Search Engine

Fast Start!
A concise, step by step guide
to positioning your website
with the new breed of search
engines.
Themes Referrals
Hubs & Authorities

Reciprocal Links

Link Popularity
Relevance

Theme Networks

Themes

Google

Excite Domain Names
Traffic
FAST/AllTheWeb
Deep Content
Altavista
Keywords
Off-The-Page Factors
Site Structure
4th Edition
January 5, 2004

By Dan Thies
Editor, Inside Out Marketing

Inktomi
Canned
Books
www.cannedbooks.com

Search Engine Fast Start:

A Step By Step Guide For Busy People
Fourth Edition, Published January 5, 2004.
Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies. All rights reserved.

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start, 4th Edition, is Copyright 
2004 by Daniel Thies. Some supplements may have been added since the
original publication date, and are copyrighted as noted.
No part of this work may be reproduced, reprinted, or electronically
transmitted in any fashion without the author's permission. This
does not in any way limit your rights to "fair use" of the material,
including the right to print this book out for your own use, to make
backup copies and store these copies on whatever electronic media
you choose, or the right to quote limited portions of the work as part
of an editorial review or other citation.
Disclaimer: This document is intended for information purposes only.
While the author has attempted to provide the most accurate information
possible at the time of publication, some of the contents are a matter of
opinion and/or speculation. Search engines do not publish the details of
their inner workings, so this information is based on observation,
experience, and reasoning. The author of this book shall not be held
responsible for any loss or damages resulting from the use of this
information.

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start:

i

A Step By Step Guide For Busy People
Revised Fourth Edition, Published January 5, 2004.
Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1: Introduction ................................................................ 6
Advice For Really, REALLY Busy People ....................................................................7
Setting The Stage ........................................................................................................7
Following The Steps ....................................................................................................8
Optional Extras ............................................................................................................8
Reiterating The Obvious ..............................................................................................9
I Want You To Succeed! ..............................................................................................9
Can You Believe Me? ................................................................................................10
About Website Promotion Central ..........................................................................10
About Inside Out Marketing.................................................................................10
About SEO Research Labs .................................................................................11
Our Business Model: Why We Offer Resale Rights To This Book .........................11

Chapter 2: How Search Engines Work..................................... 13
Why It Matters To You ...............................................................................................14
What A “Spider” Does ................................................................................................14
How They Find You....................................................................................................16
What Gets Indexed ....................................................................................................17
How Pages Are Ranked.............................................................................................18
Themes Explained .....................................................................................................18
How People Use Search Engines & Portals ..............................................................19
Takeaways – what we've learned ..............................................................................20
Meet The Players: Where Traffic Comes From ..........................................................22
Where Searches Happen .......................................................................................22
Who Provides Search Results................................................................................22
Google Rules? ...........................................................................................................24
Recommended Reading ............................................................................................25
Search Engine Marketing: The Essential Best Practices Guide .............................25

Chapter 3: Keyword Strategy (Step 1)...................................... 26
The Keyword Hierarchy..............................................................................................27
Major Keywords (single words & short phrases) ....................................................27
Keyword Phrases & Qualifiers................................................................................27
Localize! .................................................................................................................28
Ask For It By Name! ...............................................................................................28
Singular or Plural?..................................................................................................28
Stemming & Misspellings .......................................................................................28
Stop Words & Common Words ..............................................................................29
Researching Keywords ..............................................................................................30

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start:

ii

A Step By Step Guide For Busy People
Revised Fourth Edition, Published January 5, 2004.
Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies. All rights reserved.

Obvious Keywords .................................................................................................30
Related Terms........................................................................................................30
Keyword Tools: Overture.com ................................................................................30
Keyword Tools: Google Adwords ...........................................................................31
Keyword Tools: Wordtracker ..................................................................................31
Keyword Tools: SEO Research Labs .....................................................................31
Prioritizing & Targeting Keywords ..........................................................................31
Assessing Your Keyword Strategy .........................................................................32
SEO Research Labs: Outsourced Keyword Research Reports .................................33

Chapter 4: Organizing Your Website (Step 2) ......................... 34
Don't Take This Too Far! ........................................................................................34
How Search Engines See Your Site ..........................................................................35
The Theme Pyramid ..................................................................................................35
Top Level: The Network (a.k.a. The Internet) ........................................................35
First Tier: Your Website (a.k.a. Homepage, Index Page, Domain).........................35
Second Tier: Directories ("Roadmap Pages") ........................................................36
Third Tier: Content ("Destination Pages")...............................................................37
Tier Four: Deep Content.........................................................................................37
Organizing Your Site Into Themes.............................................................................38
An “Off The Shelf” Theme Site ...............................................................................38
Redesigning Existing Sites .....................................................................................39
Developing Themed Content .....................................................................................39

Chapter 5: Optimizing Individual Web Pages (Step 3)........... 40
How To Use This Chapter..........................................................................................41
Network Level (The Internet)......................................................................................41
Tier 1: Domain Level (Your Home Page) ...................................................................41
Title, Keywords, & Description ...............................................................................41
Headings ................................................................................................................42
Site Map: Roadmaps & Destinations......................................................................42
Page Design & Layout............................................................................................42
Special Considerations: Product Sites (a.k.a. Mini-Sites).......................................43
Tier 2: Roadmap Pages .............................................................................................43
Directory Names.....................................................................................................43
Title, Keywords, & Description ...............................................................................43
Headings ................................................................................................................44
Layout & Other Factors ..........................................................................................44
Keyword Placement: Destinations & Deep Content...................................................44
Directory Names.....................................................................................................44
Title, Keywords, & Description ...............................................................................44
Headings (H1-H6) ..................................................................................................45

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start:

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A Step By Step Guide For Busy People
Revised Fourth Edition, Published January 5, 2004.
Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies. All rights reserved.

Page Content .........................................................................................................45
Links: Stay On Theme............................................................................................45
Rules For Search Engine Friendly Design .................................................................46
Frames ...................................................................................................................46
Dynamic Pages ......................................................................................................46
Plug-Ins etc. ...........................................................................................................46
Javascript ...............................................................................................................47
Image Maps & Fancy Site Navigation Tools...........................................................47
HTML Validation.....................................................................................................47

Chapter 6: Linking and Off-The-Page Factors (Step 4).......... 48
What’s Happening Off The Page? .............................................................................49
Evaluating Outbound Links ........................................................................................49
Relevance ..............................................................................................................49
Context ...................................................................................................................50
Value ......................................................................................................................50
Reciprocation .........................................................................................................50
Targeting Inbound Links ............................................................................................50
Top Keywords ........................................................................................................50
Theme Search Engine Ranking .............................................................................50
Site Popularity ........................................................................................................51
Getting Out Of Links Programs ..............................................................................51
Recruiting Link Partners.............................................................................................51
Simple Link Swaps .................................................................................................51
Content Links .........................................................................................................52
Content Swaps.......................................................................................................52
Look For Synergy ...................................................................................................52
Inbound Links: Other Sources ...................................................................................53
Directories ..............................................................................................................53
Important Minor Directories ....................................................................................53
Unsolicited & One-Way Links.................................................................................54
Create Your Own Linking Code! .............................................................................54
Publishing Articles ..................................................................................................55
Affiliates & Customers ............................................................................................55
Domain Names & Links Pages...............................................................................55
Link Swapping For Mini-Sites: The Two-Domain Two-Step ...................................56
Google's Toolbar, PageRank, And Linking.............................................................56
Checking Traffic With Alexa ...................................................................................57
Outsourcing Your Links Campaign ............................................................................57
Conclusion – Don't Ever Stop Working On Links! ......................................................57
SEO Research Labs: Link Targeting Reports ............................................................58
Recommended Reading: The Free "Linking Matters" Report ....................................59

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start:

iv

A Step By Step Guide For Busy People
Revised Fourth Edition, Published January 5, 2004.
Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies. All rights reserved.

Chapter 7: Getting Listed........................................................... 60
Should You Submit? ..................................................................................................61
Automated vs. Hand Submission ...........................................................................61
Paid inclusion programs.............................................................................................62
One Good Use For Paid Inclusion..........................................................................62
Major Directories........................................................................................................62
General Guidelines.................................................................................................62
Yahoo! ....................................................................................................................63
Open Directory .......................................................................................................63
Looksmart...............................................................................................................65
Minor Search Engines – Who Cares? ....................................................................65
Minor Directories – Of Major Importance! ..................................................................65
FFA Pages – Don't Do It! ...........................................................................................66
Finding Niche Directories ...........................................................................................67

Chapter 8: Controlling Search Engine Spiders....................... 68
Why You Might Need Control ....................................................................................69
Visitor Content vs. Spider Food..............................................................................69
Rogue Spiders & Spambots ...................................................................................69
Robots.txt Tutorial......................................................................................................69
Robots.txt Format...................................................................................................69
Robots.txt User Agent Reference...........................................................................71

Chapter 9: What Now?................................................................ 72
Pay-Per-Click Strategy...............................................................................................73
Traffic Counters, Site Statistics & Other Measuring Sticks ........................................73
Statistics Services ..................................................................................................74
Web Log Analysis...................................................................................................74
Measuring Rank .....................................................................................................75
Checking Links.......................................................................................................75
The Google Toolbar................................................................................................75
Dirty Tricks & Gotchas ...............................................................................................76
Warning About Taking Shortcuts............................................................................76
Links Programs ......................................................................................................76
Top SEO Expert Caught Cheating Direct Hit..........................................................76
Page Cloaking (a.k.a. Stealth, IP Delivery, etc.).....................................................77
Revising Your Strategy ..............................................................................................77
Change Never Stops - Don't Panic! ...........................................................................78

Chapter 10. Advanced Topics & Updates................................ 79
The New Teoma 2.0: Best Search Ever?...................................................................80

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start:

v

A Step By Step Guide For Busy People
Revised Fourth Edition, Published January 5, 2004.
Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies. All rights reserved.

Getting Your Site Listed By Teoma ........................................................................81
What Makes Teoma Different: Did Anyone Say "Themes?"...................................81
Teoma Ranking Tips..................................................................................................83
Keyword Research For Teoma:..............................................................................83
Off The Page Factors, Or "Establishing Authority" .................................................83
At Teoma, It's About Community............................................................................84
Managing Multiple Domain Names ............................................................................84
Scenario One: Multiple Versions ............................................................................84
Scenario Two: Merger & Acquisition ......................................................................85
Scenario Three: Multiple Websites.........................................................................85
Scenario Four: Spam, Spam, Spam .......................................................................86
What's Your Scenario?...........................................................................................86
Using Adwords For Keyword Research .....................................................................87
Keyword Research Challenges ..............................................................................87
What Adwords Can Tell You About Keywords .......................................................87
Why Adwords Provides The Most Accurate Data...................................................87
Setting Up Your Adwords Account .........................................................................87
Bringing Keyword Strategy Into Focus With Adwords ............................................88
Setting Your Bids, Budget, and Distribution Options ..............................................88
Interpreting The Results .........................................................................................89
Is A Yahoo! Listing Worth The Cost? .........................................................................89
Argument #1: Yahoo! Listings Mean Link Popularity..............................................90
Argument #2: Listed Sites Look Better In The Search Results...............................90
So, Is A Yahoo! Listing Worth It?............................................................................90
How Can You Profit From The Changes At Yahoo!? .............................................90
Finding Quality Link Partners Through Google.......................................................91
Don't Complain, Act! ...............................................................................................91
Useful Online Resources ...........................................................................................91
Discussion Forums & Newsletters..........................................................................91
Technical Information .............................................................................................92

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
4th Edition – January 2004. Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies

6

Chapter 1: Introduction
The most important question anyone has asked me about this book is “why write
another search engine book?” After all, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of books
on this subject. Surely, in a market as crowded as that, someone must have already
written a definitive reference to search engine positioning. Unfortunately, that’s just not
the case – not that a definitive reference would tell you how to get good rankings.
I’ve got one book in my library, written by a very well informed expert, that’s over 550
pages long. In all of those pages, not once does the writer provide a simple step-bystep formula for increasing a site’s search engine traffic. As an introduction to the field,
it’s a nice guide (although at this point, it's a bit dated)… but for those of you who just
want to see some results, it’s a long way from what you need.
This book is different. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on concepts and theory here
– we’ll learn that as we go. The central focus of this work is how to get the job
done, and get it done quickly. I’ve accomplished that by breaking the search engine
positioning process down into a four-step formula.
I know that some of you are dying to skip ahead, so here’s my “secret formula” in a
nutshell. Select the right keywords, build a content rich website around them, optimize
the individual pages, and work to improve ‘off-the-page’ factors like link popularity. Four
steps, and you’re ready. In most cases, it’s not even necessary to submit your site
to search engines.
How quickly can you start seeing results? Realistically, you can expect to wait a month
or two after you've put this system into practice before you'll start seeing significant
traffic. This system is designed to let you optimize your site quickly, so that you'll almost
certainly get some early benefits, but you will need to keep working on your site's
incoming links to reap the full benefits.
The more content you have on your site, the more traffic you'll receive – this also makes
your site a more attractive destination for visitors. The more links you have from other
websites, the more traffic you will receive – not only from search engines, but from the
links themselves. Search engines are just one part of a good website marketing
strategy. An ongoing links campaign is essential – optimizing is not enough.
Ready? Let's get started!

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
4th Edition – January 2004. Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies

7

Advice For Really, REALLY Busy People
This book was written with you in mind. Instead of burying you with 500 pages of
concepts and technical details, I’ve condensed it all into simple step-by-step
instructions. If you can, I encourage you to read through the entire book, then start
again and follow each of the steps in turn. With a focused effort, you should be able to
get through at least the first steps within about 10-20 hours’ work.
If you’re really impatient, and can’t even take the time to read this whole book, there are
a couple things you really should do. First of all, read through Chapter 2 – it’s very
short, and it contains a lot of important information that you really shouldn’t miss. There
are a lot of little “gotchas” in the search engine positioning game, and Chapter 2 will
help you avoid falling into these traps.
Chapter 3 (Keyword Selection) is important, even if you can instantly name the top 5-10
keywords/phrases that you want your site to be known for. Keyword selection is critical
to your success with theme-based search engines. Knowing your top keywords and
understanding how they’re related can make the difference between getting a big
increase in search engine referrals or just a little trickle of hits.
After you’ve read Chapter 3, if you just don’t have enough time for the rest, go ahead
and skip to Chapter 5. In Chapter 5, you’ll learn about a very quick method of
optimizing the pages on your site to rank better. If you can at least optimize your home
page, and the next few pages that are most critical in terms of your keywords, you’ll at
least be better positioned than you were before.
If you can afford to spend a little more time, read Chapter 4, and fix your site’s
navigation to link everything together better, before you optimize the individual pages.
This will help the search engines find your pages, and when your site is properly
optimized, it will also help the rankings of every page. Search engines will send more
traffic to a well organized, content rich site.

Setting The Stage
The first two chapters of this book are intended to “set the stage” for your success with
search engines. While I’ve tried, as much as possible, to keep irrelevant concepts and
technical explanations out of this work, it would not be complete without a few of these
things. In the interest of saving you time, I’ve loaded almost all of this into the first 3
chapters.
Chapter 1, which you’re reading now, explains how this book is put together, and how to
use it. It’s a short chapter, and well worth the short time it will take you to read it. Skip
the final section on planning if you don’t think you need it.
Chapter 2, “How Search Engines Work,” provides a little bit more background
information on search engines. If you skip this chapter, a lot of things in this book will
not make sense to you, unless you already know quite a bit about the subject. Even if

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
4th Edition – January 2004. Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies

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you think you know it all, I’d recommend that you at least skim this chapter to make sure
you’re not missing anything important.

Following The Steps
The rest of the book will take you all the way through the process of improving your
search engine results. This four-step process proceeds in a logical sequence, so if you
have the time, it’s best to go through them in the order that they are presented. When
you’ve finished, you should begin to see a dramatic increase in your site’s search
engine traffic within a few weeks. Some search engines can take a couple of months to
index your site, update their database, and start showing traffic.
The second section (Chapters 3 through 5) takes you through the entire process of
preparing your site. In Chapter 3, you’ll develop your keyword strategy. Chapter 4
teaches you how to organize your site work with the new “theme based” search
engines. Finally, I’ll show you a simple and effective way to optimize your site’s
individual pages in Chapter 5.
The next section covers the activities that take place after you’ve done the “heavy lifting”
of optimizing your site for search engines. Chapter 6 discusses “off-the-page” factors
that are important to your site’s success. I’ll explain how to handle your submissions to
the major search engines and directories in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 explains how to use a
“robots.txt” file to control what search engines see on your site.
Chapter 9, “What Now?” shows you some of the other options you have to improve your
search engine referrals, increase traffic and better manage your site. From pay-perclick search engines (such as Overture.com), to software packages like WebPosition
Gold, I hope you’ll find this information helpful.
Chapter 10 is simply titled "Extras." It contains short lessons that are "a little too heavy"
for the main book, but which will help to round out your knowledge of the search engine
game. As I send out updates, you can add them to Chapter 10. This way, you won't
have to worry about any major changes until the 4th edition, which will be released in
June 2003.

Optional Extras
Some chapters contain optional material that you can delve into at any time. While
these little bits aren’t strictly necessary if you’re in a hurry to get started, each of them
contains valuable information that may help you boost your search engine rankings and
traffic even further.
Because these “optional extras” tend to take a little more time to execute, and often cost
a bit of money, you may want to go through the four-step positioning process first, then
consider doing “a little bit more” after you’ve gotten your site launched.

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4th Edition – January 2004. Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies

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If your site generates revenue based on the number of visitors, for example by
participating in affiliate programs, the extra traffic you generate by using the four-step
process might even pay for some of these extras.

Reiterating The Obvious
It might be obvious to some readers, but let me say this for the benefit of everyone else:
you’re never really “done” promoting your website. That’s doubly true for search engine
positioning. Even if your website doesn’t change, you need to continually monitor your
search engine rankings and traffic, and be prepared to take action if the results start to
drop off.
The best way to handle your promotion effort is to dedicate a little time each week to
improving your site’s link popularity, and periodically look over your entire website to
make sure it still fits your goals.
If you do begin to notice a decline in your rankings, or search engine traffic, don’t wait
too long to address the problem. Because even your best efforts can take several
weeks to have any effect on your results, there’s already a built-in delay. Don’t
compound the problem by ignoring it.
So, what can you do if your results begin to drop? Plenty! For example, you can look at
your keyword selection, and possibly expand it or change your focus to more popular
keywords and search phrases. Each step in the search engine positioning process can
be revisited, with an eye toward improving your results.
Some keywords and phrases are highly competitive, with a lot of your competitors using
dirty tricks and throwing hundreds of doorway pages up in an effort to fool the search
engines. In this environment, there’s only so much you can do against a heavily-funded
competitor.
Be realistic about the results you can achieve. It's relatively easy to achieve top ten
rankings on several search engines for a given 3-word search phrase, but very difficult
(and sometimes practically impossible) to get and keep such a position for a single
word, or for popular two-word phrases like “real estate” or “clip art." If you go after what
you can get now, and keep working the system, you may find that you can even
conquer some of these highly competitive terms.

I Want You To Succeed!
I sincerely believe that I'm giving you all the ammunition you need to be successful, if
you really apply what you learn. I only have one favor to ask of you: when you start to
see results, when your site is landing in the top ten search results, let us know with an
email to results@cannedbooks.com.

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
4th Edition – January 2004. Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies

10

Can You Believe Me?
You don't have to read this section. If you're curious about who's behind this book, and
why I think I can help you, read on.
There are a lot of people who claim to be experts. I don't claim to know everything about
search engines, but I do know what's worked for me. I've done this with more than one
site, and I'm going to keep on doing it as long as it works. There are undoubtedly other
ways to accomplish the same thing.
One thing that's important to me, and I hope that it will become important to you, is that
the pages I position to rank well should be satisfactory results for the search engine
user. I feel badly if my pages outrank more deserving ones.
About Website Promotion Central
My first commercial website was called "Website Promotion Central." I first put it online
in 1999, at my "email domain" www.cannedhelp.com, registering a new domain name
(www.websitepromotioncentral.com) a year later when ICANN started allowing longer
domain names. It was a collection of articles and tutorials on the right (and wrong) way
to promote a website. Well, at least as I saw it back then.
Website Promotion Central was a great success for me. For most of the time that I
owned it, it was ranked in the top ten on multiple search engines. It was even ranked in
the top ten on the Google search engine for a time, until I managed to get it banned
from Google with one too many experiments.
Even without Google, it did very well, and within a couple years it had become one of
the most popular website promotion resources on the Internet, according to the
"popularity search engine" DirectHit, which eventually ranked it at #2. DirectHit's not
around any more, but Website Promotion Central still is.
I sold Website Promotion Central in 2002, because I just didn't have the time to maintain
it any more. Our visitors deserved better, and the new owner (Greg White) has put a lot
of effort into creating new content and new tools. You can check out the new Website
Promotion Central in the same place (www.websitepromotioncentral.com).
I learned a lot from running Website Promotion Central. I made more mistakes in two
years, than most of my readers will ever make with their own websites.
About Inside Out Marketing

Many readers have found this book after reading one of my articles on another website,
or in an email newsletter. I don't publish a lot of articles (I may send out a dozen a year),
but when they do go out, they tend to be in demand. When I sold Website Promotion
Central, I didn't have a place for website and newsletter editors to find my articles.

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One of the editors at WebProNews asked me to put some of my articles online, so they
could go grab one if they needed something to publish on short notice. Inside Out
Marketing started out as just another place to put my own articles online, but it's also
been a place where I can put the system in this book into practice.
Inside Out Marketing (www.insideoutmarketing.com) went online in late 2002, using a
great "content management system" called Ionpanel. This software lets me put a new
article online in a hurry, without uploading any files. This solved the biggest problem I'd
had with Website Promotion Central, where I may have had time to write, but keeping
things organized became impossible as the site grew.
So far, Inside Out Marketing has done very well with Google. Although I haven't made
any major efforts to build links yet, the content has attracted a lot of links by itself. As I
write this (September 2003), we have top ten listings for a lot of search terms, all
directly related to the content we've built up.
Just to give you an example of how well you can do with a simple system and good
content, I posted an article on Google's "Froogle" shopping search engine in early
January 2003. For a good solid two weeks, that article was the #1 result on Google for
searches about "froogle," even ahead of www.froogle.com. At the moment, it's listed at
#4, which makes me feel a lot better than the #1 listing did. It's a nice article, but it
certainly isn't more relevant than the Froogle website itself.
About SEO Research Labs

I stopped taking on new clients for my consulting business before I published the first
edition of this book. It took over a year to transition the last client to another consultant.
Once that was done, I started work on a new business endeavor, to support my
readers.
After getting a lot of feedback from readers, I found that there were two things they still
found very challenging. Keyword research was one big challenge, and the other was
link building. In response to this demand, we now offer support services through SEO
Research Labs (www.seoresearchlabs.com).
You'll learn more about these services, and how we perform them, in Chapters 3 and 6.
Our Business Model: Why We Offer Resale Rights To This Book
There's a lot of bad advice out there. Some of it can get your website into hot water with
the search engines. The best way I can imagine to fight back is to get this book
distributed as widely as possible. The best way to get this book distributed is to let
people make a profit by distributing it.

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
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12

The downside of offering reprint rights is losing contact with the readers – my major
concern is how to get updates distributed. To solve this problem, those who purchase
reprint right licenses are also invited to join our affiliate program for SEO Research
Labs. Resellers will be able to add their affiliate links to each update, so there is an
incentive for them to keep distributing the periodic updates to their customers.
I'll probably send out 3-4 updates a year, and if you are concerned that you aren't
receiving them, please send me an email at updates@cannedbooks.com, let me know
where you purchased your copy, and when you last received an update. If you've
missed any updates, I'll send them to you, and try to get in touch with the distributor to
make sure they've got your contact information.

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
4th Edition – January 2004. Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies

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Chapter 2: How Search Engines Work
It’s impossible to write a book on search engine positioning without a chapter on the
search engines themselves. What I hope to provide for you in this chapter is a slightly
different slant on the subject. The actual technical details are much less important than
you’ve been led to believe – what matters most is the implications for your strategy.
Therefore, instead of boring you with a set of charts describing which search engines
have which features, I’ll explain what’s generally true for all search engines, as well as
what significant differences you’ll encounter. Throughout, you’ll be given concrete steps
to take that minimize or eliminate the need to worry about specific search engines.
In the long run, market pressures ensure that search engines will converge toward each
other anyway. While there are still significant differences between them in some areas,
the methods you’ll learn in this book will help you stay on the right side of those
differences.
The "fast start" system is based on the current state of the art, but we haven't ignored
the many changes that are already in the wind. The same strategies will continue to
apply, regardless of any short-term changes in the industry.
At the time of this writing (September 2003), Google is in a very dominant position in the
search industry. With AOL and Yahoo delivering Google results, and the Google search
engine itself also a popular portal, 3/4 of all searches on a given day probably originate
on a portal utilizing Google's results.
This is great news if you follow my system, because Google loves content-rich sites with
clear structure, which is exactly what I will teach you to build. If Google goes away
tomorrow (highly unlikely!), that wouldn't really force us to change our strategy.

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
4th Edition – January 2004. Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies

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Why It Matters To You
There’s a lot of very bad advice out there on search engine positioning. A lot of this bad
advice is for sale, and this market has created a lot of self-reinforcing myths about the
subject. Many of these myths are really just self-serving propaganda created by various
players in the search engine positioning industry, and repeated by well-meaning writers
in e-business publications and other media outlets.
Think about this for a moment. Where does “conventional wisdom” come from? Well, it
comes from various media outlets, such as television, radio, print, and the Internet itself.
But where does a writer from a business magazine find out about any industry? From
the “experts” in the industry itself. Reporters don’t have a lot of time to do research, so a
lot of what you see in print is just repackaged press release material and the “industry
line.”
In reality, following “conventional wisdom” can do you a lot of harm. The best example
of this is the often-cited “fact” that you need to constantly resubmit your site to search
engines. Once upon a time, this may have been true, or at least relatively harmless.
Today the truth is that submitting your site to search engines can actually damage your
ranking if it’s done to excess.
In the process of becoming search engine literate, you’ll learn that a lot of the things
you’ve been told are just plain wrong. In this book you’ll also discover that this whole
subject is much less intricate and mysterious than many “experts” want you to believe.
There are three kinds of “experts” – those who have a vested interest (industry players),
those who are being led around by the nose (writers and reporters), and those of us
who have done our homework to uncover the truth (that’s you and me).
My intent here is to share the knowledge I have, and let you make your own informed
decisions. Every chapter in this book was written with that goal in mind. Why should
you care about how search engines work? By investing the time it takes to read this
chapter, you’ll be better prepared to understand the rationale behind everything we do
throughout the rest of the book.

What A “Spider” Does
The first thing that you need to understand is what a search engine “spider” is, and how
it works. A "spider" (also known as a "robot" or "crawler") is a software program that
search engines use to find what’s out there on the ever-changing web. There are a lot
of different types of search engine spiders, but they all contribute to the overall goal of
keeping their search engine’s index as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Not all
spiders are operated by search engines, and some of these are a real nuisance – you’ll
learn more about how to control them in Chapter 8.
The first type of spider is one that actually “crawls” the web looking for websites and
pages. This program starts at a website, loads the pages, and follows the hyperlinks on
each page. In this way, the theory goes, everything on the web will eventually be found,

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as the spider crawls from one website to another. Search engines run anywhere from
dozens to hundreds of copies of their web-crawling spider programs simultaneously, on
multiple servers.
When a "crawler" visits your home page, it loads the page’s contents into a database.
With some spider programs, that’s all they do – load the home page, so that another
spider can actually index it. Once your site has been found, the text of your page is
loaded into the search engine’s index, which is a massive database of web pages. The
last time I checked, both Google and FAST claimed to have over 2 *billion* pages
indexed. Google has over 3 billion documents in its database.
Some search engines don’t do any more than load the home page, but this is becoming
more rare. A search engine that only indexes your home page, or a few pages linked
from it, is doing what’s known as a “shallow crawl.” Most search engines nowadays do
a “deep crawl,” which means that they follow the hyperlinks on your home page, loading
the pages they find, successively getting deeper into your site. Some of them have a
limit on the number of pages they’ll index from a given site, others try to index
everything.
There are other types of spiders as well. “404 spotters” are used by search engines to
help avoid referring searchers to pages that no longer exist online. These spiders go
through the search engine’s index page by page (or site by site), trying to load each
page. If the page can’t be found, the web server returns a “404 error” which indicates
that the page or site isn’t currently available online.
When the spider (some of them will check later to verify that a page really is offline)
doesn't find a page, it’s deleted from the index. This is why it’s important to use a good
web hosting provider. If your server is offline at the wrong time, your site may be
dropped from a search engine’s index, and it can take several weeks before it’s indexed
again.
Another term you may hear is “spider food.” This is shorthand for anything that’s placed
on a web page (mostly hyperlinks) that is intended to attract a spider’s attention.
Sometimes, these are invisible links that a web surfer would not find, and are intended
to direct the spider to keyword-rich “doorway” or “hallway” pages specifically designed
to fool the search engines.
I don’t use these kind of tricks, but you should be aware of them. I'll explain throughout
this book why you should avoid using dirty tricks to fool the search engines.
The first thing a spider is supposed to do when it visits your site is look for a file called
“robots.txt”. This file contains instructions for the spider on which parts of the web site
to index, and which to ignore. The only way to control what a search engine spider
sees on your site is by using a robots.txt file. Chapter 8 provides detailed instructions
on how to control spiders, and why you’d want to do this.

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All spiders are supposed to follow certain rules, and the major search engines do follow
these rules for the most part. One rule is that spiders should load only one page a
minute – this rule came about when early spiders visited early web servers and tried to
load entire web sites all at once. The result of this was that access for the site’s real
visitors often slowed to a crawl. Since the web was much smaller then, a spider might
visit your site several times a day! With modern, high-speed web servers, and spiders
only visiting infrequently, this rule doesn’t make as much sense as it once did, but it’s
still followed.

How They Find You
The most common way that search engine spiders find a website is by following
hyperlinks from other sites. In search engine terminology, these are known as “found
pages.” Many search engines will rank a page or site higher if they found it while
crawling the web. This is explained, and explored, much further in later chapters.
Most search engines also have a “submit URL” form, where you can request that they
add your web site to their index. Typically, you just give the primary URL for your site
(like http://www.cannedbooks.com), and this address is added to their list of links to
crawl.
There are services (some paid, some free) that let you submit your site “automatically.”
This is not really a good deal, even if it’s free. There are fewer than a dozen search
engines that matter, and really less than half a dozen places where you’d want your site
submitted. If a service automatically resubmits your site, you may even be paying them
to lower your search engine rankings. Some search engines give higher rankings to
pages that they find while crawling the web, so it's not always a good idea to submit to
them.
The same applies to software that submits your site to “thousands” of search engines.
As I’ve just stated, only a few search engines actually matter. The “thousands” are
actually free-for-all (FFA) links pages. FFA pages won’t send you any traffic, but you
will receive a lot of SPAM (junk email) from them after you submit to them. Some
search engines, in fact, may penalize a site that’s listed on a lot of FFA pages.
If all of this sounds like I’m recommending you let the search engines find you, rather
than submitting your site, I am. I haven't submitted anything to the search engines in
almost two years, and it rarely takes more than about 3 weeks for them to find and crawl
my new sites. Read Chapter 6, and focus on getting links set up – this will not only
improve your rankings, it will ensure that the search engines can find you on their own.
Many search engines offer a “paid inclusion” program. Although you get no special
advantage from using it, in terms of your site’s ranking, it does ensure that your site is
always in their index, and up to date. More on this in Chapter 7. You'll definitely want to
consider using paid inclusion if your budget permits and the search engine in question is
delivering significant traffic to your site.

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What Gets Indexed
When a search engine indexes the pages on your site, they don’t actually store the
entire page. What they do instead is to store information about the textual content of
your pages. Images, scripts, and rich media may also be indexed and stored, but these
are only found through specialized searches. People use words to search, so search
engines mainly care about the words that are on your web page.
In addition to the text of your site, some search engines also index the content of your
META tags. The “description” META tag is sometimes used to display a description of
your page when a web surfer sees the results of a search. Some of them also read the
“keywords” META tag, although it’s pretty rare these days that a search engine will
actually care what this tag contains.
Along with the textual content, search engines store information about the hyperlinks on
each page. This helps the search engine to determine what the page is about, because
the text in hyperlinks often reveals something about the subject matter of the page. It
also enables them to determine the “link popularity” and relevance of the pages each
site links to. This is the main way that search engines find out about new websites and
pages.
There are a lot of differences between search engines in terms of what actually counts
as text content. Some search engines will index the content of the “ALT” property in
<IMG> (image) tags on the page, which is often erroneously referred to as an “ALT tag.”
Others only index such content if the image is also a hyperlink. Other odds and ends,
such as file names, are occasionally indexed as well.
All search engines find it challenging to index “dynamic” pages, such as those created
by form input, or by other means. A few of them make an effort to do so, but it’s not
realistic to expect a dynamic page, which is created “on the fly” by the web server, to be
properly indexed by every search engine. There are some things that you can do to
make your dynamic content more "search engine friendly." There's more on this in
Chapter 5.
Anything that the spider can’t find will not be indexed. If your site uses frames, some
spiders will be unable to read the content of the site, unless you provide a “no frames”
version. Fancy Javascript navigation menus may work fine for your visitors, but unless
you provide some plain old hyperlinks somewhere (a site map page is essential), your
site’s internal pages may remain invisible to some search engines.
Few search engines maintain a “live” index. In fact, it’s a dirty little secret that some of
them only update every couple months. Even if a search engine finds your site right
away, it may be several weeks before anyone using the search engine can find you.
Typically, it doesn’t take more than 2-3 weeks for the spider to reach you, the delay is
caused by the time it takes for the database to get updated. Unfortunately, the only way
around this is paid inclusion. Google doesn't have a paid inclusion program, but they
also do a very good job of keeping their index up to date.

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How Pages Are Ranked
Every search engine has its own algorithm, or process, for determining where your
pages rank for a particular search term. There are common elements to many of them,
but they all apply their rules a little differently. It’s probably not possible to create a
single web page that satisfies every “traditional” search engine completely, but the
system we use in this book has proven to be effective across all of the major search
engines.
In some search engines, the most critical factors in determining your page’s rank are
“keyword density” and the position of keywords on the page. If your page is about
“hamster food,” the density is the number of times that the phrase appears on the page,
as a percentage of the text on the page. Keyword position is where the phrase
appears. If the phrase appears in headings, page title, and description, a search engine
will see this as more relevant than a page which only has the words “hamster food”
appearing once in the middle of the page.
In addition to keyword density and position, link popularity and other “off the page”
factors contribute significantly to your page’s ranking. This is because good web sites
usually have other sites linking to them. Since there will usually be a good number of
pages that have just the right mix of keyword density and position, link popularity makes
a good “tie-breaker” for search engines to use when ranking pages.
Closely related to link popularity is “link relevance” and weighting. This means that a
link to your "hamster food" page from a page that actually contains those words is more
relevant than a link from an unrelated page. For Google, the text used in the link itself is
most important. A listing on popular sites like Yahoo! or the Open Directory is given
greater weight than a link from “Bob’s Garden Tool Emporium.”
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, most of the search engines now use
“themes” to categorize web sites, whether they intend to or not. This is definitely the
next big wave in search engine technology, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see all the
search engines transition to a theme-based system in the near future.

Themes Explained
There has been, and continues to be, a lot of misunderstanding of themes. Some folks
have contended that search engines are examining your entire website and determining
a few search terms that define its content. Search engines, today, still index and rank
individual web pages, not websites. However, because search engines consider the
context and content of the links that point to each page, a "theme effect" arises from a
well organized website.
We’ll delve more deeply into themes in Chapter 4, but for now let me summarize.
Theme engines put a great deal of stock in the linking relationships between web
pages. The concept of “hubs and authorities” is found throughout the academic
literature on the subject of themes and searching. Essentially, a hub is a page that links

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to a lot of other sites on a particular theme, and an authority is a page to which a lot of
related sites link.
The concept is similar to the use of citations in scholarly and scientific research – the
more people who quote you, the smarter and more authoritative you must be. Likewise,
if you cite a lot of noted authorities, it’s assumed that you’ve done your homework.
Because web searchers are often looking for a mix of hubs and authorities, theme
based search engines tend to deliver both types in their results.
Like it or not, themes are the next generation in search engine technology. Although
not all search engines use themes now, it’s safe to assume that all of them will have to
consider it very soon. Between Altavista, Fast, Google and Inktomi, it’s hard to find a
search engine that isn’t somewhat dependent on themes. Such portals as Yahoo!,
MSN, AOL, Hotbot, and even ICQ all get at least part of their search results from theme
based search engines.
The newest search engines, Teoma and Wisenut, partially base the rankings of a page
on the entire content of the pages that link to them, and even attempt to consider
related concepts and search terms. While Google doesn't appear to have gone beyond
considering the text contained in hyperlinks, they have at least one patent on file (US
Patent #6,526,440) that would take them in the same direction as Teoma and Wisenut.
By designing your site around themes, you are not only doing the right thing for the
current generation of search engines, you are, in a sense, "future-proofing" your website
to prepare for the next wave. Keep in mind, a few years ago, Google was a research
project – today they control more than half of all searches.
On the positive side, the widespread use of themes will create a fantastic opportunity for
you, since many of your competitors will not have the knowledge or resources to adapt.
Although modifying a site to create consistent themes can be laborious, the effort
definitely pays off. Sometimes, all it takes is a change in the navigation scheme for the
site – that was definitely the case for my Website Promotion Central site.

How People Use Search Engines & Portals
One of the most often overlooked factors in search engine positioning is what the
people using the search engines are trying to accomplish, and how they go about it. It’s
an oversimplification to say that people get online to find “information,” but it’s a useful
starting point.
When a web surfer visits a search engine to find information, they type a keyword or
phrase in, and wait for the results to be displayed. The first rule of keyword searches is
that there are 1000 ways to say ‘real estate’ and 50 ways to spell it. What this means to
you is that even if your website is about “hamster food,” people will not always use that
exact phrase when they’re looking for what you offer. They misspell words, add words,
put them in seemingly random order, etc.

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Typically, there are two types of searching people do from a search engine. “Drill-down”
searches are done by someone trying to research a subject. In this type of search, the
surfer usually finds a “hub” or “authority” on a particular topic, and doesn’t return to the
search engine for quite a while. More often than not, this is the way I search – I use a
search engine to find a few authoritative sites, then follow the links from those sites.
The most popular search terms (for example, "Pokemon") are usually searched in this
manner. If your site isn’t one of the top authorities or hubs, you’d better try to get them
to link to you.
The second type of search is what I call a targeted search. In this case, the surfer is
looking for a specific site, person, or product. It’s amazing how many people get onto a
search engine like Altavista, only to type in “Hotmail” and click away to the Hotmail site.
It’s almost as if they forgot the address. In many cases, though, the searcher is trying to
find the official website for a particular product or company, and doesn’t know the URL.
Once presented with a listing of search results, how do people decide which site to
visit? They’ll scan the listing looking for the first result that appears to meet their need,
by reading the title and description. Page titles like “UNTITLED” or “Home Page” are
less likely to attract attention than “Wide World of Hamsters.” Likewise, a page without a
concise, attractive description is less likely to be visited.
Searchers working on a “drill-down” search will usually gravitate toward those listings
that offer a wealth of information and links. One of my websites saw more than a 40%
increase in search engine click-thrus after I added the words “links to top website
promotion resources” to the description. Searchers often want to get away from the
search engine, and onto an authoritative website, so give them what they want.
If you are operating a web store, you’ll probably be more interested in targeted
searches. If you’re selling products that are available elsewhere, you can get a lot more
attention and traffic by providing such valuable resources as reviews, independent
testing, and side-by-side or feature comparisons. I know of one affiliate of a software
company who nearly outsells the parent company’s website, by offering additional
documentation on the product which isn’t available from the company itself.

Takeaways – what we've learned
Understanding key concepts in the search engine world was our primary goal in this
chapter, and I hope we’ve accomplished at least that much. The information I’ve
introduced to you will come into play throughout this book, as we work through the stepby-step process of creating a search engine strategy for your website.
Although this fact is not emphasized to a significant degree here, a big part of the
puzzle is “off the page” and not under your direct control. Although we can tune up your
web pages to better fit what search engines like, your rankings depend on what’s
happening out there on the web at large. In fact, the quality of the inbound links to your
website may, in many cases, be more influential with the search engines than the
content of your website itself.

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We’ve spent a little time inside the web surfer’s mind, and I hope you won’t forget about
that. Depending on the nature and character of your website, understanding the
anonymous person on the other side of the search engine could make all the difference
in the world. It’s not enough to have your site ranked well, if nobody clicks on the link –
you have a tremendous opportunity to increase traffic without even changing the
content of your site.
Finally, I hope I’ve gotten you to start thinking strategically about search engines, and
helped you understand a little bit about why they exist, what they do, and who they
serve. In the highly competitive world of web portals and search engines, traffic equals
revenue. Whereas a small content site that gets a few hundred visitors a day might
provide a living for one or two people, a portal (like Yahoo!) that gets millions of visits a
day might employ thousands.
When someone comes up with a clever trick to fool a search engine into delivering less
relevant results, that search engine loses customers, and people can lose their jobs. I’d
hate to be caught using such a trick when that search engine discovers it. With their
very survival at stake in the current market conditions, search engines are very active,
and very aggressive, about maintaining the integrity of their product.
Search engines don’t care about you, they don’t care about your website, but they do
care about their customers. If I get what I’m looking for when I use a search engine, I’ll
use it again. Search engines are trying to deliver the most relevant results possible for
every search. When you understand this, you’ll have a leg up on everyone who’s trying
to “fool” the search engines. By working with the search engines, instead of
against them, you’ll win in the end.

