All About Site Searchiness

  |  August 30, 2006   |  Comments

Think like a surfer, act like a spider.

The owner of nearly every online entity desires top positioning in search results for optimal keywords and keyword phrases, yet few sites can attain and sustain such rankings in the major search engines. What factors separate sites that are found on the first page of search results from those on page five?

Rather than pursue algorithmic equations or ponder immeasurable intangibles of incessantly surging search results, I prefer to keep things simple when addressing such matters. I like to think of the disparity between page one and page five results on an elemental basis, the primary component being the sites' search worthiness, or "searchiness," if you will.

How can you determine and adjust your site's searchiness? It's really rather simple: think like a surfer but act like a spider. Start by taking a step back, not just to your site's primary entry page, but way back to where there's a panoramic view of your industry on the Web.

Take a look at top-ranked rival sites in your industry. Think about what your site offers that others don't. When you use different word combinations in a string of search queries while actively seeking your site, do you find it? Is your site on page one, two, or beyond?

Now you're thinking like a surfer looking for the ideal wave of information that can only be personified in a brief snippet of search results. Your site is just one click away from transforming a surfer into a visitor. It's at this instance you need to act like a spider if you seek to influence the surfer's ultimate click decision in your favor.

Top rankings commence with keyword selection. If you end up selecting keywords that don't have many searchers seeking the topic, you're wasting your time by optimizing an entry page for nonentities. There's no point being ranked number one for a keyword -- such as your company's name -- when no searchers are surfing for the term.

If you're going to act like a spider, use a tool to reveal keywords based on search queries appropriate for you site. Crawl through data provided by keyword analysis tools such as Yahoo's Keyword Selector Tool, WordTracker, and KeywordDiscovery.

Find out what relevant topics surfers are querying in the search engines and make an effort to build pages in your site on popular search topics. Don't go for the greatest numerical gains straightaway. Be patient and stay on topic to build a relevant theme throughout your site. Then, take a look at what optimized elements on the page could improve your site's relevancy, and consider which behind-the-page structures can be built into your site.

For spider-friendly searchiness, make certain there's an adequate amount of text-based content on each site page. Crawlable text should consist of more than 300 words. That isn't all that much written content if you think about it.

Remember, keywords should be woven naturally into your site's content, not forced into overtly repetitive statements that tend to confound visitors and make them wary of the site (keyword stuffing is the antithesis of searchiness).

Keep in mind title tags still matter. A title tag will generally be used as the heading for each page's search engine snippet. Headings still matter, too. And a strong internal linking structure -- search-friendly URLs that spiders can readily crawl -- can help your site build top rankings for optimal keywords and keyword phrases.

Off-page factors to consider include image-intensive sites and code bloat. Think about opportunities to place JavaScript in external files and raise your content on the page to greater visibility without sacrificing visual compilation.

Speaking of which, could an image or two be replaced with text and still provider visitors with a superior surfing experience? Spiders are verbal. Give their eight legs an intensive walk about your site.

Not certain about what a spider sees when it crawls your site? Hit Ctrl+A to sort the text from the images, or download the Google Toolbar and review the text-only version of your site that's been cached for indexing. Use the Firefox browser to look at your site with and without JavaScript coding. There are plenty of spider simulators available on the Web. Download one or two for another illuminating view of your site.

On-topic content; keyword-rich, text-based navigation; and a static site structure can keep a spider coming back for more. Your site's ultimate searchiness, however, is all for naught without an abundance of inbound links.

Getting links to your Web site, ideally from external on-topic authoritative sites that connect to your site with keyword-rich anchor text links, is the ultimate element in making a site search worthy.

Each inbound link is crawled by search engine spiders and counted as a popular vote from another site. The more relevant inbound links your site earns over time, the more trusted your site becomes. Accordingly, inbound links are the essence of a site's searchiness.

If you stick to these SEO (define) fundamentals, focusing on writing unique content managed within a search-friendly structure that earns an ever-growing abundance of inbound links, in time your site will attain search worthiness. And that's what searchiness is all about.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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P.J. Fusco

P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.

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