Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial part of any webpage’s genesis. With giants like Google and Yahoo! running the show with their powerful and popular search algorithms, getting noticed and staying noticed can be something of a Red Queen scenario: You’ve got to run as fast as you can just to stay where you are.
SEO has been an ongoing endeavor since the mid-nineties, with companies coming to understand the commercial value of high search-engine rankings and competing to occupy the top slots with strategies like keyword density. In addition, many search engines offer a paid submission service (Yahoo! being the most noteworthy example) that guarantees an appearance (though not a prominent or otherwise specified ranking) in their search results, while Google provides a set of Webmaster tools for creation and submission of sitemaps for indexing.
Web-Crawling is every bit as venerable as the institution of SEO. Programs, designed in the main by major search engine providers, sweep the web hourly, indexing and ranking content based on algorithmic prioritization. These programs are the arbiters of internet prominence, and understanding how they work so your site can cater to their indexing routines should be a top priority for anyone trying to achieve web prominence.
With so many brands, agencies, organizations and web-presences competing for so many different spotlights, what’s the best way to ensure that you get a piece of the action? Online tutorials and how-to’s like this one can help you get up to speed on the latest methods for standing out with SEO. We’ll examine some of the know-how, tips, and tricks you need to get in the game with the right tools.
E-Spiders: How Does Web-Crawling Work?
Web crawlers, also known as indexers, bots, spiders, robots, or ants, are automated computer programs that methodically browse the World Wide Web, ordering content according to their preprogrammed indexing algorithms. The process by which Web crawlers sort and index is referred to as spidering or crawling, and many sites, in particular the aforementioned search engines, use it as a method to provide current data to their users. A crawler’s main use is in the creation of copies, an action it performs whenever it visits a page, for a search engine to process at a later time. Once processing is complete the search engine will index the downloaded pages in order to facilitate fast, accurate searches.
A crawler’s work begins with a list of URLs provided to it by its programmer. These URLs, called seeds in programming parlance, are then visited by the crawler which maps their hyperlinks, adds them to its seeds, and thus expands its crawl frontier. Understanding the way crawlers map and index is an important part of making sure that your site achieves prominence online. By increasing the number of online inroads to your website you position it as a natural web nexus, highly prioritized by the crawlers of many prominent search engines.
Expanding Your Presence
There are many techniques and methods an aspiring web mogul can make use of in order to increase their online visibility in search engine results. Cross Linking, establishing a complex network of multiple links within one website that refer to the site’s pertinent pages, often improves a site’s web visibility. To pursue broader appeal strategies similar to keyword density, like including many instances of an often-searched key phrase in a website’s content, may be desirable as it tends to increase traffic.
Normalizing, by using your site’s “canon” meta tag, the URLs of a web page accessible through multiple URL portals helps to ensure that your site’s popularity as measured by inward-bound traffic is aggregated effectively. Frequent content updates to your site also helps can also give your site additional internet presence by compelling crawlers to re-index it often according to new parameters. Keywording your metadata, like your site’s title tag and meta-description, is another tack you can take to intensify traffic by improving the relevancy of your site’s search listings.
The vertical search engine is a kissing cousin to the more established model of the web search engine. Where traditional search engines offer general indexing services and rankings, though, a vertical search engine focuses its searches on a specified sector or grouping of sectors in online content. Vertical content indexing is typically based on genre, media format/type, or topical relevance. Admixtures of these quantifiers are common in vertical search protocols. Hobby fields like automotive restoration and customization, trading card collection, as well as professional fields like legal and medical information exchange, are common foci for vertical engines. Where your website comes in is in ease of detection.
Vertical search engines offer a much narrower field of inspection with tightly-programmed crawlers called “focus crawlers” and discerning administration. If your site is niche enough to fit into a vertical search engine’s parameters, standing out is a whole lot simpler with less competition and fewer, more specific searchable terms and phrases. A website with the appropriate content, relevant to the vertical engine’s interests, can be tooled with comparative ease to attract the engine’s crawlers’ attention.
White Hats and Black Hats
Staying in the good graces of the search engines that index and rank your site should be of the foremost importance to you. A ban from Google’s results tables might as well be a guillotine for your site. In order to avoid being blacklisted there are a few pieces of general knowledge you should have. SEO methods can, usually, be grouped into two general categories. The first are methods that search engines recognize, encourage, and engage with like good design, keyword use, URL standardization and a few of the other techniques I’ve mentioned above. The second group is the set of methods with which search engines take issue or find fault, like the aggravating tactic of spamdexing in which keywords are repeated without meaning or indexing relevance is misused by a site’s administrators. The former group is known as White Hat SEO, while the latter is referred to as Black Hat SEO, echoing the famous gunslingers of Spaghetti Westerns.
White Hat SEO will typically produce lasting content and results, focusing on uncontroversial marketing techniques and staying relevant. White Hat SEO adheres to search engine guidelines and involves no deceptive or trickery-based advertising or content. Black Hat SEO, by contrast, is a technique undertaken most often by groups or individuals who know that, sooner or later, they’ll be discovered and banned by their host search engine for employing their spam-based brand of promotion. Keeping your site’s SEO firmly in the White Hat camp isn’t just about following rules, though, but about maintaining consistence between the content crawlers rank and the content users see and interact with. Tricking the algorithm just isn’t worth the consequences of a ban.
Know Your Crawlers
The Web is, undeniably, big, and it’s getting bigger every day. Even the biggest search engines only cover segments of the public Web, typically around 55% in the case of most prominent search engines (Google, Bing, etc). Given that crawlers download only fractional sectors of the Web, search engines put a lot of time and effort into making sure they get only the most relevant pages. To ensure this outcome search engines design relevance metrics for their crawlers which measure quality of site construction, popularity in terms of links and visitation, and site URL. This task presents a number of challenges to the crawler’s designers, as because the set of all Web pages is unknown they must make do with imperfect information in designing their metrics.
Avoiding the obscure fate of about half the web isn’t hard, but it does take work. Understanding the way web crawlers influence online visibility will let you interact with their metrics without resorting to unfavorably looked-upon activities like spamdexing or riddling websites with concealed keyword text. Making sure your site is well-connected, both internally and externally, as well as pursuing keyword density in an acceptable manor, are important tools in continuing its viability as an online presence.
The Continued Importance of SEO
With the Web expanding daily at an alarming rate, SEO is hardly going out of style. Keeping a website current, relevant, and well-constructed is of increasing importance now that assessment is constant. Remember that on the Web the entire world is your potential competition, and anyone savvy enough to research the best ways to get ahead of the game with legitimate White Hat SEO strategies is going to be right in your e-neighborhood.