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Meet The Players: Where Traffic Comes From
Most of the good information on search engine traffic comes from Nielsen/Netratings,
StatMarket, comScore, and a few other media sources. There is no single authoritative
source of data that tells us which search engines are the most popular, which of the
multiple results they display actually gets clicked on, etc.
As a result, I've had to do a little "detective work" to come up with my best guesses
here. My first educated guess is that there are about 350 million searches by users in
the United States, on an average day. Much of the data below is based on this estimate.
Where Searches Happen
Out of those 350 million searches, here's my best estimate of where those searches are
performed today.
Google.com (for searches on Google.com only), 32%
AOL + Netscape (both owned by AOL), 28%
MSN search (owned by Microsoft's MSN), 14%
Yahoo (web searches on Yahoo.com), 12%
Ask Jeeves + Teoma (both owned by Ask.com), 4%
Various "Metasearch" Engines, 4%
Infospace (Dogpile, Excite), 2%
Altavista, 2%
Overture (direct searches at Overture.com), 1%
Earthlink (Internet Service Provider), <1%
Looksmart (searches at Looksmart.com), <1%
Lycos, <1%
Hotbot, <1%
Who Provides Search Results
The major players in the search industry are few indeed. Yahoo has acquired Inktomi
and Overture in the past year. Overture had acquired Altavista and AllTheWeb prior to
being purchased by Yahoo. Here are the major players driving the search results today.
Google Search: (search engine)
Google's search results are shown on Google.com, AOL/Netscape, Yahoo, and
Earthlink. They're also available through many "metasearch" engines, and Google is
one of the options on Hotbot. Add it all up, and Google results are probably displayed
on 75% of all searches. That will probably change soon, if Yahoo (with their 12% share)
begins using results from Inktomi search, which they now own.
Google Adwords: (pay-per-click)
Google's Adwords is a "pay per click" program, displaying text ads alongside search

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results on many search portals. The order in which they are displayed is based on the
advertiser's bid, as well as the user response (click through rate) for each ad. Adwords
ads are displayed on Google.com, AOL/Netscape, Ask Jeeves, and many smaller
portals. Add it all up, and Adwords ads are probably displayed on 65% of all searches.
Adwords is not limited to search results, though, so the actual reach of this program is
much greater than that.
Overture.com (pay-per-click)
Overture is a "pay per click" advertising service, with sponsored listings displayed on
several major search portals, along with regular search results. Advertisers bid for
position on keyword searches, and the highest bidder gets their listing displayed first.
Overture listings are shown on MSN, Yahoo, Infospace, Altavista, and many
metasearch engines and other small portals. Add it all up, and Overture's listings are
probably displayed on 35% of all searches.
Looksmart (directory)
Looksmart is a directory using a "pay per click" model. They provide the primary search
results for MSN, and provide search results through their own Looksmart.com portal.
Looksmart also has a volunteer edited directory called Zeal, whose results are mixed in
with the paid listings. Looksmart results, based on my best guess, are probably shown
on 10% of all searches.
Looksmart's relationship with MSN will come to an end on December 31, 2003. After
that, Looksmart will be "just another pay per click," unless they can find new partners. I
would recommend against spending any money with Looksmart, at least until they
establish new partnerships. It's possible that they will never recover from the loss of
MSN traffic.
Inktomi Search (search engine)
Inktomi provides search results to multiple search portals, but they do not operate a
search portal of their own. Inktomi provides secondary search results to MSN and
primary results for Hotbot as well as several small portals. All together, Inktomi results
are probably shown on 6% of all searches. That will probably change soon, if Yahoo
(with their 12% share) begins using results from Inktomi search, which they now own.
MSN will begin showing Inktomi results as their primary search results on January 1,
2004. When Yahoo makes the expected switch to using Inktomi search results, their
share of the search market will rise even further. Inktomi is once again a rising player.
With Yahoo and MSN added, Inktomi results may well be shown on 30% or more of all
searches.
Altavista Search (search engine)
Altavista's search engine provides search results at Altavista.com, and are therefore
shown on about 2% of searches. Altavista was once the king of the search engine

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jungle. Acquired first by Overture and now owned by Yahoo, their days are probably
numbered. Yahoo is putting considerable effort into Inktomi, and my guess is that they
don't need another search engine. Look for some of Altavista's cool features (like
PRISMA, which suggests related searches) to live on.
FAST/AllTheWeb Search (search engine)
Results from FAST are displayed on Lycos, and the "AllTheWeb" search portal. All
together, probably less than 1% of all searches. Yahoo owns the AllTheWeb search
portal now, but it's unlikely that FAST results are going to grow significantly beyond the
Lycos portal, and Lycos may make a switch at some point. FAST's main business is
corporate search solutions, so it's unlikely that they will make significant efforts to retain
market share in the public search market.
Findwhat (pay-per-click)
Findwhat rates a mention here, because they appear to be gaining some ground. My
best guess is that their listings are probably shown on around 2% of searches, but it's
very hard to be sure. They're an important part of the results on many metasearch
engines.

Google Rules?
Because of the dominant position Google currently holds and the relative dearth of
"free" access to the remaining share of searches, many do it yourself webmasters focus
on Google exclusively. This may be a shortsighted strategy, but in many cases it's the
most practical approach.
The only major search engine likely to gain market share in the near future is Inktomi.
It's very likely that Yahoo will switch to using Inktomi's results shortly. This wouldn't
change our overall strategy, since pages optimized using our system tend to do well on
either Google or Inktomi. In fact, this is one more reason to think of Inktomi first when
optimizing pages.
Many professional search engine optimization consultants prefer to optimize pages for
Inktomi first, because their paid inclusion program indexes pages every 48 hours,
allowing them to make repeated changes to a page until it ranks well. Once it ranks well
on Inktomi, they can release it onto the web, and feel confident that it will also do well
on Google.
The main reason that Google doesn't have a lock on the search market is Microsoft,
though. The team at Microsoft is working on search engine technology. Presumably,
this would be deployed on the MSN search engine, but it's unlikely that they would stop
there.
Because of Microsoft's dominance in desktop operating systems (Windows), they have

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the ability to put Internet search tools in places that Google can't easily reach. If
Microsoft finds a compelling way to integrate web search functions into a future version
of the Windows operating system, it could make a significant dent in Google's market
share. Google is fighting back with their own desktop search tool.
For the moment, Google rules. Anyone who wants to topple Google will have to come
up with a more useful search engine, and that's proven to be a very difficult task indeed.
Microsoft may come up with something great, but even that may not be enough. Google
has hundreds of researchers on the payroll, and they hold a lot of key patents.
Stay tuned, but don't worry too much about any of this. As long as people search with
words, search engines will read text, and nobody can quickly change the fundamental
structure of the web.

Recommended Reading
Search Engine Marketing: The Essential Best Practices Guide
Mike Grehan, a search engine marketing professional from the UK, has compiled what
must be the most complete guide to "how search engines work." If you're interested in
the down and dirty technical details of search engines, this is the book for you.
Along with all of that technical detail, Mike also provides a lot of sound advice,
especially worth while to those who are considering search engine marketing as a full
time profession.
Click here to learn more: http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/grehan

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Chapter 3: Keyword Strategy (Step 1)
The goal of our keyword strategy is to get you the best total quality return on your
investment. If that sounds like a mouthful, it’s because there’s more involved here than
just how many people visit your site. If they find your site but they’re looking for
something else, you didn’t do yourself any good. It’s far better to get 50 visitors who
want what you have, than to get 1000 who leave before the first page finishes loading.
Understanding keyword strategy begins with knowing how people search. For any
given topic, there are literally thousands of ways that people will select a keyword or
phrase when using a search engine. The more different keywords and phrases your
site “ranks” on (in the top 10 listings on the search results), the more often it will show
up when a member of your target audience conducts a search.
Every time your site appears in the search results, there’s a chance your site will be
visited. Obviously, the higher your site ranks, the better your chance for success.
Ranking is very important, especially when you’re in the top ten. But the difference
between #1 and #3 is not as significant. What matters most, once your site appears in
the search results, is whether your title and description match what that particular web
surfer is looking for.
The total formula, then, involves how many keyword phrases your site can rank well on,
how high your site ranks for each of those searches, combined with how relevant and
enticing your page titles and descriptions are. Obviously, then, increasing the number
of keyword phrases your site covers will often deliver far better results than trying to
rank well on one extremely competitive keyword.
The best part of this, from our perspective, is that increasing the number of keywords
actually helps you target the right audience. This only makes sense – a #1 ranking for
“real estate,” even if you could achieve it, only attracts a very general audience. A #1
ranking for “Dallas TX condos” and related phrases is much easier to attain, and far
more targeted.

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The Keyword Hierarchy
Major Keywords (single words & short phrases)
One of the worst mistakes that novices make is trying to focus on a single word (like
‘books’) or phrase (like ‘real estate’), and attempt to build a website that will rank well.
This just isn’t possible in 99.9% of cases. Highly general terms such as these are very
competitive, difficult for search engines to handle, and hardly worth the trouble in the
first place.
Let’s imagine that, after spending hundreds of hours tweaking and perfecting your site,
you managed to get a #1 ranking for “real estate.” Unless you sell real estate of all
kinds in every part of the world, a substantial amount of the traffic you’ll get will come
from people who are looking for something you don’t have to offer.
Although we won’t try to optimize your site for such keywords, it’s very important that
you know what they are, as it applies to your site. As you work through this chapter,
make a list of the 5-10 “major” keywords that describe your website. These should be
mostly single words (like ‘homes’), with perhaps a couple of commonly-used phrases
(like ‘real estate’) mixed in.
These major keywords form the backbone of any good theme-based site design effort,
as they define the keyword themes that search engines will use to separate one site
from another. Don’t worry too much about them right now, because this is one of the
many cases where you can easily correct an omission at a later time. In other words, if
you forget a major keyword today, you can do something about it next month.
Keyword Phrases & Qualifiers
The next level in the keyword hierarchy consists of the two and three word phrases that
will attract the bulk of your keyword traffic. While these may not fully encompass even
the majority of search phrases used, they should represent the most common phrases.
As you work through this chapter, try to build a list of at least 20-30 keyword phrases for
your site. This list will continue to grow as long as your website exists.
Whenever possible, try to keep these phrases organized under the major keywords
you’ve listed. The major keywords serve as a means of categorizing the vast universe
of keyword phrases. For example, if you’re working the real estate category, under the
major keyword “homes” you might list such phrases as “homes for sale,” “beachfront
homes,” etc.
In addition to the keyword phrases, you’ll also want to come up with a list of qualifiers
that will frequently apply to your keyword phrases, such as “free.” One of my old sites,
Website Promotion Central, for example, used qualifiers such as “free,” “help,” “tips,”
“info,” etc. along with keyword phrases like “website promotion” and “email marketing.”
Since these qualifiers will often work with most (or all) of your keyword phrases, it helps

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to create a list of them as they come up, so you don’t miss opportunities to create a
valuable keyword phrase.
Localize!
Location is another important qualifier. If your business is in any way local, don’t forget
to include a list of geographic names in your list of qualifiers. City, state, county, names
used for the local region, etc. could be important qualifiers.
Ask For It By Name!
One of the most overlooked types of keyword is the brand name. One of the sites I
worked with last year was selling heavy equipment, but it never occurred to them that
people might look for "Komatsu" or "Caterpillar" equipment. Those keywords were
worth far more traffic than "backhoe" and "forklift."
Singular or Plural?
It would be great if every search engine knew that someone searching for "concert
ticket" is probably looking for the same thing as someone searching for "concert tickets."
Unfortunately, that's not the case – Google doesn't recognize them as the same, so for
every singular word we target, we also have to think about whether the plural might be
important, and vice versa.
Stemming & Misspellings
Now that you’ve found a bunch of keywords and phrases, it’s time to consider a couple
of real-world problems with them. Although most experts consider these two concepts
unrelated, the fact is that the practical problems (and opportunities) they present are
virtually identical. They’re also not nearly as important as the rest of our keyword
strategy.
Word stemming is the use of root words as synonyms for many other words. For
example, “boat” is the root of “boating.” Many search engines use word stemming, and
in many cases it actually works, by delivering the same search result whether the user
has typed “boat” or “boating.” This doesn’t mean you can get away with using only one
word, but that you should list each possibility, and identify the root words. Remember,
the goal is to match the relevant search phrases that people actually use – there’s no
point trying to cover every version of “toast” if all you’re selling are toasters.
Misspelling is a whole other problem, with the same basic outcome. The fact is, a lot of
people can’t spell to save their lives, and we still expect to get search results. By
incorporating common misspellings (and keyboard typos, like swapping adjacent letters)
into your keyword list, you’ll be able to squeeze a little extra traffic from the search
engines. Don’t waste too much time on this, though – it’s a marginal increase at best.
In fact, I recommend that you completely ignore this the first time through.
Google does a good job of helping searchers correct their misspellings. Try it – go to
www.google.com, and search for "aito repair." Google will give you the best results they

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can for that, but at the very top of the search results they ask, "Did you mean auto
repair?" with a link to the corrected search results.
Stop Words & Common Words
Some words are in such common usage (a, and, the) that they appear on almost every
web page. It makes little sense for a search engine to index every occurrence of the
word “and” on the internet – there are just too many, and they don’t mean very much.
Search engines don’t stop there, though. There are, in fact, a couple of hundred such
“stop words.” Different search engines, naturally, use different lists.
If your keyword phrases contain any stop words, nearly all search engines will ignore
those words anyway. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use them. Search engine A
might read your page where it says “computer programming” and ignore “computer” as
a stop word. If someone searches for “computer programming” on the same search
engine, the same stop word is removed.
Because different search engines have different lists, it doesn’t help all that much to try
to eliminate stop words from your keyword list, as long as you are aware of them, and
don’t use them in “critical” positions on the page (such as the first word in the title or
description).
In addition, most search engines allow for searching “by phrase,” where the exact
words used in the search query, including stop words, are located. I see a lot of traffic to
Website Promotion Central under the search phrase “website promotion,” even though
“website” is a stop word for many search engines. The phrase is treated differently than
a normal search – in many cases, I have top-ten rankings for phrases but not for the
standard keyword search.
If you’d like to find out whether a particular engine treats a certain word as a stop word,
just do a search for that word. To see how this works, just go type “and”, without the
quotes, into the Altavista search engine. The search returns zero (0) results, and you
know that it’s a stop word. Now try the same word in quotes – if you get results, you’re
dealing with a search engine that allows phrase searches and indexes the full text of a
page.
In many cases, common words might act like stop words, because they don’t seem to
affect the search results. This is because common words are, well, common. Even
those search engines that don’t use “website” as a stop word deliver almost the same
results for “promotion” as they do for “website promotion.” It’s easier for the search
engine to distinguish between top matches for the less common words (like ‘promotion’)
in the keyword phrase.
A fairly recent development among the theme-based search engines is full-text
indexing, which means that stop words are, in many cases, no longer used. Google, for
example, offers visitors an archived version of the indexed page. Altavista, FAST, and

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Inktomi are also, reportedly, indexing full pages again. Together, these are the major
players in the industry. Just one more reason not to worry too much about stop words.

Researching Keywords
Obvious Keywords
The process of researching keywords is still a bit difficult. Although there are tools you
can use to help the process, it’s still sometimes a bit more art than science. The best
place to start is with those keywords and phrases that are obvious to you. Starting with
a list of such words will make the rest of the process easier, so begin by listing the most
obvious keywords that describe your site, your products, the type of information you
have to offer, etc.
Related Terms
The next important group of keywords is the set of related terms that are used to
describe things similar to whatever your site is about. My own site, Inside Out
Marketing, is about internet marketing, a subject that is closely related to web site
development, search engine positioning, etc. In many cases these related terms will be
in your main list, but if they’re not, start making a list.
These related terms will become more important to you later on, as you work to expand
your site's theme and traffic. For example, a site with a strong theme of “website
promotion” will often be linked to sites with the strong theme of “search engine
positioning.” It would be logical, when expanding the site, to add content around these
new terms.
You’ll also use these terms later as you work to strengthen your site’s “off the page”
factors like link popularity and link relevance. Related sites that aren't direct competitors
are great candidates for partnerships, such as content sharing and link swaps.
Keyword Tools: Overture.com
Fortunately, you’re not alone in your need to research keywords. As a result, there are
a number of quality tools on the market to help you with this effort. The first, and in
many ways best, is the “Term Suggestion Tool" at Overture. Overture is a “pay-perclick” search engine, and their customers want to know which keywords and phrases
are searched most often.
Overture is happy to oblige, since higher demand for popular keywords leads to greater
revenue for the search engine. You can find this free tool at
http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion – although it has moved a
couple times. If you are a Overture bidder already, you can always find it by logging in
to your account.
To use the Overture tool, type in a primary keyword to see how many searches were
conducted in the past month for that term. You’ll see how many searches were done for

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that particular keyword phrase, along with a list of related terms. Add as many of these
related terms to your list as you feel is appropriate.
For every keyword in your list, try to get a count from Overture. This will help you set
priorities later on. When you get ready to create a theme-based site, you may discover
that the job is a little too big to take on all at once. It’s often easier to start with a single
category or major keyword, and build a theme around that. Why not start with the
keyword that gets the most targeted traffic?
Keyword Tools: Google Adwords
One of the most innovative new services is Google's Adwords program. This allows you
to purchase a small text ad, targeted for specific keywords, and pay for it on a perimpression basis. I can't recommend it as a great way to advertise, but they do offer a
very nice tool for doing keyword research.
Go to https://adwords.google.com/select/main?cmd=KeywordSandbox for Google's
keyword suggestion tool.
Keyword Tools: Wordtracker
The next tool in the arsenal is not free, but it’s reasonably priced, particularly if you’re
operating a for-profit website. The Wordtracker service (http://www.wordtracker.com)
will help you build a large list of keywords, and tracks the number of searches for each
keyword. Wordtracker is due for an upgrade, which should be coming in early 2004 at
the latest.
Keyword Tools: SEO Research Labs
My own SEO Research Labs (http://www.seoresearchlabs.com) provides keyword
research reports for $99.95 each, with a turnaround time of about a week. We'll use a
variety of tools, including Wordtracker, to prepare your report. This service was created
to help readers get a jump start on their search engine strategy. If keyword research
isn't your bag, why not give us a try?
Prioritizing & Targeting Keywords
Now that you’ve got a good list of keywords, phrases, qualifiers, etc. it’s time to set
some priorities. If you’ve done your research well, you should have little trouble. High
traffic comes from a lot of searches, so your top priority should be those keywords or
phrases that show the greatest number of searches per month. Cover your bases by
making sure that for all of your top-priority keywords and phrases, you also list out the
various qualifiers that can add to the list.
Before you instantly jump on the most popular keywords, take a moment to consider
how closely each will target your desired audience. A search term that gets 10,000
searches a month might look great at first, but is it really a good fit? If only 10% of those
using it are actually looking for what you offer, the effective value is really only 1,000
searches a month.

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I recommend that you decide on 5-10 top priority keywords/phrases at most, which will
become the primary keywords used in your site. Your overall theme could be
summarized in one keyword/phrase, and the rest will be closely related keywords.
Additional keyword phrases in your site will be variations of these top keywords (using
qualifiers, etc.). If you can’t encapsulate your theme within this number of keywords,
pick the most important keywords/phrases to start with.
Assessing Your Keyword Strategy
If you don’t have any kind of website traffic analysis software or service on your site
now, see Chapter 9 for a listing of the different software packages and online services.
It’s absolutely vital that you track where your visitors are coming from, and what
keywords they use to find you.
Once you’ve got your site positioned, give it three months before taking stock of your
keyword strategy. Of course, your primary goal is to increase traffic, and within three
months you should begin to see results. Almost as important as total traffic is the
number of keywords or phrases that visitors have used to find your site.
The most successful sites will show referrals from hundreds of different keyword
phrases. This is the result of your primary keywords combining with different qualifiers.
As you add optimized content to your website, the number of searches where your site
can appear will increase.
I wish you all the success you can imagine. I hope that your keyword strategy takes
you even further, to thousands of search phrases delivering traffic to your site.

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SEO Research Labs: Outsourced Keyword Research Reports

SEO Research Labs was born out of reader requests for assistance with the important
work of keyword research and analysis. Since I launched this service to my readers
early in 2003, it's grown rapidly. Our reports have become a favorite for web designers
and search engine consultants, because of our fast response and thorough research.
Why guess at the best search terms to target on your website? The SEO Research
Labs team will perform a detailed analysis to identify the most popular keywords for
your website. This report will help keep your search engine optimization and pay-perclick marketing campaigns on track. This package is priced at just $99.95, and includes:

Listing of Targeted Keywords / Search Terms
These represent the major and minor keywords and related search terms that
describe the products, services, or information available on your site. Our reports
typically run to around 150-200 search terms in total.

