Friday, May 26, 2006

Google, Yahoo, Msn Big Differences In The Three Super Engines

The 3 super engines Google, Yahoo and MSN account for over 80% of all online searches done in the US. The search results vary tremendously between these three engines. This is because of their unique ways of selecting search results and the differences in how they treat on-page and off-page elements. On-page elements include everything that occurs within the actual web page.
Google focuses on off-page elements and Yahoo’s is with on-page elements. MSN started with a very strong bias toward on-page, but has been slowly moving toward off-page elements. Today, Yahoo and MSN tend to give more weight to the on-page elements such as keyword density, Title Tags, Meta Tags and HTML code errors. Google on the other hand gives stronger importance to off-page elements such as inbound links and the quality and theme of these inbound links.
Keyword Density
Keyword Density is the number of times a keyword or a keyword phrase is used in proportion to other words on a Web page. The more times the keyword appears in relation to the total number of on page words, the greater the overall keyword density. MSN and Yahoo place great weight on this. It is possible that a high keyword density may help you on Yahoo and leave your website penalized on Google. A density of 2- 4% seems to work across all 3 engines.
The title tag is the most important Meta Tag and is used for conveying the theme and topic of your web page and is important to all three engines. Place your primary keyword phrase at the beginning of the title tag to show its importance. The Title Tag should be 80- 90 characters in length.
Google tends to ignore all the other Meta Tags except for possibly the description tag. MSN and Yahoo place importance on Description and Keywords Tags. The Keywords Tag should be kept to less than 1 5 phrases. Only include phrases that are part of the text; this is to avoid spamming penalties by Yahoo and MSN.
Using the text tags such as heading, font, numbering and bullets will signal importance to the search engines. Therefore you should put bold or italics tags around your core keywords while maintaining a natural flow of content. This improves the chances of a search engine spider ranking that page higher for those keywords. Other emphasis methods such as bullets or numbering (ordered list) signal the search engines that these phrases have importance in your site.
W 3C Valid code
Search engine crawlers like valid code. They are able to scan error free code much faster and easier without stumbling over incorrect tags and other errors. MSN and Yahoo are known to give weight to error free code. Valid code is also critical for accessibility for the disabled who use screen readers (e.g. JAWS) and surfers who use PDA’s and cell phones.
Internal linking
Search engines find web pages by crawling links. Internal linking is another way of telling the search engines what your web pages are about. Good internal linking will make sure that every page on your site passes PageRank (PR) back to your home page. This is done thru menu navigation, footer links and a good site map. Internal linking is particularly important to MSN and Yahoo. Use keywords in the navigation links and in the text links.
Other On-Page Elements
Including the keywords in the domain name helps with rankings. The domain extensions .edu and .org do better while .com gets extra scrutiny because of the number of spamming sites. Google likes large websites with more content. Negative on-page elements will either cause a site to be devalued or not listed, these include invisible text, and graphical sites with very little or no text. Sites built in frames are at a distinct disadvantage.
Off page elements are obtained from sources outside of the website. Probably the most important are the quantity of inbound links using anchor text containing your target keywords. Anchor text is the hyperlinked text in a link. Off page SEO is the most time consuming, but if done correctly, gives the best results.
Google places their greatest weight on link popularity because on-page elements can be manipulated quickly and easily. Both Yahoo and MSN also place importance on the anchor text and the quantity of incoming links, but not nearly to the level of Google.
Link building must be done carefully to avoid link spamming. Things you can do include varying the link anchor text to make them look more natural. Links need to be added at an even rate and they must be carefully selected for topic and theme and come from quality websites. Google places emphasis on the age of links and the age of the domain.
How fast can you expect to get results? With MSN new content and inbound links are found quickly. It is possible to get good rankings on MSN the quickest of the super engines. Yahoo is slower to see results. It will usually take 3- 4 months to see significant results. Google is the most important yet the slowest to see results from because of their aging delay.
What’s Next?
A good way to see what is coming is to look at the patents being granted to the search engines. Looking at Google’s patent granted in March 200 5 gives clues to what we should expect. Some are already in effect today.
  • How long a domain is registered for.
  • Age of website, web pages, and documents.
  • Rate of link acquisition. Slow and stable is better.
  • Age and quality of websites where links appear.
  • Links from stale pages are devalued.
  • Site click thru rates monitored for rate of change.
  • Frequency and magnitude of site updates (stale vs. fresh).
  • Variation in anchor text for links is best.
  • Bookmarks and favorites monitored.

All three of the major search engines use a mix of on-page and off-page elements in their algorithms for determining rankings. Google, the largest of the engines, emphasizes off page elements. Yahoo, the second largest engine, emphasizes on page factors more strongly. MSN, the newest of the three, is still evolving and is moving from on-page factors toward off page factors.
It is still possible to obtain top rankings for all three of these super engines by combining on-page and off-page SEO strategies.