Search Engine Tutorial

Things Search Engines Look For

If you understand what the search engine optimization process is, the next step is to understand how many factors the search engines actually do look at. Many search engines suggest in their documentation and discussions that there are numerous factors that various search engines look for, and can affect how a web site ranks in their search engine. There are about 20 factors that are very obvious and others that are less obvious, and much harder if not impossible to prove. Furthermore, each search engine weights each of these factors differently, and places the emphasis in different spots.

The List Of Some Things Search Engines Look For:

  1. Title tag - You need a relevant title, not just "Home Page" Use it for 5 key words.
  2. Headings - The search engines view < h> tags as being terms of emphasis - they give weight to the words within them. Put key terms in them.
  3. Bold - Of lesser importance than < h> tags. the < b> tags still emphasize terms of importance.
  4. Alt text - Use descriptive short sentences in your alt tags. If it's a picture of a rose, and you're a florist try "Red Rose - Available at 'name' Flower Shop"
  5. Email addresses on page - if you put up an address, make sure the domain name in the address matches the web site domain. The search engines look at it as 'cheesy'if you don't.
  6. Keyword metatags - Some engines use them directly, some check them as part of a validation process - "do they match the content" If they don't then is this a spam site?
  7. Meta description tag - Most engines look at this tag. Use distinct ones throughout your site, and distinct ones for each page. Make them particular to that page.
  8. Key term placement - Terms that are higher up on a page are more heavily weighted.
  9. Key term proximity - Terms that are close together are probably related, and thus the site will show up in searches for those terms.
  10. Comment tags - Some engines use comment tags for content. Most engines look for them in graphic rich / text poor sites.
  11. Page structure validation - proper coding is likely to be of better overall quality, and thus rewarded.
  12. Traffic/Visitors - The search engines do keep track of how many people follow their links.
  13. Link Popularity (PageRank in Google's case).
  14. Anchor Text of inbound links
  15. Rating of pages linking to this page
  16. Presence on marked authority pages. (DMOZ)
  17. Url quotation - i.e. when a page mentions the site by url but doesn't link to it. This commonly occurs in news articles that mention web sites. While it doesn't count as a link, it does count as a reference.
  18. Number of links on pages linking to this page. If the link to your web site is the only one from a page, it's viewed as being more valuable than being one link among 100.
  19. Freshness of links on pages linking to your web site. While the engines will count all links, a link from a web site that has not been updated in a year or two will be less valuable than from one that is updated daily. It indicates activity / interest levels.
  20. Page Last Modified (Freshness)- just like the last point a page that is updated frequently is favoured.
  21. Reciprocal Links - Search engines like to see a closed loop - that a referring site as also used as a reference. So when you are giving away a link, ask for one back. It will help both websites.
  22. Keyword frequency across all pages. Does the content really talk to the subject which the page and the web site is supposed to be about?
  23. Keywords in the url
  24. Response Time - If your site is fast, it's favored.
  25. Server Downtime - If the search engine robot comes by and frequently can't connect sometimes, they penalize your site.
  26. Page Size - The engines tend to weigh content at the start of a document more than content further down. If a page is long, look at breaking it into sections. If a page is over 50k, then it's too long.
Some Factors Which May Affect Search Engine Ranking
  1. Domain Extension - New extensions are not always immediately recognized by the search engines. This was a problem for .cc and .biz sites in the early going.
  2. Subdomains - If your web site is ', and '' has engaged in any unsavoury search engine spamming, your site will be affected.
  3. IP Address/Range - This is a bit like the last point. If the search engines have had problems with many sites from one hosting company, they may degrade all the sites from that comapny's IP range. It makes the hosting companies behave.
  4. "Domain in use since" The longer it's live the better it's generally viewed. Kind of a respect thy elders thing...
Negatives That Affect Your Position Within The Search Engines
  1. Broken links - Internally and outgoing.
  2. Spam - Read our section on search engine spam for details.
  3. Metatag Stuffing.
  4. Irrelevance - If you use irrelevant keywords, description, etc.
  5. Tiny Text. - If you use text that is too small for the eye to see.
  6. Invisible Text - Text the same color as the background.
  7. Meta Refresh Tag - (see Cloaking)
  8. Redirects - Where when you try and get to one page, but the address changes to a different one.
  9. Excessive Search Engine Submission - oversubmitting may get your site banned.
  10. Frames - Be careful when you use them. You need to embed key terms in them, because generally, the search engines can only see the frame, and not the primary content that you see as visible.
  11. Empty Alt Tags - Leaving these empty shows is poorly viewed. It's akin to bad coding.
  12. Compounded Words in the content, or tags will not help the web site for individual terms - i.e - 'hammersandnails' as opposed to 'hammers and nails'.
  13. Excessive punctuation in the TITLE and description tags - wastes precious space, and some characters are ignored or may cause a problem with the spider (the pipe "|" is a great one that should be avoided).

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