Sunday, September 18, 2005

Keywords, Competition, Being Number One Uncovering the Algorithm

Keywords, Competition, Being Number One Uncovering the Algorithm
By John Krycek (c) 2005

By following these steps you will see that most closely guarded secret-- the search algorithm. Remember the movie "the Matrix?" The Matrix is there, you just can't see it. So is the search algorithm. It's easy to pay a Search Engine Optimizer to give your pages some ranking power. Unfortunately, given the inherent time factor involved in climbing the ranks, your money may be long gone before you know if you've spent your money well.

There Is No Magic Pill
Forget any advertisement you see for instant number one search results or automated this or that. Most are scams, and the ones that aren't might get you positioned, but it will be very short lived.

Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. Achieving and maintaining a high rank, especially on highly competitive keywords, requires constant maintenance. If you do find a legitimate SEO firm, it is well worth the money to pay their monthly maintenance fee and let them continue to help you after the initial project. At least for 6 months or a year as you establish yourself.

In this article we'll look at some of the intricate and complex tasks of optimizing a page for long term ranking power. You will learn how to read between the code and the content to find what is necessary to bring you to the top. Being number one is easy to say, but is quickly overwhelming when you stare at tens of thousands of pages you want to out rank. So how do you begin?

The starting line on the road to that first page SERP (search engine results page) ranking is not as blurry as you might think. In fact, you can uncover the starting line, the route, and all the scenery along the way to the finish line without knowing the search engine algorithm.

STEP 1-
Your Keywords Are The Crowning Achievement Of Grueling Days Of Work

If you have investments in the stock market you know how much research and thought goes into choosing those securities. Now take that same effort and multiply it by three. That's how much planning and revision your keywords should take.

A simple, broad key phrase like "shoes" could hypothetically bring you up in a countless stream of different searches. Women's shoes, baby shoes, sneakers, high heels, etc. If somehow you manage to settle into a good ranking (which would be difficult) you would have more traffic on your site than you could handle. But traffic is worthless if it doesn't get to it's destination.

Chances are, you weren't that destination.

Your keywords must be focused and precise, specific to what you are selling. Using a key phrase like "Gucci mens black leather loafer" will bring a targeted lead to your site. You may not reach as many people as the more generalized keyword, but the people that do come to you have a much deeper interest in the specific product you are selling.

Therefore you have much greater chance of converting that targeted lead to a sale. Your keywords are your magic beans, your winning lotto numbers, your energizer bunnies, your sales force, whatever you want to call them. They must be perfect.

STEP 2-
Want To Be Number One? Look At Who Already Is

Competition Analysis- no SEO book can give you this information.

Now take your keyword list and type them into a search engine. Who comes up in the first ten results? That company that is number one is because they have most closely matched what the search engine algorithm says should be number one. You can learn a great deal from them.

A. Internal Factors
Take that number one page, and the other top 9 pages and study them, look at the code, break them down. You are looking at the first half of what is needed to rank in the top 10 pages for your key phrases on that particular search engine. The list of what to look for is enormous.
Studying the Internal Factors on a page is taking it apart to see how it's put together. Not how it works, but statistical research into the precise construct and layout of keywords and phrases in relation to each other within the page.

Start with these areas:
URL address, Page Title, Meta description, Meta Keywords, First sentence on the page, Body copy, Bold or Emphasized Phrases, H1 or other tags, Alt Tags, Navigation system

In each of those sections, look at:

* Keyword densities- the number of times your phrase and each word in your phrase appears
compared to the text around it
* Where, and how many times, the same phrase and words appear in different sections
* The word and character position of each phrase in each section
* The total number of characters
* The total number of words

Beginning with these comparisons should keep you quite busy for awhile. A spreadsheet is quite useful. Some commercial products are also available that can make this daunting task much more feasible. Keep looking for other patterns and differences. You want to duplicate them in your own page. NOT copy and steal. You want to mimic the patterns that are bringing that page to the position it's in. Then move onto to examining the external factors of these pages.

B. External Factors
External factors of a web page deal with the links to, from and within a web page, both inside the same site, and out into the web. This analysis usually takes more time because it involves more dissection of pages beyond the one you're trying to optimize. In this analysis, as with Internal Factors, you want to compare and contrast your page versus the top 10 competitors, find similarities and differences. Below is a list of criteria to get you started.

* Number of internal links (to the same site) on that page
* Number of external links
* Number of links pointing TO that page* (see below for details)
* The link/anchor text- which keywords are used and where
* Google Page Rank value of incoming links
* Alexa Rank of incoming links
* The quality and thought of the content

To get a listing of the links that point to a site, type the following into Google, MSN and Yahoo searches: "link:www.domainname.com". Google tends to only show a small portion of the links back, but MSN and Yahoo will give you much more pertinent data.

Now you want to compare the content on each of these pages to the one they point to. Is it of similar theme, in what context does the link back appear and where. Subject of much debate, the consensus is that Google Page Rank does not mean what it used to. However, if it is in some fashion a measure of how significant or "important" a site is, it is worth looking more closely at the sites that link back that are of high page rank.

Even A Surgeon Uses Tools
Now, this is definitely a ton of work to do all by hand. There are software programs that can help do some of the digging and mathematical computations for you, figuring out densities and organizing information.
Tools like this are definitely ones a professional SEO will have in their arsenal. But remember, these are tools, not miracle workers. It takes a human being to evaluate and realize connections, similarities, draw conclusions and interpret the data. Then, you have to extrapolate this data.
Remember, you want to do one better than every site you just examined. To do that you have to draw some conclusions and make some educated guesses and link to even better sites.

Final Thoughts
You have access to the inner workings of every page that you want to beat. Learn from them and do one better. This process is not a one-time shot. It is ongoing. Check your key phrases every week. Do the same people still rank in the top ten?
Some have probably moved. Remember too that they're going to adapt to maintain their positions too. If you want the ranks, you have to spend the time, and not just once, or pay someone to do it for you.

Don't ever believe anyone who says they can guarantee any kind of results. And ask them how they will optimize your pages. If they explain to you something like the above, then you've probably got yourself someone experienced and honest. Your money will be well spent and you'll quickly recover it.

About The Author
John Krycek is the owner and creative director of theMouseworks.ca web design in Toronto. Learn more about search engine optimization and internet marketing in easy, non-technical, up front English!

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