What is Search Engine optimization (“SEO”)?
SEO is the management process to improve the likelihood of your site achieving a better position when someone searches using a search engine like Google or Yahoo.
“Why isn’t my site appearing on Google?”
We are often asked the question, “Why isn’t my site appearing on Google?” You may be the only company specializing in designer clothing for rats based in Palo Alto – but if you do a search on “designer clothing rats Palo Alto” and you get 4,630 results or ‘hits.’ Incidentally this site was number 1 on Google for this phrase when I last looked.
As you will have noticed on Google, there are the searches on the left hand side (these are called ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ searches) and small advertisement blocks on the right (‘AdWords’). AdWords are paid for and you pretty much decide where you want to be placed, depending on how much you are prepared to pay every time someone clicks an ad (you can also set a daily maximum so that you never get surprised by a big bill if you get a flurry of clicks). You can also restrict the ads to a local area so that you are not paying for people clicking in New York when you are located in Los Angeles.
Your web site’s position found doing a “natural search” is not paid for. The position of your page is decided by Google (or which ever search engine you are looking at) and depends on several factors, for example:
- Does your site contain a lot of interesting, keyword rich, content that might be useful for a visitor – in other words, is the site more than an advert?
- Has your site been submitted to Google?
- Have you analyzed the key words that people using search engines will type in in order to find your site?
- Are the contents of the site, search engine (Google) ‘friendly’? There are various best practices about the ‘density’ and location of keywords.
- How many other sites link to your site? Sites gain a better page rank if many sites link to them.
- How often is the content of your site updated? Good search engines like ‘fresh’ content.
- Has your site been submitted through any of the paid-for submission services, e.g. Yahoo search Submit Express, a single point of submission into Yahoo!, AltaVista, AllTheWeb, and other portals and submission to the Yahoo Directory
- If the content of your site changes a lot then setting up Google sitemap software might improve placement since it means that the site is ‘spidered’ more often. This is the process by which Google searches through and indexes your content.
Even if you get all these right – there are no guarantees of position (i.e. how close your site appears near the top of the first page in Google search results). For example, say you are a local plumbing company. ‘Plumbing’ is a competitive area with lots of companies jockeying for position. One of the tricks that some people play is to create a whole load of pages with a different city and place name on each page. The result of this is that it looks as if there are many more firms in your area than there actually are. Such tricks are not advisable as search engines are continually developing their algorithms to ensure that people using their search engines get accurate and useful search results. Google warns that in some circumstances it will remove a web site from its index or move it down the list.
Keyword analysis and selection
The algorithms used by search engines to determine where your site appears in search results are a closely guarded secret. We do know that “keywords” and “key phrases”, or the words that you want people to search on and find your site, are a key component of determining this positioning. So it is very important that your key words and key phrases appear on your site. The number of times that keywords appear as a percentage of the total words on a page is known as keyword density. It is important that this density does not become too high, otherwise the search engines may penalize your site. The reason for this is that some unscrupulous site owners have been known to ‘stuff’ their sites with thousands of keywords (often by making the text invisible or serving up a different page to search engines than they do to visitors). Search engines have got wise to these tactics and are likely to blacklist or downgrade a site if key word stuffing is found to be happening.
What we offer
As part of our SEO services we will ask you what you believe your key word phrases should be, make suggestions as to their phrases and suggest modifications to your content.
Google sitemap submission
Google sitemaps provide a method for sites that change frequently to let Google know when changes have occurred. This, in turn, helps Google so that they can provide the latest information through their search engine.
Google background information
To gain an insight into how Google determines your ranking, check out The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine. This is the paper written by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page while researching at Stanford University. It gives some clues about how Google determines the importance of your Web page. The actual algorithm used today is secret, but this paper will give you some ideas as to the methods used in ranking Web pages. You may also like to look at one of Google patent applications. The patent application abstract is as follows: “A system identifies a document and obtains one or more types of history data associated with the document. The system may generate a score for the document based, at least in part, on the one or more types of history data.”