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THE WORLD OF GOOGLE
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

Search engine optimization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a subset of search engine marketing, and deals with improving the number and/or quality of visitors to a web site from "natural" (also known as "organic" or "algorithmic") search engine listings. In effect, SEO is marketing by appealing to machine algorithms to increase search engine relevance and ultimately web traffic. This is analogous to foot traffic in retail advertising. The term SEO can also refer to "search engine optimizers", an industry of consultants who carry out optimization projects on behalf of clients.

Search engines display different kinds of listings on a search engine results page (SERP), including paid advertising in the form of pay per click advertisements and paid inclusion listings, as well as unpaid organic search results and keywords specific listings, such as news stories, definitions, map locations, and images. SEO is concerned with improving the number and position of a site's listings in the organic search results.

SEO strategies vary widely, in accordance with the specific site. Broadly speaking, SEO may be geared towards increasing either, or both, the total number and quality of visitors from Search Engines. The quality of a visitor can be measured by how often a visitor using a specific keyword leads to a desired conversion action, such as making a purchase or requesting further information.

Search engine optimization is available as a stand-alone service or as a part of a larger marketing campaign. Because SEO often requires making changes to the source code of a site, it is often most effective when incorporated into the initial development and design of a site, leading to the use of the term "Search Engine Friendly" to describe designs, menus, Content management systems and shopping carts that can be optimized easily and effectively.

A range of strategies and techniques are employed in SEO, including changes to a site's code (referred to as "on page factors") and getting links from other sites (referred to as "off page factors"). These techniques include two broad categories: techniques that search engines recommend as part of good design, and those techniques that search engines do not approve of and attempt to minimize the effect of, referred to as spamdexing. Some industry commentators classify these methods, and the practitioners who utilize them, as either "white hat SEO", or "black hat SEO".[1] Other SEOs reject the black and white hat dichotomy as an over-simplification.

SEO, as a marketing strategy, can often generate a good return. However, as the search engines are not paid for the traffic they send from organic search, the algorithms used can and do change, and there are many problems that can cause Search Engine problems when crawling or ranking a site's pages, there are no guarantees of success, either in the short or long term. Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, SEO is often compared to traditional Public Relations (PR), with PPC advertising closer to traditional advertising.

SEO targets the algorithms of popular search engine companies.
SEO targets the algorithms of popular search engine companies.

History

Early search engines and the Origin of SEO

Webmasters and content providers began optimizing sites for search engines in the mid-1990s, as the first search engines were cataloging the early Web. Initially, all a webmaster needed to do was submit a site to the various engines which would run spiders, programs that "crawled" a page and stored the collected data in a database.

The process involves a search engine spider downloading a page and storing it on the search engine's own server, where a second program, known as an indexer, extracts various information about the page, such as the words it contains and where these are located, as well as any weight for specific words, as well as any and all links the page contains, which are then placed into a scheduler for crawling at a later date.

At first, search engines were supplied with information about pages by the webmasters themselves. Early versions of search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information such as the keyword meta tag, or index files in engines like ALIWEB. Meta-tags provided a guide to each page's content. But indexing pages based upon meta data was found to be less than reliable, mostly because webmasters abused meta tags by including keywords that had nothing to do with the content of their pages, to artificially increase page impressions for their Website and increase their Ad Revenue. Cost Per Impression was at the time the common means of monetizing content websites. Inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent meta data in meta tags caused pages to rank for irrelevant searches, and fail to rank for relevant searches. [2] Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors including:

  • Text within the title tag
  • Domain name
  • URL directories and file names
  • HTML tags: headings, emphasized (<em>) and strongly emphasized (<strong>) text
  • Term frequency, both in the document and globally, often misunderstood and mistakenly referred to as Keyword density
  • Keyword proximity
  • Keyword adjacency
  • Keyword sequence
  • Alt attributes for images
  • Text within NOFRAMES tags
  • Web content development

Today the only major search engine which says it considers meta keywords in its ranking algorithms is Yahoo, though most experts feel that even there the attention paid to meta keywords is minimal.[citation needed]

Web content providers also manipulated a number of attributes within the HTML source of a page in an attempt to rank well in search engines.[3]

By relying extensively on factors that were still within the webmasters' exclusive control, search engines continued to suffer from abuse and ranking manipulation. In order to provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their SERPs showed the most relevant search results, rather than useless pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters using a bait-and-switch lure to display unrelated web pages. This led to the rise of a new kind of search engine.

