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Reader Q&A: May 2003

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Q. Is it better to have a homepage that is static or is it OK to have a homepage that contains product offerings that change periodically?

A. Every time you change a page, you potentially could change how the page will rank in search engines. Given this, a static page might provide more consistent results. However, in these days of link analysis, the links pointing at you may help preserve your rank even if the page tends to change. Overall, if it makes sense for human visitors to see your page to change, I would do that over worrying about the search engines. However, do consider whether you can insert any standard elements that incorporate your most important terms. That might provide some insurance for you, in the long run.

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Q. A newspaper article ranking well on Google is destroying my practice. It comes up number one for my name on Google and Yahoo. I spoke with the paper and they are not willing to kill the page but don't mind if I find a way for it not to come up number one. I created some parody web pages of the article, and my theory is to overwhelm the newspaper article's ranking. Will this work?

A. My first advice is that if the story has changed, then strongly ask the newspaper to consider adding a link to the updated version. In other words, in your situation the article talks about losing a court case for unsatisfactory surgery. If that case was later overturned or amended, then you might get the newspaper to insert a prominent link from this story to the latest version.

Assuming the story is actually correct and hasn't changed, then it remains imperative that you create a page with your own version of the story and try for it to rank well for the same terms.

From what I can see, you already have a page that's doing exactly this. However, it ranks sixth, not first. I'm fairly confident this is do to a poor title tag. Instead of the title saying simply "About Dr" with no actual name shown, as you do now, change your title to "About Dr. Your Name." I think you'll find over the next month or so, you'll see a rise in ranking.

For more advice on improving your ranking on Google, see the second page of the How Google Works Essential Reading section. For fixing your title tag, see this article.

What you do NOT want to do is try to create multiple web sites in hopes of getting all 10 top positions and burying the current article entirely. That would be considered spam by Google. Improving the relevancy of your about page is completely appropriate. But ultimately, as long as that article remains online, it may still continue to rank well, as well.

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Q. I got my site added to the Yahoo directory but it refuses to show up in the search results. The only way I can find it is by going into the directory category in which it has been placed. You seem to say the directory listings shown in Yahoo's search results are provide by Google. Why does my site not show up in the search results?

A. When you do a keyword search on Yahoo, the results that come back in the "Top 20 Web Results" section come from Google. This section was previously called the "Web Matches" area, but other than the name, nothing else has changed. If you are listed with Google and rank well for a particular term on Google, then you will usually rank well in this section at Yahoo.

Having viewed your site, I assume you'd like to rank well for "premature ejaculation." When I searched for that at Google, you did not rank well. That's why you don't show up in the Google-powered results at Yahoo. This page explains the relationship more.

As you mentioned, you did get listed in the Yahoo Directory. That's not been a complete waste. If you look back at a Yahoo search for "premature ejaculation," you'll see that there's a Categories line near the top of the page. The category you are listed in is one of the two links shown. This means that some people will "detour" into the area and may find you. The concept of detour traffic is explained more on this page. A key difference from that page is that exactly how directory listings has been shown was recently changed, as explained in this article.

While it's nice to get some detour traffic, you obviously would like to be in the top 20 when someone searches on Yahoo. That means you're going to need to rank well with Google. From what I can see, you aren't listed at all in Google. You also look to be a brand new site. So, it may take about a month for Google to pick you up. The fact that you are listed in Yahoo may help with this -- it may help Google realize your site is important. Nevertheless, you should also directly submit to Google and consider some of the other tips as described in the first page listed in Essential Reading on the How Google Works page.

Advice on that page may help get you listed, but it doesn't mean that you necessarily will rank well for a particular word. The second page in that Essential Reading area provides some advice on this. You face one major challenge. From what I can see, your site is only a single page on the topic. The more pages you expose to search engines, the more likely that one of those pages may be a good match for what someone is searching for.

Finally, you may find that paid listings ultimately will be what you need to do. That would mean running ads on Overture to rank well in the Sponsored area at Yahoo, plus ads on Google to rank well at Google. You might do that now, to build traffic, then see how things are going in a month or so. By that time, if your site is listed with Google, you might find you are getting some free traffic in areas to make ads not necessary.

