How relevant are Google, Yahoo, and MSN Live Search results? Here's an exercise to see how the three engines compile page-one results.
That's right folks, this is my 101st ClickZ column. So, it seemed like a good time to do some search engine optimization (SEO) 101 on what the top three search engines consider to be my top 10 columns. I thought this exercise might shed a little light on some common SEO myths and misunderstandings, as well as provide a bit of insight into how the three major engines compile page-one results.
To determine what to review, I did a quick search for "site:www.clickz fusco" to help determine article "popularity." For its part, Google lists my top 10 pages and articles as:
Why does Google consider these pages to be the most relevant results for my search query? Well it's certainly not presented in order of PageRank, which is 3, 3, 4, 3, GB, 4, 4, 4, 0, 3, respectively. So that's the first SEO myth busted -- results do not appear in order of PageRank; they appear in order of relevance to the search query as supported by the weight and authority of links.
You see PageRank can take some time to accrue. If Google presented its results by PageRank alone, then users would tend to discover older articles, not the new stuff, unless the articles receive a bust of links from the social sphere. So there are additional elements in play that go way beyond PageRank.
Internal site linking is one of the key reasons why my biography page and collection of archived articles appears first. Every one of my articles in ClickZ points to that page as linked by the anchor text, "PJ Fusco." Since the anchor text links match content on the page, it helps Google determine that my biography page has greater relevance over all other pages. The same is true for the fifth result, the ClickZ contact page.
Even though the page is actually a mail-to form, it is linked to from every article in the collection. If you're a regular reader, you know that I have talked about the critical nature of internal linking structures. At least Yahoo search results take note of that point in its top 10 results, even though it's listed as the ninth item:
As you can see, Yahoo is a smart enough engine to discern the difference between link popularity and internal anchor text usage since its top 10 results does not include the mail-to page. Of course, this is also a reflection of Yahoo favoring 800 or more words on a page in its top results. Do we also see Yahoo's Trust Rank in play here? I gave the SEOmoz Linkscape tool a whirl to find out. Results are in order of Yahoo's search results:
|2.89||4||ClickZ: P.J. Fusco|
|0.00||1||SEO Is Not Free|
|0.67||10||From Good to Great Content|
|1.47||4||SEO Toolbox Tips|
|0.79||4||Content Optimization: Managing the Gap|
|0.00||2||Link Building: A Legacy of Lazy Linkers|
|1.47||5||Christmas in July?|
|0.00||5||Link Building Starts at Home|
|2.05||4||A Natural Disposition for Search|
The first thing I noticed is that the first result concurs with Google, which is good to know if you are looking for commonality of optimization tactics. Of course the second thing I noticed is that there is a gap in the Linkscape database. The three articles published since June 2008 have no mozTrust score.
In order to generate Linkscape results, the good people at SEOmoz have indexed more than 30 billion pages. Reportedly, Linkscape's index and metrics are refreshed every 25 days to reflect the latest details from the Web's ever-changing landscape. It appears it may be more like 140 days, but the Web is a big place. Linkscape is a phenomenal tool that provides valuable insight into rankings, when you know how to use it and understand its current data set.
To me, Yahoo's results appear more relevant than Google's results. But I did have to refine my search to "site:www.clickz pj fusco" in order to refine the results. Without the refinement, the results were quite different. Yahoo basically listed my biography page, followed by every site that links to or commented about an article. These details are quite insightful too, especially if you find yourself hunting for links.
And what of MSN Live Search? Well, I'll let the results speak for themselves:
Interestingly MSN Live search results presented six new URLs not found in Google's or Yahoo's top 10 results. Unfortunately, the fourth listing is an error page from the ClickZ site move and the eighth item is an image used in an article. At least this reveals two things: image titles are not necessarily critical for MSN Live, but keywords in URLs for images are important in MSN Live.
So which of the 18 articles out of 101 possible results consistently appear on page one? Only my bio page replete with its archival listings is consistently positioned in all three engines. Beyond that, you're on your own to determine which articles are relevant to you.
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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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