Jul 05

My website cannot be found in search engines - Introduction to SEO part 1

Posted by Tim Bertens on 05/07/2008

”My website cannot be found in search engines?!” is a frequently heard complaint.  This introduction to SEO consists of 3 parts that will give you some background information on SEO or Search Engine Optimization.  Everybody with a website should be aware of these basics, so read on…!

How do search engines work?

Search engines are built upon 4 principles:

  • Discovery = discover websites using robots (sometimes called webbots or bots)
  • Storage = store links, page summaries, images, etc
  • Ranking = rank the importance of the stored information (a complex algorithm like PageRank by Google)
  • Return = display the results based upon the search terms of the user and what is stored and the ranking of that data

Purpose of SEO

Attract search engine users to visit your website. Not just every visitor, but qualified visitors; in other words visitors that want to spend money on the products or services you're providing.
Caution: Don't expect miracles from SEO, so called garbage sites (sites without any valuable content) won't generate lots of traffic using good SEO. If they do than it is only a matter of time before search engines will ban the site.

Short term or long term SEO?

Black hat SEO (using tricks to fool search engines and to get a better ranking) is a strategy that will have effect on short term, but will never give you any decent results on long term. White hat SEO is the only proper way to do this. Do not try to fool the search engines using all sorts of spam-tricks as it is only a matter of time before this is detected. It will probably result in blacklisting your website and thus being removed from the search results at all. Let's say it is pretty much the opposite we want to achieve...

Usable SEO tips & tricks

Your content is king
  • Load your site with tons of very useful content for your target audience
  • Make sure the content on your site is refreshed as frequently as possible (if achievable change it daily). Very convenient are blogs, forums, instant messaging, etc because in many cases 'the community' (people visiting your site and adding content) helps you in this.
To measure is to know

It is important to quantify your efforts; what works and what doesn't

  • SEO Analysis: use tools to follow-up your ranking in different search engines for the search terms that you care about (begin with a baseline evaluation and then reevaluate frequently)
  • Web analytics: use tools to monitor your web traffic. What is the source of the visit, what search terms where used, what are the most popular pages, etc
Keep an eye on your PageRank

PageRank is an algorithm used by Google to determine the relevance of a certain web page. PageRank uses more than 100 variables to determine a value between 0 and 10. The original concept is still one of the most determining parameters: the more pages link to page X, the more relevant information page X contains. The referring page itself is also weighted, if a very relevant page (one with a high PageRank) links to page X then this will boost the PageRank of page X more than a less relevant page (one with a low PageRank). In other words: PageRank is a recursive algorithm: the PageRank of a certain page is the sum of all PageRanks of referring pages (in relation to the total number of pages of course). The exact parameters Google's PageRank algorithm uses is not public, but there's a consensus that these are certainly influence the result:

  • You cannot have enough inbound links. However keep away from so called link farms (websites without any 'real' content except for a whole bunch of links) as they might have a negative effect on your PageRank
  • The better the quality (or in other words the PageRank) of the web page that links to your website, the more your PageRank will increase.
  • Outbound links can have a negative (!) effect on your PageRank
Promote your website

First of all make sure your website is ready before you start promoting your website (actually before you publish your website on the internet at all): no empty page or 'under construction'-page, all metadata is filled in correctly (see part 2), etc

  • Submit your website manually to the most important search engines like Google, Yahoo, LiveSearch, etc
  • Submit your website in the Open Directory Project (dmoz.org) as Google & co like this directory
  • Submit your website to other directory listing (like dir.yahoo.com eg), make sure your site is in the most appropriate category
  • As mentioned in the previous topic, try to post your link on strategic and relevant websites: sites (preferably with a high PageRank) that attract people with the same interest as the content of your site (eg. discussion forums, community sites, etc)
Publish syndication feeds
  • Create a RSS and/or ATOM version of the content that regularly is refreshed.
  • Refreshed regularly means at least 1 time per week
  • Publish your syndication feeds not earlier than the time you have about a dozen of items
  • Use the standard symbols for promoting your RSS-feeds
  • Add code in the header of the webpage containing the RSS-links to publish the availability of the feeds to RSS-viewers and aggregators
  • Add your RSS-feeds to RSS searchengines and directories

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