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Search Engine Marketing 101: What Search Engines See When They Visit Your Site

By Robin Nobles
Posted Wednesday, June 30, 2004

If you have a Web site, have you ever wondered what a search
engine sees when it visits your site to add the site to its
index? Do you know that it doesn't see the beautiful graphics or
the fancy Web design? Do you know that it only sees the source
code, or the "skeleton" of your Web site?

Do you realize that knowing this little tidbit of information and
doing something about it can make a huge difference in your
search engine rankings and, ultimately, the success of your
online business?

One very important thing that you need to remember is: the search
engines like simplicity. The simpler your Web site is, the easier
it is for the engine to determine what your Web site is about.
And, if the search engine can determine exactly what your Web
site is about, you have a better chance at top rankings under the
keyword phrases that are important for your online business.

Let's look at this concept in action with a page I recently
created for one of my online businesses: Search Engine Workshops.


As you can see, it's a very plain, simple page that was not
created to be the "main" or "home" page of a Web site. Rather, it
was created to pull in traffic through the keyword phrase,
"search engine seminars."

What I really want you to see is the source code of the page. So,
when viewing the page, click on View on the top menu bar, then
Source or Source Code.

The most important part of a Web page is what appears at the very
top of the page. Why? Because a search engine starts at the top
of the page and begins moving down as it indexes.

So, what appears in the section of your Web page is very
important, because the section is at the top of the page.

Let's look at the section of the source code:

There are only three tags in the section of this Web page:
the title tag, the keyword META tag, and the description META
tag. Because the title tag is in the section, and because
of the importance that most engines place on the tag, it is
considered one of the most important tags on your page, so it
should always be the first tag in the section.

Notice that in the title and keyword META tag, the important
keyword phrase (search engine seminars) appears as the first
words in the tag. In the description META tag, the keyword phrase
is still toward the beginning of the tag, as opposed to the end.

In other words, where you place your keyword phrase in the tags
and content of your page is important. If you place your keyword
phrase toward the beginning of all of your important tags and
toward the beginning of the contents, you're "proving" to the
engines that the page is really about that particular topic.

I've mentioned one reason why the title tag is important, but
there's another reason too. The title tag is important because it
almost always appears as the title of the site in the search
engine results. Your description META tag may appear in the
search engine results as well and is considered important by the
some of the engines. So, when you create your title and
description tags, remember two things: put your keyword phrase
toward the beginning of the tags, and make the tags captivating
and designed to pull in traffic.

Think of it this way. If your site is #10 in the search engine
rankings, but if the sites above yours haven't gone to the
trouble to create appealing titles and descriptions, a search
engine user may skip over those sites to visit yours.

Now, let's go back to the source code. Look for this tag, which
isn't far from the tag:

search engine seminars, search<br>engine conferences, search engine workshops

This is the image, or graphics, tag for the Search Engine
Workshops banner that appears at the very top of the page. Notice
that the engine doesn't "see" the graphic itself. It sees the
name of the graphic (banner3.jpg), and it sees the ALT text that
describes the image. It sees the width and height of the graphic.
But, it doesn't see the graphic itself. So, the engine doesn't
know that the graphic says, "Search Engine Workshops."

Next, look for this tag, which directly follows the image tag:

Search Engine

tag is a heading tag, and heading tags are very important
to a Web page. Try to put a heading tag at the very top of your
page, if at all possible, and use your important keyword phrase
in that heading tag. When you look back at my actual Web page, do
you see the words "Search Engine Seminars" right under the
graphic? That's the heading tag.

Now, look for this tag in the source code:

Is your Web site achieving the success that
. . .

This is where the contents of the Web page begin. Look on the
actual Web page and find the text: "Is your Web site achieving
the success that . . ." Notice that the keyword phrase (search
engine seminars) appears in the first paragraph.

In other words, with all of these tags and the placement of our
keyword phrase in the page's contents, we're proving to the
engines that the page is really about "search engine seminars."

So, let's visit your site on the Web. View the source code.
What's in the section? Are your title and description tags
using the keyword phrase that's important for that particular
page? Are your title and description tags captivating and
designed to pull in traffic? Each page of your site should have
different title and description tags, and those tags should be
based on the focus of that page - what that page is really about:
in other words, its keyword phrase.

How many graphics do you have before the actual contents of your
site? If you have a lot of graphics, navigation bars, or buttons
before the contents of your page, the engine has to sort through
all of that source code before it gets to the actual keyword-
containing content.

Does your page contain lengthy JavaScript or other code that
pushes the important contents toward the bottom of the page? If
so, it could be hindering your chances at top rankings.

Are you using a heading tag that contains your important keyword
phrase toward the very top of your page? Is your keyword phrase
used in the first paragraph of the page? Is it used in several
places throughout the page?

Look back at my page. Notice that the keyword phrase, search
engine seminars, is used as link text to describe several links.
Are you using your keyword phrase to describe links that are
leaving the page? If not, try to do so.

Study your own site carefully, and apply these guidelines to your

Doing whatever you can to push your important keyword phrase
toward the top of the page and toward the beginning of your tags
is the first step toward having a successful Web site that's
ranked in the top of the search engine rankings.

If you would like to learn more about how to achieve top search
engine rankings, visit:

Or, sign up for online training at:
( or 3-day search
engine marketing workshops at:

About the Author
Robin Nobles, Director of Training, Academy of Web Specialists,
has trained several thousand people in her online search engine
marketing ( training
programs. She also teaches 3-day hands-on search engine marketing
workshops in locations across the globe with Search Engine
Workshops (


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