Development of more sophisticated ranking algorithms

Google was started by two PhD students at Stanford University, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and brought a new concept to evaluating web pages. This concept, called PageRank, has been important to the Google algorithm from the start.[4] PageRank is an algorithm that weights a page's importance based upon the incoming links. PageRank estimates the likelihood that a given page will be reached by a web user who randomly surfed the web, and followed links from one page to another. In effect, this means that some links are more valuable than others, as a higher PageRank page is more likely to be reached by the random surfer.

The PageRank algorithm proved very effective, and Google began to be perceived as serving the most relevant search results. On the back of strong word of mouth from programmers, Google quickly became the most popular and successful search engine. PageRank measured an off-site factor, Google felt it would be more difficult to manipulate than on-page factors.

Despite being difficult to game, webmasters had already developed link building tools and schemes to influence the Inktomi search engine, and these methods proved similarly applicable to gaining PageRank. Many sites focused on exchanging, buying, and selling links, often on a massive scale. This has spawned an online industry, that survives to this day, focused upon selling links designed to improve PageRank and link popularity, and not to drive human site visitors, with links from higher PageRank pages selling for the most money.

A proxy for the PageRank metric is still displayed in the Google Toolbar, though the displayed value is rounded to be an integer, and the toolbar is believed to be updated less frequently and independently of the value used internally by Google. In 2002 a Google spokesperson stated that PageRank is only one of more than 100 algorithms used in ranking pages, and that while the toolbar PageRank is interesting for users and webmasters, "the value to search engine optimization professionals is limited" because the value is only an approximation.[5] Many experienced SEOs recommend ignoring the displayed PageRank.[6]

Google — and other search engines — have, over the years, developed a wider range of off-site factors they use in their algorithms. The Internet was reaching a vast population of non-technical users who were often unable to use advanced querying techniques to reach the information they were seeking and the sheer volume and complexity of the indexed data was vastly different from that of the early days. Combined with increases in processing power, search engines have begun to develop predictive, semantic, linguistic and heuristic algorithms. Around the same time as the work that led to Google, IBM had begun work on the Clever Project [7], and Jon Kleinberg was developing the HITS algorithm.

As a search engine may use hundreds of factors in ranking the listings on its SERPs; the factors themselves and the weight each carries can change continually, and algorithms can differ widely, with a web page that ranks #1 in a particular search engine possibly ranking #200 in another search engine, or even on the same search engine a few days later.

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.com do not disclose the algorithms they use to rank pages. Some SEOs have carried out controlled experiments to gauge the effects of different approaches to search optimization. Based on these experiments, often shared through online forums and blogs, professional SEOs attempt to form a consensus on what methods work best, although consensus is rarely, if ever, actually reached.

SEOs widely agree that the signals that influence a page's rankings include:[8]

  1. Keywords in the title tag.
  2. Keywords in links pointing to the page.
  3. Keywords appearing in visible text.
  4. Link popularity (PageRank for Google) of the page.

There are many other signals that may affect a page's ranking, indicated in a number of patents held by various search engines, such as historical data[9].

The relationship between SEO and the search engines

The first mentions of Search Engine Optimization do not appear on Usenet until 1997, a few years after the launch of the first Internet search engines. The operators of search engines recognized quickly that some people from the webmaster community were making efforts to rank well in their search engines, and even manipulating the page rankings in search results. In some early search engines, such as Infoseek, ranking first was as easy as grabbing the source code of the top-ranked page, placing it on your website, and submitting a URL to instantly index and rank that page.

