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Search Engine Optimisation and why should I be interested in it

For those among you who have had a web site for a few years you will have found out that the hardest thing to get right is web site promotion / marketing; so that you get exposure to potential customers or other groups that you want to visit your site.  When you set your web site up you probably expected endless visitors to magically appear, and then buy your products / services.  No doubt you have been disappointed when they didn’t.

While it is difficult to get your web site listed in a suitable position on the search engines this opportunity offers access to virtually free advertising in a place that year on year sees increased activity.  However the cost to you is that you must learn how to make your site Search Engine friendly, if you are going to achieve this objective.

See below the Search Engines and their market share in the worldwide search market (all data sourced from Comscore). Clearly Google serves the largest number of searches so it must be the most important target when considering Search Engine optimization.

Top 10 Search Properties Worldwide*
August 2007

Total World Age 15+, Home and Work Locations**
Source: comScore qSearch 2.0

Search Property

Searches (MM)

Worldwide

61,036

Google Sites

37,094

Yahoo! Sites

8,549

Baidu.com Inc.

3,253

Microsoft Sites

2,166

NHN Corporation

2,044

eBay

1,319

Time Warner Network

1,212

Ask Network

743

Fox Interactive Media

683

Lycos, Inc.

441

* Search properties based on top 50 properties worldwide where search activity is observed. 

** Excludes traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

Worldwide Search by Region
August 2007
Total World Age 15+, Home and Work Locations*
Source: comScore qSearch 2.0

Total Internet – By Region

Unique Searchers (000)

Searches (MM)

Searches Per Searcher

Worldwide

754,459

61,036

80.9

Asia-Pacific

257,952

20,295

78.7

Europe

209,678

17,846

85.1

North America

206,278

15,976

77.4

Latin America

49,995

4,784

95.7

Middle East - Africa

30,556

2,134

69.8

*Excludes traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

This article sets out my ideas on the steps involved in making sure that your site achieves the best possible position amongst your peers / competitors and while I do not consider myself an expert I have been spending significant time and effort researching this area.  If you would value some more background reading on this topic there is an excellent article at Search Engine Optimization at Wikipedia

Designing a web site that is Optimized for Search Engines

Most people spend lots of time on graphic design when creating their web site to ensure that they achieve the best presentation possible.  This can often mean that the site is not best designed to appeal to search engines and they will therefore need an additional marketing budget.

There are a number of web site design features that should be understood / avoided if the web site is to be optimized for search engines.  A list of web design features best avoided making the site Search Engine friendly can be found on this link.

The steps involved in creating a Search Engine friendly site are shown below.  These have been placed in what I consider to be a logical order.  If you already have a web site and are looking to optimise it then you might consider adding additional pages or reviewing the page copy before attempting other more challenging options.

Measuring your Search Engine Optimisation Progress

One of the easiest ways to measure your progress with Search Engine Optimisation is to track your Google PageRank™ and the easiest way to find this out is to download the Google Toolbar.  This will allow you to track the Google PageRank™ of any site you visit but please be aware that Google create Internet usage statistics from returns provided by the Google Toolbar.  To see the PageRank™ statistics of a number of pages on a site create a free Google™ Webmaster Tools account, verify your site ownership and then look under Crawl stats for the PageRank™ distribution of all pages on your site.

A PageRank™ is Google's measure of the importance of a page.  PageRank™ is not simply restricted to the home page, it can also be associated with inner pages of a site. A site or a page gets a rank from 0 to 10, where 10 is the highest PageRank™. A site like CNN, the BBC or Google itself might rate 9/10 whereas a small business site fairly well optimised might be a 3/10.  If you want to know exactly how the Google PageRank™ is calculated see this article which includes all the juicy maths!
Does PageRank™ of a site decide it's position in Google™ search results?
A site's PageRank™ number 0, 1 through 10 has nothing to do with the site's position in search engine results.

Many different factors are considered when determining the position of a site in search engine results and PageRank™ is one of them.

What to Avoid

There are many mistakes that can be made when managing your web site and if you have spent many years steadily building your web presence you will want to avoid a problem at all costs.  Here are a few that might focus the mind:

  • External links.  Avoid using any artificial methods of increasing PageRank™  Be careful when accepting links from external sites these may be considered as spam or bad neighbors. You can check if a site has been banned by Google by looking at The Google Banned List and where possible avoid link exchange and traffic exchange schemes
  • Re-designing your site.  If an existing site has undergone major changes to directory structure or file names then, search engines de-index that site since the directory changes will result in many 404 (page not found) errors when the search engine tries to crawl pages in it's cache that once existed. Before making changes to a site's file structure it's a good practice to implement 301 permanently moved HTTP redirects that point the old file name/location to the new file name / location.  If it all goes pear shaped you will have to resubmit the site to search engines and wait for 1 to 2 months for the re-indexing of the site
  • Don't repeat submissions: Submit a site only once, don't lose patience and repeatedly / unnecessarily submit a site to search engines within a small period (a month - 6 months), search engines don't appreciate it. Repeated submissions will not reduce the time it takes for a site (or changes to a site) to appear on search results.
  • Keep the site available.  You need a reliable web host.  If a site is experiences down time (expected or unexpected), search engines will simply de-index it after a wait period of about 1 to 3 days. Then again you'll wait for 1 to 3 months to get a site re-indexed and visible in search engine result pages

 

 
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