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Q: Search Engine Placement on Yahoo and Google ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Search Engine Placement on Yahoo and Google
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: katiedid22-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 09 Jan 2004 09:18 PST
Expires: 08 Feb 2004 09:18 PST
Question ID: 294768
Can you tell us why our website no longer
appears with a search of the plural "Vemront Gift Baskets" when a
couple months ago it was #1.
Subject: Re: Search Engine Placement on Yahoo and Google
Answered By: serenata-ga on 09 Jan 2004 16:54 PST
Hi Katiedid22 ~

A search on Google shows that your site ranks 642 for the term
"Vermont Gift Baskets". A drop in search engine results pages (SERPs)
like that must be very upsetting.

It might help to understand that Google's responsibility is to the
searcher, and not the webmasters or website owners. Google explains
its vow to bring the most *relevant* results in "Corporate Information
- Google Today":

     "Though acknowledged as the world's leading search
      technology company, Google's goal is to provide a
      much higher level of service to all those who seek
      information ..." [from "Never settle for the best]
   - ://


     "Through continued iteration on difficult problems,
      Google has been able to solve complex issues that
      stymie others and provide continuous improvements
      to a service already considered the best on the web."
      [From "It's best to do one thing really, really well"]
   - ://

You indicated you had been number one until "a couple months ago",
which would leave me to believe yours may have been one of those
search terms which were radically changed during Google's last major
update and change of algorithm, which has been referred to as

There were literally thousands of sites affected by this update, a lot
of speculation (and make no mistake about it, most of it was
speculation, because only Google knows what really happened and how
close to its goal of delivering *relevant* content for a search query
it has gotten), and an emerging dawning that those sites which were
affected the least were those designed using Google's Guidelines for
usability, credibility and searchability.

You can find numerous references to the Florida update on any of the
following sites:

   * Webmaster World (discussion list)

   * Search Engine Watch

   * Jill Whalen's High Ranking site

     or discussion threads in her forum

   * Barry Lloyd's article on Search Engine Guide, "Been
     Gazumped by Google? Trying to make Sense of the
     "Florida" Update!

   * Andrew Goodman's December 12, 2003, blog, ""We're
     Always Trying to Improve the Index for the User"
     : Google"

After the initial furor subsided, the realization is that those who
followed Google's Guidelines and designed their pages to be user
friendly and crawler friendly were the least affected by any of
Google's algorithm changes.

Google's Guidelines &
Webmaster Information

Google offers an explanation (to the degree it's going to share) of
how it ranks pages in SERPs in its "How Do I Get Listed In Google?"

     "The best way to ensure Google finds your site is for your
      page to be linked from lots of pages on other sites.
      Google's robots jump from page to page on the Web via
      hyperlinks, so the more sites that link to you, the more
      likely it is that we'll find you quickly."
   - ://

And it further explains its technology in "Our Search: Google Technology":

     "The heart of our software is PageRank?, a system for
      ranking web pages developed by our founders Larry Page
      and Sergey Brin at Stanford University. And while we
      have dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect
      of Google on a daily basis, PageRank continues to provide
      the basis for all of our web search tools."

and its PageRank in "PageRank Explained"

     "PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the
      web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of
      an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets
      a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for
      page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume
      of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the
      page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are
      themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make
      other pages "important."

      Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank,
      which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of
      course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don't
      match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with
      sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that
      are both important and relevant to your search. Google
      goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a
      page and examines all aspects of the page's content (and
      the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if
      it's a good match for your query."
   - ://

It also offers specific design guidelines to assist webmasters in
user-friendly and crawler-friendly design. In its "Design and Content
Guidelines" recommends the following:

     "* Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links.
        Every page should be reachable from at least one
        static text link.
      * Offer a site map to your users with links that point
        to the important parts of your site. If the site map
        is larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break
        the site map into separate pages.
      * Create a useful, information-rich site and write pages
        that clearly and accurately describe your content.
      * Think about the words users would type to find your
        pages, and make sure that your site actually includes
        those words within it.
      * Try to use text instead of images to display important
        names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't
        recognize text contained in images.
      * Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive
        and accurate.
      * Check for broken links and correct HTML.
      * If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL con-
        tains a '?' character), be aware that not every search
        engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static
        pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the
        number of them small."
   - ://

