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Friday, March 19th, 2004

Google and Yahoo :: What works well and what won't

 

Last week I wrote about how we plan out our search engine placement campaigns. The past few months have been an interesting time in the world of search engine marketing but now the dust seems to be settling. Google has appeared relativity stable for the past month and the SEM world now has a better handle on the submission fees introduced by Yahoo two weeks ago. Now that we have survived the changes and absorbed an extraordinary amount of information we need to adapt to the new basic steps required to achieve the Top Placements on Google and Yahoo, the two most important places to place. There are a few new basic rules webmasters and search engine optimizers need to know and a number of old-rules that remain important. There are a few new techniques that may cost client’s money if you choose to pursue them. There are also a number of new loopholes worth looking at, some of which might save you or your clients a great deal of money.

Google’s Newest Needs

Google remains the only major search engine that does not mix paid-submission/inclusion results with its traditional (or organic) listings. Submission to Google is easily accomplished by either simply providing a link to the website from another site already in Google’s database, or by directing Google to the INDEX page of the site by entering the URL here. Before submitting the site to Google, there are several elements you will want to pay attention to.

1/ Make certain the titles and description tags match the content. The best titles include an incident of the targeted keyword phrase for search engine spiders to consume and also include the specific topic of the page in question. The description should contain several phrases culled from the body text of the page. The keyword meta tag should include popular misspellings of specific keywords.

2/ Google-Bot follows text links. Be certain the website is open to full spidering by including text links to every major page in the site either through a sitemap appended to the end of the website, or through a text-based navigation map generally found at the bottom of each page in the site. For larger sites, it is a best practice to include both mapping techniques.

3/ Obtain as many relevant incoming links as possible. This step is critically important as the “new” Google places very high weight on the number and quality of incoming links. Recently, several sites with high page-ranks have taken to selling links, thus making links a commodity. While Google officially frowns on the purchasing of links, sometimes spending money on a large set of links is what it takes to get the strong placements at Google. Costs can range from $250/month to over $5000/month. These costs must be weighed against the benefits of a Top10 listing at Google but, if sufficient ROI is there, spending the money may be the best option.

4/ Update important pages in the website frequently. Google continues to reward sites with fresh content that is updated on a fairly regular basis. At StepForth, we use our news and blog sections to accomplish this.

Yahoo’s New Needs

Yahoo has changed significantly in the past few months, most notably in that Yahoo is now its own search engine and does not display data culled from outside sources. That said, Yahoo has a large number of internal resources to call upon. Last year, Yahoo purchased many of the most well known search tools including Overture, Alta Vista, AlltheWeb, and the Inktomi database. Yahoo has consolidated the various submission programs offered across the network of search-sites it now owns. This consolidation was the topic of last week’s feature article in this space. Before submitting to Yahoo and its family of sites, webmasters and SEOs should be certain the following elements have been optimized efficiently. Webmasters should keep in mind that in some cases, a live-human will review the site so before submitting to Yahoo, double check the content and optimization work.

1/ Much like any other search engine, Yahoo pays close attention to the title and description meta tags, looking for topical relevancy in both elements. As with Google, the best titles include at least one target keyword phrase and a mention of the specific topic addressed by the page the title is applied to. Similarly, a well written description tag is important to Yahoo. Lastly, while we would not spend too much energy on the keyword meta tag as it does not carry much power, we believe Yahoo gives the keyword meta tag a bit of relevance.

2/According to Overture (owned by Yahoo) spokesperson Jennifer Stephens, Yahoo’s spider, SLURP, will act much like Google-bot in that it will follow each text-link it sees on a site and record the information on the pages it finds. It is therefore extremely important that webmasters and SEOs leave clear paths through the website for Yahoo’s spider to follow.

3/ Keyword densities had a fairly significant effect at Inktomi and that seems to have carried through to Yahoo. Keyword densities refers to the ratio between the number of keywords as measured against non-keywords used in the body text, title, link-anchor text, and meta tags. This ratio can vary from sector to sector but is often a key in getting better placements than your competitors.

4/ Submissions to Yahoo are radically different today than they were in years past. Last week’s article discussed paid submissions to Yahoo via Overture’s Site Match and Site Match XChange programs. Yahoo also allows for unpaid submissions but does not respider sites that have not paid submission fees nearly as often as it respiders sites that do pay the fees. Since it costs so much to submit to Site Match, have your site reviewed, and you still have to pay a per-click fee for each click-through, webmasters of sites that will not change frequently might want to take advantage of the free-submit option. Here’s the big tip on Free-Submit at Yahoo, submit each page in the site, one by one. You should probably space this process out over a few days just to keep the folks at Yahoo from thinking you are taking advantage of them. ;)

These are just a few of the rules as we read them this week. Please remember that this is a time of flux and these rules may change in the coming weeks as both Google and Yahoo tighten their algorithms. There is always the chance that Yahoo will make changes to its submission and click-through fee structure as well.


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