Due to the high value and targeting of search results, there is potential for an adversarial relationship between search engines and SEOs. In 2005, an annual conference named AirWeb[10] was created to discuss bridging the gap and minimizing the sometimes damaging effects of aggressive web content providers.

Some more aggressive site owners and SEOs generate automated sites or employ techniques that eventually get domains banned from the search engines. Many search engine optimization companies, which sell services, employ long-term, low-risk strategies, and most SEO firms that do employ high-risk strategies do so on their own affiliate, lead-generation, or content sites, instead of risking client websites.

Some SEO companies employ aggressive techniques that get their client websites banned from the search results. The Wall Street Journal profiled a company that allegedly used high-risk techniques and failed to disclose those risks to its clients.[11] Wired reported the same company sued a blogger for mentioning that they were banned.[12] Google's Matt Cutts later confirmed that Google did in fact ban Traffic Power and some of its clients.[13]

Some search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences and seminars. In fact, with the advent of paid inclusion, some search engines now have a vested interest in the health of the optimization community. All of the main search engines provide information/guidelines to help with site optimization: Google's, Yahoo!'s, MSN's and Ask.com's. Google has a Sitemaps program [14] to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website. Yahoo! has Site Explorer that provides a way to submit your URLs for free (like MSN/Google), determine how many pages are in the Yahoo! index and drill down on inlinks to deep pages. Yahoo! has an Ambassador Program[15] and Google has a program for qualifying Google Advertising Professionals[16].

Getting into search engines' databases

Today's major search engines, by and large, do not require any extra effort to submit to, as they are capable of finding pages via links on other sites.

However, Google and Yahoo offer submission programs, such as Google Sitemaps, for which an XML type feed can be created and submitted. Generally, however, a simple link from a site already indexed will get the search engines to visit a new site and begin spidering its contents. It can take a few days or even weeks from the acquisition of a link from such a site for all the main search engine spiders to begin indexing a new site, and there is usually not much that can be done to speed up this process.

Once the search engine finds a new site, it uses a crawler program to retrieve and index the pages on the site. Pages can only be found when linked to with visible hyperlinks. For instance, some search engines are starting to read links created by Flash (for example, Google).

Search engine crawlers may look at a number of different factors when crawling a site, and many pages from a site may not be indexed by the search engines until they gain more PageRank, links or traffic. Distance of pages from the root directory of a site may also be a factor in whether or not pages get crawled, as well as other importance metrics. Cho et al.[17] described some standards for those decisions as to which pages are visited and sent by a crawler to be included in a search engine's index.

A few search engines, such as Yahoo!, operate paid submission services that guarantee crawling for either a set fee or CPC. Such programs usually guarantee inclusion in the database, but does not guarantee specific ranking within the search results.

Blocking robots

Webmasters can instruct spiders not to crawl certain files or directories through the standard robots.txt file in the root directory of the domain. Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from a search engine's database by using a robots meta tag.

When a search engine visits a site, the robots.txt located in the root folder is the first file crawled. The robots.txt file is then parsed, and only pages not disallowed will be crawled. As a search engine crawler may keep a cached copy of this file, it may on occasion crawl pages a webmaster does not wished crawled.

Pages typically prevented from being crawled include login specific pages such as shopping carts and user-specific content such as search results from internal searches.

 

"White hat" methods

An SEO tactic, technique or method is considered "White hat" if it conforms to the search engines' guidelines and/or involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines[18][19][20][21][22] are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White Hat SEO is not just about following guidelines, but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see.

White Hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then make that content easily accessible to their spiders, rather than game the system. In many ways, white hat SEO is very similar to web development that promotes accessibility[23], although the two are not identical.

 

"Black hat" methods

Main article: Spamdexing

"Black hat" SEO are methods to try to improve rankings that are disapproved of by the search engines and/or involve deception. This can range from text that is "hidden", either as text colored similar to the background or in an invisible or left of visible div, or by redirecting users from a page that is built for search engines to one that is more human friendly. As a general rule, a method that sends a user to a page that was different to the page the search engined ranked is Black hat. One well known example is Cloaking, the practice of serving one version of a page to search engine spiders/bots and another version to human visitors.

