Hey Sharon, great post! Re. dwell time – I’ve read conflicting opinions, some saying that Google DOES consider it an ‘important’ ranking signal, and others saying that it doesn’t, because dwell time can sometimes be a misleading indicator of content quality. For example when a user searches for something specific and finds the answer immediately in the recommended page (meaning that the content on the page is actually spot on) so he returns to the SERPs very quickly. I have been unable to locate any definitive statements (written/spoken) from anyone at Google that suggest that dwell time IS still a factor in ranking considerations, but it makes sense (to me, anyway) that it should be. Do you have any ‘proof’ one way or the other re. whether Google definitely considers dwell time or not?
Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses hidden text, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking. Another category sometimes used is grey hat SEO. This is in between black hat and white hat approaches, where the methods employed avoid the site being penalized but do not act in producing the best content for users. Grey hat SEO is entirely focused on improving search engine rankings.
The fee structure is both a filter against superfluous submissions and a revenue generator. Typically, the fee covers an annual subscription for one webpage, which will automatically be catalogued on a regular basis. However, some companies are experimenting with non-subscription based fee structures where purchased listings are displayed permanently. A per-click fee may also apply. Each search engine is different. Some sites allow only paid inclusion, although these have had little success. More frequently, many search engines, like Yahoo!, mix paid inclusion (per-page and per-click fee) with results from web crawling. Others, like Google (and as of 2006, Ask.com), do not let webmasters pay to be in their search engine listing (advertisements are shown separately and labeled as such).
Website owners recognized the value of a high ranking and visibility in search engine results, creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO practitioners. According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase "search engine optimization" probably came into use in 1997. Sullivan credits Bruce Clay as one of the first people to popularize the term. On May 2, 2007, Jason Gambert attempted to trademark the term SEO by convincing the Trademark Office in Arizona that SEO is a "process" involving manipulation of keywords and not a "marketing service."
So: how to proceed? On the one hand, SEO best practices recommend that you include relevant keywords in a number of high-attention areas on your site, everywhere from the titles and body text of your pages to your URLs to your meta tags to your image file names. On the other hand, successfully optimized websites tend to have thousands or even millions of keywords. You can't very well craft a single, unique page for every one of your keywords; at the same time, you can't try to cram everything onto a handful of pages with keyword stuffing and expect to rank for every individual keyword. It just doesn't work that way.
Optimization techniques are highly tuned to the dominant search engines in the target market. The search engines' market shares vary from market to market, as does competition. In 2003, Danny Sullivan stated that Google represented about 75% of all searches. In markets outside the United States, Google's share is often larger, and Google remains the dominant search engine worldwide as of 2007. As of 2006, Google had an 85–90% market share in Germany. While there were hundreds of SEO firms in the US at that time, there were only about five in Germany. As of June 2008, the market share of Google in the UK was close to 90% according to Hitwise. That market share is achieved in a number of countries.
Some search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences, webchats, and seminars. Major search engines provide information and guidelines to help with website optimization. Google has a Sitemaps program to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website. Bing Webmaster Tools provides a way for webmasters to submit a sitemap and web feeds, allows users to determine the "crawl rate", and track the web pages index status.
Early versions of search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information such as the keyword meta tag or index files in engines like ALIWEB. Meta tags provide a guide to each page's content. Using metadata to index pages was found to be less than reliable, however, because the webmaster's choice of keywords in the meta tag could potentially be an inaccurate representation of the site's actual content. Inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent data in meta tags could and did cause pages to rank for irrelevant searches.[dubious – discuss] Web content providers also manipulated some attributes within the HTML source of a page in an attempt to rank well in search engines. By 1997, search engine designers recognized that webmasters were making efforts to rank well in their search engine, and that some webmasters were even manipulating their rankings in search results by stuffing pages with excessive or irrelevant keywords. Early search engines, such as Altavista and Infoseek, adjusted their algorithms to prevent webmasters from manipulating rankings.
What’s your audience searching for? – Just a few years ago, the average user didn’t trust search engines to understand conversational questions. They were searching with clunky phrases like “flower delivery new york.” Now people feel comfortable typing in things like “who delivers roses near me?” Changes in searcher habits are usually subtle, but will affect which keywords will be most valuable for your site. Instead of focusing on keywords that get you more traffic, focus on those that translate into conversions, revenue, and profits.
Off-page SEO builds a website’s reputation and authority by connecting it to other high-quality websites. Off-page SEO techniques include: link building (acquiring high-quality backlinks) from other websites and managing local listings and directory profiles. When many websites link to a brand’s website, it shows search engines that the brand’s website is trustworthy, reliable, and reputable, which increases its search rankings.