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Q. I saw a product which is supposed to protect my web site content from being copied. It looks good, but I'm concerned that it will affect search engine rankings. I asked them and was told, "By default your meta tags are preserved along with your keywords. Any encrypted content will not be spidered." I'm still not clear as to whether or not this product would hurt engine rankings?

A. From what I can see, they are protecting content by encrypting it via JavaScript. Those without JavaScript, such as spiders, see only information in the

More important, one of the most main reasons your page may get found is based on the text in the body copy. This program does effectively hide that from spiders, so I would well imagine it could hurt you. The fact that meta data is "preserved" isn't that helpful. The meta keywords tag is only supported officially by Inktomi, and even then, it tends to work best when reinforcing text in your body copy.

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Q. I am sorry but this isn't a question about search engine submission. I was wondering something about an icon. I noticed when I made your website one of my favorites, the little icon next to it was one from your site. Did you put that into your code for IE to read? I have never done that and was wondering how to do it. I know it is a pretty dumb request but if you know the answer, please reply.

A. It's not a dumb request. Making a custom icon to appear in Internet Explorer's favorites list is easy and a smart thing to do, to make your site stand out for those who've bookmarked it. Look at this page. All is explained there, in the section about Title tags.

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Q. Read your article on Google Adwords. Two concerns I thought of and was hoping you might be able to answer. I was wondering how Google figures out the clickthrough rate of an ad? Also, why doesn't Google allow for cigarette ads. Isn't that against your First Amendment right?

A. Any time someone clicks on an ad at Google, they are redirected through a system at Google that detects the click, then routes them to the URL that is linked with the ad. This is how they measure clickthrough rate.

As for cigarette ads, in the United States, the First Amendment protects against government interference with freedom of speech. The US government cannot tell private parties what they can and cannot say, in most circumstances.

Nothing in the First Amendment prevents private parties from imposing their own censorship. Google is within its rights to say, or not say or allow to be said, what it wants. There are some limitations, of course. For example, advertising is subject to some regulations. Tobacco ads, for instance, must carry warning notices are cannot run in some media, in the US.

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Q. Network Solutions deleted our domain from their network by accident and sold it off and someone else registered for it. We are suing them but had to come up with a new name and web site. How do I let search engines know of this error?

A. Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done. If your old domain continues to operate, search engines will keep going back to it. Fortunately, the company that bought your name didn't buy your content -- so any former listings will disappear. In the meantime, you should register your new site with search engines, then do a reverse link lookup for the old domain (see this page) and try to get those linking to the old address to point to your new one, especially sites that you deem important). That's the best thing you can do.

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Q. What do you think of meta robot tags? Are they crucial for getting your site indexed in the top search engines, such as Google?

A. Not at all. You should only use them if you have a page you DON'T want added to a search engine. See this page for more about this and a bit more is also listed on this page.

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Q. I have read your articles about getting listed on search engines, and I'm confused by something. You say that it costs around $30 per engine to submit to each of the main engines. This is an initial fee that they charge to get your site added quickly to their engines. This is opposed to submitting to the engines via the free non-commercial forms. This means to submit to the four major search engines would cost around $120. How can it be that services like "bCentral" only charge $25 per month to submit to all these different places? Are they submitting via the free non-commercial forms? If so and if you have a commercial site, then you will probably never get selected, right! So this is a total rip off?! I hope you can see what I am getting at. The fees for some of the "search engine listing companies" is less than the cost to submit everything yourself!

A. In a word, yes! Most "multisubmit" services that I've looked at in the past tend to make use of "free" submit forms. So what are you paying for? Presumably the convenience of having them do the submissions quickly for you.

It's not fair to say that as a commercial site, you won't get listed by using free submission. Paid inclusion programs do guarantee the listing, but many new sites do get picked up for free even if they don't use paid inclusion. Using the Add URL forms may help speed that process a bit.

But overall, as you've seen, it's fairly easy to follow the instructions in the Essentials section and do this yourself with several of the crawlers and the Open Directory for free. Plus, there's really no need to be paying a monthly fee for resubmission.


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