SEO For The Big Three
Ranking your website highly on one of the "big three" search engines (Google, Yahoo or MSN) is a daunting task let alone ranking your website highly on all three. Three engines, three algorithms, three different sets of rules - and yet there are websites out there that have first page rankings across them all – how do they do it?
While all of the major search engines use different algorithms, the end goal of all three is the same: to provide the searcher with the most relevant results available. It is this one common thread that makes it possible for an SEO to rank a website highly across all the major engines. While there are a variety of factors at play and an even wider variation in the weïght each of these factors are given – the possible variations that can produce relevant results are limited.
For example, if inbound links are given 0% weïght then insignificant sites will rank highly for high-competition phrases. Many reputable companies such as Microsoft could löse rankings for their own names so links must and will always hold value. On the other hand, if links were to hold 100% weïght then sp@mming the search engines would be a simple matter and so there are a limited number of possible variables in between these extremes that this factor can have, no matter which engine we are optimizing for.
That said, there are still three main engines with three distinct algorithms despite common requirements. To clarify how to optimize for all of them it's easiest to discuss them individually first. Due to the way their algorithms work, it is best to expect rankings on MSN first, followed by Yahoo! and finally Google (I am assuming that the phrase is at least moderately competitive). For this reason, we will discuss them individually in that order.
SEO for MSN
Proper SEO for MSN requires that a site be structured well with a distinct theme throughout and many inbound links. The advantage an SEO has while optimizing a site for MSN is that MSN tends to pick up and credït new content and inbound links very quickly. That means that with the right tactics in place, one can rank a website relatively quickly on this important engine.
While MSN has the lowest number of searches performed on it, ComScore's report back in July revealed that MSN searchers were also 48% more likely to purchase a product or service online than the average Internet user. A very important statistic for website owners that sell online.
To rank highly on MSN one needs to build a solid sized site (exactly how large will depend on your industry – look at the size of your competitors' sites for an idea), a relevant theme throughout the site that focuses on your primary keywords and a good number of links. MSN doesn't (at this time) employ an aging delay on links such as the one employed by both Google and Yahoo! so the effects of the site and inbound links can be picked up very quickly and with good SEO efforts one can rank well within a few months on MSN for competitive phrases.
SEO for Yahoo!
Until recently Yahoo! acted very much like MSN, but nöw it's leaning a bit more towards Google. Ranking a website well on Yahoo! requires a solid-sized site with unique content and a very good number of links.
While PageRank is a Google factor, Yahoo! does have some type of page value factor at play. Many moons ago Yahoo! was playing with a PageRank-like calculation called WebRank. They even went so far as to put out a beta toolbar testing it. This indicates that there is a factor at play in the Yahoo! algorithm similar to Google's PageRank – they just don't advertise what a specific page's value is.
Yahoo! is placing a fair amount of emphasis on the age of links though not in the same way that Google is. We will get to Google shortly, however to understand what to expect from Yahoo! one must understand that when you get a link to your website it won't deliver its full value for a number of months. While the exact number of months in unknown, it appears to be around 8 before it delivers its full weïght, though it will hold some weïght from day one and this weïght will increase as time passes.
To rank well on Yahoo!, you must optimize your site similar to what you would do for MSN and you must build a large number of inbound links and have patience as these links age. You will not see a sudden spike 2 weeks after a large link-building campaign. You will likely have to wait 3-4 months to notice any significant effect.
SEO For Google
Virtually every webmaster and website owner is primarily concerned about attaining Google rankings because of the significantly higher number of searchers using it. Provided that you are building your website following the best practices of SEO (i.e. unique content, a sizable amount of content, and a good number of incoming links), then your rankings are sure to follow. However, because of the aging delay it will likely take longer than for MSN or Yahoo! Google considers the age of your links, your domain and even the individual page to be factors, and the longer your page has been online the better.
Essentially, ranking a site on Google requires that you take the same actions as for the other two, continue your link building efforts on an ongoing basis to ensure that you end up with more-and-more links, and that you update your content and add content on a fairly regular basis (through the addition of a blog for example).
Tying It Together
The logical process for a new website or one at the first stages of SEO is to first target MSN. At this point, you can focus your attention on continuing to build high-quality, relevant links to, and content on, your site which will continue to increase your value on Yahoo! and Google.
Analysis will be required to determine exactly what weïght you will be giving to different areas. For example, if your onsite factors are optimized for MSN, then you know that you will need to make up for this in the offsite factors for Yahoo! and Google. If you figured you would need 100 links to rank on Google, then you will nöw need to up that number to account for the fact that you have optimized your site for a different engine.
During the analysis process you will likely want to use a tool to speed up the process of keyword density analysis and competitor link analysis. At Beanstalk we use a tool called Total Optimizer Pro though there are others out there (note: I have yet to find one that does what this one does as quickly and easily).
I am hoping that none of you read the title and were expecting to rank on the first page of all three major engines next week. Ranking highly on all three major engines takes time, patience and a good few rounds of tweaking to get the perfect balance of onsite and offsite optimization. Of course, as you can gather, done properly it's well worth the effort.
About The Author
Dave Davies is the CEO of Beanstalk Search Engine Positioning, Inc.. Dave writes with years of expreience in SEO and optimization tactics. Watch Beanstalk's SEO news blog for details on the publication of a 4-part series on ranking your website highly accross the "big three engines" in January of 2006. Dave would like to thank TopNet Solutions for the development of Total Optimizer Pro - a comprehensive SEO tool that provides a blueprint of how the top 10 got there, so you can too.
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