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Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization Guide

By hagrin - Posted on 25 December 2006

Posted By: hagrin
Created: 14 December 2005
Last Updated: 1 July 2010

Overview:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) remains the ultimate goal of the webmaster, blog publisher, e-commerce seller, AdSense user and pageview junkie. By tweaking and modifying your website's layout, design and content, a domain owner can increase his listing rank when terms are searched on the major search engines (for the purpose of these articles, the major search engines are Google, Yahoo! and MSN). The following articles will assist you in your quest to finely tune your website into a high ranking Internet source.

Table of Contents / Index

Domain Names, Software & Other High Level Issues:

The Nitty Gritty - Low Level SEO Concerns:

Software Specific SEO Concerns:

Google's Matt Cutts' Best SEO Tips of 2006

By hagrin - Posted on 07 December 2006

SEO Egghead posted a great synopsis of Matt Cutts' best SEO Tips of 2006 in a nice, comprehensive list for SEO marketers, designers and enthusiasts to refresh their "straight from Google's mouth" SEO information. I usually don't link to blog spam; however, they really did a great job compiling, shortening and organizing the best tips offered by Matt throughout the year on his blog. So what are some of the better tips that Matt stated web developers/designers should incorporate into their sites?

  • Use dashes instead of underscores in the URL for a page.
  • Make sure that Googlebot can crawl all the content you want indexed. Content behind secured pages aren't crawled and you should offer free versions of valuable content so that it can be indexed.
  • "Assign unique, descriptive title tags and headings to every page" (direct quote from SEO Egg Heads)
  • URLS with descriptive document names will rank better than non-descript URLS (i.e. windows-vista.php vs. 2006-12-08article.php)

Most of the other tips are generally useful, but found the above tips highly useful when thinking about my own sites. Thanks Matt and SEO Egg Heads for the great information and organization.

Top Search Terms of 2006 (Yahoo!)

By hagrin - Posted on 05 December 2006

Although 2006 isn't over yet, Yahoo! has released their top search terms of 2006 in an attempt to steal some of Google's Zeitgeist's thunder (although remember, with the release of Google Trends, you could potentially pull much of this information at any time you wanted using any timeframe you wanted). There isn't much that is groundbreaking here when you look at top search terms, but I'll reaffirm the conclusions you could draw from this data (as well as data from previous years):

  • Young, Hot Female Celebrities Rule - Ah, nothing says the Internet like guys searching for hot, young women. Entertainment searches still dominate the Top 10 overall searches with the likes of Spears, Hilton, Lohan and Simpson dominating the Top 10 overall search terms. Sex still sells big on the Internet.
  • Soccer is the world's sport, Basketball and Hockey ... not so much - Although not a major sport here in the United States, 3 international soccer teams round out the Top 10 showing the true power and interest of football around the world. Meanwhile, the NBA, who has tried to internationalize their sport with trips over to Japan, the signing of Yao Ming, etc. doesn't have a single team in the Top 10 searches. As for professional hockey, there's no sight of them either. Baseball and American Football are the other two sports which dominate sports related searches.
  • Comic Books ruled the Big Screen - Of all the widely searched movies of 2006, comic book characters and story lines took almost half of the spots in the Top 10 Movie searches for 2006. Also, even though Borat was released later in the year and is currently still in movie theaters, Borat snuck into the Top 10 in last place showing the power of viral marketing over the Internet since much of the great Borat press stemmed from blogs, social news sites, etc.

You're probably asking yourself - how can I use this data to drive more data to my website. In most cases, you probably can't - especially if your site's niche isn't one of the categories Yahoo! released search data for, but you can draw conclusions that should help you some. First, remember that Yahoo! search is seen by many to be the search engine used by many non-technical users; however, Yahoo! does have a very strong international user base to consider as well. Make sure your content can be consumed and understood on an international basis. Second, when you see the success of a recent movie like Borat, remember to be proactive and not reactive when providing users new content. If you're first to the market, your information will be found first, linked to first and these links should help make your page stand out as an authoritative source to search engines. Lastly, even in the Top 10, you can see a diverse range of searched terms; therefore, make sure that your site is diverse enough to grab traffic from many areas, but not too diverse as to be too cluttered or difficult to find information.

I'll be curious to see how Google's 2006 data stacks up against Yahoo!'s.

Blog Juice Calculator

By hagrin - Posted on 11 October 2006

My Blog JuiceA new tool to calculate your blog's worth has been released called the Blog Juice Calculator. What's very interesting about this tool is that it tries to categorize your site against other sites based on topic category. It's a good way of gauging your site's performance based on such factors as Bloglines subscribers, Alexa traffic rankings, Technorati rankings and backlinks. Now, of course, all of these rankings are so incomplete and inaccurate; however, if you take enough random samplings you'll probably draw a pretty accurate total picture (basic statistics).