You should also pay attention to its warnings about the types of
links, lest you are perceived as 'spamming' or trying to game the

     "Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings..."
     "Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase
      your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid
      links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web
      as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those
      links." [From "Quality Guidelines - Basic principles:"]
   - ://

As a rule, webmasters who follow Google's recommendations and avoid 
practices which appear to be an attempt to game the system do pretty
well in SERPs for the terms under which they want to be found.

Site Specifics

The good news is that you are still in Google's index. A Google search
for produced the following results:

Vermont Gift Baskets from Gift Basket Solutions, Vermont Foods
birthday. corporate gifts. get well basket. baby basket.
new home. sympathy. thank you. theme baskets. wedding. ...

   "Google can show you the following information for this URL:

    * Show Google's cache of
    * Find web pages that are similar to
    * Find web pages that link to
    * Find web pages that contain the term

Clicking on "Find web pages that link to ..." gives 2 results, and
clicking on "Find web pages that contain the term ..." gives 162

What's the difference? As a rule the "link to" contains links to your
page with a PR of 4 or higher; while the "contain the term" are links
to your page with a lower rank.

A look at those sites in the "contain the term" include scores of
pages that are no more than a page of links, many of those are not
really on-topic when it comes to "Vermont gift baskets"
   - ://

Among the first page on those results are a web search results are:

   A WebMetasearch search results

   A web directory (Zeal Foods) with its topic "regional foods"

   A page of gift basket links

   A page with hidden links

And more of the same. These are NOT the type of links which benefit
your site, (low or no PageRank), and some of those look very close to
being linking schemes and link farms.

A good rule of thumb would be to ask yourself if those links TO your
site would be what you considered good results to your own search
queries. The answer is simple, Google's searchers are looking for
something other than a page full of links to some other sites. They
want results with information.

If you want to rank well under any search term, you need to establish
links which are RELEVANT (there's that word again) - and not links
from a page or link or some of those directories of links.

Establishing Links

As noted above, Google's PageRank is based on the number of pages
which link to your site.

There are many practical ways of establishing links which are
beneficial to you in your endeavor to get respectable position
placement on search engines. These methods may take time, but they
also help in establishing credibility and help with your page rank.

Approach like-minded or complementary businesses about linking to your
site (with a reciprocal link from your own). This works without
harming search engine positioning or page rank.


Google specifically warns "Don't participate in link schemes designed
to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid
links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web as your own
ranking may be affected adversely by those links." (See Google's
Quality Guidelines - Basic principles)
   - ://

It stands to reason that what's good for Google, currently ranked as
the number one search engine, is good rule to follow for other search

Articles on Link Popularity

Some excellent articles on how to establish the right kind of links
are available in Traffick's "Ten Steps to Building Links to Your
Site", Craig Fifield - 5/3/2002

and "The Right Way to Improve Link Popularity", By Paul J. Bruemmer -4/14/2002 -

"Link Building Is Important", which discusses link building from A to
Z and also provides a good reference page with linking resources.

The information contained in the above articles offer suggestions
which can be easily adapted for use on any website without resorting
to link farms. The differences in "good links" and those which may be
harmful are discussed, and the articles offer simple ways to get
started to the kind of linking search engines prefer.

Key Word Density

While the use of the term "Vermont gift baskets" is necessary within
the content of your page in order for it to be found for a query on
that term, overuse of the term can be seen as "spamming", which Google
may penalize.

There are some conversation threads on Webmaster World about the
reasonable use of the term as opposed to spamming the page with the
terms. You can run a search there for those threads.

I ran a Keyword Density Analysis on your index.htm page and the results are below.

