Posted Friday, October 22, 2004
Today's webmaster faces a very common yet disturbing problem: getting a good position on the major search engines. How many times have you ever wondered why, no matter what you do, you can't seem to find your site when you do a search for your keywords on Hotbot or Altavista? And you know, therefore, that no one else is finding your site and you are missing out on heaps of traffic. It is a very frustrating feeling common to webmasters.
According to the 1999 NEC Research Institute report, the Web has over 800 million pages and most major engines only index about 10 per cent of that. To make matters worse, just getting indexed doesn't mean much unless you get indexed and ranked highly for your search terms. That's because most people never bother drill down beyond the first 30 links returned on a search.
The good news is that you can tune up your pages to get that top ranking. It is all a matter of careful analysis of the current top ranking pages to figure out what text proportions and arrangements you need to use on your pages for them to get that same high rank. It is that simple, and many professional webmasters employ this technique very successfully.
The first step is to analyse the pages that are currently ranking at the top of searches for keywords related to your business. Search engines look at almost all parts of a web page to calculate its rank. The title, meta tags, body text, links in the page, alt tags, comments, form hidden fields and headings all usually count. By looking at the exact number of words and keywords in each of these sections in a page that currently ranks highly, then applying those statistics to your own pages, you stand a very high chance of getting a similar high rank. You may not get the exact same rank, primarily because search engines also use some other factors such as a page's popularity to adjust their ranking scores. But you will still get a very good rank near the page that you analysed.
What you would need to do would be to do a search on a keyword or phrase in a search engine. See what page ranks highest for that keyword or phrase. Make sure that the actual page is the same one displayed in the search results and not a redirected page or a newer page. You do this by comparing the file date, file size, and the wording on the title and description as they are on the search engine results and on the actual page. If it isn't the same page that was indexed, move on to the next highest-ranking page. The search engines do not always have the most recent copy of a page on their index. For example, the engine may have indexed a page on, say, June 12, 1998, and that page ranked 2 on your search. However, that page may have been changed, perhaps extensively, by its webmaster after that indexing was done, on maybe July 1, 1998. But that change may not be indexed yet because the engine would revisit that page maybe 2 months later. So if you were doing your search and analysis on June 25, 1998, you would get the old version appearing as a top ranking page, but when you click on to it, you would retrieve the new version of the page. The problem is that it is most likely that the new version would not have the same ranking as the old one! So if you take its statistics and use them, your pages will rank poorly. What you should do always is look a little closer at the information you get from your search results. Many engines provide extra information about each page on their results list such as file size. Look at the reported file size on the search result, then go on to the actual page and see whether the file size is just about the same. On Internet Explorer, you do so by right-clicking on the page and choosing the Properties menu item from the popup menu. Another way of finding out is seeing whether there are any differences in the title and description of the page on the search engine results and on the actual page itself. Most engines use the page title as the title of the search listing, and the meta description or first few words on a page as the description on the results. You might find, for example, that the title on the search result reads 'Super Real Estate Page' and on the actual page it reads 'A Big Super Real Estate Page', meaning that the page currently available is a modified version of the one that was originally indexed at by the search engine.
Meticulously inspect the top ranking page, counting the total words and keyword frequencies on each element of the page. Some elements may be missing; some pages may not have meta tags. Don't worry about that because sometimes an engine may actually give a page a higher rank without the meta tags. One easy and fast way of analysing these pages is by using a software package designed for that. Three such packages are the GRSoftware Keyword Density Analyzer, WebPosition Page Analyzer and PositionWeaver PRO. Use the exact word counts and keyword frequencies found on the top ranking pages. You may be tempted to add or reduce from the word count or frequency a little, but do not do that. That may actually cause your page to rank poorly since it may not pass the fine mathematical margins that engines set.
The next step is to edit your current pages or make new ones that have these exact same statistics. For example, if your current home page has a title that is 17 words long and has your keyword appearing 4 times, and your research indicates that the top-ranking page has a title 8 words long with the keyword appearing once at the beginning of the title, then change your home page that way. Do the same for all the other elements. You can also use software such as PositionWeaver or a database software or script if you can create one to build new pages with these statistics.
Once that is done, the final step is to submit your home page and wait. If you did your job correctly, then in a few days or weeks (sometimes the engines take a while to index) you will see some very encouraging increases on your site traffic. And with the high popularity that the top search engines enjoy, the rewards are very much worth all this effort.
About the Author
David Gikandi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is CEO at SearchPositioning.com (http://www.positionweaver.com).