How to Weather Search Engine Algorithm Shifts well

By Steve Petersen.

Spiders are fickle; humans are not. Well, when it comes website preferences that is.

Search engines frequently shift or tweak their algorithms in order to offer more relevant results for their clients — human beings. While most of search engine optimization efforts cater to search engine spiders through attention to various types of links, site structure, IP address characteristics, and the like, focusing on their web surfers instead will allow any optimization effort to weather any shift or tweak well.

Granted, human on-line preferences do evolve, but they always demand quality content, attractive and clean design, logical navigation, and a superb user experience. Besides search engines are moving towards tracking user behavior as an integral part of their ranking schemes; thus, fine tuning a site with more consideration to homo sapien tastes rather than to digital arachnid druthers makes sense in the long run.

Here are ten tips, listed in no particular order, for human friendly site design:

1. Always have the end user in mind; make them come back.

Site visitors may come, but they will not stay if they cannot find what they are looking for with ease. If site visitors are industry insiders, use industry jargon. When normal people visit the site, do not confuse them.

2. Ensure that each page is narrowly focused on a certain topic — the title of the page.

When a page focuses on avocadoes, talk about avocadoes, not healthy food. Specific pages rank high on relevance and seem logical to site users, and they show up individually on result pages no matter how large the site is. Also, when pages with high relevance ranking are used in pay per click campaigns, text ads linking to them are cheaper.

3. Judiciously use fancy features like Flash and AJAX.

These features could take a long time to load in a browser, and no one wants to wait. Further, indexing spiders cannot read their content (well, at least for now, but text is much easier); what they cannot read is not indexed.

4. Structure the site with humans in mind.

Homo sapien users are inherently lazy and expect a logical way to navigate a site. Use clear menus that are consistent throughout the site with in-text intra-site links when appropriate (see 3). If a site is sloppily organized, what does that say about the product or service the site touts?

5. Make indexing easy for spiders.

What bots cannot traverse, they cannot index. Spiders only persist when they confront obstacles if their programming is flawed, and search engineers are paid to program well all the time. They are not paid to program spiders to decipher or guess how they must navigate a poorly structured site (see 3). Further, a text site map does not hurt and keep all pages on the site within three clicks from the homepage.

6. Use original quality content that is naturally created.

Keywords are important, but search engines condemn unnatural use of them (see 1). Make sure that they are in the page title tag, at least once towards the beginning of the content, and in the anchor text of links when applicable. Use words that are related, like synonyms, to the keyword. While “keywords” acts as a keyword, “keywords” too close to “keywords” and other keywords is keyword stuffing.

7. Link only to relevant sites.

Search engines use links to travel the Internet, and they keep track of who is linking to whom. If a site is for a realtor, it should not link to a toothbrush manufacturer’s site. However, while linking to competitors is not advisable, a realtor’s site could link to complementary businesses like a mortgage company or to a recreationally oriented company that specializes in the realtor’s geographic area. What links would site visitors want and expect?

8. Design a visually appealing, not overwhelming, site.

A professional design will reflect positively upon a company and its products or services and vice versa (see 1 and 3).

9. Update content logically.

Search engines like up to date content, but refresh when it is logical. For instance, how often does a car change makes or models? Never. When does it change color? It can every so often. How long does it stay in a particular parking space at the dentist office? Hopefully, not very long.

10. Respond to visitor feedback and needs.

Why would they come back to a site that does not meet their needs even if it was ranked highly? See 1. To best gauge this offer contact information and perhaps a survey from time to time.

[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrim’s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If you’d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]

  • Anonymous

    Nice, compact guide to where to focus your efforts…well done.