Search engines can and do penalize sites they discover using black hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines' algorithms, or by a manual review of a site.

One infamous example was the February 2006 Google removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for use of deceptive practices.[24]. However, both companies quickly apologized, fixed the offending pages, and were restored to Google's list. [citation needed]

SEO and marketing

There is a considerable sized body of practitioners of SEO who see search engines as just another visitor to a site, and try to make the site as accessible to those visitors as to any other who would come to the pages. They often see the white hat/black hat dichotomy mentioned above as a false dilemma. The focus of their work is not primarily to rank the highest for certain terms in search engines, but rather to help site owners fulfill the business objectives of their sites. Indeed, ranking well for a few terms among the many possibilities does not guarantee more sales. A successful Internet marketing campaign may drive organic search results to pages, but it also may involve the use of paid advertising on search engines and other pages, building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, addressing technical issues that may keep search engines from crawling and indexing those sites, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure their successes, and making sites accessible and usable.

SEOs may work in-house for an organization, or as consultants, and search engine optimization may be only part of their daily functions. Often their education of how search engines function comes from interacting and discussing the topics on forums, through blogs, at popular conferences and seminars, and by experimentation on their own sites. There are few college courses that cover online marketing from an ecommerce perspective that can keep up with the changes that the web sees on a daily basis.

While endeavoring to meet the guidelines posted by search engines can help build a solid foundation for success on the web, such efforts are only a start. SEO is potentially more effective when combined with a larger marketing campaign strategy. Despite SEO potential to respond to the latest changes in market trends, SEO alone is reactively following market trends instead of pro-actively leading market trends. Many see search engine marketing as a larger umbrella under which search engine optimization fits, but it's possible that many who focused primarily on SEO in the past are incorporating more and more marketing ideas into their efforts, including public relations strategy and implementation, online display media buying, web site transition SEO, web trends data analysis, HTML E-mail campaigns, and business blog consulting making SEO firms more like an ad agency.

Practical SEO marketing

To improve a website's page ranking and ultimately increase traffic, the basic rules and logic of search engine ranking need to be taken into consideration, namely the relevancy and form of the content, and the number of visitors and links, which indicate the site's popularity. However, a gentle balance is required in order to optimize your position in search engine results, because the search engine's algorithms and crawlers have become so sophisticated that they can detect even the very subtle methods of "spamming" a website with content and links. The most efficient "white hat" method of getting around this problem seems to be complying with the search engine's requirements, i.e. writing and linking a website which truly serves the visitors. These are a few of the basic guidelines to successful SEO:

  • New content is one of the most valuable resources in the web. The content of the website must be relevant, coherent and exclusive to its location.
  • The website's interface must be usable and convenient, including helpful features such a site index, a Q&A page and means of contacting the administrators for tech support.
  • The links to and from the site must be of reasonable quantity and high quality, meaning they link to and from sites with similar relevancy and high page ranking.
  • Web crawlers also analyze the site's design and graphical aids, evaluating the work put into the website as a part of its relevancy.
  • The actual traffic to the website is also calculated into the page ranking, so unless the site offers unprecedented content and/or service, successful advertisement of the site is also an important part of successful SEO.

Since links between sites are what actually make up the internet, and are the means of search engine's crawlers of exploring and noticing new websites, smart and careful linking can be the key to dramatically boosting a site's traffic and page ranking. In 2006 Google revised the way their algorithm evaluates links, and many sites with high ranking which were actually "link dumpsters", plummeted in the search engine results. The location of a link within a body of text, the relevance of the surrounding text, the title of the link word, and the location to which the link word points, now have more influence on page ranking. This has prompted the creation of many link directories and article directories, which are content-based websites, to which any visitor with a website may submit articles and link words or phrases from the article to his/her website, either for free or for money. For example, a person who owns a site that supplies gardening equipment can post an article about gardening, and link the word "water" from the article to an inner-page on his/her website which discusses irrigation systems. When done properly, this method has a good chance of increasing page ranking by following the SEO guidelines: quality, hand-picked, relevant link words, surrounded by relevant text, linking to relevant content in the target website.

