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Category: Search Engines (page 1 of 3)

Constantly Changing SEO

When search marketing began in the mid-1990s, manual submission, the meta keywords tag, and keyword stuffing were all regular parts of the tactics necessary to rank well. In 2004, link bombing with anchor text, buying hordes of links from automated blog comment spam injectors, and the construction of inter-linking farms of websites could all be leveraged for traffic. In 2011, social media marketing and vertical search inclusion are mainstream methods for conducting search engine optimization. The search engines have refined their algorithms along with this evolution, so many of the tactics that worked in 2004 can hurt your SEO today.

The future is uncertain, but in the world of search, change is a constant. For this reason, search marketing will continue to be a priority for those who wish to remain competitive on the web.

Some have claimed that SEO is dead, or that SEO amounts to spam. As we see it, there’s no need for a defense other than simple logic: websites compete for attention and placement in the search engines, and those with the knowledge and experience to improve their website’s ranking will receive the benefits of increased traffic and visibility.

Signals of Signals of Quality Content

1. Engagement Metrics

When a search engine delivers a page of results to you, it can measure the success of the rankings by observing how you engage with those results. If you click the first link, then immediately hit the back button to try the second link, this indicates that you were not satisfied with the first result. Search engines seek the “long click” – where users click a result without immediately returning to the search page to try again. Taken in aggregate over millions and millions of queries each day, the engines build up a good pool of data to judge the quality of their results.

2. Machine Learning

In 2011 Google introduced the Panda update to its ranking algorithm, significantly changing the way it judged websites for quality. Google started by using human evaluators to manually rate thousands of sites, searching for low quality content. Google then incorporated machine learning to mimic the human evaluators. Once its computers could accurately predict what the humans would judge a low quality site, the algorithm was introduced across millions of sites spanning the Internet. The end result was a seismic shift that rearranged over 20% of all of Google’s search results.

3. Linking Patterns

The engines discovered early on that the link structure of the web could serve as a proxy for votes and popularity; higher quality sites and information earned more links than their less useful, lower quality peers. Today, link analysis algorithms have advanced considerably, but these principles hold true.

Search Engine Tools

Geographic Target – If a given site targets users in a particular location, webmasters can provide Google with information that will help determine how that site appears in its country-specific search results, and also improve Google search results for geographic queries.

Preferred Domain – The preferred domain is the one that a webmaster would like used to index their site’s pages. If a webmaster specifies a preferred domain as www.example.com and Google finds a link to that site that is formatted as example.com, Google will treat that link as if it were pointing at www.example.com.

URL Parameters – You can indicate to Google information about each parameter on your site, such as “sort=price” and “sessionid=2“. This helps Google crawl your site more efficiently.

Crawl Rate – The crawl rate affects the speed (but not the frequency) of Googlebot’s requests during the crawl process.

Malware – Google will inform you if it has found any malware on your site. Malware creates a bad user experience, and hurts your rankings.

Crawl Errors – If Googlebot encounters significant errors while crawling your site, such as 404s, it will report these.

HTML Suggestions – Google looks for search engine-unfriendly HTML elements such as issues with meta descriptions and title tags.

Meta Tags Make Up

Meta tags were originally intended as a proxy for information about a website’s content. Several of the basic meta tags are listed below, along with a description of their use.

Meta Robots

The Meta Robots tag can be used to control search engine crawler activity (for all of the major engines) on a per-page level. There are several ways to use Meta Robots to control how search engines treat a page:

  • index/noindex tells the engines whether the page should be crawled and kept in the engines’ index for retrieval. If you opt to use “noindex,” the page will be excluded from the index. By default, search engines assume they can index all pages, so using the “index” value is generally unnecessary.
  • follow/nofollow tells the engines whether links on the page should be crawled. If you elect to employ “nofollow,” the engines will disregard the links on the page for discovery, ranking purposes, or both. By default, all pages are assumed to have the “follow” attribute.
    Example: <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”>
  • noarchive is used to restrict search engines from saving a cached copy of the page. By default, the engines will maintain visible copies of all pages they have indexed, accessible to searchers through the cached link in the search results.
  • nosnippet informs the engines that they should refrain from displaying a descriptive block of text next to the page’s title and URL in the search results.
  • noodp/noydir are specialized tags telling the engines not to grab a descriptive snippet about a page from the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) or the Yahoo! Directory for display in the search results.

The X-Robots-Tag HTTP header directive also accomplishes these same objectives. This technique works especially well for content within non-HTML files, like images.

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