Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Search Engine Themes And Page Rank

Themes-based spiders represent search engine companies' latest attempt to deliver high-quality results to searchers. The change is happening relatively slowly, which gives webmasters a chance to measure the impact on their ranking and modify their sites accordingly. Find out if your site is ready for a visit from a themes-based spider.

A New Way To Rank Web Sites

At its most basic level, a theme is a simple description of your site's focus. If you've already optimized your site using a descriptive TITLE tag and targeted keywords, you should have a pretty good idea of your site's theme.

But do the search engine spiders view it the same way? A page-based spider will look at and index each individual page of a Web site. You could conceivably have hundreds of pages listed individually in a search engine's database, all of them optimized for different keywords. Themes-based spiders also look at individual pages in a site, but then combine the results and analyze the site in its entirety.

For example, imagine a site that contains several pages devoted to drawn-thread embroidery patterns and other pages that discuss endangered desert tortoises and Nevada ranchers. A page-based spider could conceivably give both topics a high search results ranking if the individual pages were optimized correctly.

Not so with a themes-based spider. When it mixes the keywords and content from the different topics, it might decide that the entire site is really devoted to Nevada ranchers who use drawn-thread techniques to embroider tortoises. That keyword phrase might indeed get the site a #1 search results rank, but chances are it would generate very little traffic and isn't at all what the webmaster had in mind.

How A Themes-Based Spider Works

Currently, there is no "pure" themes-based spider indexing sites. Some search engines have added themes to their overall ranking algorithm, but the results are integrated into the more traditional ranking criteria. Those engines include: Google, Inktomi, AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, Fast, and WebCrawler.

Just like a page-based spider, a themes-based spider crawls through your site cataloging the following information:

  • Your top-level domain name and subdirectory names.
  • Individual pages' TITLE tags.
  • META tag data.
  • HTML tags inside the document's BODY section (header tags, ALT tags, hyperlinks, etc.).
  • Text content of the page.
  • Inbound and outbound links.

So far, this isn't any different from a page-based spider, but the themes spider isn't finished yet. When the spider finishes crawling through the site, it then determines the site's theme by evaluating the pages as a whole, not individually.

Steps in this process include:

  • Match keywords from the META tag with page text to identify keywords used most frequently in the site.
  • Identify and match keyword phrases in the site.
  • Weight the keywords, keyword phrases, and links using traditional ranking methods that attach more importance to keywords contained in TITLE and header tags.
  • Give the site one entry in the database according to the theme the spider has selected.

If you can't accurately describe your site in one sentence and then optimize the page content to reflect that focus, then you have a problem. Your site's traffic will suffer if the spider assigns a theme that doesn't match your intended focus or promotional strategy.

Optimizing Your Site For Themes

There's no reason to panic and tear apart a site that is doing well. But if you're having trouble getting to the top in some engines, the lack of a coherent theme may well be part of the problem.

Think about it: the absence of tightly focused content and keywords will hurt you in any search engine, whether it's page-based or themes-based. Themes-based spiders just magnify the problem. Optimizing your site for themes is not much different than more familiar search engine optimization techniques.

As themes-based spiders grow in importance though, you may find it more difficult to optimize individual pages on your site for widely differing topics. Keep themes-based spidering in mind as you create new sites and redesign existing ones. Consider breaking up a single, multi-focused site into different domains and linking between them instead of trying to combine many varied topics into a single site.

Remember The Basics

The basics of good site promotion haven't changed: a TITLE tag, META tags, and good content with targeted keywords and their synonyms sprinkled liberally throughout. Pay close attention to your inbound and outbound links: a high link popularity score increases your rank with both traditional spiders and themes-based spiders.

NetMechanic's Search Engine Power Pack helps you optimize your site for search engines. Use the keyword popularity tool to choose your keywords and META Mechanic to quickly generate your META tags. Page Primer alerts you problems that could affect your site rank and gives you valuable tips to increase your rank.

You spend so much valuable time designing a great site. Use Search Engine Power Pack to make sure that everyone can find it!

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