Legal issues

In 2002, SearchKing filed suit in an Oklahoma court against the search engine Google. SearchKing's claim was that Google's tactics to prevent spamdexing constituted an unfair business practice. This may be compared to lawsuits that email spammers have filed against spam-fighters, as in various cases against MAPS and other DNSBLs. In January of 2003, the court pronounced a summary judgment in Google's favor. [25] In March 2006, KinderStart.com, LLC filed a first amended complaint against Google and also attempted to include potential members of the class of plaintiffs in a class action. [26] The plaintiff's web site was removed from Google's index prior to the lawsuit and the amount of traffic to the site plummeted.

References

  1. ^ Goodman, Andrew, SearchEngineWatch, Search Engine Showdown: Black Hats vs. White Hats at SES
  2. ^ Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia, written by Cory Doctorow, Version 1.3: 26 August 2001
  3. ^ What is a tall poppy among web pages?, Proceedings of the seventh conference on World Wide Web, Brisbane, Australia, 1998, written by Pringle, G., Allison, L., and Dowe, D.
  4. ^ Brin, Sergey and Page, Larry, The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine, Proceedings of the seventh international conference on World Wide Web 7, 1998, Pages: 107-117
  5. ^ PageRank Uncovered
  6. ^ WebmasterWorld.com- search engine optimization forum
  7. ^ The Clever Project, May 4, 2006
  8. ^ Search Engine Watch - Search Engine News and Forums. Organizer of SES (Search Engine Strategies) Conferences.
  9. ^ Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data, Google Patent Application, October 10, 2005
  10. ^ AirWeb Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web, annual conference and workshop for researchers and professionals
  11. ^ Startup Journal (Wall Street Journal), 'Optimize' Rankings At Your Own Risk by David Kesmodel at The Wall Street Journal Online, September 9 2005
  12. ^ Wired Magazine, Legal Showdown in Search Fracas, Sep, 08, 2005, written by Adam L. Penenberg
  13. ^ Cutts, Matt, Confirming a penalty, published on 2006-02-02 at Matt Cuts Blog
  14. ^ Google Web Master Central, formerly known as Google Sitemaps
  15. ^ Ambassador Program by Yahoo! Search Marketing
  16. ^ Google Advertising Professionals, a Program by Google AdWords, Google's Pay-Per-Click Advertising Service
  17. ^ Efficient crawling through URL ordering by Cho, J., Garcia-Molina, H. , 1998, published at "Proceedings of the seventh conference on World Wide Web", Brisbane, Australia
  18. ^ Ask.com Editorial Guidelines
  19. ^ Google's Guidelines on SEOs
  20. ^ Google's Guidelines on Site Design
  21. ^ MSN Search Guidelines for successful indexing
  22. ^ Yahoo! Search Content Quality Guidelines
  23. ^ Andy Hagans, A List Apart, High Accessibility Is Effective Search Engine Optimization
  24. ^ Ramping up on international webspam by Matt Cutts, published February 4, 2006, at Matt Cutts Blog
  25. ^ [1] Google replies to SearchKing lawsuit, James Grimmelmann at LawMeme (research.yale.edu), January 09. 2006
  26. ^ [2] (PDF) KinderStart.com, LLC, et al v. Google, Inc., C 06-2057 RS, filed March 17, 2006 in the Northern District of California, San Jose Division.


 

See also

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Free content
  • Google consultant
  • Internet marketing
  • Landing Pages
  • Organization of Search Engine Optimization Professionals
  • SEO contest
  • Search Marketing Association - North America
  • Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization
  • Search engine marketing
  • Spamdexing
  • Web syndication
Notable SEOs
  • See: Category:Search engine optimization consultants
Google Engineers
  • Matt Cutts


 

External link

  • Search Engine Optimization at the Open Directory Project
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization"