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By Eddie Moojen
MD of Opentracker.net

As someone who has been involved in website analysis and web site tracking for many years, I am often asked how to improve rankings on the major search engines. So, let me try to explain some of the fundamental principals.

Firstly, Google has a unique way of determining where to place sites in result listings from top to bottom. They use a technology called PageRank.

PageRank is a system for ranking web pages. It relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B.

Links from any page (internal or external) to your site (primarily your homepage) are called backlinks.

Additionally, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or backlinks, a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves 'important' weigh more heavily and help to make other pages 'important'.

Thus, "important, high-quality sites with lots of backlinks have a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Important pages mean nothing to you however if they don't match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important, and relevant to your search."

Google goes far beyond the number of times a search term appears on a page and examines numerous aspects of the page's content (and the content of the pages linking to it), to determine if it's a good match for your query. "

To find out what your site's PageRank is, you have to download the Google toolbar. The toolbar also gives you an easy way to check your backlinks. Finding backlinks can also be done manually on Google, by typing 'link:www.yoursite.com'; (without the ' marks) in the search box.

Additional background information on PageRank can be found at:

1. How to improve your site listings in Google

Check if your site is in the Google database: if your site is new or you are still building the site, add your site as soon as possible. You can add your site manually to Google, or link from a site that has a PageRank. It can take up to a month to see your site turn up in Google. This is improving however. You will turn up much quicker if your site is linked from another site which is frequently 'spidered' by Googlebots; robot-scripts that scan / index the internet page-by-page.

Google spiders are called Googlebots but there are different types of bots. A freshbot, for example, visits you on a regular basis if you make frequent updates. The advantage of being visited by freshbots is that your updates can appear in Google on a daily basis. The more content you add, the more often you are visited. This leads to the importance of adding content.

If you have a link from a site that is often visited by a googlebot, then you can appear in Google within 24 hours.

To determine if your site has recently been visited by a freshbot, do a search on Google for your site (site:mydomain.com). Freshtags, which indicate the recent passage of a freshbot, will appear in the search results as a recent date (shown just below the single line of site description). Some days you will see numerous freshtags, and some days none.

Find link-exchange partners and check their PageRank, a link from a site with a high PageRank is better than one with a low PageRank. The case has been made that linking to a site that has no PageRank will keep your rank down. This is called linking to a 'bad neighbourhood'.

Tip: If you have have found other sites that are willing to link to you, make sure they create an 'anchor' link to your site, as opposed to just a graphic logo-link. An anchor link is a textlink that includes your most important keyword. They have become increasingly important.

2. Optimising your pages for Google

If you have established one or more links from other indexed sites to your own, your site will be visited by Googlebots.

Googlebots scan the content of your pages mainly by looking at the following items:

· Page title
· Meta description
· All text on your page(s)
· Links to other pages

All these items are significant because they should contain your important search keywords. This is a fundamental concept. The entire internet revolves around the choice of individual words. This process is constantly being refined. It is essential that you are clear and accurate whenever choosing your descriptive terminology words. Try and put yourself in the minds of the people who will be looking for your site. What are the one or two words that they will focus on?

Page title
Make sure your title contains your most important search keywords. Do not make your titles longer than 80 characters (more can be considered as spamming).

Meta description
Google does not index your meta 'keywords' tag but it does index your meta 'description' tag. Make sure your description contains your most important search keywords.

All text on your page(s)
Make sure your text contains your most important search keywords. More importantly, the pages should focus on your subject, service, product, or area of interest. Put your most important keywords once in your headers, a couple of times in your paragraphs, once in bold once in italic, in your image alt tags, your image names, your urls, etc.

Links to your other pages
Make sure the Googlebot can find its way through your site. One thing Googlebots find hard to follow is framesets. So if you use frames, make sure you have a <noframes> or hidden section where your text and links are located. Adding a sitemap can do wonders for letting Google index your entire site.

Tip: If you have a button on your website that takes you back to the homepage, link it to your domain name (www.yoursite.com) instead of a page called home.html or index.html. Google doesn't recognize the difference between outbound or inbound backlinks.

For that latest reason, it is also a good practice to use anchor text links within your own site, instead of 'click here’.

3. Content: update your content as frequently as possible.

The more often you update your content, the more often you will be visited by freshbots. Try to add a page a day if possible. The content you generate should be of high quality. Try to find every angle from which you can discuss or describe the subject your site is about. The point is not to generate poor quality or duplicate material. Duplicate pages will lead to penalization. The point is that Google, for example, loves content. It is a question of scale. Think of the old adage 'an apple a day will keep the doctor away'. In this case it can be revised: 'a page a day will send Google your way'. More content, more spider visits, more human visitors, more readers, more pages and so on.

All this will contribute towards strengthening your PageRank and realising a higher position in Google search results.

Published on: 12:00AM on 8th October 2004