Do Not Try This at Home, Part I

I had to laugh out loud when the talking head I was watching on TV was being green-screened in front of a ubiquitous bookshelf background with a set of World Book Encyclopedias–an arcane archive of information, with an index.

While April 7, 1969 is the day the thing we call the Internet began, it was not until 1990 that a tool was available to search the Internet. It was called “Archie” (“archive” without the “v”), and was limited to a searchable database of file names without any hint of the contents.

Just six years later, starting in 1996 Google became both a noun and a verb; and, “page rank” became the Holy Grail of the Internet. Goodbye Word Book, hello to the now most common phrase of daily life: “google it.”

For those with a Web page, the second most common phrase now seems to be SEO.  As web developers interacting with prospective new clients almost every day, we find that most think of SEO as either some kind of secret treasure map known only to the few; or, black-hat unethical schemes and tactics that fool Google into thinking websites are more valuable than they actually are.

Neither is true. We thought, why not share our understanding of Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”); and, some of the fascinating new tools that we use enhance your page rank.  You may think, why should I hire you to do it?  Well, actually we believe the more our clients know, the more they will appreciate the value of what we do. However, we advise that you do not try this at home.

Let’s start with the understanding that search engines don’t just rank page results by counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page. PageRank technology measures a website’s relevance by determining the number of pages, and the importance of those pages, that are linked back to the original site.

Think of it this way. Think of websites as your high school classmates. Who usually got named in the yearbook as “most liked?”  The one that tried to glad-hand his way to the top by knowing the most classmates, or one who hung out with the in-crowd and had the most powerful friends. In any event it certainly wasn’t the new kid who had just moved to town and didn’t know anybody.

While Google collects billions of bits of data from tens of millions of websites, they actually sort it down to about ten of the most relevantsearch results.  The most important are Links, Page title, and URL.

Links are like an election, but you can’t get better page PageRank by simply winning the most votes. Google applies scores of restrictions in order for a vote to count.  Every page is assigned a PageRank from 0 to 10. The more relevant the page is to the search, the higher the rank number. Most websites are in the 4 to 5 range.  Above that is very hard to get, and 10 includes everybody like Google itself.

However, PageRank is now not as important an indicator as the TrustRank value given to the page by Google.  TrustRank is earned the same way as PageRank, receiving links from other sites; and, the age of the site.  Google gives the most TrustRank to sites that have links from “well-linked” web pages (the popular classmates that hang out with other most popular kids). Google closely guards how it determines TrustRank.

In addition to Links, there are four other factors of successful SEO. They are keyword selection (words typed into the search engine), meta page title (the short description of your site), URL structure (your domain name), and time.  Google fights spam sites, like automatically generated blogs filled with senseless gibberish containing hundreds of keywords, by imposing “ranking delays” on new websites. A new site is not ranked by Google for several months; and, then the “holdback” is gradually released to about 50% after six month, 75% after twelve months, 90% after twenty-four months, 90% after twenty-four months, and finally fully after forty-eight months.

In our next installment, we will share with you some of our techniques and tools for building a successful SEO!


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