Below is a compilation of tips how to improve your site’s listing in search results.
Search Engine Basics
The top three search engines on the market are Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Other search
engines include AskJeeves, AOL, Dogpile, AltaVista, and Lycos, but of course there are
many more out there. Realistically these other search engines only make up about 17% of
the market.
Search engines work off of a few different factors to help them retrieve Web sites for search
results. These include:
1. Crawling the Web – Search engines use automated programs called “bots” or
“spiders”. These programs use hyperlinks to go from one page of a site to another.
They collect information from the Web page and return it to the search engine’s
database for indexing.
2. Indexing Documents – The indexing of Web pages is what allows Web sites to be
returned based on the users search request.
3. Processing Search Requests – When a request comes in, the search engine goes
to its database to search through all of the indexing of Web pages to return results
that best match the user’s search request.
4. PageRanking of Results - When the search engine has compiled the list of best
matches, it has to determine what order to put the results in. Search engines use
algorithms to run calculations to determine which results are most relevant to the
search request. These algorithms mainly look at the number of incoming links from
other Web pages/sites. In simple terms, each link to a page on your site to another
site adds to your site’s PageRanking. However not all links are given the same
importance. Google, for example, works hard to identify spam links and other
practices where owners of sites just put up links to artificially improve rankings. The
best types of links are those that are given based on the quality of your content,
such as links found in business listings, business groups, educational listings, blogs,
press listings, ect.
The two most important factors of how the search engine works pertaining to Web sites are
Crawling and PageRank.
Crawling Your Web Site & PageRankings
Here are a few best practices that you can follow (and also a few hurdles to avoid) to help
“bots” and “spiders” crawl your Web Site and improve your PageRankings.
Best Practices:
1. Have clear and effective title tags on every page. Title tags are a key factor for
PageRank. Titles should be clean yet informative as to what content is on the page as
well as use search terms if possible. We always suggest that titles end with the
associations name or acronym. Titles should also “present well” as they are used for
the actual text links presented to the user by search engines. Titles should be no
more than 70 characters.
2. Make sure you have meta tags in your site. The two important Meta tags are
Keywords and Description. The Keywords are words and phrases that a user might
enter when searching for your site, such as “cotton information” (more details will be
provided below). Description is a brief description about the site and information
provided. The description is often shown below the title tag link in search results. A
description should be no more than 155 characters.
3. Make sure your site has a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page in the site
should be reachable from at least one static text link. Do not rely on navigations that
are image base, or Javascript based such as flyouts or drop-downs. Navigation should
flow from broad to narrow. You should also have a complete site map that is text
4. Make sure your site is search friendly. Search engine “bots” and “spiders” have
to have the ability to search the information on the site to index it. Often bots and
spiders are unable to search text that is embedded in a Java application, Macromedia
Flash files, video files, document files, text that is only accessible from submitted
forms, and image files. With image files, they are able to access alt tag descriptions.
Therefore, image alt tags should be as descriptive as possible. Text links to files
found in content can also be extended upon to represent what is in the document,
such as “View the 2009 Cotton Gin Report for the US”.
5. Make the primary terms/phrases prominent in your site content. Making the
phrases and words that appear in your keywords prominent on the site will help with
the with reiteration and can also help with PageRankings.
6. Have a robots.txt file referenced on your site. The robots text file indicates to
crawlers which directories can and cannot be crawled on the site. More information
can be found at
Negative Practices (Avoid these):
1. Pages with more than 100 unique links to other pages on the site.
2. Pages that are split into frames.
3. Pages only accessible via a select form or submit button.
4. Pages requiring a drop down menu to access them.
5. Documents only accessible via a search box.
6. Pages that require a login.
7. Pages with redirects.
Keywords In Depth
One of the most important components of search engine optimization are the sites
keywords. Keywords are the vital phrases and words users are going to enter in to the
search engine and then be returned with site results. It is important for site owners to
research and then determine the important keywords to describe their site.
When researching, it is important to consider your audience and market. You need to
determine what words users may enter to find your site. You will want to consider
alternative spellings, wordings, and synonyms. You may actually even consider surveying
some of your members.
After you have conducted your research and determined some keywords and phrases, you
may consider using tools out there to help you evaluate the quality & effectiveness of your
keywords and come up with related words and phrases.
good tools out there include:
Meta tags for your keywords are NOT limited to a specific character amount. It is suggested
that you put all of the relevant words and phrases.
Building Links to Your Site
Many search engines base your PageRank on the number of links from other sites to yours.
Search engines often evaluate the relevance of these other sites. Some established ways to
improve the number of links to your site include the following:
1. Submit your site to general directories, such as DMOZ, the Yahoo! Directory, and There are also many directories specifically geared towards
2. Submit your site to relevant niche directories.
3. Submit your site to local sites, such as the chamber of commerce.
4. Submit your site to trade organizations.
5. Always make sure your URL is on items that are published (Press Releases and
Public Relations).
Another new option for links to your sites are blogs. Having users write and link to your site
in a blog can often help in your numbers.
are also tools to help in the evaluation and analysis of links to your site, such as:
Webmaster Tools
Webmasters that oversee many different aspects of site search optimization may be
interested in some more comprehensive tools, like:
1. Google Webmaster Tools, - Google Webmaster
allows you to check for errors, analyze your Meta tags, identify top Google searches,
enhance 404 error pages, and many more options.
2. Yahoo! Site Explorer, - Site Explorer lets you see all of
the pages that Yahoo! has indexed, view site maps, see what other sites are linked to your
site, and much more.
3. MSN Live Search, - Live Search allows you to
troubleshoot the crawling and indexing of site, submit sitemaps, view site statistics
and much more.
4. PageRank SEO Tools, - PageRank allows you to
search keywords, analysis and have keywords suggested, Meta tag generator, see
what sites link to yours, check your PageRanking, and much more.
5. SEOmoz Tools, - SEO features many tools on the home
page to check links, check your site rankings, crawling testers, find popular
searches, analysis keywords, and much more.
Submit Your Site
Many search engines allow you to submit your site to their crawler application. If your site
is not being returned in search results at all, you will definitely want to do this. Many times
you can find the “Submit Your Site” link on the main page of the search engine or in the
Webmaster Tools.
Paid Advertisements
Some search engines offer a paid advertisement program that you can enter your site in.
Many of these are based on a pay-per-click basis. Often the paid advertised sites will appear
at the very top of the search results listing, or to the right. Using paid advertising is one
way to guarantee that your site will be listed in one for the first few results pages.
of the top paid advertising programs are:
Google AdWords,
Yahoo! Advertising,
MSN Live Advertising,
Other Resources
There are many great resources out on the Web about search engine optimization.
are some that we thought might be helpful: