Getting Honest With The Search Engines
by Daria Goetsch

I spend a lot of time reading newsletters and forum postings
about Search Engine Marketing. More often than not, people are
asking about methods used to improve Search Engine rankings:
what works, what doesn't, and what will get you in trouble.

Search Engine*: A program that searches documents for specified
keywords and returns a list of the documents where the keywords
were found. 

Algorithm*: A formula or set of steps for solving a particular

Frankly, no one can predict what will happen from day to day
with the Search Engines. Only the Search Engine companies
themselves know if the algorithms will change from one day to
the next. Even the Search Engine rules change from month to
month, sometimes daily. Think of the changes that have happened
since pay for inclusion and pay-per-click have taken over the
market for Search Engine results.

It seems so simple to try and comply with the Search Engine
rules. Even though optimization adds to the basic content of a
site and source code, there are ways to approach this without
stepping over the line.

We personally do not use the methods mentioned below (methods to
avoid, methods to be wary of) in order to play it the absolute
safest way, using a long term plan in providing you optimum
ranking in the Search Engines.


Keyword Stuffing: "Stuffing" keywords into places where keywords 
don't belong, such as comment tags, image ALT tags where the 
keywords have nothing to do with the specific image. 

Invisible Text: Text color the same as background color.

Automated Submissions: Using automated tools to deliver huge 
numbers of pages to submission pages of Search Engines. 
Submissions To "Thousands" Of Search Engines: A waste of time, 
since the major Search Engines/Directories drive the majority of 
the traffic to websites.

FFA (Free For All) Links: Link popularity is good, but only when 
the links are relevant; a link from a page of random links is not 
worth nearly as much as a link from a site that is relevant to 
your site.

Search Engine Marketing Companies Hosting Your Pages On Their 
Server: The marketing company "owns" your pages, and if you
decide you want to move them, you may have a hard time wresting
them away. (This is not always the case with marketing companies
that also provide hosting, but you need to carefully choose when
using this option.) 


Cloaking*: Also known as stealth, a technique used by some Web 
sites to deliver one page to a Search Engine for indexing while 
serving an entirely different page to everyone else. 

Cloaking is very difficult to do correctly, if you do not have 
an expert providing this service you could well be banned by the 
Search Engines. There are ways for this to be done that are 
accepted by some Search Engines. In general, cloaking is not
always accepted by the Search Engine rules and can be a gamble
unless you are certain your service provider knows what they are
doing. Check credentials and get referrals from people who have
used their services.

Doorway Page**: A page made specifically to rank well in Search 
Engines for particular keywords, serving as an entry point 
through which visitors pass to the main content. 

Doorway pages are not accepted as they used to be by the Search
Engines. A carefully crafted doorway page done by hand is
entirely different from an automated doorway page generated by
software. A few well-designed pages are a far cry from mass
generated automated pages sent in large numbers through the
Search Engine submission page, which are often considered as
spam. Again, check credentials and get referrals from people who
have used their services.

Maintenance Programs: There are times when a page drops from 
the Search Engine listings or you re-design the page which might 
give you a reason to re-submit the page to the Search Engine. 
Re-submitting your pages every month is not always necessary. 
Having a log stats program in place will help you see which 
pages are still listed, along with a monthly ranking report. If 
you have these tools you should be able to see if any of your 
pages have changed. Be wary of people who consistently re-submit 
your pages, since re-submission can sometimes cause your pages 
to be dropped if they are already listed in the database. 

My own experience with a very large website I did Search Engine
marketing for, showed that the older (longer) the pages were in
the Search Engine results, the better for link popularity and
ranking. Of course, paid inclusion can give you more security in
having your web pages stabilized in the Search Engine results.

A good maintenance plan will include providing a ranking report,
tweaking keywords in your source code as needed for a
monthly/six month/yearly fee and may also include log stats so
you can see where your traffic is coming from and what keywords
your visitors are using to visit your website.


Good Content: Content is one of the most important items you 
need for your website. Once visitors arrive, you need to keep 
them there. Adding keyword-rich text that makes sense and serves 
the concept of the web page improves your ranking and keeps your 
visitors interested. The more text, the better for Search Engine 
spiders when they index a website.

Good Navigation: There is nothing worse than arriving at a 
website and having difficulty understanding where to go for the 
information you are seeking. Have easy to use, clearly marked 
navigation so your visitors click through instead of click-away 
in frustration. Search Engine spiders (robots) index text and 
links; having good navigation is important to the indexing of 
your web pages.

Title/META tags: Individualized Title and META tags for each of 
your important web pages gives you the best chance for optimum 
success in ranking. Title tags are necessary for Search Engine 
ranking, in particular with Google's Search Engine. META tags 
have decreased in importance, but are worth using for clarity 
and search results. The META description is still used by some 
Search Engines as the default text indexed by Search Engine 
spiders for the search results. The keyword tag is the least 
important but is still used by some engines. My theory is, you 
never know when the rules of the Search Engines will change, or 
a new engine will want them, so take the time to include these 
tags in all your web pages.

Link Popularity: Links from other popular websites back to your 
website are one way of increasing your site's popularity. 
Finding websites with similar content (but not your competitors) 
and high link popularity, then trading links to be posted on each 
site, is one way of increasing your site popularity. Good content 
is vitally important because visitors who stay longer while 
visiting a website help measure the popularity of the site in 
the Search Engines.

Paid Inclusion: Paying a one-time fee or (as is most recently 
the case) a yearly renewable subscription fee to be included in 
the Search Engine results. Directories also use this style of 
service to accept submissions. Paid inclusion does not guarantee 
that you will be listed with the Search Engine or Directory, but 
gives a shorter time-line of acceptance if they do.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click): Overture 
is the most popular PPC engine. You bid an amount per keyword 
phrase to get the highest ranking in the Overture search results 
compared to your competitors.

Google AdWords Select: Google AdWords 
( is a program 
that uses your chosen keywords in an ad in the Google Search 
Engine results in order to promote click-throughs. 

Log Stats Programs: Having a log stats program is very helpful 
in tracking your visitors, finding which keywords they are 
searching on to enter your website, tracking which pages they 
leave from and much more. Analog ( is a 
good free log stats program. WebTrends 
( is a popular paid 
logs program used by many businesses.

Free Submissions Take Patience: After paying for inclusion, try 
submitting to some of the secondary Search Engines and 
directories. Long before Google was a household word, I thought 
it might become popular and submitted the company website. It 
certainly paid off a year later when Google became the best of 
the upcoming Search Engines. 

Another avenue to venture down are specialty directories. As the
web grows larger over time, specialty directories (also known as
vertical portals or "vortals") focused on your business area may
help you get more link popularity and your company name out to
the public.


Stay honest, create good content and do your homework when
hiring for services.

Using affordable Search Engine Marketing services, you will add
to your audience exposure on the web. In this way you will
always be ahead of the game and hopefully, ahead of your

*definitions supplied from Webopedia website:

**definition supplied from Marketing Terms website: 

Daria Goetsch is a Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search
Innovation, a Search Engine Marketing company serving small
businesses. Her background involves many years as a Search Engine 
Marketing Consultant, including three years as the Search Engine 
Specialist for O'Reilly & Associates.