Part 1 of this two-part series detailed five ways companies can improve their position in search engine rankings, including URL submission, paid inclusion, content tailored for Web “spiders,” a well thought-out page title and the nuances of META tags.
Note that none of these methods is more valuable than the others, but in combination they can produce results. Focusing on improving your site by addressing just one or two strategies might not lead to measurable gains, but trying to address four or five in concert should help you improve your search engine ranking.
Here are five more tactics to add to your arsenal.
6. Cultivate Links In
“The quality and number of Web sites that link to yours can influence its standing with the search engines,” says Detlev Johnson, an internationally recognized expert in search engine optimization (SEO). He notes that the process of garnering links is not as simple as convincing a large number of sites to link to you. Those sites must be of high quality so that the referring page is considered “important” by search engines.
Convincing other high-quality sites to link to yours also means people will be able to find your site without going through a search engine. This can be advantageous because the key objective is to get people to see your page — and high rank in a search engine is just one way of achieving this goal.
The process of obtaining links from other sites may be difficult for a new domain, but if you give other sites a valid, compelling reason to link to your URL, you increase the chances that they will do so. Other than simple reciprocity, you could offer to identify other sites with a brief paragraph. This willingness to go the extra mile might endear you to a site that otherwise would turn you down.
For example: “See bridges www.bridge.com/eastbridges.htm,” does not read as well as: “See bridges www.bridge.com/eastbridges.htm for a thumbnail gallery of old and new bridges across the rivers of Eastern Ontario. Some of the images are large enough to use as decorative desktop wallpaper.”
Obtaining inbound links also can occur as a consequence of good customer relations: Companies can request that customers with Web sites link to them. Also, if you have membership in an industry association or chamber of commerce, you can request that the organization’s site provide a link to your firm’s domain. Links in from customers and industry associations are considered strongly in the site-ranking calculation.
To find out if you are already linked to by other sites, type into a search engine “link: www.yourdomain.com.” On the results page, the search engine will list all of the sites that are linked to the URL you entered. Many of these pages may be internal links (from your own site), but you may be surprised to find other sites showing up as well. This process of checking who links to you is something you may want to do on a regular basis. If the sites listed are of high quality, you may want to contact them and offer to reciprocate, thereby setting up two-way links and increasing your ranking the next time a spider crawls through your pages.
If links in from other sites are so valuable, can you increase your ranking by adding internal links among your own pages? As John Glick, director of Internet search at AltaVista/Overture, put it, “links in are a vote of confidence.” AltaVista doesn’t count internal links because “it doesn’t make sense to allow people to vote for themselves.” However, Glick said, internal links do have value for other purposes that indirectly facilitate ranking. For example, links within your own pages enable better navigation, so people who do find your site will end up visiting more pages there. Internal links also allow spiders that find one of your pages to subsequently find, catalog and index all of your other pages.
7. Place Less Weight on Links Out
Sites that make their living by racking up hits and click-throughs, such as domains with adult or gambling content, may link out to many other sites, hoping this practice will increase their “hub” value. In the late 1990s, it might have been useful to take this hub approach, but by 2001 and 2002, the value of links out had declined significantly.
8. Focus on Reciprocity
Two-way links are more valued by search engines than one-way links that are not reciprocal. One thing managers need to consider, however, is the time that will be required to make contact with various organizations to set up such reciprocity.
For example, it might take days or weeks to forge one reciprocal relationship, as a series of phones calls and e-mails likely will need to be concluded. Because it is widely understood that setting up reciprocal links is time consuming and involves some degree of a relationship between two entities, search engines value such links much more highly than simple one-way links in or out.
If you do not know many online enterprises with which you could dialogue, you might consider paying for the services of link exchanges and link farms. Some people consider link exchanges useful — but a number of others are critical of the value of these services.
Michael Wong of www.mikes-marketing-tools.com warns, “Never ever use links from link exchange sites and link farms.” In Wong’s opinion, “link farms are networks of heavily cross-linked pages on one or more Web sites, with the sole intention of improving the link popularity of those pages and sites. Many of the top search engines consider such links as spam, so stay clear of these types of links.”
AltaVista’s Glick confirms that links that come from link farms are considered by his company to be spam, and if any site uses such links excessively, it might be dropped altogether from AltaVista’s listings.
9. Value Time’s Passage
If you want a particular Web page to rank high in a search, it helps if the page has been posted on the Web for long enough to be indexed by the major search engines. Because the volume and complexity of Web content is increasing faster than the rate at which search-engine spiders can catalog and index content, it helps to have your page online for several months. Pages that have been online for a year or two are invariably “found” by all of the top 10 search engines and have an advantage over pages that have been uploaded in recent weeks.
10. Update Frequently
For search results that involve human interpretation of site content, frequent updates likely will help because the people evaluating pages will rank a regularly updated site higher than a site on which content is static. However, search results driven completely by an algorithm do not usually include any information about a “last updated” date in the ranking score. Therefore, updating your site frequently without attending to any of the other nine points listed in this article would be a waste of time, as the results likely would not be measured in any algorithmic search ranking. On the other hand, updating a page as a consequence of creating links in or adding additional keywords will help the page accrue value in site rankings.
After you have attended to several of the 10 points covered in Parts 1 and 2 of this article, how can you determine if your efforts have been fruitful?
One way to verify your success in attracting search engine spiders is by viewing your access logs. Most of the major regional and national ISPs that offer site hosting services provide various monitoring packages that allow customers to review traffic-related information, such as access logs, number of daily hits and bytes downloaded. A spider that has crawled through your site will leave a record in the access logs.
“If you know what to look for, you can tell when a spider has come to call,” says Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.com. “That can save you worrying that you haven’t been visited. You can tell exactly what a robot has recorded or failed to record.”
Prof. W. Tim G. Richardson is a full-time Professor at Seneca College, and concurrently teaches part-time at Centennial College. He is also a Lecturer in the Division of Management at the University of Toronto in Canada. He can be reached through his Web site, www.witiger.com.