By: Chris Bennett

Search Engines Rank Web Pages not Web Sites

April 12, 2006

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The search engines don’t rank web sites, they rank web pages. Surprisingly not a lot of web site owners understand this principle and how it relates to basic site structure. Understanding how search engines work is the first step to understanding how your web site should be laid out. I have been addressing this a lot lately so I wanted to post about it.

First the search engines rank web pages, that means that each page of your site can be optimized and ranked for a different set of keywords. When I say each page of your site I mean that loosely, I have seen sites that try to rank their contact us, and privacy policies pages before, for words totally un-related to contacting someone or privacy. This is unnecessary, besides wouldn’t you rather have a searcher land on your site through a page created for sales and not a bunch of legal jargon.

You are allowed two pages of your site to be listed for the same keyword, you have probably seen this in the search results where it will show a page and then indent the next listing if it is from the same site. If this is true then why do people optimize their META Tags and content for more than two pages of their site? I think a lot of site owners try to optimize all their pages for the same big keywords trying hope one of them gets ranked high.

A search engines business is to bring back the most relevant results for your search query. And they look at all kinds of different aspects of a web page (not site) in order to generate the best results in the top ten.

They look at:

Title Tags: This is what shows up in the search results and in the top of your browser. It is still an important part of ranking in the search engines, however it is not near what it used to be. We recommend to keep your title as short as possible and don’t fill it with any fluff or non keywords. Also don’t repeat the same Phrase twice. A word is O.K. to be written twice but not phrases, that can be considered keyword stuffing. Pick two or three phrases that are very related to each other and use them. Anything that is not related that you want to rank for create another page and include those words in the title of that page. *also don’t include your domain name in your title unless it is an actual keyword phrase that you want to show up for. 9 times out of 10 you will rank for your domain name eventually, you do not need to waste space in your title tag to list your domain or business name.

META Description: The META Description tag is still somewhat important to the search engines, especially Yahoo and MSN and others with similar algorithms, but not Google. This should be short and sweet, and compelling. Yahoo, MSN and sometimes Google will show your META description in the search results and this can help drive click-thought to your site. Don’t repeat phrases over and over again, write it so it flows well, and don’t stuff it full of or list keywords.

META Keywords: List the phrases only relevant to that page and dont repeat the same phrases at all. Keep it short. This phrase is barely counted in the search engine’s algorithms, especially in very competitive terms. Don’t expect this tag to help your rankings. However if spammed and keyword stuffed it can hurt your rankings.

Content: This is the actual text of your site, this is what the search engines and your traffic will be paying attention to. Write it with your viewers in mind, dont write it just for the search engines. Have a lot of content, but make sure it is good and not just repeated, keyword stuffed sentences. We recommend at least 500 words of content. And as far as keyword density every industry and keyword phrase is different. the old days of sticking to a certain % of keywords to non keywords is over. What you should do is look at the sites that rank in the top ten for the same industry and words you want to and analyze their text. How many total words on the homepage, how many are keywords etc..

*Don’t list any keywords in your Title and META tags that aren’t in the content of that page. There is nothing relevant about that.

A good example to illistrate quality site structure is targeting regional specific keywords like cities and states. Set up pages for each of them. Don’t try to rank the same page for Arizona and California. You may get top ten for both words, but you will have a much better chance of number one rankings with two seperate pages for each city. Pick your biggest keywords for the homepage and then use the others through subpages. This can be illistrated easily in the eCommerce world as well. If you are selling Digital Cameras and you offer all different types of Manufacturers, your homepage should go after words like “Online Digital Camera Store” Or “Digital Cameras for sale” and then set up a page for Olympus name it olympus and the put “Olympus Digital Cameras” and variations of that in the title. And so on for Cannon and Fuji.

Each page becomes relevant for the specific set of words, which gives you more keywords to target, more traffic and noticably higher conversion rates. (if someone searches for Fuji that is what they are looking for, they dont want to see Olympus)

URL’S and File Names: Name your pages with a the keyword that is best for that page. For example www.domain.com/keyword. Search Engines also look at this and it can help label that page for relevance on the keyword you are targeting. Don’t spam it with every keyword you can think of. Just the biggest one for that page. If you are using more than one word then use a dash in between the words not an underscore or anything else. *Note if you are using a web builder make sure it has Search Engine Friendly (SEF) Url capabilities or you will be stuck with urls that look like this: www.domain.com/id34?=+ghufjsd=vdi6 These are dynamic Url’s that most web builders use to create your pages with ease. And they are very hard for the search engines to spider and index.

Make sure that every page that you create is linked to from somewhere on your site. A page that cannot be found via links in your site is called an orphan page and they are not good. If you are creating Orphans for Adword campaigns or email blasts, and you don’t want to link to them, then put them in a robot.txt file. This will block the search engines from spidering the page. Read here for setting up Robot.txt files.

In Bound Links: This is the most important aspect to ranking a site and I could blog pages and pages on this and we will soon. But here are some important aspects to follow. Make sure pages that are related to you are linking to you. If you sell cameras why is a dog walking page linking to you? Try not to engage in reciprocal linking with other sites, unless it is relevant and there is traffic potential in the link and not just Link popularity. Also the link text is very important to help your sites rankings. This is called anchored text. We will do a post on just this very soon, but for now what this means is, if I am linking to our Corporate site www.97thlfoor.com it will help me out more if I use a keyword as the link. Example: Utah Search Engine Optimization This is using keywords to describe the site through the link and it goes a long way with the search engines. Link Popularity and Anchor Text is what put Google on the map. It is one of the main aspects of their algorithm that set them apart from the other engines when it came out.

If search engines look at the Title, META, Content, URL and Links of your site when determining relevance in rankings, and you optimize for each of them, then you are relevant.

Written by Chris Bennett on April 12, 2006

Chris Bennett is the Founder and CEO of 97th Floor. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him below.

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