Search Engine Optimization Articles


This page lists articles from Search Engine Watch and around the web that focus on traditional, non-paid “search engine optimization” tactics, ways to get what’s often described as “free,” “natural” or “organic” traffic from search engines.

NOTE: Article links often change, especially the older an article is. In case of a bad link, use the publication’s search facility, which most have, and search for the headline. Also, some very old articles flagged “no longer online” might indeed be online — but the former URL no longer resolves, and it’s not worth the time investment for me to try and personally track down these down versus spending time producing new content.

Jump to articles from:
Sept. 2004 Onward
Jan-Aug 2004200320022001
20001999 & Earlier

Jan-Aug. 2004

How should I go about SEO for an eBay store?
Search Engine Watch Forums, Aug. 26, 2004

How to manipulate the eBay item submission content manager to increase your chances of higher rankings on the search engines.

Achieving Search Engine Ranking “Success”
Search Engine Watch Forums, Aug. 26, 2004

What truly defines success across the major search engines? Is it possible to achieve top rankings across all the top SE’s with one site?

The Mystery of the Magical Keyword Density Formula, Aug. 25, 2004

If only you knew the exact number of target keywords to use in the exact correct places on your web page, then you’d skyrocket to the top of the search engines. Not. I agree with Karon Thackston. Chasing after the perfect density is likely to be futile effort. Instead, natural writing with a few basic tips as she suggests is likely to be more helpful for most.

Search Engine Friendly or Search Friendly?
ClickZ, August 16, 2004

Being search engine friendly doesn’t mean creating ugly web sites. You can (and should) please both search engines and users.

Search Engine Marketing, Optimization, and Blogs
Jeremy Zawodny’s Blog, Aug. 8, 2004

Jeremy Zawodny is a prominent blogger, Yahoo RSS evangelist and was a panelist on our session about search, blogs and RSS. He shares his thoughts about participating. It was a packed session, amazing given it was in the last time slot of the last day. By the way, he mentions my use of the term “web feeds” as an umbrella for RSS and Atom feeds. I use — but I didn’t coin it. I picked it up out of the RSS renaming contest that was held: And I guess I should be saying “webfeeds” rather than “web feeds.”

Making Your eBay Store Search-Savvy, Part Two, July 22, 2004

Experiences in getting a small merchant site listed with major shopping search engines. Applicable even to those who aren’t eBay store owners.

Meet The Crawlers
SearchDay, July 21, 2004

Representatives of Yahoo, Google, Ask Jeeves and LookSmart offer a inside glimpse of how they operate under the hood. This version of the article for Search Engine Watch members goes into more detail about Yahoo’s free and paid inclusion programs, Google’s recommended tips for webmasters, an update on Google’s advertising programs, questionable optimization tactics all of the engines consider borderline spam, and much more.

Using Paid Search Engine Advertising for Better SEO Campaigns
ClickZ, July 19, 2004

Tips on using search engine ads to also help with your natural SEO campaigns.

Searching for The New York Times
Wired, July 14, 2004,1284,64110,00.html

“How can the mighty New York Times, which considers itself America’s paper of record, be the paper of record in cyberspace when its articles barely show up on Google,” the story asks. The answer is easy. Because the New York Times pulls much of its content behind password protection after about a week. If the page is no longer accessible, people can no longer link to it (which helps with search ranking), and the actual content of the story is lost.

The NYT apparently doesn’t care, figuring that the money it makes off of archive sales and database searches is more important than Google traffic. Plus, not mentioned is the fact that many stories will show up within Google News for up to a month through a special crawling deal that’s been arranged with Google.

Single Post Wins Google Contest
Wired, July 8, 2004

Blogger Anil Dash won the second and final round in the Nigritude Ultramarine SEO contest. Unlike what the story says, Dash indeed did win through backlinking, not because of a single post. He benefited from having the many readers of his blog backlink to him using the words “nigritude ultramarine” in their links. For more background on the contest, see my past article: The Nigritude Ultramarine Search Engine Optimization Contest. Also nice screenshots at the official competition web site.

