler- based search engine. 2. Index The index, also called the catalog, is like a huge book containing an exact copy of every web page that the spider finds. If a web page has been altered, then this book is updated with the current information. Sometimes it may take a while for new web pages or modifications that the spider finds to be added to the index. Therefore, a web page may have been spidered, but not yet indexed. Until it is indexed, the web page will not be available to those searching with the search engine. 3. Search Engine Software Search engine software is the third element of a search engine. This is the program that shifts through the millions of pages recorded in the index to find matches to a search and rank them in order of what it believes is most relevant. Page 2
  • 3. Author: Stephanie Nardei, Tucson Design College January 11, 2004 B. Human-Powered Directories A human-powered directory, such as the Open Directory, relies on people for its listings. You submit a brief description to the directory for your entire website, or editors write one for websites that they review. A search looks for matches only in the descriptions submitted. Modifying your individual web pages will have no effect on your listing. Items that are useful for improving a listing with a search engine have nothing to do with enhancing a listing in a directory. The only exception is that a really good website with exceptional content might get reviewed for free, whereas a poor website will not. III. How Search Engines Rank Web Pages Search for a topic using your favorite crawler-based search engine. Almost instantly, the search engine will sort through the number of pages it knows about and give you the ones that match your topic. The matches will be ranked from the most relevant to the least relevant. Of course, the search engines do not always hit the target. Irrelevant pages make it through and sometimes it may take a little more digging to locate what you want. But, by and large, search engines get the job done. Crawler-based search engines rank relevancy of websites by following a set of rules, known as an algorithm. Every major search engine programs their algorithms differently, which is why you will be ranked differently with different search engines. But, two major factors that are usually common among all search engines are location and frequency. Page 3
  • 4. Author: Stephanie Nardei, Tucson Design College January 11, 2004 A. Location The location of where the word or phrase being searched appears in the website is a huge factor. If the word or phrase appears in the HTML title tag, that website(s) will be considered the most relevant. Also, if the word or phrase appears close to the top of the first web page, for instance, the home page, the relevancy will be ranked accordingly. A. Frequency The frequency by which the word or phrase appears throughout the website is also a factor in rank determination. If you mention a certain topic frequently throughout your site, you will achieve a higher ranking. IV. Using META tags Meta tags are information inserted into the head area of your web pages. Besides from the title tag, information in the head area of your web pages is not viewed by those looking at your pages in browsers. Instead, Meta tags that are in the head area are used to communicate information that a human visitor may not be concerned with. Meta tags, for example, can tell a browser what character set to use or whether a web page has self- ratings in terms of adult-only content. The syntax for a Meta tag is as follows: <META name=”description” content=”…..….”> <META name=”keywords” content=”……….”> <META name=”Robots” content=”NOINDEX”> A. Types of META tags As you can probably detect from the above syntax, there are three common types of Meta tags: description meta tag, keywords meta tag, and robot meta tag. There are Page 4
  • 5. Author: Stephanie Nardei, Tucson Design College January 11, 2004 other meta tags used by specialized search engines, but these are the most commonly and widely used. 1. Description Meta Tags The Meta description tag allows you to influence the description of your page in the crawlers that support the tag. The above syntax shows the text you wish to be shown as your description going between the quotation marks after the "content=" portion of the tag. So in place of the dots between the quotations marks, your description would appear. Generally speaking, 200 to 250 characters may be indexed, however only a small portion of this may be displayed, depending on the search engine. It is a wise idea to use description meta tags, because they give you a degree of control with various crawlers. 2. Keywords Meta Tags The meta keywords tag allows you to provide additional text for crawler-based search engines to index along with your web site content. However, according to www.SearchEngineWatch.com not to many crawlers support keyword meta tags. But, it is still a good idea to use for those that do support them. Just as in the description syntax, you replace the dots between the quotation marks with your chosen keywords. 3. Robot Meta Tags This meta tag allows you to specify that this particular web page should not be indexed by crawlers. Page 5
  • 6. Author: Stephanie Nardei, Tucson Design College January 11, 2004 B. The Myth About META tags It is a common myth that if you use meta tags, you are guaranteed to be in the top ranking, but this is not true at all. Meta tags do not guarantee anything, but they may help. Since all search engines work a little differently from each other, it is always wise to try everything and anything at least once. V. Summary of Search Engine Optimization Optimizing refers to fine-tuning a web site to achieve optimum search results. This is not a one-time process. Optimization is an on-going process that requires key pages to be resubmitted every couple of months and important new pages as they appear. But, it’s not enough to optimize web pages for search engines. You still have to submit them for indexing. There are two types of search engines—crawler-based and human-powered directories. There are three elements of a crawler-based search engine—spider, index and search engine software. Search engines rank web pages based of two main criteria—location and frequency. Using meta tags can increase your chances of being in the top ranking, but it is not a guarantee. There are three common types of meta tags—description, keywords, and robot meta tags. Again, search engine optimization is an on-going process. You should routinely change your web site to test and see what changes work and what changes do not work when trying to achieve top ranking. Page 6