Keyword Metrics Report
This report details the popularity of each keyword phrase found. In addition, for
the top 25 search terms, we report on the level of competition, including an
assessment of how difficult it will be to obtain a top ten ranking. This will help you
focus your efforts on the best opportunities.
Click here to learn more: http://www.seoresearchlabs.com

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Chapter 4: Organizing Your Website (Step 2)
A couple years ago, when I redesigned Website Promotion Central, I made an important
discovery. My intent was only to create a more user-friendly navigation scheme. What I
ended up with was a sudden surge in search-engine rankings (and traffic) starting about
6 weeks later. I hadn’t changed any of the pages - all I had done was change the way
they were linked together.
What I had done, quite by accident, was reorganize my website by keyword themes.
Some of the themes had fallen into place very nicely, and others had not, and this was
clearly seen in my logs. My “Marketing” section had taken off like wildfire, but my
“Search Engine” section was still the same as it ever was. After doing a little more
research into what the search engines were up to, and learning more about themes, I
know exactly why one part of my site took off, while the rest didn’t.
The promise of theme-based search engines is that they will reward websites that
provide significant, valuable content over those that have simply been created to fool
the search engines. Website Promotion Central is a great example – I created the site
to help people, by providing clear information in a concise format.
In this chapter, you’ll learn how to redesign an existing site to take full advantage of the
underlying themes it already has; how to develop content to improve the strength of a
theme, and how to tie together related themes into a cohesive whole. You can do this
in such a way that your visitors won’t even know the difference, but the search engines
will.
Don't Take This Too Far!
It's easy to get caught up in themes, and try to force your website into supporting a
structure that just doesn't work. This is not an exact science, and breaking a few rules
will not destroy you! While I am presenting a formula to you that has worked for me, that
doesn't mean that there aren't other ways to build your site. Don't be afraid to
experiment, especially if it makes your site easier to use.
Think of your visitors first, and search engines second. In my experience, organizing
your website the way your visitors are likely to think about your subject is the closest
thing to a "perfect" theme-based design. What happens after people get to your
website is just as important as how they get there.

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How Search Engines See Your Site
Search engines look at two things when determining what a given web page is about.
The content of the page itself is a big part of the equation, but they also look at the
context of links that point to that page. If you have a page on your site about "hamster
food," it's better to link to it from a page about hamsters, than from a page about dogs.
Because they look at the links between pages, search engines are in effect looking at
entire sites. The key to establishing a theme for your site is to focus on a limited
number of keywords and phrases, which are closely related to each other. Your chosen
set of 5-10 keywords and phrases is then woven into the pages throughout the site, as
you develop additional pages to cover each of the more detailed (second tier) search
terms on your list.
By consistently applying my page optimization formula (in the next chapter), and
creating a strong theme-based design for your site, you should see a steady increase in
your search engine referrals. Consistency in keyword usage, and an applied
understanding of how the theme-based engines view your site, is really all you need.

The Theme Pyramid
The best analogy I’ve seen to describe how themes work is to look at the theme-based
website as a pyramid – the capstone on top of the pyramid doesn’t support nearly as
much weight as the stones which make up the base. So it is with search engine
themes. It’s not really possible, or desirable, to make your home page the sole focus of
your search engine optimization efforts. Success comes only by establishing a
consistent theme throughout the site, from top to bottom.
Top Level:
The Network (a.k.a. The Internet)
The very top of the theme pyramid is what I term the “network” level. I don’t
recommend that you attempt to create a network of sites, unless you already have one
and need to operate at this level. Your initial efforts at search engine positioning should
begin with the first tier of the pyramid, your website's home page.
For most of us, who are operating a single website, the top level of our theme pyramid
is made up of all the related sites that link to us. This part of the pyramid is important to
you, and we will deal with it later on, in Chapter 6.
First Tier:
Your Website (a.k.a. Homepage, Index Page, Domain)
The first tier of the pyramid, the homepage or domain, is where most readers will begin
to establish a theme. This is the “home page” of your website. In the past, the home
page for your domain was the often most critical to optimize for specific keywords.
Now, it’s really more like a map to guide your visitors (including search engines) to your
keyword-rich content.

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Your homepage should link to the entire second tier, and to as much of the third tier as
is practical. Search engines have a definite preference for indexing and ranking pages
that are linked from the first page of a domain. The bulk of your content will be on the
third tier, and you want to make it as easy as possible for visitors (and search engines)
to find the most important destination pages.
For example, your site might be built around a “home improvement” theme. This theme
is then divided into 5-10 other related keywords that expand upon that theme. For most
themes, it’s probably best to stick to 5-8 keywords/phrases total, including the primary
theme. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that adding more primary keywords is
necessarily a good thing.
If your home page simply can't be set up this way, you will want to set up a site map
page instead (with an organized set of links to your site's major content), and provide a
simple text link to it from your home page.
Second Tier: Directories ("Roadmap Pages")
The second tier, or "roadmap" page, is intended to help guide your visitors, and the
search engine spiders, to your content. Roadmap pages for theme-optimized websites
usually exist in their own subdirectories, along with the content. Each directory/roadmap
is focused on one of the 5-10 primary keywords you selected for the site’s theme. It's
not essential to put these sections into their own directories, but it's usually easier to
manage your content that way.
The roadmap pages are, of course, optimized as pages on their own and do carry some
content, but the important content lies in the third tier. The purpose of the second tier is
to reinforce one specific keyword/phrase within the site’s overall theme, and lead
visitors (including search engines) to the keyword-rich content on the third tier. Since
much (if not all) of your content will be linked from the home page, some of your site’s
visitors may not see these pages.
There will be one roadmap page for each of the 5-10 primary keywords, and they will be
linked from (and link back to) the home page. Of course, every roadmap page carries
links down to the third tier content within its directory. Unless two directories are closely
related, you don't necessarily need to link them together.
Sticking to our example theme, a typical roadmap page in our “home improvement” site
might be about “landscaping.” Notice how “landscaping” and “plumbing” might fit into an
overall theme of “home improvement,” but the two are not necessarily related. By
putting a virtual wall in between these two subjects at this tier, instead of linking them
together, we help the next generation search engines understand the overall theme. A
site that has two such directories, and “home improvement” woven throughout the site,
shows a clear theme.

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Third Tier: Content ("Destination Pages")
The third tier consists of keyword-rich content, or what have been traditionally referred
to as doorway pages. Since the term "doorway pages" has also been used to describe
pages designed solely for search engines, I prefer to call them "destination pages."
This is because your visitors have probably come to these pages in search of
information, and have now reached their intended destination.
Each of these pages will reinforce the theme, by emphasizing the keyword/phrase from
the second tier. This is where we make use of our secondary keyword list, and
qualifiers, to build a set of pages that would rank well on traditional search engines
under their own keywords/phrases. We do this by providing useful content for our
visitorsthat fits these keywords.
For each second-tier roadmap page, we will typically have 5-10 destination pages in the
third tier. Each of these pages will link back up to the roadmap on the second tier and
the homepage on the first tier. They will not, however, link to each other, unless the
contents of two pages are closely related. If there is deeper content on the fourth tier,
these pages will link downward to related content that expands upon the
keyword/phrase being established.
To follow our example further, our “home improvement” site with a roadmap page on
“landscaping” would have destination pages on subjects like “landscape design,”
“trees,” etc. There might be a further layer of deep content beneath this layer.
Not all third-tier pages must have a roadmap page above them – for example, I have
experimented successfully with linking major destination pages directly from my home
page, on a site that had a fairly narrow theme. In this case, the home page is very much
like a roadmap page.
Tier Four: Deep Content
Creating a third tier may be all that is needed in many cases. With Inside Out Marketing,
I made a roadmap page on “Search Engine Positioning” that leads to multiple
"destination" pages (my articles) on keyword strategy, optimization, etc. To attract
significant traffic in that highly competitive arena, though, I’ll really need to go further,
into a fourth tier of content.
Instead of basic content, like a destination page with an article on keyword selection, I
can further strengthen the site’s theme by adding additional, deep content, on things like
keyword searches, etc. – basically, every section in Chapter 3 would make at least one
good page of deep content.
The fourth-tier pages can of course be linked to from the higher levels. These pages,
can be safely linked together within their own particular area – for example, my 10-15
pages of deep content on keyword selection can be cross-linked to each other. You
may not need to develop this much content, but when you find that your search engine

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referrals are declining, it may be time to shore up the content which supports the
declining keyword/phrases.

Organizing Your Site Into Themes
Before we get into optimizing your pages, it’s helpful to map out your new site’s
organization. I like to use a whiteboard for this, then commit the design to paper.
Whatever tools you use, it’s important to have the overall design and structure in mind.
That way, when you (or other members of your web design team) begin to develop
pages, you know exactly how the whole thing fits together.
An “Off The Shelf” Theme Site
The diagram below was part of my plan for the complete redesign of Website Promotion
Central as a theme-based site. As you can see, I’ve broken my theme down into four
primary keywords, which represent the second tier. I’ve only shown you one example
for the third and fourth tier. In practice, you’ll want to map out the third (and fourth, if
you have one) tiers completely before you start building your site.

One of the most important areas of the site is the bookstore, where I could write reviews
and offer books for sale. These pages won't necessarily be optimized for my theme
keywords, but they will still bring in traffic from targeted searches. Someone who is
searching for one of these books by name might also be interested in a review – this is
another potentially rich source of traffic, outside of my site's basic theme.

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In Tier 3, I’ve planned for 9 destination pages to cover my bases, and another 60 or so
pages of deep content (Tier 4), with 4-7 pages of deep content underneath each
destination page. As I mentioned previously, you may not need to go to a fourth tier,
unless you’re working on extremely competitive keywords. Search engine positioning
is, of course, the most competitive area of them all, so I’ll need some deeper content.
Redesigning Existing Sites
It may seem easier to start from scratch with a brand new domain name, but if you
already have a site with significant traffic coming in, and existing links from other sites,
it's probably not worth it. Instead, you can simply redesign your site. When you do this,
the search engines may take a couple months to properly re-index your site, but it’s
worth the wait. If you decide to redesign your site, there are a couple important things to
keep in mind.
First, make sure that you aren’t creating broken links or moving/eliminating pages that
past visitors may attempt to visit, unless you have a plan to deal with this. If you can
modify the “404 error” page that your web server returns when it can’t find a page, stick
your site map on that page so anyone who gets lost can find what they’re looking for. If
you’re not sure, ask your hosting provider to help, or check out the great set of tutorials
at http://www.plinko.net/404/custom.asp.
Finally, keep your visitors in mind, and don’t eliminate useful content that doesn’t
exactly fit the theme. Just make sure that you optimize the content you already have,
and add more content where your site is weak.

Developing Themed Content
Before we move on to Chapter 5, let’s take a moment to consider an important factor in
building a theme-based website: content. Reworking existing content is probably the
easiest way to go, in terms of time. If your site already has some good content, your job
comes down to linking the content together, and using the optimization techniques in
Chapter 5.
If you don’t have enough content for your “destination” pages, you can always create
some. Writing from the top down (also known as the “outline method”) is the best way
to develop new content. Create an outline, using theme keywords and phrases at the
top level, and write the content around the page’s theme and critical keywords. Read
the optimization guidelines (next chapter) before you start developing new content.
Acquiring content from others is the fastest way to build a theme site, but only if you
have the author’s permission to do a little editing. Due to the narrow focus any
particular page will have, and the need to control the headings, you will have a hard
time finding content that fits perfectly without a few changes. Explain the process to the
author, and get explicit permission – they may want to use the edited version
themselves, once they understand the reason.

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Chapter 5: Optimizing Individual Web Pages (Step 3)
I don’t miss the “old days” of search engine positioning, when optimizing pages came
down to measuring “keyword density,” page length, and other hard to measure factors.
Everybody had their own formula, and most of them were wrong. We wrote content to
fit the "optimum" page size, stuck in keywords where they were "supposed to be," and
generally wasted a whole lot of people’s time.
With the advent of the theme-based search engine, the analysis of keyword density, etc.
has almost become a thing of the past. When I build a website for themes, it’s keyword
selection that makes the big difference. Positioning those keywords on pages, and
within the site, is now a very simple exercise, with simple rules. You just stick to the
formula, and everything seems to work. The prominence of keywords is much more
important than how many words are on the page.
The system I use to optimize pages is really very simple, and the work should proceed
fairly quickly, if you’ve done a good job of organizing your site and selecting keywords.
You’ll find out when the traffic starts to come in. If search engines are delivering
referrals for searches that don’t really fit your intent, you may want to remove the
offending words. If my "search engine fast start" site starts getting hits for “fast diesel
engine,” I'm going to take the word “diesel” out of my site if possible.
Pick your keywords carefully, organize your site correctly, and the rest is a piece of
cake. Don't be afraid to break a rule or two if it's better for your human visitors. Got it?
Okay, let’s get started.
Note: this chapter requires a basic understanding of HTML – if you need a refresher
course, or an introduction, there are a lot of great resources online. I like these:
NCSA "Beginner's Guide To HTML":
http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/General/Internet/WWW/HTMLPrimer.html
Dave's Interactive HTML Tutorial:
http://www.davesite.com/webstation/html/
HTML For Rookies:
http://www.htmlprimer.com/

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How To Use This Chapter
This chapter is organized along the lines of the theme pyramid. For each tier in the
pyramid, I provide specific guidance on where to place keywords, and how to build and
lay out the pages. We conclude with some guidelines on links, and a few basic rules for
search engine friendly design.

Network Level (The Internet)
Chapter 6 provides much more detail on improving your positioning at this level. You
don't really control the pages at this level, but you can influence them. Ideally, links from
other websites to your site should:
• Be placed on pages that are closely related to your content
• Include some of your keywords in the text of the link

Tier 1: Domain Level (Your Home Page)
The home page for your site, in a theme-based site, is sort of like a glorified site map.
You can dress it up however you like, and strong copy is important to tell your visitors
what your site is about, but the primary purpose of this page is to lead visitors (including
search engine spiders) to the rest of your content.
Title, Keywords, & Description
Page Title: The page title should be 5-10 words long at most. It should contain the
primary theme keyword/phrase for the site. It should also be designed to attract clicks
from those who find it in a search. I like to use 3-5 keywords, followed by a vertical bar
(right above the Enter key), then the name of my site:
<title>search engine optimization positioning ranking | Search Engine
Optimization Fast Start!</title>

Keywords META Tag: The keywords META tag should contain all of the “roadmap”
keywords/phrases, as well as the overall theme keyword/phrase for the site. If you use a
separate keywords META tag for each page, you should only use keywords in the tag if
they appear on that page. The alternative is to use the same one for your whole site –
most search engines don't believe what your META tags say anyway.
Description META Tag: The description META tag should contain the same keywords
as the Keyword META tag, with the same proviso about whether you use the same one
for your whole site, or do one for each page. I highly recommend writing a separate
description for every page. Use the first 10 words or so to attract visitors, working in
keywords where it makes sense. After that, it’s pretty safe to lapse into “keyword-ese”
and try to get your keywords in.
Other META Tags: Unless you have some compelling reason to use other META tags,
don’t. The more you add, the longer it takes for the page to load.

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Headings
If your site has a single keyword/phrase that sums up your overall theme, use it in an
H1 or H2 heading at the top of the page. If you want to follow this with a short (20-30
words) introduction to your site, feel free, but stick to your overall theme and roadmap
keywords in this area.
Site Map: Roadmaps & Destinations
List all of your roadmap keywords as “H2” or "H3" headings, hyperlinked to the
corresponding roadmap page. I like to use a separate table cell in my layout for each
roadmap (H2) heading. The basic layout looks like this:

Each of the section headings (H2 or H3) is hyperlinked to a roadmap page. Under these
headings, create text links (by page title) to your destination pages. If your destination
pages have important fourth-tier content underneath them, you can use smaller
headings (or even plain text) for the links to your destination pages, and regular text
links to your fifth-tier content.
Page Design & Layout
Make the design functional & clean. Your site’s visitors still want to be able to find what
they’re looking for, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them. When you
start submitting to directories, remember that directory editors have a lot of sites to look
at. Your home page should load quickly, get to the point, and have useful content that
they can easily find from the first page.

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Links to “About Us,” “FAQ’s”, etc. are important to visitors and editors alike. If you have
a links page, you can link to it from here as well. These are usually separate from any
"roadmap" sections.
Don't use any banner ads or external links on your home page or any roadmap pages,
unless you absolutely have to. Every external link on your home page will slightly
reduce the rankings of your other pages. External links, for the most part, should be
placed at the bottom of the pyramid, in the third or fourth tier.
Special Considerations: Product Sites
(a.k.a. Mini-Sites)
If your site is built to sell a product, you shouldn’t have to change your sales copy much,
but you can still have roadmap and destination pages that are linked from the
homepage, and through a Site Map page. Any site with more than a few pages needs a
site map, for your visitors and for the search engines.
Use roadmap keywords in your headings, and link those keywords to the roadmap
pages. When destination keywords appear in your page text, link to the matching
destination page. Use the right keywords under the right heading, as if you were
designing a site map, and don’t worry if you can’t link to all the destination pages from
your sales copy – that’s why you created roadmap pages.

Tier 2: Roadmap Pages
The roadmap pages are pretty basic. A description of that section's contents, with links
to the destination pages is all you should need.
Directory Names
Roadmap pages should preferably be located within their own directory, and the name
of the directory should include the primary keyword/phrase for the roadmap. For
example, a roadmap page on “keywords” should be in a directory called “keywords.”
This helps strengthen the theme, as well as keeping your site well organized.
Title, Keywords, & Description
Page Title: The page title should be 5-10 words long at most. It should contain the
primary theme keyword/phrase for this roadmap. It should also be designed to attract
clicks from those who find it in a search.
Keywords META Tag: The keywords META tag should contain all of the “destination”
keywords/phrases, as well as the overall theme keyword/phrase for the roadmap.
Description META Tag: The description META tag should contain the same keywords
as the Keyword META tag. Use the first 10 words or so to attract visitors. After that, it’s
pretty safe to lapse into “keyword-ese” and try to get your keywords in.

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Headings
Take your roadmap’s primary keyword/phrase, and put it in a big “H1” or "H2" heading
at the top of the page. Follow this with a short (20-30 word) paragraph describing the
content to be found in this roadmap, sticking to the roadmap and destination keywords.
List each destination page with an “H3” or "H4" heading (use the page title) hyperlinked
to the destination page – add a very short (around 25 words) description in plain text if
you like. If you have deep content that you'd like to link to from here, use plain text for
your deep content links, with the page title in the text of the link.
Layout & Other Factors
Keep a clean, functional layout for your roadmap pages. Search engines are the
primary “audience,” but don’t make it hard on visitors or directory editors. Don’t use any
banner ads or external links on roadmap pages, unless you absolutely have to. They
are the pathway for your visitors (and search engines) to find your content – don't put
any unnecessary side roads on your site.
A paragraph or two of actual content, describing what the roadmap section is about, and
maybe highlighting some of the destination content, is good for your visitors as well as
the search engines.

Keyword Placement: Destinations & Deep Content
Writing destination pages is really much easier with a theme-based strategy. Each
destination page should be between 200-700 words in length. Beyond that, you should
follow these simple rules to ensure that you have the right keywords in the right places.
Every destination page should use 3-7 keywords/phrases, with one primary keyword or
search phrase.
Directory Names
Destination pages should usually be located within the roadmap directory, and the
name of the directory should include the primary keyword/phrase for the roadmap. If
your destination keywords are not a simple variation of the roadmap keyword (for
example, a roadmap on “keywords” and a destination on “keyword selection”), create a
directory using the destination keyword/phrase.
Title, Keywords, & Description
Page Title: The page title should be 5-10 words long at most. It should contain the
primary theme keyword/phrase for this destination, with at least one qualifier word
added if it makes sense. It should also be designed to attract clicks from those who find
it in a search.
Keywords META Tag: The keywords META tag should contain all of the supplemental
keywords/phrases that you create using the primary keyword/phrase for this destination
(using qualifiers, etc.), as well as the primary keyword/phrase. Use only those
keywords/phrases that you will include in the content of the page.

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Description META Tag: The description META tag should contain the same keywords
as the Keyword META tag. Use the first 10-15 words or so to attract visitors. After that,
it’s pretty safe to lapse into “keyword-ese” and try to get your keywords in.
Headings (H1-H6)
Top Heading (H1 or H2): Use primary keyword/phrase for this destination, with a top
qualifier word.
Section Headings (H2 or H3): Primary keyword/phrase worked in one more time, with
another qualifier. Remaining section headings use additional supporting keywords, and
closely related keywords from the roadmap. Roadmap keywords are the roadmap’s top
keyword/phrase, and the top keywords/phrases for the other destinations.
Paragraph Headings & Subheadings (H3, H4 or H5): Additional supporting keywords,
and closely related roadmap keywords.
Page Content
Use the top keyword/phrase in the first paragraph, within content (1-2 times w/
stemming), and in the last sentence of the last paragraph. Work in related roadmap
keywords (2-3 times) following their appearance in headings. Each page should 3-7
keywords/phrases in total – the primary keyword/phrase for this destination, the primary
keyword/phrase from the roadmap, and additional related/supporting keywords, such as
roadmap keywords.
Links: Stay On Theme
Writing good content on the web means linking to resources on other pages and sites.
Unrelated links weaken the theme, so when you include links to external resources,
make sure they’ve got a keyword/phrase associated with them, or at least have some
relationship to your site's topic.
Internal links within the 3rd and 4th tiers should use “absolute” addressing, as opposed to
relative addressing. Absolute addresses are the full URL for the resource
(HREF=”http://www.domain.com/directory/page.html”). Relative addresses are the
shorter URLs you can use within a site (HREF=”page.html”).
Don’t trade links with other sites unless the outbound link will be relevant to your theme,
as well as the inbound link. This will be covered in greater detail in Chapter 6. If you
have existing linking arrangements with unrelated sites, you should consider moving
those links to a separate page, on their own.
Follow the linking rules in the preceding chapter carefully, and don’t cross-link
unnecessarily between pages on your site that aren’t grouped together under a theme.
If you must link between pages for the sake of your visitors, do it – if the link makes
sense to your visitors, it probably makes sense to search engines, too.

