Google, Bing and Yahoo 95% of all searches take place on these three major engines.
Not only is Google the sole dominant player in its own right, it also provides search results for Internet service providers (ISPs) like AOL and Time-Warner as well as many other lesser ISP’s. So, throughout this course, when we use the phrase ‘search engines’ we are speaking of Google, Bing and Yahoo—in that order. And the heavy emphasis will always be on Google. If something is unique to either Yahoo or Bing, we will clearly state it as such. Otherwise, think Google!
Relevancy: The Critical Ingredient of High Ranking Web Pages
It’s important to understand that search engines make their money by showing ads. Basically, that’s their entire profit model. This means they need to show ads to as many people as possible. And the way they get the largest number of people to use their search engine is by giving them the most relevant search results possible.
Think about it if a search engine gave you pages about a completely different topic than the one you just searched for you’d probably decide to use a different search engine. That would be bad business for the search engine company.
Making Pages Relevant
As an SEO your job is to make YOUR Web pages the most relevant pages available for your business related keywords. There are a number of ways to establish your Web page’s relevancy in the eyes of the search engines.
On-page optimization involves placing keywords in strategic locations throughout your Web pages so that search engines know to associate those keywords with your Web page.
These off-page strategies relate to pages that link to you from other sites.
Off-page strategies include
- Anchor text: the actual keywords you click in a link that point to your Web site
- Keyword text within the paragraphs surrounding that anchor text,
- Keywords within titles of the pages that link to you,
- Keywords within the body content of the pages that link to you,
- Directory categories your site is listed in,
- Directory categories of the sites that link to your page,
- The authoritative strength of the sites that link to you,
- The authoritative strength of the sites that link to the sites that link to you.
These along with many lesser elements all add up to a successfully optimized Web site. Of all the off-page strategic factors listed above, the inbound link anchor text is currently the most important, but they all play a collective role as factors that add relevancy to your Web pages.
Getting Your Web Pages Listed
Your first steps to getting listed in a search engine are actually very straightforward. After you’ve finished reading this book, compiled your keywords, analysed your competition, and built your Web pages, your next step must be to obtain a link to your site from another site that is already listed in Google!
“Why not just submit my site to Google?”
..here’s why: Google prefers to find pages on its own by following links from other sites. Google places more trust in pages that it finds naturally through links that are pointing at it than it does in pages that are submitted to them.
Being listed in the index of any of the major search engines legitimizes your site in the eyes of the others. And, once you have pages indexed in any of these engines, you’ll have your very own avenue of entry for new pages and sites. By simply placing links to these new pages from your own Google-known pages, search engines will find these strategically placed links the next time they visit your site to update their index.
Avoid the “submit your site to thousands of search engines” services like the plague.
What about Paying for Instant Traffic?
If your budget can afford it, and you’re looking for immediate traffic to your Web site, then pay-per-click marketing is one way to help build your company’s immediate web presence.
A Pay-Per-Click (PPC) program (Google’s AdWords is a PPC program) can have an ad for your site listed on the front page of the search results (in the Sponsored Listings section) and sending traffic to you within a matter of minutes for a price.
PPC is not something to be entered into lightly. Since you’re paying for every visitor a search engine sends your way, it’s possible to unwittingly rack up expensive click-charges if you’re not careful.
PPC strategy we can chat about beyond the scope of this course.
Organic vs. Sponsored / PPC Search Results
Note : The Sponsored Listings that you see on the right hand side of the search results are what we call pay-per-click (PPC) ads. If driving traffic to your site quickly is your main goal, then there’s nothing faster than PPC.
Google’s AdWords informational page, is here https://adwords.google.com.
Getting listed in Google’s organic search results is free; but is not nearly as fast as getting listed in the paid Sponsored Listings via Google AdWords. Bear in mind, that ranking in Google depends greatly on how many inbound links a page has—and it typically takes some time to accrue links.
Google assigns relevancy to pages based on a proprietary and continuously evolving database algorithm that takes into account the following weighting factors.
- Incoming links
- Keywords in URL
- Page Content
- Link Content
- Page Meta Title
- Page Rank Score
Some of these factors are on-page, some of them are off-page and some of them are performance based. For instance, if another Web site links to your Web page with the anchor text, budget widgets, then Google tends to believe that your site is about budget widgets regardless of what content your page actually has on it. This factor is known as page reputation; and Google places a lot of weight on page reputation. Google also likely uses various methods to monitor how popular your site is, and the quality of your content. They use your pages bounce rates, time on page, time on site, and USG (User Generated Content) such as comments to judge the level of activity your content has.
To rank well on Google involves optimizing as many of these on-page and off-page factors as possible. If this all sounds a bit complex, relax. It’s easier than it sounds and you’ll have a big advantage over your competition once you’ve absorbed the information in this course.
What about Search Directories?
There are two main search directories and several niche directories that can provide you with a valuable listing. Unlike the three major search engines, directories are more like catalog listings and they require that you actually submit your site (and sometimes pay a fee) if you want to be listed.
Submitting to directories is a great way to begin acquiring links and driving traffic to any site, new or old but one needs to be selective as many low quality directories exist that do not offer any great value to your website.
When selecting a directory one needs to simply make sure that you can tick some quality criteria check boxes before wasting your time on the millions of spammed sites.
Does the directory site rank?
Is the directory relevant to my site?
These are what I call hyper focused regional or product specific directories. They are highly relevant to a locations / products and services in South Africa.
when submitting to these relevant directories and generic top directories like yahoo and dmoz.org make certain that you have submitted to the the most relevent internal category or you will stand little chance of getting accepted. (be specific)
Getting a listing in DMOZ is still as important as always, in terms of gaining a valuable high PageRank link that carries trust. Be warned – submission to DMOZ can be frustrating. As with Yahoo, we also recommend finding a category (if possible) that is in the index of Google and Bing by using the “site:” search command site:www.dmoz.org/category search to see if the page is indexed.
- We’ve identified the top three, and only important, search engines as Google, Bing and Yahoo (Powered by Bing); and in that order.
- We’ve revealed how Web pages actually get listed in the search engines by being found, not by being submitted.
- We’ve explained the difference between free, organic (aka, natural, regular) search results and Sponsored Listings which are paid search results also known as pay-per-click or PPC.
- You now have a basic list of ranking elements that Google uses. They are; incoming links, page content, Web page title tag, keywords in URL, anchor text (i.e. link content), PageRank score; among others and not necessarily in that order.
- And you’ve been introduced to the two main search directories (Yahoo & DMOZ). Now you know there’s a difference between search engines and search directories.