SEO Practices: Indexing and Ranking

Boy, it’s been extremely busy recently. It was Advertising Week in New York last week, with MIXX and OMMA running back to back (which Einstein of event planning arranged that?). Additionally, AD:TECH launched in London. So I’ve been ping-ponging back and forth across the Atlantic even more than usual.

One thing I’ve noticed at all the events is the level of interest in SEO (define) from online marketers coming back to natural (organic) listings on search engines.

PPC (define) search engine advertising allows rapid entry and rewards advertisers with vastly escalated ROI (define), compared to other forms of advertising and promotion. However, in certain sectors bidding costs for very competitive keywords and keyword phrases have many people looking at the longer-term benefits and ROI of good old-fashioned SEO.

As a long-time SEO advocate, I think it’s great so many marketers want to improve their SEO knowledge. Yet, it’s a little frustrating that many I speak with are still lost in SEO mythology.

In particular, two topics keeping arising: getting indexed and overcoming the various technical barriers that once presented challenges to search engine crawlers. Sure, Web sites using frames (define) or dynamic delivery (define) of content from database-driven Web sites once caused hiccups for crawlers. And at one time if you had a Flash (define) site, you could seriously think about awarding yourself the domain name invisibleman.com. But things change rapidly in this industry as technology moves on.

Search engines now index millions and millions of dynamically generated URLs every day. You only need to search on Google for “.swf” (Flash’s file extension) to see how many have been indexed.

There was a time when search engine optimizers would spend hours on workarounds for flattening dynamically generated URLs using such methods as mod_rewrite (define) at the server level. But with the many different ways search engines provide to get into their indexes, you don’t generally need to go to so much trouble anymore.

All major search engines now have less difficulty indexing dynamically generated content than before, and most index Flash and many other file types, including Word and PDF files.

Not only that, this past June Google launched Sitemaps, which makes notifying its crawler of all your dynamically generated content simple (as long as you or your Webmaster have a basic understanding of XML). It even provides a sitemap creator tool.

Of course, Yahoo has long allowed you to pay to have your pages crawled. And now, you can supply a type of sitemap as a text file for free.

Getting into major search engines’ indexes is nowhere near as difficult as it once was. But that’s only the start of your quest. Ranking at search engines for those all-important keywords and keyword phrases that cost a small PPC fortune is the ultimate goal.

And when I say “keywords,” I mean only the ones that count: those that actually send traffic that converts. A ranking report saying you’re in the top 10 for 300 keywords is no use whatsoever if only 30 send qualified traffic.

I frequently point out at workshops that we tend to focus so much on crawler activity and getting indexed that it’s possible to miss the important point: how many of our indexed pages are likely to get a decent rank?

“Think link” is my mantra. Perhaps the most important aspect of ranking at search engines is based on the quality of links pointing back to your Web pages.

If you don’t rank for the most important keywords and keyword phrases you have to compete on, then sticking another 5,000 pages into the index is no great help. You’d be better off working on link equity building.

Sure, issuing zillions of pages into an index can help some large Web sites — those that have already built up some link equity and have an aggregate score. That’s chasing search’s tail to harvest some of the broader, more obscure search terms. But it doesn’t do much for a site with little or no link equity.

Think about creating great content. Work on advertising and promoting your site online via methods other than search to increase awareness and build linkage. Gain a reputation; become an authority in your sector.

That’s a better route to success than peppering a search engine index. After all, if you can’t be found in the index, you may simply be moving all your Web pages from one black hole to another.

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

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