vector newsletter

Effective Search Engine Strategies

... or, "How to Help Your Customers Find You", Online.

The internet "changed" in the early 1990's, with the arrival of AOL and the explosive growth of residential online accounts. As more consumers were willing to make purchases "online", the battle to be the "#1 position" ranking in search engines was begun. The VectorInter.Net teams have fought these wars, since the earliest days. The only constant has been that the most successful strategies needed to evolve with the search engine technology of the day. Very few people remember when Yahoo was a human-powered directory of web sites, not the search engine it is today. AOL tried to control it's "gated-community", of approved web sites. Northern Lights was an attempt to build a robotic, automated search engine with an "index" listing of every web page. Google changed the game again, with it's math-metrics and "page-rank" system. This VectorInter.Net newsletter is from the early 1990's, and posted as it appeared then. It demonstrates the continuing efforts still required to maintain success in SEO marketing.

   Search engines will continue to be one of the most cost-effective ways to drive traffic to your web site for the foreseeable future. This is because they deliver highly specific, referral traffic to your web site. These visitors arrive unrelated to the paid advertising that you do elsewhere. A person searching for a particular phrase on a search engine is presented with a selection of "query results". In this newsletter, we will look at some effective strategies for getting "indexed" correctly, because this should be the only goal. A first position ranking in the "query results" page is the "holy grail" of search engine optimization. The more realistic and attainable goal is a substantial increase in "click-thru" by potential customers interested in your web page content. More web pages indexed correctly means better query results. More visitors translates into more sales - your ultimate goal.

      Before I talk about search engine optimization strategies, generally refered to as SEO lets look at this process from the search engine companies perspective. Search engines send out a small software program called a "spider". It "crawls" across the "web" looking to find new or updated web pages. The content of each page is then cataloged, by "reading" the page. This is how Google, Tioma, HotBot, Inktomi and others "know" what your web pages contain. In the early days of the web, Yahoo was famous for manually reviewing each site added to it�s index. There was a bit of "status" associated with being worthy of a Yahoo listing. Now most cataloging is done by software. Knowing this, It makes sense then to make every page in your site as attractive as possible to the "spiders". Make their job easy and your rankings within these results pages will improve.

      Now, Back to the search process for a moment. When a surfer queries with < Keywords > the most relevant, accurately matched pages will be displayed at the top of the results page. Search engines are not interested in helping you attain a "number 1" ranking. They exist to assist in finding the most relevant information matching the < Keyword > query. The goal of a search engine company is to build it�s reputation as an effective, quick way to find matches to < Keywords > entered by web surfers. Some search engines do offer "paid placement" and "pay per click" programs as advertising options, but most go to great lengths to profess the independence and "purity" of the results page. You can read more about how "paid placement" works in the VectorInter.Net newsletter archives.   Success in any search engine optimization plan should be measured by how well each page is accurately cataloged, or "indexed" by the various search engine "spiders". Done well, search engine optimization really only means accurately reflecting the true content of every page in your web site. As a web site operator, you want your pages available to searchers looking for your content. Everything else is just "gamesmanship" and will produce very little in productive, additional traffic. This leads me to the first suggestion I make anytime search engine optimization is discussed.

      Build your web pages with quality content. Nothing helps improve search engine rankings more than offering what the searcher is looking for, without gimmicks or tricks. Write your web pages text ( called �copy� from the early newspaper days ) to provide complete information for your web site visitors. That is not to say you shouldn�t sprinkle the < Keywords > you expect searchers to use throughout the copy on your pages. Some spiders only �read� the first paragraph or two. Keep that in mind when writing your copy too, but use restraint. Don�t go crazy stuffing every keyword you can think of into your page copy so that it sounds strange when read aloud. Rewrite and edit your pages until they read correctly. Remember potential customers will be trying to comprehend what you�ve written too. Ultimately, your web pages make the sale, not the search engine rankings.

      A related ( Here come those words again, Hint! Hint! ) search engine optimization topic is �Keyword Density�. This is the ratio of < Keywords > on your visible page to non-keywords in the total text copy of the page. If you have 100 words on your page and 3 of those words are "camera" or "cameras", then you will get a �Keyword Density� of 3% of your text for the word "camera". Try to aim for a density on your site of 3-15%. This will give you a good range. You can analyze your keyword density by using It�s free and will give you an idea of some other changes you may want to make to your web pages.

      Don�t forget to put < Keywords >< into your domain name or the URL address of each web page. Incorporating different < Keywords > into your domain name ( ) may be difficult if you offer many products or services, but may help potential customers remember your name. A memorable URL name aids in recall when they are looking for your web site too. Search Engines read URL addresses, so using < Keywords > in the specific web page address will be helpful. Look at the web address for this page in your browser bar. How many < Keywords > do you see?

      Another critical detail SEO is to keep all page links on your site up to date. Part of any good search engine optimization plan is to keep your pages very fresh, and up to date. Visitors get frustrated when they click an interesting link and get a �404 error page�. You can be forgotten, if your potential customer is off chasing another site that no longer exist. Broken links are a sign of poorly maintained web pages. Some search engine directories will not list your site if it has too many broken links. You can check the links on your web site at

      The next suggestion is to maximize the opportunity presented by inserting Meta Tags into the HTML code of your web site. Every single web page within your site should have individualized Meta Tags. This allows each of them, (not just your �Home� page) to be listed within the search engine index. If you don�t know how Meta Tags work, read more about them in the VectorInter.Net Newsletter archives. If you merchandise several products or services, Individual, product-specific pages can broaden the opportunities for potential customer to find you. There are several Meta Tags, but the most important ones are:

      The page < Title > It�s the first thing that people see when your site appears in any search engine results. Each < Title > should be short and descriptive, about 5-8 words and contain your < Keywords > or phrases. Write them as simply as possible with proper capitalization and phrasing. This makes it easier to read. Did you ever notice that < Titles > with all words capitalized are difficult to read? Place your most important keyword phrase toward the beginning of your < Title > tag.
      A < Description > Meta Tag should also be very specific to each web page on your site. Most search engines display this text below your title in query results. Here�s an opportunity to attract potential customers with a tempting description, reflective of the true content on that page. Don't just repeat your < Title > description. Remember surfer will see both sets of descriptive sentences. Use the most accurate < Keywords >, but intelligent descriptions work better than �hype�.
       A < Keyword > Meta Tag is primarily for the search engine �spiders�. They will use these < Keywords > to catalog, or �index� your web pages. A little research will help you determine the 25-40 most common words used when surfer are looking for your product or service. These are the < Keywords >< you want, but they should match the true content in your web page. Remember this when copywriting your pages in the first place.
The Atonium building in Brussels, Begium; built for the 1958 World's Fair. copyright -
      Every photo image on your web site should have < ALT > Tag. They were originally designed for people surfing the Web with the graphics turned off because of slow 14kb modems. It enabled them to see a description of the missing image. Today, < ALT > Tags are a source of < Keywords > for search engines. Write a thoughtful description of the image, including appropriate < Keywords >, but make sure the words and phrases you select reflect the image content. While we are discussing photos, Let me suggest that you change the name of the image itself to reflect the content too. Search engine spiders read HTML code. Which image will help catalog your web page.... R345.jpg or Atonium_Brussels.jpg? The building in the example to the right is the Atonium in Brussels, Belguim.
      One rather rare and obscure Meta Tag is the < Comment > Tag. It was originally used by web designers to document work, or notate the structure web pages. Write a sentence using some of your most important < Keywords >, place it in a < Comment > tag and insert the tag in your < BODY > copy. Read more about how < Title >, < Description >, < Keywords >, < ALT >,< Comment > and others Tags work in the VectorInter.Net newsletter archives.
      Here's another SEO hint. Do you suspect the BOLD and italic text may be used as an indicator of content on a web page?

       A little more advanced technique for search engine optimization, requires knowledge of HTML code. When designing pages, use CSS (cascading style sheets) to control the �look and feel� of your displayed web page. Some search engines place emphasis on the header tags. Using H1, H2, H3 and H4 headers at the top of your web page may help the search engine �spiders� index your page content more effectively. CSS helps you avoid the problem of your text appearing too large, too plain, too ugly, too etc... when just using HTML for H tags. Keep your file sizes small. Javascript, DHTML and other function code at the top of a page will often push your web copy (with your < Keywords >) to the bottom of your web page. Some search engines only read the first few paragraphs near the top of your page. Store your �Scripts� and CSS code in an external file, leaving the < Keywords > where they can be found.