It's great viral marketing for Text Link Ads, but at the same time, it's worth the page load and the query.

Project: SERP Tracking & SEO Analyzer

By hagrin - Posted on 05 September 2006

Finally, I've had a chance to play around with one of the Google APIs. I decided to take my crack at the Google Web Search API since search is the cornerstone of Google's operations. After reading the documentation briefly (and being surprised that they included .Net sample code), I started brainstorming what tools I could build. Eventually, I decided on a SERP tracker/analyzer.

Now, I have quite a long way to go, but I have successfully called the API, extracted the data from a search results and stored the information in the database. For the time being, I am writing the application in VB.Net and utilizing MSFT's SQL Server 2000; however, I have every intention of porting this to other languages and platforms. Finally, I plan on releasing the source freely since the Google Wed Search API has a limit of only 1,000 queries per day and a maximum of 10 results per query. With those limitations, the only way that the "community" can really benefit from this is to run their own specific relevant term searches.

Hopefully, the feature list will include (but not be limited to):

  • Port application to .Net, PHP, Python, MS SQL, MySQL, flat text file
  • Allow users to dynamically update their API Key
  • Allow users to dynamically change their search terms and search depth (without violating API terms and conditions)
  • Store historical SERP data
  • Web interface to display contextual charts and graphs based on filtered criteria
  • Evaluate high ranking pages and upwards moving ranked pages to determine why they are so effective including comparing page rank, page titles, page summary, keyword density, META tags, keywords in headline tags and more commonly used SEO techniques.
  • Track daily application usage (to prevent API ToS violations)

The picture above shows, in simplistic form, how the SERP data could be stored in the database. Eventually, by normalizing the tables outward, I can do further analysis on the pages as I parse the sites returned as the Googlebot would see them. I'm really excited about the potential for an application like this and the SEO implications. I'm sure many tools like this exist, but I hope to deliver the application and the resulting data in an efficient and unique user experience while also making it incredibly easy for someone to setup my application using their own API key and search terms.

Flash SEO

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

In the search engine optimization world, web design in Flash provides additional SEO hurdles to obtaining premier Google or Yahoo! SERPs. To help web designers and SEOs combat the obstacles caused by Flash, Search Engine Watch compiled a list of valuable resources and posts that talk about Flash SEO. If you're a Flash designer and you're looking to provide your clients the best possible chance (based by design alone) to rank highly in the search engines, the links in this article are a must read.

Check SERP Rankings

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Wanted an easy way to check your SERP ranking for a specific term within the maor search engines? Well, egoSurf allows you to do exactly just that. You can enter a search term and then any number of domains that you want to check and then have your Google Juice score sent back to you displayed on a nifty speedometer like graphic. The query does take some time to run and I wonder exactly how running a lot of these queries could potentially penalize your site (or for black hats, how doing this to one of your competitors might penalize their site).

Google Explains 302 Redirects

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Geez Matt, slow down! Matt Cutts has posted again today - this time concerning HTTP 302 Redirects. What exactly is a HTTP 302 Redirect and how does it differ from a 301 Redirect? Matt explains this as:

Q: Time out. I’ve got a question. What’s the deal with 302 vs. 301? What does that mean? What’s the difference?

A: The “302″ refers to the HTTP status codes that are returned to your browser when you request a page. For example, a 404 page is called a “404″ because web servers return a status code of 404 to indicate that a requested page wasn’t found. The difference between a 301 and a 302 is that a 301 status code means that a page has permanently moved to a new location, while a 302 status code means that a page has temporarily moved to a new location.

Google Explains inurl

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Matt Cutts, who is on a posting spree today, has posted a guide to understanding the results when doing a inurl:www.mydomain.com search using Google's search engine. As Matt states - "The inurl: operator is one of the most misunderstood features of Google, especially when discussing hijacking".

Matt seems to be posting all this information in preperation of people bombarding him with people asking about the move to the Bigdaddy datacenter. Make sure to read through his inurl FAQ. Of note for me, I didn't know that a combination of inurl:www.mydomain.com and -site:www.mydomain.com would yield all the results where mydomain exists in the URL, but that aren't parked at mydomain.

Google Explains URL Canonicalization

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Matt Cutts talks about URL Canonicalization and its effects on how Google crawls your website. In addition, he offers some friendly tips for making sure that your site gets crawled in exactly the manner that you want it crawled. This is a great tip for all of those webmasters looking to improve their site's appearance to Google's automated crawler.

After reading Matt's piece, you should check out my personal guide to Canonical Domain Name issues