Jim DeWalt 11/30/2000
Search Engine Optimization / Web Positioning
Search engine optimization requires diligence and a dedicated commitment. Achieving
high ranking on search engines will increase awareness of Purdue products and services.
Search engine optimization requires a thorough understanding of how search engines
index pages and why certain pages gain more favorable positioning than other pages.
I. The Challenge
To create web pages that will rank well on most search Engines. This requires well-planned content
management due to the following variables:
1) Ranking Criteria. Search engines employ different techniques (algorithms) to return
what it believes is the best match for a users keyword search.
2) Algorithm Changes. Search Engines make changes to their search algorithms
frequently to combat spamming.
3) Our Competition. Achieving a top ranking is essential. When users search the web
they generally only visit a few sites to find what they are looking. Having our sites
listed in the TOP 10 should be our quest. The competition to achieve the top spot is
intense. Vendors bid for, and buy, keywords for the purpose of creating Web pages
designed to achieve optimal search engine positioning.
II. Optimization Variables
To meet the challenges, optimal positioning can be gained by continuous analysis and improvement of web
1) Keyword Identification. Identify and utilize keywords and key phrases likely to be
used in a search engine query that will maximize exposure to Purdue. Try to use the
selected keywords in the page title and description tag. I recommend using 5 to 10
keywords of about 80 characters that develop a theme. Themes are created with
consistent keywords throughout the site. Some keywords such as "careers" actually
decrease your relevance. Theme based indexing is gaining popularity. Alta Vista,
Inktomi, Google, Excite, and Lycos now employ theme based indexing.
2) META Tags. Although considered not as important as in the past, we should strive to
make optimal use of META tags. The description tag, probably most important,
should be a short description of about 25 words or about 150 characters. We should
incorporate as many keywords as possible in the description tag.
3) Doorway Pages. Special pages designed to target and optimize specific engines.
Recently there has been some discussion about search engines penalizing for the use
of doorway pages. As noted above, the search engines are constantly altering their
algorithms to stay ahead of the spammers. I recommend we attempt a one-size fit
approach to optimization. Perhaps this is a bit conservative but it reduces the
possibility of getting banned from a search engine.
Jim DeWalt 11/30/2000
4) Keyword Density. The ratio of keywords relative to page copy. All engines differ
with respect to this ranking variable. How often your keyword should be seen
throughout the actual text is debatable and different on each engine. The percentage
varies between 3% and 10% of your text. Therefore, every 3 - 10 words out of a 100
on your site should be the keyword you are targeting most.
5) Link Popularity. Most engines consider link popularity as a measure of relevance.
The number of external pages linking to the Purdue Web site determines link
popularity. Link popularity is very important to Google, Yahoo, Go/infoseek and
Northern Light. A committed effort is needed to increase relevant external links to
our site with partner pages, directories, etc. This can be done through email, phone, or
reciprocal link generating software.
III. Optimization Recommendations
An effective optimization plan should incorporate the following:
1) Web Statistics and Reporting Analysis. Increased use of Webtrends data will
enhance the effective management of search engine positioning and strategy. For
example, identifying where users are entering the site from will help us determine
where we need (or do not need) to concentrate our efforts and resources.
2) Search Engine Optimization Management. Aggressive management of the search
engine promotion process is necessary.
The main external Purdue site receives between 6,000 – 7,000 visitors each month from
search engines and other referral sites. Search engine optimization will increase this
traffic and awareness of Purdue.
It should be noted that search engine optimization takes hours and hours of time.
Someone is needed to register each page, track results, research the latest way in which
search engines are registering your site, produce reports, determine keywords, determine
site placement priorities, record keeping, and follow-through with this on at least a
3) Site Reviews. Site reviews need to be conducted to begin the optimization process.
We need to analyze the following:
HTML Title – Does the title contain keywords? Does the title spark interest?
Category – Is our site listed under the most appropriate category?
Meta tags – Is the Meta description and keyword tags on every page? Do image
tags contain keywords?
Keywords – Is there a theme? Prominence, density, frequency, proximity? Are
there any keywords in the URL? Do we use Alt tags with keywords to describe
images? Are we optimizing for keywords that do not directly relate to our site?
Jim DeWalt 11/30/2000
Link popularity – How do we rank? What are we doing to increase relevant
Themes - One of the latest additions to algorithms that search engines use, do
Design – Some engines discourage frames. Do we have no frames alternatives?
Do we limit the use of re-directs?
No spam – Are keywords properly distributed? Are we using keywords that have
nothing to do with our theme?
4) Things to avoid
You may be penalized for many things on search engines such as cloaking (using one
page to index another to avoid use of a particular algorithm) this will affect the
rankings of all pages and could lead to banning.
Submissions should be updated (and pages refreshed) at various intervals. Intervals
and limits vary per engine. Over submissions may be viewed as spamming by the
search engine. This should be done manually. There has been recent discussion
regarding being penalized for using programs such as Web Position Gold.
Search Engine optimization must be an integral component of any Web development
strategy. It is estimated that no single search engine indexes more than 16% of the Web.
With 80 million web pages posted, positioning becomes even more important. If your site
is not listed in the Top 30 of a search query, chances are that the searcher will never see
your listing. A comprehensive Search Engine Optimization strategy is the cornerstone to
increased Web presence and product awareness.