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Website Traffic Boost with Summary Statements

Written by Jerry Lee Ford, Jr. and William R. Stanek - 2006, Thomson Course Technology PTR. Reprinted with Permission.
This article is an excerpt from the following book: Increase Your Web Traffic in a Weekend.

To a search engine, text is the most important part of the page. Search engines use ordinary text to describe the page, build the keyword list, and determine the relevance of the page to particular subjects. Although search engines treat text in different ways, they share some common themes concerning how text is indexed and referenced.

Understanding Summary Descriptions
Whenever a search engine displays results, the main thing that sells your page to the reader is the summary description, which usually comes from the first 100 to 200 characters in the Web page. When you look at your Web page to see what the description might look like, be sure to include all text in headers, paragraphs, and other text elements on the page.

Search engines have very specific parameters for obtaining the summary description. Text at the top of the page is usually given more weight than text at the bottom of the page. Thus, if you have a short description at the top of your page followed by several graphic elements, tables, or linked lists, the search engine might not use text from later sections of the page. You can see why some page descriptions are short and others fill out the full 100 to 200 characters used by the search engine.

To help your Web site get noticed, create clear summary statements for your key Web pages, which include the home page and top-level pages at your Web site. The summary statement should be the first text element in the page, perhaps directly following your graphical banner. If you keep the summary statement short but descriptive, it will usually flow well with the rest of the page.

TIP: Use Proper Punctuation
Whenever possible, try to end your summary statement with proper punctuation. Believe it or not, a few search engines look for complete statements. Phrases without punctuation are considered ambiguous; phrases with punctuation are considered relevant.

Understanding Relevancy
The position of text in your Web page often determines its relevancy. Because of the variations in how search engines use text, relevancy is one of the hardest search engine terms to pin down. In general terms, the relevancy of text describes:
* How a word relates to other words.
* The proximity of one word to another.
* The position of the word within the page.
* Whether the word is presented as part of a complete statement.
* How many times the word is used in the page.

The concept of relevancy explains why some of the techniques that publishers use to get their pages listed at the top of search results lists have little effect, as well as why a technique might work for one search engine and not for others. In the end, the varying definition of relevancy makes optimizing your Web pages for each and every search engine almost impossible. In fact, you'd probably be wasting your time if you tried to optimize your Web pages for all the search engines.

Have you ever come across a Web page that repeated a word over and over again? Well, the Web site publisher was probably trying to get the page listed as the top choice for searches using this keyword. Although this technique might work for a particular search engine, most other search engines will completely ignore the repeated use of the word, which causes the page to appear lower in their search results lists.

Have you ever come across a Web page that used phrases that didn't seem to fit in the Web page, yet the phrases were there just the same? Here, the Web site publisher was probably trying to get the page to show up when someone searched for a hot topic, such as news, entertainment, or sports. Again, this technique might work for a particular search engine, but other search engines will give the entire page lower relevancy because it's full of ambiguous phrases and doesn't seem to have a common thread.

Rather than haphazardly repeat keywords or use ambiguous phrases in your Web page, use sound organizational techniques that bolster the relevancy of your page's theme. Focus your attention on your home page and your top-level pages first. When you look at your home page or top-level page, ask yourself these questions:
* Is the subject of the page clear?
* Can I weave the main subject(s) of the page throughout the main text in such a way that it builds relevancy?
* Does the page build the relationship between the main subject and related topics?
* Can I add descriptions to lists of links to clearly define what the link points to?
* Are the statements made in the page clear and complete?
* Can I transform ambiguous phrases into clear statements that relate to the main theme on the page?

For more information, see Increase Your Web Traffic in a Weekend.

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