search engine optimization tutorial (SEO)
1: A guide to conducting your own reciprocal link campaign
Anyone who knows anything about search engine optimisation will tell you that the quantity, quality and context of the links that point to your site play a major roll in determining how your site ranks.
Success on the web can no longer be guaranteed by having good 'on page' factors such as keyword rich content or tightly focused pages, although both are important factors in the way that search engines ultimately rank your pages.
Nor is ensuring that the underlying code of your pages is error free, search engine friendly and validates. Unless your site is well linked from other sites that focus on a similar keyphrase set your own pages, your pages will never rank for any competitive term.
reciprocal link quality
Have you ever read or written a thesis, if you have, you will know that it is normal to see a list of resources or papers that were referenced while compiling the thesis.
The purpose of pointing to these resources is to provide substance and further information about the points being made.
If the thesis contains valuable and original information and was written by a respected authority then the value of the resources sited must also be of value.
This is exactly how search engine s look at the pages that link to you, are the pages an authority, and if they are, its kudos to you.
reciprocal link quantity
As well as the authority or quality, quantity is also a measure that is taken into account. It is important to understand that search engine spiders map the web by following links from page to page and from site to site.
Conversely the more links you have pointing to your site the easier it is for the spiders to find your pages. The pages of a well linked site will be spidered more often; changes and new pages will be found faster making it easier to evaluate the effectiveness of the new content.
Links are not just sign posts to your site for search engines; they also drive substantial amounts of targeted visitors to your site.
This is another reason to ensure that the sites that link to you are related is some way to your site; unless you have a casino site there is no point in getting a link from one.
Non targeted visitors will just bounce away leaving you wondering why your visitors are not producing sales or enquiries.
Each page that Google knows about is awarded PageRank (Google's measure of importance). PageRank can be seen by downloading the Google Toolbar.
reciprocal link context
All spidering search engines now use some form of link analysis along the lines of Google's PageRank, however if results depended on PageRank alone, sites like Amazon, Google or Microsoft that have very high PageRank would top every search. This is not the case because context and relevancy are also measures that have to be taken into account.
Look upon a link to your site as a vote for your site and the words used to make that link the context of the vote. So if the words used to form the link to your site were 'search engine optimisation' this tells the search engine what the vote is for i.e. the context of the vote.
This context of the vote passes relevancy onto the page that the link points to for the terms contained within the link. It should be noted that graphic links or banners break this keyword chain and do not pass over keyword relevancy.
Downloading and installing the Google Toolbar
Before you download the Google Toolbar ensure your system meets the following requirements.
microsoft windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0+
Pop-up blocker requires Internet Explorer 5.5+
google page rank
Viewing google pagerank
The Google PageRank indicator should now be visible.
Inspecting google pagerank
Let's start by having a look at the PageRank of your own site. Start Internet Explorer and navigate to the index page of your site. Once there position the mouse arrow over the PageRank indicator. A small window will open showing you the pagerank of the current page. PageRank is measured on a scale of 0 to 10.
N.B. If you have no links to your site and none of your pages have been indexed all your pages will have a pagerank of 0.
Now navigate through your site and look at the PageRank of some of your other pages. Don't be overly concerned if the PageRank of these internal pages is lower than the index page, this is quite normal. PageRank is awarded to individual pages not the site as a whole.
Now navigate to your competitors web site and inspect the pagerank on those pages as well.
As a result, increasing the number of quality, relevant sites which link to your site will, if done properly, improve your search engine rankings.
Finding Who Links To You
On google.com search for
On alltheweb.com search for
On altavista.com search for
On hotbot.com search for
On msn.com search for
N.B. Replace www.yourdomain.com with your actual domain name.
These searches will show you who is linking to you and from which page. You can also use these searches on the regional versions of the major search engines.
It is important to check your links over multiple search engine s because some search engines will not show you all the links, google will only show links from pages that have a PageRank of 4 or better, and some search engines may be showing links that other engines have not yet found.
Now have a look at the links to your main competitors site, click on the links and examine the pagerank of some of the linking pages. Also look at the content of the linking site, would visitors to this site also be interested in what your site has to offer? If so, you have just identified a potential link partner!
A word of caution, before you start emailing potential link partners it important that you understand how to distinguish a good link from a poor link.
link popularity explained
link popularity can be simply defined as the total number of qualified web sites or web pages linking to your web site. Improving the link popularity of your web pages is key to achieving a front page position on the search engines.
Why is Link Popularity important?
Increased link popularity brings with it a constant stream of highly targeted visitors. Other than time and labour, this increase is achieved without having to spend an advertising penny and has no recurring cost. The web traffic that is generated through links from other web sites is both constant and regular. It is fair to say that visitors may also view your site in a better light if they have arrived at your web site via a recommendation link on another site.
Improved search engine rankings
By increasing the link popularity of your web site, you can substantially improve your search engine positioning. Search engines tailor their algorithms to promote web sites which have high link popularity.
The engines judge a site to be more relevant if thought to be pertinent by other webmasters, working on the basis that it wouldn't make sense for a site owner refer his visitors to a site that has no relevance to their needs.
link popularity is an acceptable, ethical search engine optimisation technique.
search engines constantly update their ranking algorithms to catch rogue search engine optimization companies, who use underhand techniques to try and trick the search engine spiders into believing that a web site is something that it isn't.
link popularity is difficult to abuse, as it's difficult for optimization companies to have control over thousands of web pages with high page rank and relevant content.
If they do try to dupe the engines in this way, it is fairly easy for the search engines to spot the underhand tactics and take the relevant action.
This means that link popularity is a safe bet for the future, as search engines are likely to reward link popularity for some time to come.
One of the most overlooked benefits associated with linking is keyword enforcement. Using keyword rich anchor text in a link to enforce the targeted keyphrase of the page the link points to, can produce amazing results.
For example, if your company was a US supplier of widgets and your index page was focusing on the term US widget supplies then a link to your site that contained the terms US widget supplies in the anchor text would add extra relevancy to the page for that term.
One of the best and most famous examples of this can be seen by searching for miserable failure on google.com.
The no1 result for this search is a page from www.whitehouse.gov about George W Bush. Do the search and have a look at the first page returned.
As you can see the term miserable failure cannot be found anywhere on the page or in the code.
So how does the page rank No1 in the results?
The answer is the term miserable failure is used repeatedly in the anchor text of the links that point to the site!
This can be seen by doing an allinanchor search in Google. The purpose of an allinanchor search is to find pages that have specific keywords somewhere in the anchor text of the links to them.
search google for allinanchor:miserable failure
The results show that the page with the most links pointing to it containing the words miserable failure is the same page from the Whitehouse site.
Whether you look upon this as humorous or malicious does not matter, the fact is Google and other search engines treat the terms used within the anchor text with a high level if importance and the page that the link is pointing to will pick up relevancy for the terms used.
link popularity and google
search engine optimisation techniques that worked a few years ago no longer work and in many cases are considered as spam. In fact, Google's approach to ranking web sites now relies heavily on link promotion and link quality. In describing their own link popularity system (PageRank), Google's web site states;
"pagerank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important."
Link popularity is not as simple as arranging for hundreds of unrelated web pages to link to you, as this approach will not help you attain first page positions.
Links from relevant sites are considered to be 'more important' by search engines and will help your rankings improve. On top of that, any visitors that follow a link from a relevant site are likely to be a more targeted and a better quality prospect.
If link promotion is carried out correctly it can have a significant effect on both search engine positioning and on the targeted traffic visiting your site. Link promotion is not a difficult process, but it is time consuming.
It is, however, worth investing the time to increase your link popularity.
An effective link campaign involves locating well ranked websites with a theme relevant to your site, contacting the webmaster in a professional manner and asking for a link.
adding links to other pages
HTML's hypertext-related tag is <a>, which stands for anchor. The text between the <a> and the </a> is used as the caption for the link. A browser highlights the link text with colour and/or underlines to indicate that it is a hypertext link (often shortened to hyperlink or just link ).
To include an anchor in your document:
- start the anchor with <a (include a space after the a)
- specify the document you're linking to by entering the parameter HREF='filename' followed by a closing right angle bracket (>)
- enter the text that will serve as the hypertext link in the current document
- enter the ending anchor tag: </a> (no space is needed before the end anchor tag)
Example of a link...
Visit <a href ='http://www.1stGMC.net/'>1stGMC </a>
Understanding relative and absolute paths
Understanding how paths work is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing to learn for a beginning web page creator. Broken links, or bad paths, are the reason you see those ever popular 404 error pages.
There are two types of paths in HTML, known as relative paths and absolute paths. An absolute path contains the full URL of the item being referenced. A relative path contains directions to the item relative to the HTML page.
relative paths are a shorthand way of referring to other web pages that reside on the same server as the document referring to them.
The shorthand notation allows you to refer to pages without having to repeat the server, or even directory name - which saves a tremendous amount of typing and reduces the chance of errors.
Another benefit is that since relative links don't refer to the server or directory, it is easier to move related pages from one location to another without having to change the links.
This allows a person to create a set of linked pages on their local hard disk, test the pages locally, and move them up to the actual web server without having to change anything.
<a href ='contact.html'>Contact 1stGMC</a>
You would typically use an absolute path with to point to Web Pages that are on another domain other than your own. For example, if I want to link to this tutorial from your own Web Pages you would need to include the full url (universal resource locator).
<a href='http://www.1stGMC.net/link-capmpaign-tutorial.html'>Link Campaign Tutorial</a>
anchor text importance in search engine optimisation
Google results are greatly influenced by the Anchor Text of links to a page. This can be proven by doing an ' allinanchor :keyword ' search in Google (this type of search looks for the sites with that keyword in the anchor text most) and compare the results to a standard 'keyword' search. The results will be similar and on many occasions the order of the first 10 results will match exactly.
As discussed earlier with enough links using the same/similar anchor text a page can rank quite high for that text, even the number one position, without the keyword being used on the page or even in the code!
Conclusion : anchor text is one of the most important factors in achieving good search engine results.
A page about Search Engine Optimisation will rank better if it utilises its keyphrase (Search Engine Optimisation) in the anchor text of incoming links. This also includes internal links from inside the same site!
If you do a link search in Google to find which pages are linking to you ( link :www.yourdomain ) the results will include links from pages on the same site/domain. So it makes sense to start your link campaign by ensuring your internal links reflect the targeted keyphrases of the pages they are pointing to.
If your site navigation is based on images or uses terms like 'Home' or 'More Info' you are missing out on a golden opportunity to enforce the keyphrases of your pages without having to find links from other sites.
linking to your index page
It is important to always structure links to your home page in the same fashion to maximize PR and backlink reporting as some search engines will see the following as distinct pages:
Although all the URLs would resolve to the same page the danger is that all those links could be treated as separate pages. This is why it is important that internal links that lead back to the front page use the absolute URL, without the extensions.
This way search engines will not see different pages and index them all. If it does happen, it can take a while to sort it all out. In the meantime you are spreading the PageRank being passed back by your internal pages over different page extensions which is not a good thing.
There are other advantages to linking back to the homepage without specifying the name of the default document. If your homepage was index.htm but for technical reasons you had to switch to a PHP page you will able to do so without any loss of PageRank.
Nor will you need to make any site wide changes as the links always point back to the homepage using the absolute URL. Additionally, if you ensure that everyone who links to you does so using http://www.yourdomain.com/, you will not have to contact any other web site owner to ask them to change the link to reflect the new homepage.
what is a search engine?
what is a search engine?
As the Web grew search engines like AltaVista, Hotbot and more recently Google have helped countless people find specific information quickly and accurately. Search for a keyword or phrase on your favorite search engine and within seconds the engine will search all the pages in its database to find relevant results.
Without search engines you would have to know the exact url of every site you wanted to visit, or follow links from one site to the next until you found what you were looking for. Search engines help you navigate the web quickly and offer an efficient way to find information.
It looks to see how many other web pages link to you and what pages you link to.
When you make changes to your web pages, or other web pages link to yours, crawler-based search engines note these changes. These changes can affect how your pages are listed in the engines but can, on occasion, take months to come into play.
Next a program called an indexer reads these pages and builds an index based on the words found in each document. All the data processed by the indexer is stored in a database. Page titles, body copy, keyword density, and many other areas are all taken into account.
Each search engine has its own unique algorithm to create its index; the exact workings of these proprietary algorithms are a closely guarded secret. Ideally, the algorithm should return only relevant focused results for each query.
what are robots
search engine robots, sometimes called "spiders", "bots" or "crawlers", are programs used by search engines to explore the web, seeking out new pages and checking/updating the content of known pages.
There are four reasons a robot might visit your pages
1. You submitted the URL to the search engine
2. The engine knows about your pages and is checking to see if the content has changed
3. The robot has followed an internal link to a new page you have recently uploaded
4. The robot has followed an external link from another site that links to you
You might think that with such a major role to play in indexing the web, robots would be powerful and sophisticated animals. Well you would be wrong! Robots are relatively simple programs with limited functionality not unlike early browsers.
Robots don't understand or have difficulty understanding:
When a robot arrives at your website the first thing it does is to check your robots.txt file if you have one.
This file is used to inform robots about pages or directories that you don't want indexed, these may be directories containing legacy pages or printer friendly pages.
A robot gathers as much information as it can about a page before following any links through to other pages.
Not all robots are friendly, some malicious spiders are designed to scrape e-mail addresses that will later be used to send unsolicited spam e-mail.
If you have access to your server logs or a log statistics program you will be able to see which pages on your site have been visited by the robots. Using your logs or statistics program you will see which robots visited, when they visited, which pages they visited and how often they visit. Some robots are easily spotted from their user agent names, like "Googlebot" Google's spider.
If you identify activity from these spiders in your server logs or log statistics program, your pages are probably about to be listed on that particular search engine. However, be patient, some search engines can take 3 - 6 months to update their databases.
The following info is intended to assist you in identifying the search engine spiders and robots that visit your site based on information you can obtain by viewing your site's visitor log reports.
For information on blocking any of these robots using the Robots.txt exclusion standard, see
Search Engine Robot List
User Agent: Scooter-3.0.3
Robot.txt Identifier:User-agent: Scooter
Company: Ask Jeeves
User Agent: Mozilla/2.0(compatible; Ask Jeeves)
Robot.txt Identifier:User-agent: directhit, teomaagent1
Company: Fast Search and Transfer ASA
User Agent: FastCrawler3
Robot.txt Identifier:User-agent: fast
User Agent: Lycos_Spider_(modspider) AKA: T-Rex
Robot.txt Identifier:User-agent: Lycos
User Agent: Googlebot, Googlebot-image
Robot.txt Identifier:User-agent: googlebot
User Agent: Slurp (Slurp.so/1.0)
Robot.txt Identifier:User-agent: slurp
Company: Microsoft / MSN
User Agent: MSNbot / MSRbot
Seach Engine Indexes
What is a Search Engine Indexer?
After a search engine spider or robot has found, downloaded and stored the page another program, called an indexer, processes the page using its own proprietary algorithm.
The contents of the meta keyword tag, description tag, titles, headings, links, body copy, bold, and italic are analysed. Some indexers compress the page by removing stop words; finally the much cut down page is stored in an online searchable database.
The indexer uses a complex mathematical formula or algorithm to analyse and weight key areas of a page. Every indexer uses a unique algorithm and these algorithms are constantly being modified and bettered by the search engines to filter out spam and to ensure that the most relevant pages get better rankings.
Because of the unique nature of these algorithms a page 1 listing in Lycos does not guarantee a similar listing in Google or any other search engine.
What can I do to improve my rank?
What are keywords and keyphrases?
keywords and Kkeyphrases are the most important areas to be considered in any search engine optimization exercise. Correct keyword selection and usage will greatly influence the success of your website!
Every effective search engine optimization strategy is based around keywords! Simply put, if you don't choose the right keywords, your strategy will be a failure.
A prospective customer visits Google looking for goods or services that match yours. He types in a search query or keywords that he considers relevant. Google serves up the results, the most relevant first, ten per page. Relevance here is based on the pages that are optimised for the keywords or phrases that most closely match the query.
