Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How do search engine algorithms work

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Search engine algorithms, by nature, are a well-guarded secret. Search engines do not give away the particulars of how they work. We know, as an SEO community, generally what they do and how they index web pages.

I would say that most crawler-based algorithms are particularly interested in location and frequency of keywords on the web page. That's probably the most focused area of the algorithm. Each engine has a set keyword saturation, meaning it allows a certain number or percentage of keywords within a particular block of content.

It's important as an SEO to know where the keyword density stands for a given page. That means the number of keywords per page and per relevant topic. If you have a page that's selling radios, you want to explain that in your content and talk about the benefits of having a radio. But you don't want to over-talk and stuff the page with keywords to the point where the algorithm will pick it up and eliminate it because of an "illegal practice." This would be keyword stuffing.

I also want to discuss linking with concern to the algorithm itself. Not only is keyword density ratio important as far as the algorithm is concerned, linking is as well. Google is particularly interested in a site's linking schema — meaning a site's inbound links. These are more important to Google than outbound links. It's not just about getting an inbound link, but a relevant inbound link for a site.


About "white hat" versus "black hat" SEO. What is that?

In terms of search engine optimization, you're talking about two different real techniques as far as how to perform it. Black hat SEO is the practice of using techniques deemed illegal or unethical. These can include using hidden text in your site. The search engine can read the text in the site, but it's not visible to the human eye. That's just an example of keyword stuffing. There are "door-in pages," which allow users to come into your site through a page and then push you to another thought or product or service — things the consumer didn't initially want to visit. Those are all some examples of illegal techniques.

White hat is the opposite of that — basically ethical SEO, which is using established SEO practices to increase a site's ranking. White hat is a more long-term strategy, and black hat can be more immediate.

“Illegal" is a strong term. You get posed that question a lot. It depends on your business model and what you're going after.

I would never request or recommend that a company use black hat SEO, but there are some instances where it can be helpful. It just depends on what your marketing strategy is. The only driver behind using black hat SEO is that the results can be much quicker. You can see the jump in search engine rank happen relatively quickly. The downside to that is that you will eventually get caught and can be penalized by the search engine. You can even be banned and removed from a search engine. That can be detrimental to retail clients specifically.


How to get a higher CTR

There are many options you can choose to get a higher click ratio.For instance, you have the possibility to change the ads themselves.

Ad Colors

In general you have two kinds of ad colors to choose from: ads that stand out and ads that blend in.Both may have their positives and negatives, but all in all you need to experiment with those types of color palettes to see which works best with your site. In my personal experience (and what I have been told from most webmasters I have talked to) colors that blend in perform better. Others have experienced better click ratios from outstanding ad colors though, so this is something you really should try out yourself. Whatever option you choose, you should at least try your ads to fit to the website's design and color scheme though.My personal tip is: Match the ad's text color with the color of your Web site's content's text color and match the link color of the ad with your site's link color.

Ad Placement

Another factor incluencing the CTR is the placement of your ad. AdSense ads should not be hidden from your visitors, but they should be visible at first sight. Again, there are still several places you can choose for your ads to appear.Text ads seem to attract most clicks at the top or in the center of a website's content area. Especially on websites with much text content.Do you already know the so-called “heat map” by Google? It illustrates profitable ad placements on an example site layout. The fields which are colored dark orange experience the best performance while those fields with a brighter color do not perform that well.Anyway, the heat map is only a tip for you. It's based on Google's researches from many different websites with AdSense ads, but the heat map possibly does not show the perfect ad placement area for your own site. So - again - it's up to you to try where on your website ads work best.To give you a direction: On sites with an article, ads which are placed directly below the article seem to do quite well. In addition, you should also place an ad above the article, so people can click on it at the top and at the bottom of the page.Important is that ads are placed where the user's eyes are likely to focus on them. You should also try to place the ads throughout your whole site, because this adds variety across your site and users have more selection. Also, more ads mean more revenue, in my experience.In case you're running a forum please pay attention to the “AdSense on Forums” section below. There I will discuss the specific placement criteria for forums.

Ad Format

The third way to improve ad performance is to choose another ad format. AdSense provides you with many different ad formats.
In general, wide formats seem to perform better than narrow formats. This is because people can read more words at a time without having to skip a line. I've experienced that the 336x280 large rectangle, the 250x250 square and the 160x600 wide skyscraper have done best on my sites. These are quite big ad formats, of course, so they need lots of space, but if they're placed well they usually generate more income than the smaller and narrow ad formats.
Another good format is the wide 728x90 leaderboard, which does best under the editorial content of a web page or directly under the page header, in my experience. The 468x60 banner format does not convert that well, but it can still be placed in areas where there isn't much space available, i.e. directly in the page header (next to the logo) or within articles.


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