Search Engine Positioning

Search Engine ranking is a fairly common Web Promotion
topic. If you are at all interested in generating traffic
to your site however, it is an absolutely critical topic
to learn something about. It is estimated that less than
30% of web sites still make effective (or any) use of Meta
tags. Since it has been quite awhile since I last
discussed it, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at
this topic again. If there is only one thing you are going
to do to promote your web site, this should be it.

I have read from several sources that some major sites
generate up to 50% of their traffic from good Search
Engine positioning. Personally I find this hard to believe
or an indication that the site is already so popular that
visitors are simply searching for the URL of a site they
already intend to visit. (Search: DISNEY, Result:
www.disney.com). Since few of us already have Disney's
name recognition or our users are not inclined to type our
corporate name with a www at the front and a .
com at the
end, general positioning by subject on the major search
engines can play a significant role in generating traffic
(there are others methods to be discussed in later

If you search for "
DHTML editors" on Alta Vista, the
Virtual Mechanics site will come up #1. How did we do it?
The fact is by the time you read this newsletter we may
have slipped to 10, 20 or below with these keywords.
Hopefully our position under a similar set of keywords or
on another search engine will mysteriously climb to help
gain some of the losses from a slip somewhere else. The
fact is the algorithms used to rank a web site are very
complex and changed often. This is as much to prevent a
web site from manipulating its ranking as it is to find
the most optimum means to determine position. I suspect
that even the search engine developers would have a hard
time predicting which sites are going to end up on top
GoTo were you pay for your position).

For this reason I would be very skeptical of anyone that
is willing to guarantee you a top-ten search engine
ranking for a fee. That is unless you are will to accept a
high ranking under searches for "
numnut" or some other
obscure search term. In fact it is not the ranking that is
important but the number of links that your ranking
generates to your site. You objective consequently, is to
get a high ranking under meaningful search terms.

Having stated there is no way to assure a top ranking on a
search engine, there are certainly many things you can do
to give yourself an edge and improve your position. The
most important of these is to make effective use of the
HTML meta tags. These tags are placed in the HEAD of a web
page and provide many of the search engine spiders with
much of the information they use to rank your web site. If
you check the main VirtualMechanics web page (or just about
any other page on our site) and do a View Source, you will see
the Meta Tags at the top of the page. The three most important are:

Meta tags

The TITLE tag is used to provide a title for your page. It
is a bit like the title of a book but since some search
engines use it as the sole description, you should
probably view it more like a banner add for your site.

The Meta Description tag is used to describe the contents
of your site. It is often listed below the Title in the
Search Engine search results. Since it may also be used to
help rank your site, you should probably use short
descriptive phrases that will both help categorize your
site and entice a potential visitor.

The Meta Keywords tag is probably the most important. This
is a list of words and phrases that are used to match with
people's searches. If for example, you have entered the
keywords: "blue cheese, festival, party" and some one does
a search for "blue cheese party" then you will have a
match and a possible aromatic visitor. If you are offering
a service such as Web Page Design and you enter keywords
such as "Web, Page, Design" and a search is made for "Web
Page Design" then you will also have a probable match, but
so will 250,000 other sites. Obviously getting a good
ranking will require more effort.

When setting up your web page, you should be careful to
orchestrate the content so that it will be more
effectively index under the keywords that you believe are
the most important. If you want to get a high ranking
under "Blue Cheese" then make sure you use these terms
frequently and near the top of your page. For example:

Blue Cheese festival

(body tag goes here)
Welcome to our Blue Cheese Festival highlights page. We will...

More next week.

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 2000 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.

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