Search engine optimization (SEO)
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The relationship between SEOs and the search engines
In the early 2000, search engines and SEO firms attempted to establish an
unofficial "truce." There are several tiers of SEO firms, and the more reputable
companies employ content-based optimizations which meet with the search engines
(reluctant) approval. These techniques include improvements to site navigation and
copywriting, designed to make websites more intelligible to search engine algorithms.
Search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors
and guests at SEO conferences and seminars. In fact, with the advent of paid inclusion,
search engines now have a vested interest in the health of the optimization community.
Getting discovered by search engines
New sites no longer need to be submitted to search engines to be listed.
A simple link from an established site will get the search engines to visit the new site
and spider its contents. It is rarely more than a few days from the acquisition of the
link to all the main search engine spiders visiting and indexing the new site.
Naturally, this means that it is good practice to have some means (such as a site map,
or plain hypertext links) so that once a spider finds part of a site, it can navigate to
the rest. Otherwise, individual, isolated, dead-end pages must be found one-by-one
from outside the site; any pages that are not linked to from outside can only be found by
links internal to the site.
For those search engines, like Yahoo, who have their own paid submission,
it may save some time to pay a nominal fee for submission.
So-called "ethical" methods of SEO involve following the search engines' guidelines
as to what is and what isn't acceptable. Their advice generally is to create content
for the user, not the search engines; to make that content easily accessible to their
spiders; and to not try to game their system. Often webmasters make critical mistakes
when designing or setting up their web sites, and "poison" them so that they will not
rank well. Ethical SEO attempts to discover and correct mistakes, such as machine-unreadable
menus, broken links, temporary redirects, or a generally poor navigation structure that
places pages too many clicks from the home page.
Because search engines are text-centric, many of the same methods that are useful for
web accessibility are also advantageous for SEO. Methods are available for optimizing
graphical content, even Flash animation (by placing a paragraph or division within,
and at the end of the enclosing OBJECT tag), so that search engines can interpret
Some methods considered ethical by the search engines:
- Using a robots.txt file to grant permissions to spiders to access,
or avoid, specific files and directories in the site
- Using a short and relevant page title to name each page
- Using a reasonably sized description meta tag without excessive use of keywords,
exclamation marks or off topic comments
- Keeping the page accessible via links from other pages on the site and,
preferably, from a sitemap
- Developing links via natural methods: Google doesn't elaborate on this somewhat
vague guideline, but buying a link from an off-topic page purely because it has a
high PageRank is probably not considered acceptable. Dropping an email to a fellow
webmaster telling him about a great article you've just posted, and requesting a link,
is most likely acceptable.
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