Keyword Density Analyzer:

Total Words:60
Occurrences: 337
Count   Word         Density
58      gift          17.21%
47      baskets       13.95%
37      vermont       10.98%
12      basket         3.56%
11      gifts          3.26%
 8      corporate      2.37%
 8      solutions      2.37%
 7      day            2.08%
 6      1              1.78%
 6      christmas      1.78%

2 Word Phrases: 49
Occurrences: 196
Count   Word           Density
44      gift baskets    22.45%
11      vermont gift     5.61%

3 Word Phrases: 39
Occurrences: 120
Count   Word                  Density
10      vermont gift baskets    8.33%

You can run the your pages through the analyzer here:

What the first analysis means is that there are a total of 60 words
used on  your page, used 337 times, including your metatags.

Since Google, for the most part ignores keyword metatags, but *may*
give some weight to your Description and Title metatags, the phrases
start to look a bit like "spamming" the page with your phrase. Some
makes sense, but a rewrite might be in order to not appear to be
trying to spam the page.

Other considerations

It should be clear by now that once worked to gain good placement in
SERPs doesn't work any longer. Moreover, there is every indication
that relevancy, good HTML, relevant links and rich content providing
real information for your visitor and for search engines to serve in
its query results is what will get a site near the top of SERPs.

A Google search for "Vermont gift baskets" returns about 150,000
results. Since your site ranks 642, Google considers the 641 results
ahead of yours to be more relevant.

Suppose that even a third of them are "errors" or less than perfect
results as Google continually improves its search algorithm. That's a
figure I pulled out of the air, and despite some site owners' cries to
the contrary, Google does not return that many sites in error.

But let's use that figure, that still means that there would be around
400 pages that are considered more relevant than your own. Whether or
not they are, they got a higher SERPs ranking, perhaps because they're
not being penalized for some of the reasons which may be negatively
impacting your own site.

If you want to rank higher, you will need to follow the guidelines,
deliver rich content and establish relevant links.

Search Strategies

Besides the searches and analyses performed and mentioned above, I
relied on bookmarks and resources I refer to in my daily business.

Important Google Links For Your Reference

I am including important links from Google's site. This information
will help you understand Google's goals and responsibility to the web
searcher (and not the webmaster or site owner).

Webmasters who follow the guidelines and avoid Google's "Thou shalt
nots" usually have no problem getting listed and showing up under the
search terms they desire.

   * Google Today (absolutely the best information you
     can read about the "how and why" of Google's results
     - ://

   * How Do I Get My Site Listed on Google?
     - ://

   * My Web Pages Are Not Currently Listed (a good 'primer'
     on how and why Google works so well)
     - ://

   * PageRank Information (covers both Google's PageRank and
     - ://

   * Webmaster Guidelines (contains both the dos and don'ts)
     - ://

   * Google Facts & Fiction (can  you buy your way to a
     high ranking in Google?)
     - ://

   * Search Engine Optimizers (some good advice on what to look
     for if you're going to hire a Search Engine Optimizer)
     - ://

   * Frequently Asked Questions (pretty much what it says, but
     definitely worth wading through)
     - ://

Other Sources of Information

There is also good information from many of the top search engine
optimization experts, such as

   * Detlev Johnson, Search Engine Guide

   * Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Watch

   * Jill Whalen, High Rankings

   * Shari Thurow, Web Pro News (and quoted all over the Internet)

who all have columns or newsletters to which you can subscribe and
keep abreast of the best way to use good content for better
positioning in search engine results.

In addition, Webmaster World - - has
discussion boards on most of the search engines. While some of the
discussions are anecdotal and/or questions for information, there is
usually enough discussion to keep abreast of what seems to be

There is an entire section devoted to Google at:

It never hurts to keep track of the discussions; but remember, trying
to optimize for search engines only is like trying to hit a moving
target. You'll notice among the more experienced contributors to the
discussions - plus the SEO experts listed above - that there really is
no substitute for content, relevant links and good HTML.

With a bit of site "cleanup" and the addition of links from relevant
sources, your site should be able to rank better in Google's index.

Best of luck to you in the New Year,

Google Answers Researcher
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