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Rules For Search Engine Friendly Design
Some basic rules apply to designing pages for search engines. Keep them in mind as
you build your site, or you could be in for trouble. These all have to do with creating a
site that search engine spiders can navigate. If you have to “break” one of these rules,
you’ll have to sort out the details of making your content accessible to the engines.
Frames
Search engine spiders don’t handle frames very well, and some don’t read them at all.
In either case, you’re better off avoiding the use of frames altogether. If you must use
them, create a NOFRAMES version of your site that links all of your content together.
Better yet, don’t use frames.
Dynamic Pages
Dynamic pages are another potential search engine no-no. These are pages that get
created on the fly by your web server, like “http://www.domain.com/page.cgi?page=14.”
Some search engine robots won’t index them at all, while others will index them, but
won't follow any dynamic links on them.
As a general rule, if a particular page has a stable URL (your "hamster food recipes"
page is always at www.yoursite.com?page=123) then the search engines can probably
index it, provided they can find a link to it.
If you must use dynamic pages, create a static version of your homepage and
roadmaps, and link it together through a site map. If you have dynamic pages that you
don’t want search engines to see, you can use robots.txt to keep them away from that
part of your site.
I'm not saying that search engines can't or won't index dynamic sites. They do, and they
get better at it all the time. But they tend to index less content, and they can have
problems finding it all. A site map that links to your most important content will help a lot.
I have an online archive of my articles (http://www.insideoutmarketing.com) that Google
has completely crawled, which is a 100% dynamic site.
One advanced technique that can be very effective is "URL rewriting." What this does is
change a URL like www.yoursite.com?topic=3&page=4 into www.yoursite.com/3/4/,
which looks like any other URL to a search engine. Users of the Apache web server can
read the documentation for "mod_rewrite" here:
http://httpd.apache.org/docs/mod/mod_rewrite.html. There is also a low cost URL
rewriting module for Microsoft's IIS server: http://www.iisrewrite.com.
Plug-Ins etc.
It should be obvious, but the use of plug-ins like Flash to run your site will not work very
well with search engines. If you must use them, give search engines and other visitors
a path to get around them. Better yet, don’t use them at all – a large percentage of
users would rather not deal with them. You can always create a link to this content, and
let users load them if they want to.

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Recently, search engines have begun to improve in this area. The FAST/AllTheWeb
search engine, which also powers Lycos search, has begun to index the content of
Flash pages. Google is capable of indexing several different file types, such as Adobe
PDF and Microsoft Word documents. In time, it may not be as important to have HTML
versions of your key content, but right now, the search engine world still runs on HTML.
Javascript
Javascript also gives search engines trouble. A great example of this is pop-up
windows. I used to use pop-ups on Website Promotion Central to provide a glossary –
when users clicked on a technical term, a window would pop up to explain it. I did this
until I realized that spiders would never see the pop-ups because they don’t handle
Javascript.
The best way to handle this would be to use some scripts on your server to use pop-ups
only when a “real” browser like Internet Explorer or Netscape is detected, and give the
search engines a regular page. I’ve successfully used server-side includes (SSI) with
the Apache web server, but that is a technical subject far beyond the scope of this book.
Another simple technique is to use a normal hyperlink for your pop-up windows, using
the 'target="_blank"' attribute in the anchor tag. Instead of setting the size of the
window before it's opened, you can insert Javascript code in your popup window so that
it will resize itself after it opens.
Image Maps & Fancy Site Navigation Tools
The use of form buttons, images, image maps, Javascript menus, rollovers, etc. for site
navigation is fine from a designer’s perspective, but search engines may not be able to
keep up. When you decide to use these types of navigational tools, make sure that you
give the search engines a version of your site that doesn’t need them. Using them on
your home page, without providing a little help to lead the search engines to the rest of
your site (through a site map or plain text links to your roadmap pages), virtually
guarantees you’ll see little to no search engine referrals.
HTML Validation
Before you upload any pages, or submit them to a search engine, you really should run
them through an HTML validator. Get one at http://www.htmlvalidator.com, or use the
online version at http://validator.w3.org. Whichever way you go, don’t submit until you
validate. These programs generate two kinds of messages: warnings and errors.
"Warnings" are little things that probably won't hurt you. "Errors" have the potential to
trip up a search engine spider, and your visitors. Search engine spiders can choke on
bad HTML, and your effort is wasted if they can't read your page.

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Chapter 6: Linking and Off-The-Page Factors (Step 4)
When search engines were new, the number of links pointing to a site didn’t even
matter. That began to change within a year or two, as search engine operators
recognized that the best sites would be referred to more frequently by other sites. For a
long time, the key to search engine positioning was optimizing pages (easily done, more
or less, with tools like WebPosition Gold) and recruiting as many inbound links as
possible.
The problem with simply measuring link popularity was that people quickly learned to
“cheat” the system by creating link trading cooperatives. Free-for-all links pages and
formal programs like “Links To You” made it possible to create hundreds of inbound
links in a short time. Anyone who wanted to take advantage of the system could move
their site up the charts just by adding a set of links pages to their site.
Thus was born the concept of “link relevance,” which attempts to measure the context of
any links to your site. If the text of the hyperlink has relevant keywords, and the page
where the link resides does as well, it’s more likely that the site it points to is truly
relevant as well. This concept has proven to be quite effective in improving search
results.
Still, it might be possible to cheat the system, for a short time, by joining forces with
other website operators within a similar set of topics. For example, a group of 50
websites on gardening could join a mutual linking program and improve each other’s
rankings. However, even these types of links are now coming under scrutiny.
Search engines have now begun to recognize these programs for what they are, and
have taken countermeasures. Altavista penalizes “identical” pages (which is what links
program pages are), to prevent such programs from spoiling their results. Google has
gone a step further, and appears to be, in many cases, permanently removing sites
from its index when they’re caught participating in an illicit links program.
It’s only a matter of time before affiliate program links and other artificial tools are
systematically identified by search engines. In this particular arms race, the search
engines hold all the cards.
So, what can you do? The best approach is to take the “high road,” and only establish
links that are truly relevant and useful to your visitors. Not only is this easier in the long
run, it’s a good precaution against having your entire domain banned by a search
engine. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to take the high road to success.

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What’s Happening Off The Page?
Now that search engines have become more sophisticated, a significant part of your
site’s ranking consists of factors beyond your site itself. Without paying attention to
these matters, you will never see strong results from your search engine positioning
activity.
Link Popularity is a measurement of the number of other web sites and pages that link
to your site and its pages. Once a primary measurement of the value of your site, it is
now almost a secondary measure. The number of links is not nearly as important as
who the links come from, and what words are contained in the text of the link.
Link Relevance is a measurement of the context and content of the links to your site.
Links with your keywords in the text, and links from other sites and pages that are
relevant to your keywords or theme, have a higher value than random links. This
means that incoming links to your roadmap and destination pages are often of greater
value than links to your home page, depending on the context of the link.
Outbound Links are those links on your site that point to other sites and pages on the
web. The relevance of these links, in terms of how the resources they point to rank
relative to your site’s keywords and theme, add or subtract from your site’s theme.
Hubs & Authorities are the two types of sites that theme-based search engines consider
most relevant. Hubs are sites with outbound links to a lot of other high-quality sites.
Authorities are those sites that are referenced (linked to) by a lot of other high-quality
sites. A site can be both a hub and an authority.
Your strategy should take these four factors into account. If your site is well positioned
as a hub already, you can improve your ranking by increasing the number and
relevance of incoming links, thereby making your site more “authoritative.” Likewise, a
site that has a high number of good inbound links (an authority) may improve its overall
rankings by becoming a better hub.

Evaluating Outbound Links
Relevance
Any outbound links you create should point to resources that are highly relevant to your
site’s theme and its primary keywords/phrases. This means that you should evaluate
the sites and pages you point to, and determine whether they’re strong enough to add
to your site’s theme. Typically, any site or page that ranks in the top 50 on at least one
search engine for a given keyword/phrase is strong enough to add strength to your
theme.
Don’t feel obligated to link to a site’s home page – link directly to the most relevant
pages. I’ve been able to improve the results for several sites just by changing the

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outbound links from homepages to content pages which best support the site’s
keywords.
Context
When placing outbound links onto your site, the context in which they appear will impact
how well they strengthen your theme. A destination page on “keyword selection” with
links to 4-5 very strong pages with content on “keyword selection” has better contextual
value than the same page with links on “search engine positioning.”
Value
For sites that lack deep (Tier 5) content, one of the best ways to enhance the theme is
to link to specific resources that support the destination (Tier 4) keywords. For
example, a destination page on keyword selection with links to pages that provide more
details on the subject. This is how your site can become a top-ranked hub.
Reciprocation
Obviously, when you link to highly relevant resources, a link back to your site is worth
pursuing. Given a choice between two possible outbound links (for example, to expand
coverage of a particular topic), I’ll always choose the one that’s going to get me a link
back. Two pages on two different sites that link to each other make both pages better
authorities, as well as better hubs.

Targeting Inbound Links
Establishing inbound links with other website operators should not begin until you’ve
identified and evaluated other sites that can contribute to your site’s theme.
Top Keywords
Your first priority will be to establish inbound links that support your top 5-10 (theme and
roadmap) keywords/phrases. Ideally, you’re looking for at least 5-10 good incoming
links for each keyword/phrase. This can become the most time-consuming area, so
targeting those sites that will give the biggest payoff makes a lot more sense than
swapping random links.
To get the maximum benefit, incoming links should include your keywords in the text.
So, a link that looks like this: www.yourdomain.com is nice, but a link that looks like this:
your keywords here is better. You may hear this referred to as "anchor text" or "link
text." Whatever you want to call it, the words that are used in linking to a page are a
powerful indicator to search engines, because these words tell them what that page is
about.
Theme Search Engine Ranking
For each of your top keywords/phrases, conduct a “top 20” search on Altavista.com,
AllTheWeb.com, and Google.com. Some of the top sites will be the same, but this
should give you about 40 candidates for each keyword/phrase. You can print these
searches out, and use them as your “shopping list” for recruiting link partners.

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If you don’t find enough potential partners with a “top 20” search, expand to the top 30,
40, or 50. With highly competitive keywords like “real estate,” even a top 100 site
makes an excellent link partner.
Google, in particular, will reward you for following this strategy, due to their PageRank
algorithm, which puts more emphasis on links from websites that themselves have a lot
of inbound links. Since these sites generally rank higher, you're also benefiting from
their link popularity, at least with Google and Inktomi... and it certainly doesn't hurt you
with anyone else.
Site Popularity
Although we’re trying to improve our site’s relevance to search engines, it doesn’t hurt
to get a little traffic from all these links. If you’d like to find out which potential link
partners have the most traffic, download Alexa (http://www.alexa.com) and find out.
Alexa is a browser plug-in that shows you how many users have visited a given site –
although it’s not a perfect measure of a site’s traffic, you can get a good idea of which
sites are the most popular.
Getting Out Of Links Programs
If you’ve participated in a links program (such as Links To You), it can take months to
get rid of even half of the irrelevant links. In this case, it’s almost easier to start over
with another domain name, or add an additional domain name to your site. It helps,
when asking other participants to remove your links, if you mention Google’s policy on
links programs. They may not want their site to be banned, and may be completely
unaware of the risks.

Recruiting Link Partners
I’ll assume that you know how to compose a nice, friendly email to another website
operator, and focus on the different types of linking relationships you can establish, how
they add value to both parties, and how they impact your theme.
Any time you set up a link, you would prefer that the text of the link would include some
of your keywords, rather than just your site's URL or name.
Simple Link Swaps
Simple link swaps, where you and another site operator agree to link to each other, are
the simplest type of partnership. They’re usually easy to set up, but they don’t add as
much value as the other types. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue them if the
other site has strong support for your theme.
It’s best to have your link on a page that adds appropriate relevance and context to your
theme. Putting each other’s links on “links pages” only makes sense if the links pages
roughly stick to a theme. If your potential partner swaps links with everyone who asks,
ask to have your link on an appropriate page or at least under a good keyword heading,
with your home page’s title and description.

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If your partner’s site best supports a roadmap keyword or yours, ask them to link to that
roadmap page. Likewise, you should offer to link from an appropriate page on your site
to a relevant page on your partner’s site. This way, the theme of both sites is
enhanced, and the value of the link increases for both partners.
Any time you set up a link, you should prefer that the text of the link will include some
of your keywords, rather than just your site's URL or name.
Content Links
An even better way to create a strong link relationship is to establish links between
closely related content (destination) pages on each other’s sites. In this type of
relationship, it’s not uncommon to link together several pages, so instead of one pair of
links between the sites, you have several.
This type of relationship enhances the theme of both sites, by establishing them as both
hub and authority on the keywords/phrases of the linked pages. I prefer to use this type
of linking relationship, as opposed to developing Tier 5 content. It’s easier to do, and it
helps to kill two birds with one stone – I give my visitors a reason to come back (lots of
good content and resources), while strengthening my theme and ranking.
Any time you set up a link, you should prefer that the text of the link will include some
of your keywords, rather than just your site's URL or name.
Content Swaps
The obvious next step, beyond content links, is to swap actual content. This essentially
means that each partner puts a destination page (or several) on the other’s site, with
links back to relevant content on their own site. This type of relationship can take a
while to establish, but it can greatly enhance the theme of both sites.
When you decide to do a content swap, make sure that both partners agree on the
actual content. You need to have some editorial control or influence to make sure that
the keywords are in the right place, the headings are set up correctly, etc. If your
partner doesn’t know how to do this, by all means tell them where to buy this book!
Any time you set up a link, you should prefer that the text of the link will include some of
your keywords, rather than just your site's URL or name.
Look For Synergy
The way to persuade other website operators to join forces with you is to point out the
ways each partner will benefit from the relationship. In many cases, this means
explaining how themes work. Convincing your potential partner to add links to their
content pages (as opposed to a links page) can be difficult unless they understand the
way such links can improve their search engine ranking, and the relative weakness of a
simple link swap.

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If my product is great for your customers, and your product is great for my customers,
an exchange of testimonials works very well – I put your testimonial on my site, with a
link to your site. You do the same with my testimonial. In this case, we both win, in more
ways than one.

Inbound Links: Other Sources
Swapping links is only one way to create inbound links to enhance your theme. There
are a lot of other ways to get links to your site, without creating outbound links. If you’re
selling a product, and don’t want any outbound links taking your customers away, then
these will be the most important type of links.
Directories
The best type of link you can get is a listing in Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com) and the
Open Directory (http://www.dmoz.org). Theme-based search engines consider these
listings highly relevant, because of their importance and relatively high standards for
inclusion. Paying Yahoo! to review your site may not be justifiable by itself, but when
you consider the value of the link, it may be worth the cost. At the moment, I am not
paying for any Yahoo listings. See "Is A Yahoo Listing Worth It?" in Chapter 10.
In addition to the major directories, there are a wide variety of minor directories. Seek
out any vertical portals (vortals) in your theme, and submit your site to them. Look for
informational sites within your theme, as many of them will have directories. Every time
you find such a directory, submit your site and make a point of following up to make
sure you get listed. Submit under the best categories for your top keywords, and submit
a roadmap or destination page if it best matches the category.
A lot of minor directories ask for a reciprocal link in exchange for a listing. This is
perfectly reasonable, and can be done without compromising your site’s theme. If they
will allow it, link back to the section where your site is listed. If they allow multiple
listings, get listed in every category that’s appropriate, and point some of your listings to
a roadmap page, or even a destination page, if it fits the category.
When setting up reciprocal links to a directory, keep in mind that outbound links ought to
be relevant. If you see value in getting a directory listing, but they insist on a link back
to their (less relevant) homepage, set up a special page on your site for “irrelevant”
links, as discussed in the previous chapter. You may already have such a page set up,
if you’ve been swapping links at random.
Any time you set up a link, you should prefer that the text of the link will include some of
your keywords, rather than just your site's URL or name.
Important Minor Directories
There are a couple of new minor directories that may become very important. As you
submit your site to directories, don't forget these three:
GoGuides: http://www.goguides.org
JoeAnt: http://www.joeant.com

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Gimpsy: http://www.gimpsy.com
Not only are both of these directories regularly crawled by all the major search engines,
they are, at the time of this writing, not so busy that they can't get around to adding
websites. Simply getting a listing in all of these directories may make Chapter 7
irrelevant.
Unsolicited & One-Way Links
As more visitors find your site, and its presence in the search engine rankings improves,
a lot of these new visitors will decide they like your site, and add links to it from their
own sites. Sometimes they’ll tell you about it, often they won’t. These unsolicited links
don’t really do you any harm, but they help you more if they’re in the right context.
When you find such a link, offer a brief description (loaded with your top keywords) for
the website operator to use on their site. If you find it easier, just use the META
description from the page they’re linking to. If they agree to use it, you’ve just enhanced
your link relevance with very little effort.
Likewise, you can often get a link back to your site by suggesting it to another website
operator. If they have relevant content on their site, and you think that a link to some
content from your site would add value for their visitors, suggest that they add a link.
I’ve gotten links from a lot of sites that way – for every site that has covered a subject in
depth, there are at least 20 others that only have a few pages on the subject. These
sites are perfect candidates for a one-way link.
Any time you set up a link, you should prefer that the text of the link will include some of
your keywords, rather than just your site's URL or name.
Create Your Own Linking Code!
When you're asking another site to link to yours, don't leave it up to them to decide what
that link should say... not if you can help it. Ideally, your links should contain some of
your keywords. The easiest way to accomplish this is to create "copy and paste" linking
code that you can send along to other webmasters, and include it on the "link to us"
section of your website.
Example: I want you to link to my Canned Books sales site for "Search Engine
Optimization Fast Start." Instead of letting you set up a hyperlink that just has my URL
in it, I send you this code, which you put on your website:
<a href="http://www.cannedbooks.com">Search Engine Optimization
Fast Start – Turn Your Website Into A Top Ranking Search Engine
Magnet!</a>
or maybe you only have space for:
<a href="http://www.cannedbooks.com">Search Engine Optimization
Fast Start!</a>

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Either way, if you use my code, I've gotten my keywords into the link, and more traffic is
headed my way. By the way, feel free to put either one of these links on your site.
Publishing Articles
If you’ve gone to all the trouble of developing content for your site, you may have
destinations or deep content that didn’t end up on your site. These pages can be edited
a bit and turned into articles for publication. Submitting articles to other websites and ezines is a great way to enhance your theme, by planting destination pages on other
people’s websites that link back to your site.
When you find a website or e-zine that carries articles within your theme, submit the
article to them. There are some websites (http://www.ideamarketers.com is one) that
carry nothing but guest articles – it never hurts to have your content on one of these
sites, because the link back to your site will always appear in a great context.
When you publish articles, you typically get a short bio/credits section at the end where
you can include the URL for your site. Unless your article is primarily relevant to your
site’s overall theme, don’t link back to your homepage unless you have to. Link to the
most closely related roadmap or destination page instead.
Any time you set up a link, you should prefer that the text of the link will include some of
your keywords, rather than just your site's URL or name.
Affiliates & Customers
If you have an affiliate program, encourage your affiliates to link to your content as well
as their affiliate URL. If you have the resources to develop your own affiliate program,
it’s best to have the affiliate sites set up as a regular URL (http://www.site.com/123/)
instead of a dynamic URL (like http://www.site.com/affil.cgi?id=123). The link may not
count towards link popularity, but it doesn't hurt.
Testimonials and endorsements from satisfied customers are also a good source of
incoming links – provided that you encourage the practice (perhaps with some kind of
incentive or discount on future purchases) and offer some sample endorsements that
have the right keywords in them.
Domain Names & Links Pages
In terms of simply attracting traffic, one of the most successful sites I’ve seen is just a
single page with a long listing of “Website Promotion Resources.” Because of the care
that was taken to link to high-quality resources, this single page is recognized as an
important hub. Because it is such a great hub, a lot of other sites link to it, thereby
making it one of the top authorities. This combination of factors makes this one-page
site rank extremely high, even on theme-based search engines that usually prefer a lot
of content.
Creating a separate domain name for the sole purpose of creating a top-notch links
page may seem like a lot of work and expense for very little return, but controlling such

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a resource could bring a lot of long-term benefits, as the number of links to it increases.
If you later decide to expand from a single domain to a network of sites, you could use
this links page to create instant credibility for the entire network by linking to each site,
or even to all the roadmaps.
Link Swapping For Mini-Sites: The Two-Domain Two-Step
One of the biggest challenges for many of us is that we're operating a mini-site. A minisite is a one-page website, which is designed to sell a single product or service. While
we might want to swap links, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to do so right on our
sales site. Many minor directories ask for a link back in return for a listing – so what can
you do?
I use a simple technique called the "two domain two step." In addition to my sales site
(let's call it Site #1), I register another domain name and set up a second website (Site
#2). On Site #2, I include as much content as possible (my sales site can't carry much
content, either), and I use it for link swaps. This site provides a valuable resource to
visitors on its own, while serving the additional purpose of helping you build links.
Here's how it works: when I want someone to link to Site #1, I send them the linking
code I want them to put on their site, and explain that because Site #1 is a sales site,
the link back will come from Site #2. If that's acceptable, I then suggest that they link to
both of my sites, since doing so will increase the link popularity of Site #2 and boost
their rankings as well as mine.
Google's Toolbar, PageRank, And Linking
I'll cover the Google toolbar again a little later. It's a nifty tool that Google offers (go to
http://toolbar.google.com) which lets you perform Google searches directly from your
browser. It also has a set of "advanced features" which provide some information about
any web page that you view in your browser.

