SEO week: #2 – Where do you rank?

This week, I’m trying something new. Each day, I’ll write about a topic that I’ve been studying. This week’s topic: search engine optimization (or SEO, for short). Check back each day for a new post, or why not just subscribe to the RSS feed?

Page ranking is complicated. It can vary from search engine to search engine. It can vary from day to day.

Learn the lingo

There is a lot of terminology surrounding SEO and page ranking. You may want to keep these glossaries handy as you explore the page rank resources:

The relationship between page rank and keywords

Page rank is directly related to keywords. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, saying that you want to “show up on Google” means nothing. You want your site to appear in the search results when someone types a query into the search box. The words they type in the search box are keywords or keyword phrases.

When someone types in a keyword phrase, the search engine looks through its database of indexed pages and returns the best matches for those keywords. How do search engines determine the best match? This is where things get a little more complicated.

One thing to keep in mind is that search engines are dumb. For example, I am a freelance graphic designer, but if I don’t ever use the words “freelance graphic designer” on my site, I can’t expect Google to “know” I’m a freelancer based on the contextual information on my site. I have to use those keywords in my text, in the page titles, etc. to say “Hey Google! The search for ‘freelance graphic designer’ and the content on this page are a good match!”

Handy-dandy resources

Here are two resources that help you make sense of how different factors, including keywords, impact page rank:

Google’s PageRank Explained and How to Make the Most of It
This article explains, in detail, the algorithm behind Google’s patented PageRank and the various factors that impact it. Some takeaways: More internal linking (links within your site) and increasing the number of pages of your site helps your rank. However, don’t create duplicate “cookie cutter” pages just for the sake of a higher rank – it’ll actually count against you. Inbound links (links from other websites to yours) increase your ranking, because another site is essentially “voting” for your site. Outbound links add credit to your site’s existence, but too many outbound links actually drains your PageRank.

Search Engine Ranking Factors 2009 has compiled a phenomenal amount of information from world renown SEO experts. Their top-five ranking factors: Keyword Focused Anchor Text from External Links, External Link Popularity, Diversity of Link Sources, Keyword Use Anywhere in the Title Tag, and Trustworthiness of the Domain Based on Link Distance from Trusted Domains. Some of the Ranking Factors can get really overwhelming and jargon-heavy, but scroll down to the comments section to read what some of the experts have to say (in plain English).

Up next:

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share some tools on how to discover what your PageRank is and how to know where your site appears in different search engines based on your keywords. Don’t miss it: subscribe to the RSS feed.


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