      What do the �links� on your web pages look like? Search engine spiders read these bits of computer code too. When planning your web pages put < Keywords > in the links you provide to other pages and sites. Rather than using text in a navigation link like "More info", use a < Keywords > or phrase. A link text of �more Whitewater Rafting info� helps your page ranking and is more descriptive to the viewer anyway. If you use images as links, add a text label as I mentioned above. Search engines (especially Google) place a high value on web links you are trading with other web sites. If �everybody� links into your site, you must have valuable content, Right? At VectorInter.Net we suggest outbound links at appropriate spots inside your page copy, in addition to the usual �links page�. Notice how this page links to the resource web sites mentioned above. The most valuable links ( as far as search engine optimization is concerned. ) are reciprocal web links. This means I link to your page, and your page links back to me. Trading links is another great way to improve your �status�. How do you find partners to trade with? Many manufacturers have �dealer locator� pages. That�s a great link. ( and a good source of traffic too). Ask sites that link to your competition to link to your site also. Make sure your link partners don't compete with you on product lines, of course, and that they are quality links. The example I always use is a web site selling peanut butter. Great links would be to a site selling bread, to a site selling jelly, and one selling jam. Each link is logical, without direct impact on the sales of peanut butter. Links that already have a high search engine ranking in their category will help you improve rankings in your category. How do you find out which sites are linking to your competition, visit any search engine and enter " link: www.any Web � The results page will show you each ( indexed) link. It goes without saying, If you own multiple websites, cross link them all. Many companies do this with the English, French, German and Japanese language web sites, they operate at individual web addresses.

      Up to this point, my SEO suggestions have been basic, thoughtful page design issues. Let me mention two controversial design elements that may help improve your search engine optimization plans. The first is to create a site map and place it one click from your �Home Page�. A site map contains links to all the sections and every page of your site, no matter how �deep� or minor the page is. The viewer sees it as a simple way to quickly find the information they seek. Search engine spiders MAY use it as a road map to find all the pages in your web site. Write a Keyword-rich description for each section or page listed. There is some controversy about the effectiveness of this tool. Too many web sites abused this devise, so some search engine "spiders" were built smart enough to avoid this trap and only following �navigable� page links. This is why I make the suggestion noted above. Use content links internal to each page! Our opinion about �site map pages� specifically for �spiders� changes depending on the content of a clients web site. At VectorInter.Net, we do not have site maps on our own pages.

       Another controversial suggestion is to create a specific �contact us� page for search engines. Some business / merchant directories ( ie. Yahoo, National Association / Realtors and other �trade groups� ) will not list your web site in their preferred sections unless your �contact us� page has a legitimate street address. Post Office box addresses won�t do. We believe each business should decide which information is made public. There are many legitimate reasons for not posting a street address for non-retail store businesses. The �contact us� page for VectorInter.Net does not contain street addresses for any of our HQ offices or data-centre facilities. We work in what we hope is a secure telecommunications facility, and are not interested in being �high profile� in today�s world. Many high profile writers, consultants, financial advisors and home-based businesses prefer to selectively make address information public. In the internet age, Privicy is something to value highly, and you shouldn�t feel guilty or pressured into disclosing more than is required to do ethical business.

In Summary:
      Search engine optimization should be viewed as an evolving process not a chore to be completed. All the SEO suggestions I�ve made here can be implemented by even the simplest �Do It Yourself� web page design programs. It will just require forethought and planning. Strive to create simple, clean designs for your web site. Focus on good quality content with well-written, < Keyword > rich copy, based on how it will benefit the visitor. Easily navigable web pages help potential customers find the product they want, while helping the �spiders� index every page correctly. The most common search terms called < Keywords > will change as shopping habits evolve. You�ll need to adapt. Reciprocal web links will come and go as relationships change. Implement the suggestions I�ve offered and the traffic to your web site will increase dramatically. When you are ready for more advanced help in achieving a top ranking in the search engines, Contact the VectorInter.Net office nearest you.

      Learn "How Search Engine Spiders Work" or "The Common Traits of Successful Web sites and Who invented the @ symbol in every E-mail.
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