Monday, October 10, 2005

Chasing the Search Engines' Algorithms... Should You or Shouldn't You?

Chasing the Search Engines' Algorithms... Should You or Shouldn't You?
By Robin Nobles

It’s a common occurrence. SEOs often spend countless hours trying to 'break" a search engine's algorithms. "If I could just crack Google's algorithm, my pages would soar to the top of the rankings!" Let's look at some flaws in this way of thinking.

1. Picture the Google engineers and tech folks turning the algorithms dial as soon as you "think" you have "cracked" the algorithms. Your rankings may fall, and you would have to figure out what's working with the engine right now. In other words, your rankings may never be long term.

2. Instead of spending all of this time trying to impress a search engine with a perfect page, why not impress your true target audience... your customers. Has Google, MSN, or Yahoo! Search ever bought anything from you? They're not your target audience. Your customers are your target audience. Write your pages and content for them.

3. When you expend so much of your energy chasing algorithms, you often focus on only a few elements that influence ranking – those elements that are working right now and that you hope will give your pages the best chance for success. It is said that Google has over 100 ranking elements that influence ranking and relevancy. Some are more important than others. But focusing on just one or two "main" elements and discounting the rest can prove disastrous to a Web site.

A different approach . . . Wouldn't you rather achieve top rankings and keep them there, and have those rankings equate to sales and money in your back pocket? After all, isn't it ultimately the sales you're after, as opposed to just the rankings? If those rankings don't equate to traffïc that equates to sales, you lose, any way you look at it.

Five Basic Steps for Achieving Top Rankings without Chasing Algorithms
1. Forget about the search engines. Yes, you heard me correctly. The search engines aren't and never will be your "ideal target audience." They don't buy your goods and services. They're not who you should be trying to please with your Web pages and site. Instead, write your Web page content for your target audience.

2. Don't ever forget the basics. No matter what's happening in the algorithms, continue using your main keyword phrase prominently in your title tag, META description and keyword tags, link text, body, heading tags, and so forth. That way, when the algo dial is turned, you won't have to make changes to all of your pages. You'll always be ready.

3. Focus your keyword-containing tags and body text on one keyword phrase only. Each page should be focused on one keyword phrase, and each page should have its own unique tags.

4. Write well-crafted content for your Web pages, and add new content on a regular basis. If content is king, context is queen. Focus on your keyword phrase, synonyms and related words, and surrounding text. Use a program like Theme Master if you need help determining those supporting words.

5. Remember that both on-page and off-page factors are important. Don't sacrifice one for the other. On-page factors are your tags, body text, prominence, relevance, etc. Off-page factors are link popularity (quality and number of your inbound links) and link reputation (what those inbound links "say" about your Web page when they link to you).

What about search engine research? Isn't it important? - - It's crucial.
Let me give you an example. At the beginning of this year, pages began falling out of Google's index. The forums were alive with speculation and what to do about it. Through research, we determined this was a compliancy issue. By having compliant code, the search engine spiders are more easily able to spider the content. The solution? Make sure you use a DOCTYPE tag and an ISO Character Set Statement at the top of every Web page.

For example:

If you didn't know about the compliancy issues, you could have made changes to your Web pages that didn't need to be made, wasted countless hours trying this or that, all to come up dry. Research helps to make sure you remain on top of what's happening in the search engine industry. It's what sets you apart from other SEOs. You make your decisions based on research and facts, versus speculation and theory.

In Conclusion...
"Take it from someone who has been in this business for nine years and studies the algorithms closely - don't chase the algorithms. You say that you have a #2 ranking for a certain keyword phrase that alone is bringing your site 550 visitors per day? Great. In the time that you have spent gaining that ranking, I have written 285 pages of unique content, obtained 821 links, etc., and collectively I am getting over 1,300 visitors per day," says Jerry West of WebMarketingNow.

In other words, by focusing on more than just chasing algorithms, you have the potential of having a much more successful Web site.

About The Author
Robin Nobles conducts live SEO workshops in locations across North America. She also teaches online SEO training and offers the Workshop Resource Center, a networking community for SEOs. Localized SEO training is being offered through the Search Engine Academy. Copyright 2005 Robin Nobles. All rights reserved.

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