Among these is a graphical display of Google's "PageRank score" for that page,
represented as a number from 1-10. While this is not a perfect representation of the
exact value (the real number has a much larger range than 1-10), it does allow you to
quickly assess the "weight" of a potential link partner. The higher the score, the more
valuable a link from that site may be.
Another place where PageRank comes in handy is in searching for top-ranking sites to
link with. When you search in the Google Directory (http://directory.google.com) instead
of the search engine, the top sites are displayed with a graphical PageRank score to the
left, with the highest ranking sites listed first. Again, this is an excellent way to find out
which sites have the greatest potential as partners or competitors.

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Checking Traffic With Alexa
Alexa.com offers a browser plug-in that tracks the sites users visit, and provides some
handy information about those sites. Among the most useful information Alexa provides
is a ranking of which sites get the most traffic.
I'll let you decide if you really need another toolbar on your browser, but I don't use it
myself. What I do, when I want to know how a potential link partner compares in terms
of traffic, is go to http://www.globalpromoter.com/alexa_ranking.cfm and check their
Alexa ranking for free.

Outsourcing Your Links Campaign
While it's not cheap, there are services now that will seek out relevant link partners for
you. I haven't used any of these services myself, but several of them come highly
recommended by their customers.
Jill Whalen of the High Rankings Advisor (http://www.highrankings.com) has
recommended Alliance-Link (http://www.alliance-link.com). Another service that's been
recommended, and I am familiar with is http://www.linkagexpress.com – I've spoken
with them at length about their approach.
These services are not cheap – typical fees can start at $500 and up for an initial linking
campaign. They focus on providing high quality links, which takes a lot of time. If you'd
rather do some of the "leg work" yourself, SEO Research Labs provides a service you
might like – see the details at the end of this chapter.

Conclusion – Don't Ever Stop Working On Links!
In the short term, even 20-30 high-quality inbound links will improve your rankings a
great deal. In the long run, your goal should be to have in excess of 250-300 highquality, relevant inbound links. This number seems to be “good enough” right now, at
least to ensure that your site stays listed by all of the major search engines, but you
shouldn’t rest on your laurels once you hit this target. Keep an eye out at all times for
new opportunities, and keep working your “hit list” of the top-ranked sites for your major
keywords.
You should never really stop working on inbound links. Websites come and go, and the
links they carry go with them. If you don't invest a little time in building up links, your
rankings will begin to fade since it can take a month or two for links to be properly
indexed. By the time you notice it slipping away, you're a good month or more away
from fixing the problem.
The importance of link popularity is not a secret any more, even if everyone doesn't
understand it very well. Your competitors are probably not sitting still. Take at least 20 to
30 minutes a week, and dedicate that time to link swaps or other linking tactics. You'll
be glad you did. The more time you can dedicate to this, the better. I spend at least an
hour or two every week looking for new partnerships, submitting articles, etc. These
links don't just help with search engines, they also generate a lot of traffic on their own.

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SEO Research Labs: Link Targeting Reports

Our link targeting service was born of reader demand, and has taken considerable time
to develop. Instead of offering a full-blown link building service (which others already do
very well), we opted for a different approach to provide a lower cost alternative. SEO
Research Labs will provide you with a detailed listing of related websites that are ready
and willing to trade links with sites like yours. This package is priced at just $149.95,
and includes:

Link Targeting Report
Your link targeting report includes a minimum of 20 websites that are already
welcoming reciprocal links or providing free directory listings. We search for
quality sites, and provide all available contact information to you so that you can
establish profitable linking relationships. It will be up to you to contact these
websites.
We can not guarantee response rates but will guarantee that these are useful
resources related to your website. We will make sure that these websites are well
designed, without excessive pop-up ads, and that they are not visibly
participating in any links program that does not meet established search engine
guidelines.

Directory Listing Report
Your directory listing report will tell you exactly which category your site should
be listed in for all of the applicable major directories, including GoGuides,
Looksmart/Zeal, the Open Directory, and Yahoo. We will provide the appropriate
submission page address for each directory. It is up to you to submit your site,
and we can not guarantee that the editors will accept your site.

Outgoing Links Table:
Your linking campaign will be most effective if you first establish links to these
other sites. To make this as easy as possible for you, we'll provide "copy and
paste" HTML code that you can edit as needed and insert into any page on your
site.
Click here to learn more: http://www.seoresearchlabs.com

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Recommended Reading: The Free "Linking Matters" Report
I can't tell you whether their link building services are better than anyone else's, but I
can tell you that their free link building guide is the best single resource I've seen on this
subject.
Click here to get this free report: http://www.linkingmatters.com

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Chapter 7: Getting Listed
Let me tell you how it was back in the early days of the web…. as if I haven’t done
enough of that already. There was a time when you submitted a page to Infoseek, it
spidered it right then and there, and you could see in a couple of minutes whether the
changes you’d made had improved your ranking or not.
Well, it doesn’t work like that anymore. Now, if you want the search engines to index
your site, you have to know when it’s right to submit, how to submit, how much to
submit… well, let’s just say things are a little trickier in these modern times.
In this chapter, I’ll teach you the right way to submit your site to the major search
engines and directories. The old “wait 4-6 weeks for delivery” applies here – if you’re
expecting instant results, you’ll be disappointed, unless you decide to pony up for paid
inclusion.
If you took my advice in Chapter 6 to heart, and set up enough incoming links, there’s a
good chance that several search engines have found you already. If you have access
to your web logs, take a look for recent visits from the search engine spiders – there’s a
listing of the major search engines’ user-agents (spiders) in Chapter 8.
Simply getting your site into a few directories is probably all you need – get into the
Gimpsy, GoGuides and JoeAnt directories, and you can expect the spiders to come
crawling around to see you soon enough. The more popular the directory, the more it
helps, but any directory you can get into is a good place for your site to be.

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Should You Submit?
Since search engines follow links wherever they find them, it may not be necessary to
submit your site at all. If there are enough inbound links to your site, to enough pages,
the spiders will come crawling even if you don’t submit. Some search engines
(especially Inktomi, which drives several other engines) give greater weight to pages
that are found while crawling the web, and temporarily penalize submitted pages.
One of the most important questions is how many pages you should submit. There are
different guidelines for different engines, but the basic limit is no more than 5 pages per
domain per day, and no more than 20 per week, to any search engine. Once the search
engines identify your site as having a lot of content, they tend to revisit fairly often
anyway.
Reaching critical mass with the search engines, where they start crawling your site
regularly, seems to occur once you have about 15-20 pages and several dozen inbound
links in their database.
Most search engines will tell you that you only need to submit your home page, but our
results tell a different story. Currently, only Google, Inktomi, and FAST (AllTheWeb)
appear to be crawling entire sites, and then only when the right conditions are triggered,
such as a high number of inbound links (Google) or enough pages found (Inktomi).
FAST usually crawls the whole thing, sometimes it doesn’t – more incoming links, and
fresh content, seem to be the best ways to trigger a full crawl.
Automated vs. Hand Submission
Automated submission tools may seem like a big time-saver, but I don’t use them.
Search engine operators dislike automated submissions.
Hand submission, on the other hand, is a little more time-consuming. Submitting a
single URL to all the major engines will probably take 10 minutes.
I think submitting your pages to the major search engines is a waste of time – the only
one I'd submit to today is Wisenut, and they're not really a major search engine yet.
Most search engines actually rank your pages higher if they find them on their own, and
at least one of them (Google) can't include your pages in searches until they find at
least one link to your domain from another page in their index.
However, since I know you can't resist the temptation, here are the 5 places to submit
your site for free (Teoma does not offer free submission):
Google http://www.google.com/addurl.html
FAST http://www.alltheweb.com/add_url.php
Altavista http://addurl.altavista.com/sites/addurl/newurl
Wisenut http://www.wisenut.com/submitsite.html
MSN/Inktomi: http://free.submit-it.com/msnsubmit.htm

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Paid inclusion programs
For those who don't want to take their chances with free submission, or getting found
via links, there are also “paid inclusion” programs. If you can afford it, it’s a nice
convenience, but it can be very expensive.
Altavista, FAST, Teoma and Inktomi offer "paid inclusion" programs, where you pay
them a fee and they keep your site's listing up to date. It isn't cheap. Altavista's program
costs $39 every six months for a single URL, and Inktomi's is $39 a year for the same
thing. Of the search engines offering this service, FAST and Inktomi are the two most
important.
Altavista Paid Inclusion: http://www.infospider.com
Inktomi Paid Inclusion: http://www.inktomi.com/products/search/pagesubmission.html
FAST Paid Inclusion: http://searchservices.lycos.com/searchservices
Teoma Paid Inclusion: http://static.wc.ask.com/docs/addjeeves/submit.html
You know, I’d pay for a program that guaranteed my entire site would get indexed and
stay in their database, but it’s hard to justify paying per URL, unless it’s important to you
to keep your homepage in the index. Your situation may justify it, and that’s up to you.
Get enough links to your site (Chapter 6), and it will probably be a moot question.
One Good Use For Paid Inclusion
I've been asked if there's anything good about paid inclusion. Well, of course there is –
they guarantee that the page you've paid them to include will be included. They also
(usually) guarantee that it will be revisited frequently, like every 48-72 hours.
If you like to play around with optimizing your pages, why not pay Inktomi to have a
single URL included, and use that page to play around? You can make changes, wait a
couple days, and see if it moves up or down in the rankings.

Major Directories
The major directories (Yahoo!, Open Directory) provide traffic on their own, as well as
secondary results for several search engines. In addition, they provide the best kind of
“link popularity,” because directory listings are considered more relevant and therefore
more valuable than ordinary links.
General Guidelines
Before submitting your site to any directory, make sure that it has a good, clean,
functional layout, that all the links work, and that you don’t have any banner ads
(especially banner exchanges!), rich media, plug-ins, annoying JavaScript tricks, etc.
that might make the editors think less of you.

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Your site should provide some kind of unique content that’s not available elsewhere. If
you are the manufacturer or primary reseller for a specific product, that’s easy. If this
isn’t the case, be warned that not every site makes it into a directory. I wish I could give
you more guidance on this, but it’s a very subjective thing. Ask yourself whether your
site really ranks among the best resources in its category, then decide whether to
submit now, or keep working on it.
Whether your site is of a commercial, non-profit, or just-for-fun nature, directory editors
expect to find full contact information on the site. A business name if you have one,
physical address, phone number, etc. We’ve been told more than once that Yahoo!
editors can’t list your site without seeing this. Make sure it’s easy to find, or at the
bottom of every page.
Yahoo!
Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com) is the toughest nut of all to crack. Their standards are
very high, and they expect you to follow their rules completely. Since Yahoo! provides
all the guidance you need on the submission process, I won’t repeat that information
here. As far as I can tell, there is no more free submission for commercial sites at
Yahoo! – you pay them $299 and they review your site within a few days. They now
charge $299 a year, with the first $299 out the window if you don't make the grade.
Two tips we’ve been given on Yahoo! submissions that appear to be valid are: use a
regional category if it matches (Yahoo! explains their position very clearly), and don’t
use hyperbole in your site description (Yahoo! tells you this, but I’ve heard that this
dictum is frequently ignored.) If there are multiple categories that fit, go for the category
whose name comes first in the alphabet, and list the others as secondary choices.
When submitting to Yahoo!, keep in mind that your goal is to get as many keywords into
your site description as possible. They do reserve the right to edit, so make sure it
sounds like good English and accurately describes your site. Read their guidelines
several times and understand them before you submit your site.
In October 2002, Yahoo! changed the way that they deliver search results. Ultimately, I
believe that this change reduces the value of a Yahoo! listing, but you must decide for
yourself. I have included a short article on these changes in the "Extras" section at the
end of this book.
Good luck!
Open Directory
Everything you can say about Yahoo! goes for the Open Directory
(http://www.dmoz.org) as well, except for the part about paying for a review. As much
as it annoys me to pay for the review at Yahoo! and Looksmart, at least someone will
stop by and look at my site. With the Open Directory, you may not get a review at all.

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Of course, there are submission guidelines for the Open Directory, but you can read
them for yourself on the site. They’re pretty similar to Yahoo’s guidelines, and it all boils
down to following the process they’ve set up for you to use. The #1 pet peeve of Open
Directory editors is people submitting descriptions that are full of hype. Follow the style
that the editor has used for other listings in your category – a directory listing is not an
advertisement.
There is an online forum hosted by Open Directory editors, who are trying to help
webmasters understand how to get listed, and how to work with the directory – go take
a look before you submit: http://www.resource-zone.com. Some folks have reported that
simply posting to check that they've found the right category was enough to get their site
added, without even submitting.
As you try to decide on a category to submit to, be careful not to be too broad. If your
site is about remodeling kitchens, and they have a category on that, don’t try to sneak it
into the “home improvement” category. Try to find all the possible categories.
Once you’ve found the possible categories, surf around and find out which of the
categories has an editor. Click on their name (it’s usually something fanciful like
wonderbunny or milktoast) to see their profile. The profile should tell you how long it’s
been since they actually did any editing. Many editors disappear and never return, so
you’d like to see some activity in the past 7-10 days.
Once you’ve found a category with at least one active editor, where your site actually
fits, go ahead and submit it… and wait. Give them at least six weeks before you
bother anyone about your submission. If you didn’t get any response (your site
hasn’t been added, and your logs don’t show any referrals from dmoz.org), it’s time to
go up a step.
To improve your chances the second time around, check again at http://www.dmoz.org
to make sure that you’re not listed, and go to the category above the one where you
originally submitted.
Check the profiles of all the editors, and find the one who’s the most active. Send them
a short note explaining that you submitted a site to this particular category and when,
that it doesn’t appear to have been looked at, and ask them if you should submit it
again. Be polite – these people are volunteers.
Give it another six weeks. If that doesn’t work, go back to square one. Keep trying. Be
patient. Maybe your site just isn’t good enough yet, maybe the editors are just too busy.
Whatever you do, don’t complain. They’re volunteers. Nobody can fire them. Don’t
make them mad.
Open Directory listings can be harder to get than Yahoo!, because there’s no profit for
anyone in processing the reviews. I’d love to see them adopt a paid submission model
at $20 per site, and use the money to give something back to the most active editors.

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Now, here's the really good news. Just because your site has been added to the Open
Directory, don’t expect a flood of traffic right away. Most of the referrals you’ll get will
come from the search engines that use Open Directory, and some of them take their
time updating their listings – you could be in the directory at DMOZ.org today, but not
make it into Google’s Open Directory index for several more weeks.
Looksmart
Looksmart (http://www.looksmart.com) used to be a directory like Yahoo is now. You
paid them a one-time fee to review your site for inclusion. Now they have started
charging listed sites for traffic, at 15 cents per click, and existing sites in the directory
will eventually be removed, once they've used up their initial setup fee... unless they
decide to pay some more.
Since Looksmart had advertised their fee as a one-time deal, a lot of folks who are now
being charged by the click are more than a little upset with them. I wouldn't put any of
my own money into Looksmart right now, because I have a hard time trusting them. You
will have to make your own decision, of course.
A listing in Looksmart will improve your rankings on the MSN search engine for any
keywords in your listing's title and description. Currently, MSN shows Looksmart listings
before Inktomi results, so you need to be in Looksmart to get found on a lot of searches.
As with any directory listing, Looksmart can boost your link popularity scores.
Looksmart's relationship with MSN will end on December 31, 2003. After that, the
primary results on MSN will come from Inktomi, and Looksmart will be a minor player in
the search engine world.
For non-commercial sites, and even some commercial sites which have useful free
content, a listing in the "Zeal" directory is a free ride into Looksmart. You can find the
submission guidelines at http://www.zeal.com.
Minor Search Engines – Who Cares?
There are a lot of minor search engines. My advice, based on years of experience, is
that they’re a waste of time. If you happen across one while you’re surfing the web, go
ahead and submit your homepage, but don’t waste time seeking them out. Your time is
much better spent building relationships and getting more inbound links set up.

Minor Directories – Of Major Importance!
Minor directories are another potential time-waster, but they do provide the benefit of a
strong inbound link to your site. Use Yahoo! and Google to search for “(insert keyword
here) web directory” if you want to find vertical portals within your theme. When you
find them, submit your site. If you take the time to submit, follow up and make sure you
get listed.

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One minor directory that may be worth your time is About.com – they have a very
selective directory that’s edited by human experts. For example, the section on
marketing is edited and managed by a professional with expertise in the field. As a
result, a listing in this directory is very worthwhile, but very hard to obtain.
Other important minor directories, that you should not ignore:
Gimpsy: http://www.gimpsy.com
GoGuides: http://www.goguides.org
JoeAnt: http://www.joeant.com
Zeal: http://www.zeal.com (non-commercial sites only, feeds into Looksmart)
Websavvy: http://www.websavvy.cc

FFA Pages – Don't Do It!
Free-for-all links pages, once upon a time, actually did some good. Now they’re worse
than a waste of time. If you decide to submit to FFA pages, use a throwaway email
address from one of the many free web-based mail services, or you’ll find yourself
deluged with junk mail, SPAM, porno, and all manner of other unwelcome annoyances.
Even using a throwaway email address from your own domain (like ffa@domain.com)
can be a problem, because spammers can use your mail server to deliver junk mail to
every account on your domain. Don’t encourage them and don’t make it easy for them.
You won’t get any serious traffic from an FFA page – your listing is usually gone within a
few hours (or days) at best. You won’t improve your link popularity, because search
engines don’t look at FFA pages. Even if the search engines did look at them, they’re
not going to be relevant to your theme anyway. Don't do it.

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Finding Niche Directories
Here are a few of my favorite places to seek out niche directories and minor search
engines. They have lists of search engines and directories, organized by topic.
Search Engine Guide:
Robert Clough is not in the SEO business, which makes this one of the most unbiased
sources of information available. He has put about a zillion hours into building this
website, which includes a huge listing of search engines and directories. He also offers
daily and weekly newsletters, with breaking search engine news, articles, tutorials, and
more.
http://www.searchengineguide.com
Search Engine Base:
A very busy and annoying layout conceals some useful information.
http://www.searchenginebase.com
Internet Search Engine Database:
Very similar in content and presentation to Search Engine Guide.
http://www.isedb.com
Search Engine Colossus:
International directory of search engines.
http://www.searchenginecolossus.com

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Chapter 8: Controlling Search Engine Spiders
While it's not usually a necessity, this book would not be complete if I didn't provide you
with the means to control which content on your site is indexed.
This chapter contains a step-by-step tutorial on creating a "robots.txt" control file for
your site. I recommend that you focus your attention on controlling the major search
engine spiders, and worry about the rest if you have the time.
There are any number of reasons why you might want to keep spiders away from
portions of your site. If you keep multiple versions of the same page (such as a printerfriendly layout) on your site, it's a good idea to limit the spiders to one copy of that page.
For my own sites, I rarely worry about what the search engines will see. When your
entire site is filled with good content, there's usually no reason to hide any of it.

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Why You Might Need Control
Visitor Content vs. Spider Food
If you’re trying to update an existing site to themes, you’d probably prefer that the
spiders only found the current, up to date content you have properly prepared for them.
If you’re completely reorganizing your site structure, you can safely leave the old pages
in place for visitors to find, and keep search engine spiders from looking at them again.
Finally, you may have your own reasons for keeping search engines off of certain
pages. If you have discussion forums, having spiders crawling every posting might be
more of a burden on your server than you need. Whatever your reasons may be, you
have the right to keep search engine spiders away from any or all of your pages. This
chapter will teach you how.
Rogue Spiders & Spambots
Some spiders don’t follow the “robot exclusion protocol” at all. These “rogue” spiders
will index whatever they want. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many options when it
comes to controlling them.
The worst kind of rogue spider is the SPAMbot or “screen scraper.” These little lovelies
crawl the web in search of email addresses. Once they have your email address, you
can expect an endless flood of junk mail to your inbox. I have written a short tutorial on
using Javascript to conceal your email addresses, which you can find online at
http://www.insideoutmarketing.com/index.php?p=pages&pid=15.

