Search Engine Ranking
By Christopher S L Heng
|Alta Vista actually publishes
their criteria for ranking sites. I am not sure, though, how
much of it reflects the actual practice (sometimes what is desired
is not necessarily what is implemented).
In any case, the documentation suggests a few things you should
have in order to improve your site's ranking there. Here are
a few of the important ones:
* Your title tag should hold keywords that meaningfully
describe your page. Note that this "title" refers to the one
in the HEAD section of your document, not the one displayed
in your browser window. Alta Vista's documentation states that
this tag has precedence over any META tags your page may have.
* The first lines of your page are important. Again,
this is more important than your META tags for Alta Vista. This
means that if you want your site ranked higher on Alta Vista,
you should put some sort of description of your page at the
top of the page instead of the usual graphics (with its cryptic
* Links to your site containing the keyword that the
visitor is searching for improve your site's ranking. For example,
if a visitor is searching for "CGI scripts" and there are many
links to your site with those words in the anchor text, your
site will be ranked higher.
How About the Ubiquitous META Tag?
You should probably note that for Alta Vista, the keyword META
tag has about the same value as the other words on the web page
itself. In fact, if the META keyword tag has keywords unrelated
to the content of your page, your page will be penalised. The
Alta Vista documentation (on the METATAGS page) actually states
that your ranking may improve if you use both the title tag
and descriptive initial lines in your document *without* any
META keyword tag.
You should check out their entire list yourself, since things
change from time to time. The criteria can be found at:
Undocumented Ranking Tips
Even if many pages on your site contain words that are relevant
to your user's text, you should probably be aware that only
one of those pages will be displayed.
However, some people appear to have worked around this (knowingly
or unknowingly) by submitting both their www.domainname.com
form of their site URL as well as their domainname.com form
of their URL. These will then be listed on Alta Vista as two
different sites. There is a possibility that some people might
even purchase additional domain names pointing to the same web
site and submitting those as well. This way, your site will
appear a few times in a search.
CAUTION: You should be careful about dominating too many items
in a search, because the people running the search engine might
decide that you're spamming the index and either ban your site
from the engine or penalise it (by dropping its ranking).
Another way around this one URL listing is to have mirror sites.
Since each site will have a different URL, they will all be
listed. Again, the same caution mentioned above applies. Excessive
numbers of identical content dominating many items of the search
engine results may result in your site being banned or penalised.
Buggy Indexing Engine
Recently, there have been reports of Alta Vista's indexing engine
being buggy in some way. In particular, it lists numerous sites
as having "No Title" even though those sites actually have <TITLE>
tags on their web pages. If the pages on your site have been
indexed by Alta Vista recently (probably after July 2000), you
might be one of those affected.
There have been a number of rumours as to what actually causes
this: some say that the indexing engine chokes when it encounters
<TITLE> tags that have two consecutive spaces in their
title. However, from observation, where a number of pages with
properly formulated title tags have been affected by the bug,
this probably isn't the only cause (if at all). There are only
single spaces in all my TITLE tags. I have retitled the affected
documents by rewording it and changing its length and have found
that to be fairly effective in getting the documents indexed.
Without more information from Alta Vista, it is difficult to
say for certain what triggers the bug. My suggestion is, you're
one of those affected, to change the length of your titles by
adding additional words or rewording it slightly. Who knows?
By the time you read this, the bug may have already been fixed,
and a simple resubmission of the page to the spider might suffice.
All the best on your website!
Copyright by Christopher S L Heng. All rights reserved.
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