OK, in a previous article we discussed making sites that search engines like...now, how does one track the results, and which results really matter?
I am hearing more and more from HRC members, and from my clients, regarding their search engine rankings, how great they are or how to improve them. It has obviously gotten to be a very hot topic. As the internet grows and search engines get bigger and bigger indexes and smarter and smarter logic behind them, the competition gets more and more fierce to get high rankings.
The time has come to face facts. Every year more money than the last is being spent online. It is a viable part of any business to have a good web strategy, which should include getting high rankings ont he search engines. If people can't find you, they can't spend their money with you, or hear your music.
Defining Your Strategy
I shared a lot of information in my previous article, some of which may be covered again here just to set the stage, so bear with me.
I do a bit of business in the search engine optimization (SEO) field, one of the most common comments is "we do pretty good on the search engines, heck, I enter www.mydomain.com into Google and I'm the first result!". The hard part for me at this point is, how do I say, without having to go in to damage control mode, "well, no kidding it comes up first it's the only www.mydomain.com on the internet!"
Let's use HRC as an example. Of course, go to any of the large search engines, enter "Home Recording Connection" or "www.homerecordingconnection.com" and it will likely be the first result, or very close. No big trick to that. The issue at hand here is that very, very few people search for "Home Recording Connection", as those are seldom used search words. That type of search is, however, useful to determine if your site is even in their index, which is useful to know as well.
The first step of developing a strategy is determining what words you want people to find you using. For HRC, its words and phrases like "home recording", "home studio", "recording tips", "studio equipment", "recording forum", "beat makers" and the many others. Notice, these are also much more generic terms, and much more commonly used. As a result, they are also much more competitive.
What Search Results Matter?
Well, the politically correct answer here is "they all matter", right? After all, we don't want to damage the precious ego of anyone. Truth told, however, is that there are hundreds if not thousands, of search engines and directories out there...some are very small, and consequently represent a very small percentage of the internet's searches.
There are studies conducted every now and then (big shock, huh?) do get a good look at which are used and which are not. When I personally do search engine ranking checks on sites I run I check the following more than any other:
You may not recognize some of those names, Inktomi might be one of them. The reason is that Inktomi is not a search engine unto itself, but it is an index (owned by Yahoo!) that provides search results to Yahoo! and other search engines that purchase its content. Just to clear up any confusion right now, I also search Yahoo! independently because Yahoo and some other search engines, get their results from any number of resources such as Overture, and Yahoo! is big enough where it's worth the time checking it by itself.
From the last chart I saw regarding searches, who uses what and how often, the above list of resources covers over 95% of the total searches done on any given day.
If you use one of the online submission forms, quite often not long afterward you will start getting emails from some of the search engines it submitted you to asking you if you wish to pay for better rankings on their search engines. The basic rule of thumb in this type of situation is to not pay. Unless the name is one of the search engines mentioned above, it's not worth the money, and if it is one of the above, it may be worth the money. One of my clients pays for rankings on Google and he has said his business has benefited substantially from it, but, also be aware that it isn't cheap.
Search Engine and Search Provider Importance
A study done in May of 2004 indicates that 95% of searches are done via AOL, Google, MSN, Yahoo and Excite with much smaller players notable being Ask, InfoSpace and Lycos. All other search engines fall into the catch-all "other" category bringing in a whopping 1.1% between them. These statistics are why I check rankings on those search engines specifically, regardless of the provider of their results. Excite, barely cutting the list, as they were the smallest of the big 5 by a wide margin.
A search engine provider is just what I mentioned above about Inktomi. They are not search engines themselves, but they are indexes which search engines look at to get their results. Google and Yahoo! are not only top search engines, but also top results providers. Supplying results to AltaVista, HotBot, Lycos, AllTheWeb, Excite and others.
What this should be teaching you is that Yahoo! and Google are of the utmost importance in any SEO strategy. What it may not have yet shown you is that there are other, behind-the-scenes providers that are also important...let's take a look at some of these.
Open Directory is a human-powered directory that was owned by Netscape who was bought by AOL Time Warner, thus, is now owned by AOL Time Warner. This provider has its results used in some capacity at a few engines, such as AOL, which should be predictable, and less predictably, Google.
Teoma, which is owned, and used by Ask Jeeves, is actually a search engine itself, but it's results are more widely seen as a results provider for Ask Jeeves and HotBot (HotBot also uses Google and it's owning company, Lycos).
LookSmart is another human-compiled directory of information that is used most notably by Lycos as well as a few smaller engines.
Directories I do not put as much weight on as search engines, as directories generally do not have active spiders out scanning their index, updating and adding to their index. As well, directories, such as Open Directory and LookSmart are human-powered, which means they have smaller databases of information and can often fall out of date sooner.
The Other Hundreds of Search Engines
Ultimately, the search engines, providers and indexes listed above are the ones to concern yourself with. It's easy, in theory, to say "well, they ALL matter", and yes, in a perfect world you do worry about everybody. However, the increased work load to get in on that extra 2% of searches just sometimes isn't feasible.
Some of these search engines, Galaxy comes to mind, use a little scam many of them do. If you automate a submission, and they are submitted to, you will get an email or two later sating that they get this incredible number of searches every day, and for some amount of money you can upgrade your listing, blah, blah, blah... In reality, while the number of searches may seem impressive, and may even be somewhat accurate, keep in mind that it is far less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the searches performed across the internet daily.
If you wish to spend time on these, it surely can't hurt, but just remember the small number of searches you are spending that time trying to achive, and also keep in mind that their search results and algorhythms used to achive them are not nearly as sophisticated as the bigger sites, so all your work may not even be noticed.
Trouble Getting Listed?
If you experience trouble getting listed, the problem could be many things. While I do not really promote manually submitting your site to search engines, sometimes it will help. The problem is that it is tedious and time consuming...and having a program do it for you is sometimes dumped by the search engines because they dislike automated submissions.
Another route, as mentioned in the previous article, is to get a good compaign going to get sites to link to yours. The more incoming links to your site are out there, the more likely your site is to be indexed by any given spider.
While this is a home recording community, covering serach engines, much less twice, might seem sort of out of place. However, given the number of people that seem to promote themselves via web sites, I thought this was an appropriate topic to cover.
The tips in this article, and the previous, should give you enough general information to allow you to mount a fairly successfull search engine optimization campaign on your web site, and hopefullyhelp bring you better rankings, more hits and more attention to your music.
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