Learn The Search Engine Ranking Criteria…

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Each search engine has its own unique ranking criteria and its own unique algorithm, or formula, giving different weighting to each of the criteria in its formula. For the search engines that you have decided to focus on, you have to learn as much as you can about their ranking criteria and relative weighting.

The site with the highest score appears at the top of the results and the rest appear in descending order of their score. The search engines are all fighting for market share. The more market share a search engine has, the more valuable the company is. To gain market share, a search engine has to provide better results than its competition. It is for this reason that the search engines are changing and improving their formulas on an ongoing basis. You have to keep up with changes in these formulas, tweak your site accordingly, and resubmit when necessary.

The search engines use different databases for their search results. They
have different algorithms or formulas for their ranking. They have different
weighting for the various elements within their formula. They change their formulas
over time and they change their ranking over time. Sound complicated?
Things have changed quite a bit from the early days. Elements that used to
have significant weighting may now have very little weight. You have to remember
that it is the highest total score you are looking for, so even if an element
has reduced weighting, if the element has any points at all you want to
incorporate that element to maximize your total score. Sometimes the top sites
are within a small number of points of each other.

It is not as daunting as it might sound, because the major search engines
tend to look at similar information but weight the relevancy for particular items
differently in their algorithms. That having been said, here are the most important
areas on a Web page that you must address when performing organic search
engine optimization:

• Title tags (page titles)
• Keyword meta-tags
• Description meta-tags
• Alt tags
• Hypertext links (e.g., anchor text)
• Domain names and file names
• Body text (beginning, middle, and end of page copy)
• Headers
• Between the “NOFRAMES” tag of framed Web sites.

Page titles and text-based page content are the most important of the noted placement areas. Keyword meta-tags are not as critical as they once were, but
are still applicable for some engines. Remember—it is the absolute highest score
you are looking for; if there are any points available, you want to design your
site to take advantage of them.

Because Google is the favorite search engine for the time being, let’s take a
closer look at how it ranks pages. Google uses its internal index for its primary
search listings. Google has many other features as well, some of which include:

• An images search
• Usenet news database
• A news search feature
• Froogle (a shopping search tool)
• A local search
• A blog search
• A video search
• A product search
• A directory search
• A catalog search
• Advertising services through the Google AdWords programs.

The ranking formula for Google’s main search function looks for the keywords
in the visible body text, header tags, title tags, hypertext links, and Alt
tags. Google gives a very heavy weighting to the link popularity, with extra
points for quality of links and relevancy of text around the links. Google also has miscellaneous points available for such things as:

• Age of domain/site—The longer your domain name has been registered,
the more likely you are serious about being online for the long term.

• File size—Try not to exceed 100k. A recent study found that the body
section of your site ranks best between 50 and 70k in size. More than
100k in size might not be cached unless it is considered exceptional
content.

• Freshness of content—Google is always looking for sites that are updated
on a regular basis. The more frequent you update your site, the
more frequent Google’s spiders will visit your site.

• Links from directories—Google awards points if directories such as
Yahoo!, Looksmart, DMOZ, and About provide a link to your site.

Most of the search engines are giving heavy weighting to link popularity—
that is, the number of links to your site from other sites on the Internet. The
search engines are getting very sophisticated in the weighting of link popularity,
with the search engines giving extra points for link relevancy—that is, how high
the site with the link to your site would rank for the same keyword. Other
points are awarded based on the keywords in the text around the link pointing
to your Web site.

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