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Search Engine Optimization

Optimizing as Part of Your Web Site Design

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Getting listed and ranked well within the search engines is a difficult and time-consuming task - one that requires considerable dedication. The sooner you begin this effort, the sooner you will begin to reap the rewards. It's preferable that you optimize your web site before you launch (or re-launch) your web site. Why? Because any number of factors can affect your ability to get listed and ranked. Factors like your web site architecture, your coding technology, your choice of web hosts, and obviously the keywords you use within your content. Handled properly, search engine optimization will drive qualified web site traffic and build name brand recognition. An incorrect implementation could result in a costly web site redesign effort, delays in launching your products, your web site being 'banned' from the search engines, or a ranking that is so low that it is insignificant.

A sample report of search engine rankings
on Google for given keywords.
Search Engine Ranks

What is Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is the process of making your web page coding and content 'appealing' to the search engine spiders so they can; 1) find your web site; 2) better locate all your web pages; 3) list your pages in their index; and 4) rank your pages as highly as possible for important keywords and key phrases. The toughest part is knowing which engines and which keywords to optimize for best result.

Engine Algorithms
Each search engine utilizes proprietary algorithms to determine IF your web page will get listed and how well it will rank. For instance, some engines tends to favor web sites with a high 'link popularity' (many incoming links), while others prefer a 'themed' approach to your web site, and others still are inclined toward keywords in the domain name, title, and heading tags.

Knowing which algorithms to optimize for begins with an understanding of search engines and their interdependencies. For instance, most people don't realize that the web page listings on Yahoo are actually Google listings. At any rate, as you attempt to optimize your web site, it quickly becomes apparent just how difficult it is - even for the most experienced optimization specialist.

Which algorithm you optimize for depends on the search engine you want to target. But if you intend to optimize for multiple search engines, then coding your web pages will be tricky at best. The good news is that there aren't very many (worthy) free search engines available anymore to optimize for. But of the free engines, Google should certainly be a priority. What can you do to ensure you get listed in Google? The fact is Google is pretty good about including your web site in its listing. However, due to its enormous popularity and the fact that it's still free, the 'Google' challenge isn't about getting listed. It's about getting ranked high enough to actually matter. After all, only the most dedicated will sift through hundreds of web sites to locate you.

Meta Tags, Doorway Pages, Cloaking, and Spamming
Since the mid-1990's, as competition has increased on the search engines, web developers have consistently tried to trick the search engine spiders into ranking their pages high. Until a few years ago, techniques like meta tag and 'keyword stuffing' helped increase your ranking on some search engines. One approach to this was using redundant white text on a white background (users couldn't see it but the search engine spiders liked it). Now days, these techniques are considered 'spamming' and could result in your web pages being banned from the search engines. There's a fine line between spamming and optimizing.

Other methods have evolved to help increase your web site's rank among the search engines. Doorway pages are specialized pages developed as an 'entry' into your web site. They are custom pages developed specifically for search engines. Another method for tricking the search engines is cloaking. Cloaking is an automated way of swapping out optimized web pages specific to a given search engine spider. This method ensures that the spider 'sees' a page that it 'likes' and as a result, ranks it highly. Both cloaking and doorway pages can get you into trouble with the search engines if no handled properly.

Real-World Options
To become proficient in optimization requires hundreds of hours of studying, learning from other experts, trial and error, and considerable expense. If that doesn't dissuade you from tackling optimization on your own, then know this. By the time you become proficient in optimization, the chances are that the algorithms you've learned will be outdated. Recently Google changed their algorithms resulting in thousands of web pages being dropped all together. Staying on top of the engines and their algorithms is a full-time job. And be very wary of those that would guarantee you a top-10 listing. The fact is, if it were that easy, everyone would have a top-10 listing, which is impossible. Many scams along these lines have been perpetrated on the unknowing public.

Perhaps the daunting nature of search engine optimization is by design. After all, most of the search engine companies have gone to a 'pay-per-click' or 'pay-per-inclusion' sales model. This model allow the less-technical to still achieve high rankings by paying for them. While these models have their uses, it's imparative to have assistance before committing to them.

In Conclusion
The only 'sure' way to get your web site the traffic it deserves, is to allow an experienced professional to optimize your web site. Sure you can do it yourself - but be prepared to invest dramatically in your 'ramp-up' period. Since 1995, NetCentric has followed and participated in search engine optimization and promotion efforts for small and large organizations alike. It is this experience that will help you beat the search engines at their own game.

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