Some years ago, back when Alta Vista was still the search engine of choice, I tried to find one of thefreecountry.com's most famous pages, The Free C / C++ Compilers page, on Alta Vista using the search term "+free +c++ +compilers". I must have scanned at least 20 pages of the search results, but could not find that page listed anywhere.
I went back and looked at my page again, and realised that in the interest of brevity, the phrase "C++ compiler" occurred on the page only once. I had listed every compiler on the page without the words "C++ compiler". For example, the entry for "Borland C++ Compiler" was simply listed as "Borland". While this kept my page size down, it did not help the search engine realize that my page was about C++ compilers. I did a simple change to the page so that every compiler was listed under its full name (with the "C++ compiler" bit), and resubmitted the page to Alta Vista.
After nearly a month, I checked Alta Vista again, using the same search terms. The page was now listed on the first page of the search results. Incredible!
(I don't know if it's still on the first page though, these positions change everytime someone submits a site.)
Update: Note that this article was written in the early days of the Internet (circa 2000), and refers to the old Alta Vista search engine. It is probably not very relevant for the modern search engines like Google or even the Alta Vista of the modern day. For up-to-date hints on making your website search engine friendly, please see the articles How to Create a Search Engine Friendly Website and Why Is My Site Not Ranking in the Search Engines? instead.
Update (17 December 2010): It looks like AltaVista is about to be closed by Yahoo!, its current owners.
One of the simplest ways to improve your site's placement in the search engine results is to work on the keyword density on your page, which was what I did.
For my purpose here, I will refer to a "keyword" as a word that the user searches for when using the search engine. Generally speaking, keyword density is the ratio of the word that is being searched for (the keyword) against the total number of words appearing on your web page. If your keyword occurs only (say) once in a page of one thousand words, it has a lower keyword density than a keyword that occurs (say) four times in a page of similar length.
If a particular keyword has a higher density on your web page, then the likelihood of your page obtaining a better search engine ranking increases. Note that not all search engines bother with keyword density and indeed even those that do have their own algorithm for computing the density of a keyword. However, the principles described in this article is general enough to help your page improve its ranking in the engines that take keyword density into account.
How do you improve your keyword density?
When planning a page, think about which search terms a user is likely to use when searching for the information your site provides. For example, a visitor who is looking for information on "Search Engine Ranking" may search for things like "search engine positioning", "search engine ranking", "search engine placement", "keyword density", "top ranking", and the like.
After you have collected your list of keywords, do NOT simply dump those keywords into a senseless list on your web page. I've seen some websites do this in an attempt to influence search engine listings. This may not work with all search engines. Some of the engines attempt to be smart when processing keywords and if it sees keywords occurring together in a senseless sequence, it may penalise your website.
Instead, try to form sentences that use those keywords. If you are a good writer, you may have to kill some of those good habits you previously used in writing documents: for example, many good writers have an aversion to repeating a particular word too often, choosing instead to use alternative terms that mean the same thing. This makes for a more pleasant reading, but it will not help you get your site listed with a top rank in search engine results for that particular keyword.
For instance, if you want your page to have a high ranking when someone searches for the phrase "search engine ranking", keep repeating the phrase "search engine ranking" in your document instead of substituting with pronouns like "it" and the like. Do likewise for the other keywords that you want a high density on the page. You'll of course have to use your discretion with this, or your page will be unpleasant to read.
You can see an example of how this is done by examining this article itself, and see how often I have repeated keywords and phrases like "keyword", "keyword density", "search engine ranking" and "search engine positioning".
In days of old, some people tried the trick of having a very short page for a particular keyword. For example, the page may only have the following one sentence: "Keyword density is important in search engine ranking." Since there were so few words on the page, the page was actually easy to draft and the keywords "keyword density" and "search engine ranking" have a very high density on that page.
This method is not very useful nowadays. For example, at the time I wrote this, it no longer appears to work with Alta Vista, which seems to rank pages that are bigger than 4K more favourably.
When I increased the keyword density of certain keywords on one of my pages on thefreecountry.com, my page ranking took a big leap upwards. Improving the density of keywords on your pages may also do the same for your site's search engine position.
Do you find this article useful? You can learn of new articles and scripts that are published on thesitewizard.com by subscribing to the RSS feed. Simply point your RSS feed reader or a browser that supports RSS feeds at http://www.thesitewizard.com/thesitewizard.xml. You can read more about how to subscribe to RSS site feeds from my RSS FAQ.
This article is copyrighted. Please do not reproduce this article in whole or part, in any form, without obtaining my written permission.
It will appear on your page as: