Search engine optimization is a collection of strategies that improves the level at which your web site is ranked in the results returned when a user searches for a keyword or phrase. By now, that’s a definition you should be pretty familiar with. What you probably don’t know (yet) is how to achieve SEO. You can’t do it all at
once. Instead, SEO has to happen in stages. If you try to implement too many strategies at one time, two things are going to happen:
■ You won’t be able to tell which of your strategies are successful. Implementing one strategy at a time makes it possible for you to pinpoint which strategies are working and which are not.
■ When you try to implement too many strategies at one time, your efforts— even the successful ones —could be lost in the shuffle. It’s like changing a recipe in multiple ways at once. Even if you like the result, you won’t know which addition or deletion made the difference.
SEO is most successful when you concentrate on one effort at a time. A great place to start is on the way your site is built. One of the first things that attracts a search engine crawler is the actual design of your site. Tags,
links, navigational structure, and content are just a few of the elements that catch a crawler’s attention.
Before You Build Your Site
One of the most common misconceptions about SEO is that it is implemented after a web site has been built. It can be, but it’s much harder to be successful when your site isn’t built on a solid SEO foundation. A better option is to consider SEO before you begin to build your website, if that’s possible. It may not be; but if that’s the case, you can still implement SEO strategies in the design of your site — it will just require a lot more work than building it in at the beginning.
Know your target
Before you even start contemplating how to build your web site, you should know in what types of search engines it’s most important for your site to be ranked. Search engines are divided into several types beyond the primary, secondary, and targeted search engines that you learned about in Chapter 1. Search engine types are also determined by how information is entered into the index or catalog that’s used to return search results. The three types of search engines are as
■ Crawler-based engines: Up until this point, the search engines discussed fall largely into this category. A crawler-based search engine (such as Google) uses an automated software agent (called a crawler) to visit, read, and index web sites. All the information collected by the crawler is returned to a central repository—a process called indexing. It is from this index that search engine results are pulled. Crawler-based search engines revisit web pages periodically in a time frame determined by the search engine administrator.
■ Human-powered engines: Human-powered search engines rely on people to submit the information that is indexed and later returned as search results. Sometimes human-powered search engines are called directories. Yahoo! is a good example of what,
at one time, was a human-powered search engine. Yahoo! started as a favorites list belonging to two people who needed an easier way to share their favorite web sites. Over time, Yahoo! took on a life of its own. It’s no longer completely human controlled. human powered, however, and this is creating a buzz on the Web. Human-powered
search engines add an element of personalization to search that fits in with the current social nature of the Web.
■ Hybrid engines: A hybrid search engine, as you might guess, is not entirely populated by a web crawler or by human submission. It is a combination of the two. In a hybrid engine, people can manually submit their web sites for inclusion in search results, but there is also a web crawler that monitors the Web for sites to include. Many search engines today fall into the hybrid category to at least some degree. Although the majority are populated
mostly by crawlers, others offer some method by which people can enter their web site information.
It’s important to understand these distinctions because how your site ends up indexed by a search engine may have some bearing on when it is indexed. For example, fully automated search engines that use web crawlers might index your site weeks (or even months) before a human-powered search engine. The reason is obvious: The web crawler is an automated application. The human-powered search engine may actually require that all entries be reviewed
for accuracy before a site is included in search results, and that takes time. In any case, the accuracy of search engine results varies according to the search query that is used. For example, entries in a human-powered search engine might be more technically accurate,but the search query that is used will determine whether the desired results are returned.