Outwitting the algorithms to boost your site’s hits

October 3, 2009 | By | Category: General News, Student Newsroom

By Austin Fast

Search marketing experts Jennifer Groppone and Gradiva Couzin know a secret that Google and the big search engines don’t want you know. They call search engine optimization a hidden entity that search engines try to keep quiet—mostly because people can exploit it and boost their own rankings in search engine results.

A mysterious search-ranking algorithm determines organic search results—that is, results as they naturally rank. Groppone says we don’t know exactly what this algorithm looks at when ranking results organically. But she offered some educated guesses at actions bloggers and online journalists can take to optimize their site’s placement in organic search results along with some surefire ways to inadvertently sabotage those rankings.

How to improve your Web site’s rankings

  1. Place keywords in the HTML title and divorce it from the article title if necessary. Some article titles can be too specific for search purposes and will never be found. Use more general keywords in the HTML title that describe the article to attract more hits.
  2. Use text keywords in the URL if possible. Rather than a string of numbers leading to a Web page, use the HTML title in the article’s URL.
  3. In article titles, use full first and last names, include proper names and locations; use numeric forms for numbers and include a meaningful descriptor. For example, use “Movie Review: ‘Up’ Flies High” instead of “’Up’ Flies High,” or include the word “Watch” if a video is on the page. Also, avoid abbreviations and alternate spellings.
  4. Forget using Meta tag keywords in the HTML. Grappone says, “It’s not going to hurt you, but you’re wasting a lot of time on it.” Couzin adds, “Your time would be better spent doing something else.”
  5. Get people to link to your site. Search engines will see this as a vote for your site. Links from “more credible” and “trustworthy” sites boost your ranking more. However, not all links are created equal. They must not be paid links and any link on pages behind a login, like Twitter or Facebook, won’t help rankings.
  6. Track trends that people are interested in reading about right now. Use tools like Google Trends, Google Insight, Google AdWords, Facebook Lexicon, Twitter Streamgraphs and Yahoo! Buzz to find out what people want to see on your page.

How to destroy your Web site’s rankings:

  1. Have excessive duplicate content. Consider using canonical tags in your HTML code to cut down duplicate content in URLs.
  2. Violate search engine spam rules with your content.
  3. Have text in other languages that can’t be read by English-dominated American search engines.

Austin Fast is a senior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is part of the ONA09 student newsroom.

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