Robots.txt Tutorial
Robots.txt is a simple text file that you upload to the root directory of your website.
Spiders request this file first, and process it, before they crawl your site. It helps to work
through an example to really understand how this works, so that’s what we’re going to
do.
Robots.txt Format
The simplest robots.txt file possible is this:
User-agent: *
Disallow:
That’s it! The first line identifies the user agent – an asterisk means that the following
lines apply to all agents. The blank after the “Disallow:” means that nothing is off limits.
This robots.txt file doesn’t do anything – it allows all user agents to see everything on
the site.
Now, let’s make it a little more complex – this time, we want to keep all spiders out of
our /faq directory:

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User-agent: *
Disallow: /faq/
See how simple it is? The trailing slash is necessary to indicate that this is a directory.
Without the trailing slash, not only the /faq directory, but any file whose name begins
with “faq,” would be disallowed. We can also add more directories to the disallowed list:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /faq/
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /images/
Disallow: /info/about/
That was easy, but what if we want to disallow access to only one file? It’s simple:
User-agent: *
Disallow: about.html
Disallow: /faq/faqs.html
Now let’s get specific. So far, we’ve created rules that apply to all spiders, but what
about an individual spider? Just use its name:
User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: /faq/
Now, let’s combine individual spider control with a catch-all:
User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: /
User-agent: *
Disallow: /faq/
This set of commands tells Googlebot to take a hike – the slash character (“/”) by itself
means that the entire site is disallowed. For all other user-agents, we’ve just kept them
out of the /faq directory.
Each record in a robots.txt file consists of a user-agent line, followed by one or more
Disallow directives. The blank line between the two user-agent records is necessary for
the file to be processed properly.
If you’d like to add comments, you can use the “#” character like this:
# keep spiders out of the FAQ directory
User-agent: *
Disallow: /faq/

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You can use any text editor that saves text in a web-friendly format. I like Notepad or
Unixedit, both of which are free. If you don’t feel like using a text editor, or just don’t
want to deal with the complexity of creating your own robots.txt by hand, there’s help.
Visit http://www.rietta.com/robogen and download their free “limited edition” robots.txt
creation software, or buy the full version for just $29.95.
There’s a nice robots.txt validator at http://www.tardis.ed.ac.uk/~sxw/robots/check - use
this site after you’ve uploaded your robots.txt file to make sure that it will really work.
Robots.txt User Agent Reference
There are hundreds of different robots out there, and some of them are "unfriendly" - in
other words, they're not going to send you any useful traffic. I have a list of the robots I
try to keep off my site at http://www.cannedhelp.com/badbots.html. The following listing
of major & minor search engine spiders and their associated user-agents should help
you get started, by helping you control the spiders that affect your search engine
ranking.
# Altavista (Altavista search engine only)
User-agent: Scooter
# FAST/AllTheWeb (AllTheWeb search engine)
User-agent: fast
# Google (Google Search Engine)
# Google also provides secondary search results for Yahoo!
User-agent: Googlebot
# Inktomi (Anzwers, AOL, Canada.com, Hotbot, etc.)
User-agent: slurp
# Wisenut (Wisenut search engine)
User-agent: Wisebot
# Euroseek (European Search Engine)
User-agent: Arachnoidea
# Fireball (European Search Engine)
User-agent: KIT-Fireball/2.0

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Chapter 9: What Now?
Search engine positioning is not a one-time event, it’s a process. Now that you’ve built
your site to rank well in theme-based search engines, you’ve got a little time to wait
before the results start to show. In the meantime, you can begin to investigate other
strategies for driving traffic to your site, such as pay-per-click search engines like
Overture.com, which provide results based on the highest bidder for each keyword, as
opposed to indexing pages.
If you’re having a hard time optimizing your destination pages (you shouldn’t), there are
software packages designed to assist you. The new “Search Engine Optimizer”
program also looks pretty good. Just don’t let these tools take over your life – it’s very
easy to get caught up in every last detail, when in fact many of these programs’
recommendations are based on statistical averages and not actual hard information
about search engine algorithms. I’ve done very well without them. Use them, if you
must, to help you fine-tune your doorway pages for their specific keyword/phrase, but
only as a last resort.
Before the referrals from the search engines start coming in, you should invest some
time in setting up some kind of website statistics system. There are many different
options, from free counters that display a button or banner ad on your page (not
recommended), to programs that analyze the log files from your web server.
Since you bought this book, you’ve probably done a fair amount of looking at different
websites, books, and programs that promise you great results through witchcraft or
trickery… be careful what you try when it comes to your website. In this chapter, I’ll talk
about a few of these tricks, and how they work, but make no mistake about it. The
people who are doing these things are taking a risk. My advice, as always, is to take
the high road, and don’t do anything you wouldn’t want a search engine operator to
know about.

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Pay-Per-Click Strategy
How much would you pay to get a targeted visitor to your site? If you can answer that
question, you may be ready to join the growing number of website operators who use
“pay per click” search engines to supplement their search engine traffic.
Pay-per-click search engines, such as Overture.com, do not attempt to index the
contents of the web. Instead, website operators (advertisers) place standing bids for
different keywords and phrases. When a web surfer types in a search phrase on one of
these sites, the results are listing in descending order by the amount of the bid – the
highest bidder is #1, etc. Each time a surfer clicks on the link to an advertiser’s site, the
advertiser pays the amount that they bid for that search phrase.
While there are dozens of pay-per-click search engines, I can only really recommend a
few. Overture.com is, far and away, the leader of the pack, with results from
Overture.com shown as sponsored listings on many leading search engines, including
AOL. FindWhat.com also has some good alliances, and Sprinks.com is affiliated with
About.com.
The key to success with pay-per-click advertising is to bid on as many keywords as
possible, so that you can get traffic at the lowest price possible. I used to receive all the
traffic I could afford to buy from Overture.com, at less than 5 cents per click on average.
I was able to rapidly build a subscriber base for my E-Marketing Strategy Letter
newsletter this past spring, at a cost of less than 20 cents per subscriber.
If you want to experiment with pay-per-click search engines, Overture.com is a pretty
expensive place to learn – their minimum bid is now 5 cents per click (most others allow
1 cent bids), they have a minimum start-up fee, and a minimum amount that all
advertisers must spend each month.
The simplest way to get started would be to bid the minimum amount for as many
keywords/phrases as you can, starting with your theme, roadmap, and destination page
keywords. There are a few software packages on the market that are designed to help
you optimize your return on investment for pay-per-click advertising. If you decide to
spend a lot of time and money on this form of advertising, it could be worth the
investment to buy one of them.
I am not a big fan of the pay-per-click industry. Aside from Google's Adwords and
Overture, the industry is rife with fraud. Since nearly all other pay-per-click services
have open affiliate programs, there are tremendous incentives on both sides to defraud
the customer.

Traffic Counters, Site Statistics & Other Measuring Sticks
After all the work you’ve put into your site’s theme, you will want to measure your site’s
search engine performance. There are a lot of ways to do this, and I’m not offering you

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a comprehensive review of every option. Basically, you need to do three things to
measure your site’s position & performance:


Measure Traffic: where it comes from, what keywords were used. This comes in
two main forms – statistics services, and log file analysis. Do one or the other,
there’s not much point in doing both.
Check Ranking: where your site ranks on the search engines for your keywords.
Manage Links: who’s linking to you, whether your site has broken links.

Statistics Services
Statistics services provide all kinds of information about your site’s visitors, which pages
they visited, where the traffic came from, etc. All you have to do is sign up, add some
code to your pages, and go look at your stats whenever you want to. Some services
only allow online viewing, others will let you download your statistics in a spreadsheet.
Hitbox (http://www.hitbox.com) is sort of the de facto ruler of this space, but a number of
other companies now offer similar or better services. For example, Webtrends Live
(http://www.webtrendslive.com) is from the same folks who produced the Webtrends log
file analysis software (see below). I have used other services, on a trial basis, but only
Hitbox and Webtrends provided the kind of information I needed.
If you have a “zero” budget for this, both Hitbox and Webtrends offer free versions that
require you to place a small image (advertisement) on your site. Of the two, I like the
Webtrends button much better – it’s smaller, and it just says “Webtrends Live” on it. If
you can afford to pay some monthly fees, you can get rid of the images (they’re
replaced by invisible code).
Web Log Analysis
Web servers maintain detailed logs of all traffic and activity. Another way to generate
useful statistics about your site is to use log file analysis software. Unless you can
afford to purchase a professional package like Webtrends Log Analyzer
(http://www.webtrends.com), you’re better off using a statistics service.
There other log analyzers on the market. Some are freeware or shareware, but this is a
complex task and you get what you pay for. I’ve used several free packages, and none
of them measured up to Webtrends, or even came close. If you want a "budget"
package, SurfStats (http://www.surfstats.com) and Mach5 FastStats
(http://www.mach5.com/products/analyzer) are also excellent products.
If you want to use a log file analyzer, make sure you have access to the actual log files
from your hosting provider, and that you understand how to handle the technical details
of downloading them. While you’re at it, check to see if you already have statistics
available to you. Many hosting companies provide good statistics for their customers,
who don’t even know it’s included in the price.

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Measuring Rank
Checking your rank can be as simple as going to a search engine, typing in your
hallway keywords, and seeing where your site appears in the rankings. This is, in fact,
the way that I do it for the sites I operate. It’s easy to do, and it’s very unlikely to offend
any search engine operators.
There are software packages available that do this work for you, but be very cautious. If
a search engine catches you, they may ban your site. Automated rank checking tools
work by generating hundreds, even thousands, of search requests to the search
engines, then looking at those results to see where your site ranks.
Understandably, search engine operators don’t appreciate the use of a tool that makes
their servers work overtime in that way. Google has already taken a stand against
these tools, and the other major search engines could follow their lead at any time.
I recommend that you check your rankings by hand, at most once a month, and don’t
obsess about it too much. Your goal is to get more referrals – ranking is only one part
of the equation. If your site’s theme is well established, you’ll get referrals from search
engines with hundreds of different keywords/phrases – do you really want to check your
ranking for all of those, or just the “big” ones (theme and roadmap keywords)?
Checking Links
Your first mission is to make sure that your site doesn’t carry any broken links. This is
easily accomplished with a number of software tools. I use Xenu’s Link Sleuth
(http://home.snafu.de/tilman/XENU.ZIP). This is a freeware program that will identify
broken links on your site for you. Use it once a month to keep your site in shape.
Your second mission is to keep track of those sites which link to you. The major search
engines all have “advanced” search functions that will help you see which sites they
have indexed with incoming links to your site. At Altavista, for example, you type in:
+link:www.domain.com –www.domain.com to see the external links to your site.
Many websites will do this for you automatically. Go to any search engine and search
for “link popularity” – you’ll find plenty of sites that offer this as a free service. There are
also free CGI scripts you can install, if you have the technical expertise, that will do the
same thing. One of my favorite sites is at http://www.linkpopularity.com, which keeps
score and shows you how your site ranks relative to many others. Another good one is
the MarketLeap link popularity checker at http://www.marketleap.com/publinkpop.
The Google Toolbar
One nifty toy you can get is the Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com), which lets
you instantly search on Google, as well as providing all kinds of helpful information
about any site that you visit. Enabling the "advanced" features also creates a graphical
"PageRank" display showing you how well linked the site is, as well as an option to
search for backward links. I don't surf without it.

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Dirty Tricks & Gotchas
Warning About Taking Shortcuts
If you think you’ve discovered a great trick to fool the search engines, you may be right.
If someone tells you they’ve got a “secret weapon” in the search engine wars, they
could be telling you the truth. If you actually use such a shortcut, and get caught, don’t
be surprised if your domain is permanently banned from one or more search engines.
Ask yourself whether you would want the search engine operators to know what you
were doing. If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes,” then don’t do it.
Links Programs
Links programs have been discussed already – you sign up, you put a bunch of pages
on your site that link to the other members’ sites. They do the same, and everyone has
great “link popularity.” Unfortunately, none of the links is likely to be relevant, and
everyone participating has a good chance of getting their domain banned by multiple
search engines.
How do I know this can happen? One of my sites was ranked in the top ten at
Google.com for most of my top keywords, until I decided to try out a links program. My
intention was not to fool the search engines (which already liked my site), but to find out
whether these programs even worked. One day, my site disappeared from Google’s
index – permanently banned. Google figured out that links programs were skewing their
rankings, and decided to do something about it. Don’t let it happen to you.
Top SEO Expert Caught Cheating Direct Hit
Direct Hit is now defunct as a search engine, although their data is still in use by MSN.
When they were operating, they kept track of how many times surfers clicked on a
particular site when using a particular search phrase. The more clicks you got, the
more relevant your site was. They also used click-through tracking from other search
engines (they may still be doing this), as well as from the Direct Hit engine itself. Each
click is a “vote” for that site’s relevance. If the surfer stays on the site for a long time, or
never clicks back to Direct Hit, the vote counts a little more, because this indicates that
they found what they were looking for.
One day, while visiting my favorite search engine optimization (SEO) expert’s web site, I
was about to click on the “homepage” link at the bottom of a page, when something
caught my eye. The URL for that link wasn’t direct to his homepage, but rather to the
URL that you'd find if you were clicking to his site from Direct Hit. In effect, every time a
visitor clicked on that link, to return to his homepage, they were casting a vote on Direct
Hit.
I checked my “Top 20” printouts from Direct Hit for the prior year, and I was amazed.
His trickery had vaulted his site from #19 to #3 in less than a year, and had probably
been responsible for getting him into the top 20 in the first place. Since other search
engines incorporated Direct Hit results in their rankings, the impact goes well beyond

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Direct Hit alone. I sent him an email “congratulating” him on his great trick, but never
got a response, although I haven’t noticed the Direct Hit link on his site since then…
What do you think would happen if Direct Hit had found out about this? Banishment
from their listings, possibly even from their partner’s listings. In this case, the guy
obviously came out ahead, but it could have easily gone another way, and damaged his
website's standing permanently. Are you willing to take a risk like that with your site?
Not me – Website Promotion Central made it all the way to #2 on Direct Hit without any
special tricks, and although my "friend" was ahead of me at #1 when Direct Hit went
offline, I won't complain.
Page Cloaking (a.k.a. Stealth, IP Delivery, etc.)
One of the more popular “cheats” is the use of “stealth” or page cloaking software.
What this means is that your web server delivers a different web page to spiders than it
delivers to a “normal” visitor. This is a complicated issue, with opponents and
proponents of cloaking all over the map, and far too technical for this book. You should
know, however, that search engine operators don’t like the practice at all. I don't
recommend cloaking – trying to fool the search engines is very risky, and I haven't been
convinced that it provides any real benefit.

Revising Your Strategy
At the core of our theme-based positioning strategy are the keywords themselves. It’s
unlikely that anyone will come up with the “perfect” keyword strategy on their first
attempt. By carefully monitoring the search engine referrals that your site receives,
you’ll be able to update your keywords and content to continually improve your results.
One of the best ways to do this is adding keywords that appear in your referral logs. If,
for instance, you get a lot of referrals to your landscaping site for the phrase “organic
pest control,” but you don’t have any content on that, you may want to add a few pages,
or even a whole new hallway. You can get referrals for terms that don’t even appear on
your pages, because of term vectoring, the use of related terms on your site, and the
context of external links.
When you do get such “related terms” referrals, this indicates that there is another
category of keywords that could be generating referrals, and that there isn’t much
relevant content on the web in general to compete with you. One of the significant
differences between theme-based search engine positioning and the old way of
positioning by keywords is that you see a lot more different search phrases in your
referral logs.
The other side of the coin is “irrelevant” referrals – search phrases that have nothing to
do with your site. If you can identify a particular keyword in these referrals, and it
actually appears on your site, consider editing that word out of your content. For
example, if you had a site on search engines, and one of your page has the word
“Ferrari” on it, you might get referrals for “Ferrari engines.” We tried to avoid this when

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we were selecting keywords and developing content, but the search engines will tell you
if you’ve missed something.
Finally, because some search engines like fresh content, and others like old content, it’s
a good idea to add or change at least a few pages every month. That way, the search
engines have a reason to keep visiting, and you can satisfy both types, with a mix of old
and new content.
Don’t forget that the entire purpose of search engine positioning is to increase your
site’s visibility to those whom you want to visit your site. It’s not just about a top-ten
ranking for your favorite keyword, which you may never achieve, it’s about obtaining
long term results. If you follow the four-step process you’ve learned in this book, I’m
confident that your results will improve. When they do, let me know how you did it, and
how well it’s working for you.

Change Never Stops - Don't Panic!
By the time you finish reading this book, there may have been some changes in the
search engine industry. I will send out updates by email when major changes take
place, which may dictate a change in strategy. However, the whole point of using the
"fast start" method is that what we do applies to every search engine. If one of them
goes bankrupt, or a new one gets started, that should not make a big difference to your
strategy.
If there is a stronger move toward themes, or the new search engines begin to gain
market share, a major portal switches their search results to Google, or Yahoo decides
to stop using Google, that really won't change the way we optimize our sites. What
we're doing works today, and will probably continue to work as long as people search
the web with words.
I'll keep you posted.

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Chapter 10. Advanced Topics & Updates
One of the most difficult things about publishing an e-book is keeping it up to date,
without forcing every customer to reprint the whole book every time something useful
needs to be added.
While I continue to release new editions once or twice a year, important information
sometimes comes up in the meantime. This chapter was originally added with the 3rd
edition to provide a home for this information.
Some of the information in this chapter has been published online, and some of
the new additions will eventually be distributed as free samples.
As I distribute updates from time to time, they'll be added to the end of this chapter.
When you receive an update, you can print it out if you wish, and add it to the end. That
way, your copy can be kept up to date without using too much paper.
This is not a perfect solution, but it's the best idea we've been able to come up with, to
satisfy both our new and old readers. If you have any feedback or suggestions, or
there's a topic you'd like me to cover, feel free to email me at
support@cannedbooks.com.
If you didn't buy SEO Fast Start from me (www.cannedbooks.com), you should still
receive updates from the reseller. If you are concerned that you aren't receiving
updates, you can check by sending an email to updates@cannedbooks.com. When you
do this, please let me know where you bought your copy. I can send you any missing
updates, but I'd also like to contact the reseller and see what's going on.
Thanks!
Dan Thies
Author & Publisher

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The New Teoma 2.0: Best Search Ever?
(Originally published January 2003)
The "Teoma" search engine (www.teoma.com) is a part of the Ask.com / Ask Jeeves
search portal. It delivers search results on a large number of portals and websites that
use Jeeves search boxes, as well as delivering a substantial and growing number of
searches through Teoma.com itself. In fact, it is now the #3 search engine database, in
terms of the audience it reaches, behind Google and Inktomi.
Teoma search also incorporates the formerly independent "Direct Hit" technology,
purchased last year by Ask.com, which allows them to improve their search results
based on the links that surfers actually click following each search. If a particular listing
gets a lot of clicks, it is assumed to be more relevant, and those that get fewer clicks are
assumed to be less relevant to that particular search term.
Teoma's rapid growth has been fueled in part by the dramatic improvements the
technology has made in the quality of search results on the Ask Jeeves portal.
According to a press release in January 2003, the number of searches where the visitor
actually clicks on a result has risen by a whopping 42 percent since Teoma search was
integrated into AskJeeves.com.
One of the most innovative features of the Teoma search interface is a listing of related
terms that allow the searcher to refine their search. For example, if you search for
"chevy parts" it will offer such helpful refinements as "chevy truck parts," "restoration
parts," or "classic auto parts." When you click on one of these, they are added to your
query, thereby reducing the total number of results and making your search results
more relevant.
Prior to the release of version 2.0, Teoma's ability to suggest refinements was in need
of a little refinement itself. In my experience, the suggestions rarely had very much to do
with the search. In contrast, Altavista's "Prisma" system has been delivering useful
suggestions for almost 2 years.
That weakness has been addressed with Teoma version 2.0 search, and the overall
quality of their search results has improved at the same time. In the "Search Engine
Watch Perfect Page Test," Teoma now scores an "A" along with Google, Yahoo and
MSN search. In my opinion, at least on a limited number of test searches, the quality of
Teoma's results was superior to any of these. I am not ready to declare this "the best
search on the web," but if they aren't #1 yet, they are certainly on their way there.
Teoma, like Google, offers a "search toolbar" that plugs into the Windows (Win98 or
newer) version of Internet Explorer (version 5.0 or newer). This toolbar, in addition to
conducting searches for you, is also capable of instantly highlighting the search terms
that appear on the page that you are viewing.

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Getting Your Site Listed By Teoma
Teoma is a crawling search engine like Altavista, FAST/AllTheWeb, Inktomi, Google,
and Wisenut. This means that they crawl the web, following links, and build up an ever
larger database of indexed web pages. Like Inktomi, Teoma does not offer free web
page submissions. If you want your website to be included in their index, you can either
pay them ($30 per year for the first page, $18 per year for additional URLs) or wait for
them to find you.
Given the rapid growth of Teoma, it is likely that more and more website owners will
choose to pay them. If you don't want to pay, the same advice I have been giving for
two years applies here – work on getting more sites to link to yours. Since they crawl
the web, it's a simple formula - the more incoming links you have, the sooner they will
find you.
Don't assume that 20-30 links is a lot, because it's just not. Teoma is in a rapid growth
phase right now, so you can expect them to be a couple months behind on crawling the
web, at least for a while. If you absolutely have to be in Teoma today, pay them the $30
and get your home page included – you can sign up for this service at
http://ask.ineedhits.com/
What Makes Teoma Different: Did Anyone Say "Themes?"
If there could ever be a search engine designed specifically to reward the readers of
SEO Fast Start, Teoma is it. Teoma likes content-rich websites (like the ones we build)
with lots of links from related sites (you work on this every day, right?), that follow a
consistent theme (there's that word again!).
The reason for this is that Teoma introduces a new concept to search engine
technology, called "subject specific popularity." While other search engines look at "link
popularity" (how many links), "link relevance" (what words are in or around the link),
and/or "link weight" (how popular is the site the link is on), Teoma wants to know much
more about your site.
To give you an idea of what this is about, let me start by quoting directly from their press
release, with a little highlighting and bold text added to emphasize the key points:
"Like real-life social networks, the Web is organized
into clusters of local communities. Communities are
groups of Web pages that are about or related to the
same subject. Teoma is the only search technology that
can view these communities as they naturally occur on
the Web (displayed under the heading "Refine" on
Teoma.com).
This unique method allows Teoma to generate more
finely tuned search results, exposing dimensions of
the Web that have previously gone unseen by other

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engines. In other words, Teoma's community-based
approach reveals a 3-D image of the Web, providing it
with more information about a particular Web page than
other engines, which only have a one-dimensional view
of the Web.
This wealth of information allows Teoma to add a new
level of relevance to search results, known as
authority. Authority represents a level of expertise
or knowledge to a Web page as validated by the other
Web pages about the same subject."
Now a quick quote from Teoma's website:
"To determine the authority—and thus the overall
quality and relevance—of a site's content, Teoma uses
Subject-Specific PopularitySM. Subject-Specific
Popularity ranks a site based on the number of samesubject pages that reference it, not just general
popularity."
First, this tells us that Teoma ranks sites based on what's on the page (of course), but
that the "off the page factors" include how well linked they are from other pages about
the same subject. Links from related sites count for more than links from unrelated sites.
Presumably, links from related sites that have greater "authority" will count even more.
Further, Teoma is not simply looking at a single word to define the subject of a page.
Related subjects are clearly visible on Teoma's website, as the suggested "refinements"
to a particular search. Presumably, the list of refinements displayed first is the listing of
subjects considered most closely related. There is a link to "show all refinements" which
displays all of the related terms.
In other words, Teoma is the first fully theme-based search engine to reach a
substantial audience. This technology has allowed them to develop a system that
delivers relevant results on a level comparable to the other major players. In my opinion,
it is better than the rest today, and only their smaller database keeps them from being
the very best search engine.
One of the interesting "side effects" of Teoma's algorithm is that it will encourage the
"search engine optimization" community to put a greater focus on relevance. Both within
their clients' websites, and in the linking campaigns that inevitably follow the initial
stages of positioning and optimizing a website.

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Teoma Ranking Tips
(Originally published January 2003)
First of all, I will say that the same "optimization" techniques we use already apply to
Teoma, too. Optimizing each web page for the specific search terms involved is a
simple exercise. Beyond that, Teoma presents some interesting challenges and
opportunities.
Keyword Research For Teoma:
Teoma's definition of "related subjects" will have an impact on how you handle keyword
research and positioning your site. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:



Because searchers will be able to "refine" their search, every page that
targets a single search term must also include several of the related terms in
prominent positions. That was important, so read it again!
Why that was important: If your site shows up on a search, but disappears
when the search is refined, you lose. If your site is not highly ranked for the
first search, but jumps up to the top when the search is "refined," you win.
If your site uses a consistent, theme-based linking structure, it is reasonable
to assume that each page will contribute more to how the other related pages
are ranked. Teoma doesn't say "a community of sites," they say "pages."
If you already have content that is optimized for each of your primary search
terms, it makes sense to include Teoma's related terms on those pages. As
you add content, it makes sense to optimize the new content for terms that
are related to your primary search terms.

Teoma's "refinements" offer great suggestions for the next step in a search. They also
offer excellent suggestions for related subjects that you may want to consider as you
add more content to your site. If searchers find these subjects related, your visitors will
too, and everybody wins.
Unlike any other search engine, Teoma will encourage websites to become better
organized and more useful, by providing a "surfer approved" measurement of what
subjects are the most important to searchers. The breadth of a subject or theme will be
defined by the refinements that searchers choose to click on.
Off The Page Factors, Or "Establishing Authority"
You might be able to fake link popularity. If you are unscrupulous enough, you can even
do a lot of things that will give you an undeserved boost in PageRank on Google. You
will have a very hard time if you try to fake "authority."
This is because authority is established by a community of related web pages – the
more authoritative pages will tend to link to each other, and those pages most frequently
cited (linked) by the established subject-specific authorities will rank better for searches
on a given subject.

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So, how do you establish authority? I will assume, for the moment, that your website
actually merits consideration as an authority, at least a minor authority, on some
subject. This means that you have either content that is of sufficient quality, or products
and services of sufficient quality, that other quality sites will feel like linking to you.
On the positive side, it will be a relatively simple matter to determine which sites are
Teoma's top "authorities" for a given subject. Just search Teoma for your primary
search terms, and look at the top ranking sites. The higher their ranking, the greater
their authority, more or less.
Once you've established links from the top-ranking sites for your primary search terms,
you can move on to the top authorities for related subjects, as shown by Teoma's
suggested search "refinements." It should not surprise you that many of the same sites
will turn up on related searches as well.
So, what can you do if your site doesn't quite rate as a giant authority? The same advice
I have already given you on positioning still applies. Find the biggest small pond that
you can be a big fish in, then dive into it. Get the other fish in your pond to link to you, or
at least the healthy fish. Then grow your content and other offerings organically,
following a consistent theme. Eventually, the fish in the bigger ponds will learn to
respect you.
At Teoma, It's About Community
The more broadly you develop your site's offerings, and the more you get "linked into"
the community of related websites, the better your site will perform on Teoma search. If
you sell products, this means that you should seek out the independent voices in that
community and get your stuff reviewed. If you have content, find others with content and
link up. If you have industry news, make a headline feed and get it syndicated as widely
as possible.

Managing Multiple Domain Names
(Originally published March 2003)
I've answered several questions this year about the use of multiple domain names, and
what the search engines think of this. There are four different scenarios that I have
encountered, and I'll discuss each of them here. As an added bonus, we'll learn a little
bit about using "redirection" scripts.
Scenario One: Multiple Versions
When you register a .com name, most registrars will try to sell you the .net, .org, .info,
.biz, versions of the same name, to protect your business name. This is a sensible
strategy for some businesses, and it's not all that expensive. I have to admit that I don't
bother with this, but I can understand why it's done.

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Search engines understand this, but it's important that you not run multiple copies of the
same website. In other words, if the .com version is your primary website, the other
domain names should be directed to the .com URL, either through a DNS entry
(forwarding) or a 301 Moved Permanently code returned by your web server.
Scenario Two: Merger & Acquisition
If you buy a competitor's website, you have a choice – you could continue to operate
two completely different websites, or you can combine them into one. Obviously, it's
cheaper in the long run to have a single site, not to mention that it's probably better for
your customers as well.
What you don't want to do, though, is completely shut down the old domain, right? After
all, there are links to that URL, ads printed with that URL, people have it bookmarked,
etc. This should be handled the same way as Scenario One – with either a DNS entry or
a 301 redirect.
The other benefit of this approach is that some search engines will begin to count links
to the old competitor's site as links to your primary site. When you do this, I would
encourage you to notify any directories that have listings for both websites, and only
keep the one that points to your active domain. As tempting as it may be to try to keep
two listings, just do the right thing – it's for your benefit as well. If the directory finds a
duplicate listing on their own, they may permanently remove both.
Scenario Three: Multiple Websites
Some folks, myself included, have more than one domain name, because we have
more than one website. I have CannedBooks.com, where I sell SEO Fast Start. I have
InsideOutMarketing.com, which carries my article archive and some other information.
SEOResearchLabs.com offers keyword research and link targeting reports. These are
all very different businesses, and need their own domains.
There are several others that I won't mention here. Each of these websites is unique,
and it would not make sense to smash them all together under a single URL. Some of
these sites link to some of the others, but they don't all link to each other. Each of them
is promoted more or less separately, and nobody could look at what I've done and call it
spam.
If you have multiple websites, that's fine, as long as they are all unique. Just keep in
mind that excessive cross-linking (like linking from every page) between them may raise
a red flag at some search engines. The more "external" links there are the less chance
that there will be a problem with cross-linking. If a link would make sense for a visitor,
then it's probably okay. Don't use hidden links, or any of that nonsense, and put links in
an appropriate context.

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Scenario Four: Spam, Spam, Spam
Actually, there are a lot of "spam scenarios," but I'll try to generalize. When the search
engines consider what you're doing to be "spam," you can expect to get penalized for it.
Any time you have created multiple domains for any of the following reasons, you are
running a big risk, and you'll get no help from me:
• Multiple Directory Listings – if you're just trying to get multiple directory listings
for the same site, you're spamming, and I hope you get caught. Sorry, but I
don't have any sympathy for cheats.
• Link Popularity / Cross Linking – if you're just trying to get more link popularity
by linking a bunch of domains together, you're spamming.
• Spamming With Impunity – if you're using multiple domains to test out new
spam techniques, I hope you get caught. I know you'll probably just buy some
more domains and keep going, but I hope that the search engines make it as
expensive as possible for you.
• Trying to get multiple search listings – if you think "I'll put up 100 websites,
and at least one of them is bound to show up in the top 10," you're spamming.
What's Your Scenario?
If I didn't cover all of the possible scenarios here, let me know, and I'll be happy to
advise you on your individual situation. If you would feel comfortable explaining exactly
what you are doing to every employee of Google, you're probably okay. A lot of the
time, it's more a matter of simply doing things the right way. To your visitors, having two
URLs with identical content might not matter, but to a search engine, it can create
problems. Hopefully we all understand how to keep our sites out of trouble.
Added Bonus:
If you use "redirection" scripts for your internal links, the proper way to send the browser
to the destination is to generate a 302 Found code, or use the HTTP "Location:" header.
All of the PHP scripts I have seen use this header, and create links that (most) search
engines can follow.
For an interesting online discussion that includes scripts for ASP, Perl, and PHP, see:
http://www.ihelpyouservices.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=10724
For a quick note on how to set up a 301 redirect on the Apache web server, see:
http://www.ihelpyouservices.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=11760

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Using Adwords For Keyword Research
(Originally published July 2003)
Keyword Research Challenges
Choosing the most targeted keywords and search terms has long been a guessing game. While
considerable skill is still required to find good search terms, a great deal of the "guesswork" can
now be eliminated.
Search engines are very reluctant to share information about the relative popularity of search
terms. Google's "Adwords" pay-per-click advertising program provides the means to extract a
great deal of useful information that was previously unavailable.
Web designers and search engine optimization (SEO) consultants should enjoy this article, as
will many "do it yourself" webmasters. While I can't make you a master of keyword research in
one lesson, I can teach you how to make the most of what you have.

What Adwords Can Tell You About Keywords
For a small investment (which is very likely to pay off on its own), Google's Adwords program
can tell you:
§ How many times people searched for each keyword or search term on the Google.com
search engine.
§ Which search terms are the most targeted, and therefore the most likely to result in higher
traffic and sales.
It's important to understand the difference between the popularity of search terms, and their
value in targeting your desired audience. While popular search terms might bring in more traffic,
the real payoff comes from getting visitors who want what your site (or your client's) has to offer.

Why Adwords Provides The Most Accurate Data
Other services, such as Wordtracker and Overture, can provide a hint of the relative popularity
of search terms. However, these services provide data from a very small number of searches,
compared to the hundreds of millions of searches that happen on Google. The simple fact is
that Google controls more than half of the web searches on any given day.
Further, the information provided by these services can be skewed by automated software that
performs "rank checking" and "bid management," since these programs generate additional
searches that can skew the data considerably. The same software may also be used on
Google, but the sheer volume of searches there reduces its impact to mere background noise.
This doesn't mean that Wordtracker and Overture have become useless, far from it. We use
them on a regular basis to help us locate keywords for our clients. They are very useful in
obtaining estimates of search volumes. The main weaknesses are the small sample size and
the number of "false positives" they generate. Examining search terms through the microscope
of Adwords eliminates these weaknesses.

Setting Up Your Adwords Account
Get out your credit card... In order to take advantage of this opportunity, you're going to have to
plunk down $5 to activate your Adwords account. Thereafter, Google will charge you for clicks

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as you reach your credit limit, which starts at $50. You can expect to spend $25 or more before
you have enough information to go by.
The full pricing and payment details are available from the Adwords site
(https://adwords.google.com/select/pricing.html).
I'm going to assume that you have a list of search terms you want to investigate. If you don't,
you may want to read through the rest of this article anyway. Adwords has a search term
suggestion tool that will help you create a list. We're going to use Adwords to turn this list of
"candidate" search terms into a list of targeted search terms.

Bringing Keyword Strategy Into Focus With Adwords
The first thing we're going to do is determine how targeted your search terms are, and how
popular they are on the Google.com search engine. Point your browser to
http://adwords.google.com and follow the instructions to create an account.
Begin by creating your first ad campaign, following the instructions. For this exercise, you want
to create an ad that accurately describes what your site has to offer. Avoid hype-laden copy,
which violates Google's editorial guidelines and has a tendency to skew the results. You want to
know how targeted your search terms are, not how well people are responding to a special
offer.
For the most precise targeting information, add all of your search terms to the campaign,
enclosing each search term in brackets, like this: [search terms]. The brackets tell Adwords that
you only want your ad shown when there is an exact match with your search terms.
If you'd prefer to widen your investigation a bit, you can use "exact phrase" matching by
enclosing your search terms in quotes, like this: "search terms". In this example, the ad would
be displayed for "finding good search terms," but not "search for good loan terms."
I wouldn't advise anyone to advertise on Google without using at least one of these keyword
matching options. Don't look for this feature on any other pay-per-click search engine, because
they don't give you this much control.

Setting Your Bids, Budget, and Distribution Options
At first, set your maximum bid to 5 cents, and your daily budget to whatever Google
recommends (assuming it won't break the bank, of course!). You can monitor your campaigns
as closely as you like, but it's pretty unusual for Google to ever reach your full daily spending
limit. If you set the limit lower than they recommend, your ads may not be displayed on all
searches, and you won't get accurate search counts.
Once you've set your bid amount, Google will show you the expected average position of your
ads. You want to bid high enough to put your ads into the top 7 positions. They will float up and
down depending on the click-through rate, but you need to keep them in the top 9 positions to
get accurate search counts.
Google displays 9 ads per page on their normal search results. If your ad is always displayed on
the first page of results, you'll know the total number of searches by looking at the number of
times your ad is displayed for each search term. If any of your search terms won't make the first

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page with your initial bid, you can create a separate ad campaign with a higher minimum bid to
track them.
To get accurate data, set your campaign options to limit distribution to Google.com only. You do
this by making sure the boxes that say "search sites in Google's network" and "content sites in
Google's network" are unchecked in the "campaign settings" screen. This keeps your ad from
being displayed on AOL, among other places.
If you want to investigate the search volumes in a particular country, you can also limit the
distribution of your ad to specific countries. I work with a few designers and SEO consultants
from Australia, England, and New Zealand. The data these folks can acquire from Adwords is
absolutely invaluable in planning their clients' SEO strategy.

Interpreting The Results
Unlike Wordtracker, which gives you instant results, Adwords will take a while to provide useful
data. I like to let my initial advertising campaigns run for a full week, monitoring daily. If you use
tracking URLs, and monitor your sales, you may discover that you've already turned a profit on
your campaign.
After a week, Google will probably have "turned off" some of your search terms because their
click-through rate was too low. They did you a favor, because those are not the most targeted
search terms. If you monitored the results daily, you know how many times each of your search
terms was used on Google.
Any search terms that show a click-through rate at 0.5% or higher are excellent, and you'll
probably find that some of them have much higher percentages. These are your most targeted
search terms, and would probably make an excellent focus for your optimization efforts. Those
that get the most total clicks and best click-through rates on Adwords are probably your best
choices, assuming that you can effectively compete for good rankings.
You can now delete or pause all of the ad campaigns you've set up, to stop the click charges.
Before you delete them, though, take a good look at whether or not you can make a profit with
Adwords. Web designers and SEO consultants who use Adwords to conduct keyword research
may learn that their client would like them to manage an ongoing campaign.

Is A Yahoo! Listing Worth The Cost?
(Originally published November 2002)
In October 2002, the Yahoo! portal changed the way it delivers search results. In the
past, the most prominent results were exclusively culled from websites listed in the
Yahoo directory itself. Since then, sites listed in the Yahoo! directory no longer enjoy
this privileged status.
The Google search engine now drives the primary search results on Yahoo!. While this
is certainly an improvement for users of Yahoo! search, it's a disaster for many
businesses that counted on their Yahoo! listing to deliver substantial traffic.

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This change has also led many site owners to question the value of a listing in the
Yahoo! directory. In this article, I will outline the pros and cons of maintaining, or paying
for, a Yahoo! listing. In the process, I will delve into more details of the recent changes.
Argument #1: Yahoo! Listings Mean Link Popularity
Pro:
Even if the Yahoo! listing itself delivers little or no traffic, other search engines will rank
your website higher if it's listed in Yahoo!. Because Yahoo! is so important, a link from
Yahoo! counts more than a regular link. Thanks to its higher "PageRank," Yahoo!
means even more to Google.
Con:
Yahoo! listings do not deliver nearly as significant a contribution in this area as you
might think. You can verify this by doing a "backward links" search on Google for any
Yahoo!-listed website. The most important links are listed first, and the Yahoo! listing is
rarely even on the first page of links for top ranked sites on Google – in many cases, it
doesn't show up at all.
Argument #2: Listed Sites Look Better In The Search Results
Pro:
Websites with a Yahoo listing show up in the combined Yahoo!/Google results with their
title, description, and category from the Yahoo directory. This may boost the response
when the site appears in the search results. This applies when the URL listed in the
results is the same as the URL in the Yahoo listing.
Con:
Results listed with Yahoo information include a link to the site's category, which may
prompt surfers to pass over your listing and go to the category. Sites without Yahoo
listings have the more inviting "search within this site" link, which leads to more results
exclusively from your site.
So, Is A Yahoo! Listing Worth It?
If you have a non-commercial site and can get listed for free, of course! If you're not one
of the lucky few, though, you have to evaluate whether it's worth $299 a year for what
amounts to a better than average incoming link. Everyone must make their own
decision. If $299 is small compared to your total marketing budget, it may be easier to
just continue paying. My own listing expires in March, and I don't intend to renew it.
How Can You Profit From The Changes At Yahoo!?
The obvious answer is that you must take steps to improve your own position in
Google's search results. Google's rankings are made up of many factors, but the
dominant factor is "PageRank," which is based on the number and quality of incoming
links from other websites.

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Therefore, the first step in improving your position on the Google search engine (and
now Yahoo!) is to improve your site's link popularity. This takes time, and trying to take
shortcuts can get you into real trouble – Google doesn't like "link farms," or any program
designed to artificially boost your link popularity.
Finding Quality Link Partners Through Google
Since only links from quality sites will count for much with Google, let's take a quick look
at how you can find these sites. Start by targeting the sites that link to existing topranked sites. You can do a backward links search for any site by typing
"link:http://www.domain.com" in the Google search engine.
An even faster method is to use the Google toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com), which
requires Internet Explorer 5 or greater, running on Windows. With the toolbar's
advanced features enabled, you can conduct a "backward links" search from the "Page
Info" menu for any site you visit.
Don't Complain, Act!
By some estimates, Google controls 2/3rds of the searches conducted on the Internet in
a given day. Not only is Google.com extremely popular in its own right, but Google also
controls the search results on popular portals like America Online (AOL) – not to
mention Yahoo itself.
A lot of website owners are complaining bitterly about this change. All the more reason
for you to take action now, while so many of your competitors are busy licking their
wounds. With a little planning and effort, you could be in a dominant position on Google
before they even get started.

Useful Online Resources
I get a lot of my information online, of course. Here are some of my favorite online
places for search engine information. The forums I participate in are fantastic places to
ask questions and get instant answers.
Discussion Forums & Newsletters
Best Practices Search Engine Optimization Forums:
http://www.ihelpyouservices.com/forums
High Rankings Forums & High Rankings Advisor Newsletter:
http://www.highrankings.com
Cre8asite Forums:
http://www.cre8asiteforums.com
WebProWorld Forums:
http://www.webproworld.com

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
4th Edition – January 2004. Copyright  2004 by Dan Thies

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Spider Food Forums:
http://forums.spider-food.net
Webmaster World:
http://www.webmasterworld.com
Technical Information
PageRank Uncovered (White Paper on Google's PageRank Algorithm):
http://www.supportforums.org/pagerank
White Paper: The Classification of Search Engine Spam
http://www.ebrandmanagement.com/whitepapers/spam-classification

Font inclusion section:
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