How do you choose your important keyword phrases? www.wordtracker.com is a full featured online tool to assist in the analysis and selection of keywords and phrases.
It may surprise you that searchers are not arriving at your site the way you assumed.
Ask your customers or someone outside of your industry what they would search for when looking for your products or services.
When optimising your pages for search engines, consider each page's focus separately, because search engines do. To achieve top rankings, create content-rich information pages with a narrow focus on one or two topics, use those topics as your keywords or phrases.
A common mistake is to try to optimise a single page for every keyword that's relevant to your business. All this does is dilute relevancy.
Create separate content-rich information pages utilising your other keywords, this will attract highly targeted traffic to your site.
What is the title tag?
The title tag contains the single most important piece of information within any web document.
Title tags are one of the simplest and most succesful ways of letting a search understand the focus of the page and allow it to determine the maximum relevancy for it.
The title tag for a web document is placed within the <head>...</head> tags for the document using <title>...</title>.
This textual component of the web document is the first piece of text that a search engine will find within a web document and will use it to determine which words and/or phrases the document should be considered as being relevant for.
For example if a page has the title tag of "Search Engine Optimization" the page is seen as being focused for that term.
The title tag also serves a secondary feature which is that it will be displayed by a search engine for a particular query as the link to that result.
This means that users of a search engine will read the tag and use it to ascertain the focus of the returned results and are likely to use this to determine whether or not that particular returned result is relevant to that particular search query.
It is for the reason that an optimal title tag should have no more than 64 characters as this is the maximum that Google will display in the search engine results.
Meta keyword tag
How does the meta keyword tag further your search engine optimization efforts?
Although most crawling search engines no longer support the tag it is still a useful way to reinforce your keywords on the crawlers that do, namely Inktomi and Teoma.
AllTheWeb, altaVista and google ignore the tag. However, it should be pointed out that any benefit derived from the meta keyword tag is minimal, many SEO's experienced in search engine optimization no longer use the tag.
If you have a page about search engine optimization you will naturally repeat the term "search engine optimization " at various places through your body text. Including the term "search engine optimization" within the meta keywords tag will help boost your page for those terms in the search engines that still support the meta keyword tag.
The text in the meta keywords tag works to support text in your body copy.
If the term "search engine optimization" does not appear on the page, then by placing it in the meta keywords tag is unlikely to boost the page to any great extent for the term.
The meta keyword tag is also a means to include synonyms, different and common misspelling of words that don't appear on the page. If you had a page about the "website design" people may instead search for "web site design" having the term in your meta keywords tag may increase the odds of coming up if someone searched for "web site design".
Another example would be the different spellings of optimization (if you are in the US) or optimisation (if you are in the US or Australia) You could use both terms on the page but this method may end up diluting your keyword relevancy.
You would however, greatly increase the chances of being found if you created two unique pages, one using optimization throughout the page and the other optimization. The same goes for the previous example.
keyword location and frequency
Search engine optimization is all about the effective use of keywords. One of the main rules in a search engine ranking algorithm involves the location of keywords on a web page. To achieve top rankings in any search engine optimization campaign, create content rich pages with a narrow focus on one or two keywords.
The term keywords does not refer to single words only. In truth, keyword phrases are far more effective than single keywords!
The <title> tag is the most important element of the web page. The title tag is responsible for displaying the text shown in the windows-bar at the top of the browser. Include your page's most important keywords in the title tag.
Try to write a phrase that is descriptive, reads well, and contains your keywords. Most search engines use the title in their result listings, you want to entice people to click on that link.
The higher the frequency the more relevant the words are deemed. If the content of the page was written in such a way that the main keywords had the highest frequency, this will tip relevancy towards your keywords.
Search engines regard words with a higher frequency as more relevant than others.
When these two areas are combined so that the keywords used in title and the keyword frequency of the page return the same terms, then the whole page is deemed as relevant for the keywords.
- Also include your keywords in the following areas.
- Headline tags H1, H2 H3....
- The first and the last paragraph of body text.
- In the ALT atribute of the IMG tag (sometimes refered to as the ALT Tag).
- Throughout the web page, not too many times that it could be mistaken as spam.
- Move the readable copy as far up in the HTML code as possible.
meta description tag
The meta description tag, as its name suggests, allows you to describe your page content. The description should be a short, keyword-rich paragraph capturing the main topic of the page - giving the search engines an accurate overview of the page.
Remember, the meta description, along with the title, are what encourage people to click on your site from the search engine results pages. The title and description should be written to motivate people into visiting your site instead of your competition.
All spidering search engines provide some support for the meta description tag, Teoma, AltaVista, and AllTheWeb make most use of it. Search engines that don't recognise the tag will grab some text from your page and substitute it for the description. This text grabbed is usually based on the search term.
The meta description tag should contain your pages keywords, place the keywords as close to the beginning of your description as you can to achieve the best results.
This is where techniques like keyword proximity come into play. Avoid repeating keywords more than 2 times, some search engines consider this to be spam and may penalise the page.
Different search engines vary the allowed length for meta description tags. Try to use short descriptions around 150 characters. Although some search engines display more than 150 characters, keeping the length to around 150 prevents it from being cut down by those who don't and preserves its message.
It is essential that you write good titles and descriptions for your pages. Some search engines place extra relevance on the words used in the description. If you take extra care and time time when constructing your page titles and meta description tags, and tailor them so that they are enticing, keyword rich and descriptive, your web pages will rank better.
The HTML heading tags are similar to newspaper headlines and search engines consider the content more important than normal text. Include your important keywords in heading tags on your page if you can.
Search engines consider the <H1> tag to be more important than <H2> and <H2> more important than <H3> and so on.
Headings can be placed anywhere within the body of an HTML document so consider reworking your page content into separate sections with headings.
One reason heading tags may be overlooked is there appearance, you might wish to control the look of your heading tags by using Cascading Style sheets CSS
In an attempt to speed up searches and save space, some search engines won't record extremely common words present on the page. These are referred to as "stop words." Stop words are used by AltaVista, Inktomi and Google.
Look at this sentence:
The climb to the peak is difficult when the snow is deep.
"The" has multiple instances. Some search engines may replace these instances with a marker. The sentence could then be stored like this:
- climb to - peak is difficult when - snow is deep.
By using markers the sentence is simplified, retains its relevancy and saves space. Furthermore, relevance is not grabbed by common terms. The amount of space saved may seem minimal per page but multiply that by millions of pages and the benefit becomes obvious.
On the other hand some search engines, including Google, do store every word on the page. However, to save time they won't include stop words in the search.
Consider a search in Google for:
The Edinburgh Tattoo
When google serves up its results it also warns "The" is a very common word and was not included in your search." You can force Google to do a search that includes "The" by searching for;
+The Edinburgh Tattoo or by surrounding the search in quotation marks; "The Edinburgh Tattoo".
Chances are people will search without the + or quotation marks so it makes sense to use few stop words in your title and free up as as much space as possible for relevant terms.
AltaVista, Inktomi and Google support stop words.
off the page factors
Search engines are aware that some webmasters and SEO's constantly rewrite their web pages in attempt to "reverse engineer" search engine algorithms and gain better rankings. To combat this, search engines now factor in "off the page" ranking criteria.
Through careful analysis of how pages link, and the text used in the anchor text of the links, search engines can establish what a page is about and if that page is important. Important pages will receive a ranking boost.
Clickthrough measurement is another important off the page factor. This is a measurement of what pages are selected from the results of a particular search. High ranking pages that don't attract clicks will be demoted, lower-ranking pages that are will be promoted.
When the results are displayed from any given search all there is to go on is the page title, page description or page snippet and the ODP description.
While it can be difficult to control the snippet, the page title, page description and ODP description can be controlled and should be written to entice visitors to click on the page.
what is pagerank?
The google toolbar displays pagerank in a scale between 0 until 10. Google PageRank is only relevant to the page being viewed in the browser NOT THE ENTIRE SITE.
Although google was the first major search engine to use link popularity as part of its ranking algorithm, most spidering search engines now use link popularity when ranking pages.
Pages with many, quality links pointing to them are regarded as highly relevant!
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