Basics of Search Engine Positioning
© 2001 by Renee Kennedy
Search Engine: A machine "tuned" by humans
to index web pages. For instance, Excite.
Algorithm: The way in which the search engine is "tuned".
An algorithm is the way the search engine will determine ranks
- it is the way the search engine is programmed to determine
ranks. An algorithm may take only certain things into account
- like keywords in the title or
link popularity. Some engines use cyclical algorithms
- meaning they may change algorithms from week to week.
Directory: A list of sites compiled by humans. For
Spider: A spider goes to your site and finds your pages.
It then stores those pages in a database for future retrieval
by the search engine.
Indexing: When the search engine takes the pages from
the database that the spider has created and places them in
an order based on the algorithms of that engine. All search
engines have a different indexing process - due to different
algorithms - that's why you get different results in different
Query: The keywords that a person types into a search
box. A person is "querying" the search engine. Crawling:
When the spider follows the links from the page you submit
- the spider is "crawling" your site.
Automatic Update: When the spider returns to your pages
at periodic intervals to check to see if you've made any changes.
Optimizing: You can optimize, tune or configure your web pages
for a specific search engine. This means that you are employing
specific strategies for specific engines.
- Using the same keyword more
than three times in your keywords tag.
- Putting keywords into your
tags that have nothing to do with your actual page content.
- Using text, spacers, or
borders the same color as the background.
- Using tiny text with keywords
in an attempt to increase ranks.
B. Search Engines v. Directories
There is a difference between a search engine and a directory.
A search engine is a machine - or a "robot". A human
may program algorithms for a search engine, but a human will
have nothing to do with your site when the spider is visiting
your site or the engine is indexing your pages. A directory
can be compiled by a robot, but more often than not, it is
compiled by humans. Yahoo! is a prime example of a directory.
When you submit your site to Yahoo! a human will review your
site for consideration in their index.
The lines between search engines and directories are becoming
blurred. This is because each major "search engine"
is associated with a "directory." For instance,
we used to call AltaVista a search engine. However, we have
to be careful with that terminology. When you go to AltaVista
and you type in a search - you are definitely getting results
from the "engine" part of AltaVista. But when you
search down through the "categories" - you haven't
typed anything into the "search box" - you are now
getting results from a directory (these results come from
two directories - Open Directory Project and LookSmart.)
There is a relationship between search results in the "engine"
and the directory or directories that are associated with
a particular search engine. It appears that many search engine's
algorithms have been set to include results based on the directory.
Therefore, it is imperative that you are listed in the directory
associated with each search engine.
C. What happens when I submit my site to a search engine?
First, the search engine's spider will visit your site immediately,
and schedule your site for inclusion in the search engine's
index. Second, usually within a few weeks, the engine will
place your site in their index. Third, the spider will revisit
your site, to include any updates. Once you are included in
the index, the spider will usually revisit every two weeks.
The spider will also begin to "crawl" your site
by following the links off of the page that you submitted.
This process is also called "automatic update".
With Excite - these new updates seem to be automatically included
once the spider has visited the site. However, if you are
dealing with the Inktomi spider - slurp - which gathers data
for Hotbot, Snap, Yahoo! and others, this information may
not be included in each particular engine's index for several
weeks. Fourth, when someone uses a search engine, they type
"keywords" into the search box. They are submitting
a query to a search engine. The search engine, depending on
how it has been tuned, will pull up all of the relevant sites
which pertain to that query.
D. Variables That Affect Ranks
When you are optimizing your web pages for certain engines,
you must always keep in mind that keyword frequency in text
and location of your keywords, is the most important part
of how the engine will rank your pages. ALL search engines
rank pages based on frequency and location of keywords.
Some engines also are programmed to give a boost to pages
which meet the following criteria:
- keywords in the title, most
important keywords first
- keywords in the names of
the linked pages for instance: <a href="educational-toys.htm">educational
- keywords in alt tags
- keywords as names of images
for instance: <img src="educational-toys.gif"
- keywords in the description
- keywords in the keywords
tag, most important keywords first
If you need more help, check out the book:
This book will give you explicit and easy-to-follow directions
on how to write for the Search Engines.
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