Public Relations Via Search Engines
SearchDay, June 30, 2004

Blending the traditional tools of public relations with innovative search marketing techniques opens a new avenue of promotion for savvy content providers and site owners. This version for Search Engine Watch members offers specific, actionable tips for creating search engine friendly press releases, as well as tips for using blogs and RSS tools for public relations efforts.

SEM Power Tool: The Mighty HTTP Referrer
ClickZ, June 25, 2004

Referrer data provides wonderful clues to how people found you. Learn how to read the tea leaves.

The Missing Ingredient in SEO
Search Engine Guide, June 14, 2004

If I ever find more time, I want to start a “search log” feature where I document various searches I do each day and how things have gone wrong or right. So this piece resonated with me. Dave Wilkie wanted to reroof his house and needed a local contractor. Instead of using the print yellow pages, he risked doing a web search. Many hyphenated domains and doorway page middlemen later, frustration ruled.

A Contest to Outwit Google
Wired, June 8, 2004,1377,63755,00.html

The search engine optimization content I wrote about previously has its first winner. Hear what the first place and second place awardees had to say.

The Nigritude Ultramarine Search Engine Optimization Contest
The Search Engine Report, May 27, 2004

It’s sweeping the web — or at least search engine optimizers — a new contest to rank tops for the term nigritude ultramarine on Google. Why that term, what’s it all mean — and why is Howard Dean close to winning on Teoma?

SEM and Online Publicity
ClickZ, May 10, 2004

Publishers, journalists and PR firms — take note. Keep search engines in mind before you make your edits, and you might get rewarded for retaining copy that reads well and also pleases crawlers.

Maintain Your Rankings After a Redesign, May 7, 2004

Redesigning but afraid the change will cause you to lose rankings? Some tips from Jill Whalen.

All About Title Tags, May 3, 2004

The HTML title tag is one of the most important factors you can use to influence how your pages are found. Don’t waste your opportunity. Jill Whalen provides tips to do better.

How’s Your Reputation?
iMedia Connection, April 22, 2004

We had a great session at Search Engine Strategies in New York about how to do public relations via search engines. Rob Key was one of our well-received speakers. In this piece, he shares some of his idea on how SEO can be applied to managing a company’s reputation on the web, rather than the usual thought of just getting visitors.

Design Matters
ClickZ, March 29, 2004

Don’t lose track of good page design in your quest for better rankings. Good looking, search engine friendly pages are possible.

Ten Tips to the Top of the Search Engines
Search Engine Guide, March 12, 2004

Jill Whalen shares top tips she finds to be essential for success with search engine optimization.

Diary of a Google Gazumpee
Search Engine Guide, March 5, 2004

From number one to oblivion on Google. Lesson learned for this web site? Its survival came by not counting on Google solely for traffic. As for jumping on the “search engine optimization wheel” — chasing after tips that give only transient gains — don’t do it. And I couldn’t agree more. As always, focus first on a great site for your customers, with rich content. Long-term search engine success has often flowed from this.

How to Survive Search Engine Changes
ClickZ, March 1, 2004

Site dropped in Google or Yahoo? Client’s site dropped in Google or Yahoo? Step away from checking your keyword rankings and look instead at your traffic or conversions. It may that there’s no need to go to panic stations.

Put Your Web Pages on a Diet, Feb. 23, 2004

Tips on dropping some material from your pages that may help improve rankings.

Titles and Search Engine Marketing
ClickZ, Feb. 2, 2004

Understanding exactly what’s meant by “title” is important to succeed in different aspects of search engine marketing.

SEO Writing Strategies for Graphic-Oriented Sites, Jan. 27, 2004

Got a textually-challenged web site? Here are some tips on how to make them bit more search engine friendly.

What I learned at Search Engine Strategies Conference in Chicago, Jan. 8, 2004

Top three things learned from SES Chicago applicable to doing better with Google’s natural results.

Articles From 2003

Bungled Search Engine Optimization – Cleaning Up the Mess
SearchDay, Dec. 24, 2003

Many advertising agencies, design firms, and even web hosting companies offer search engine marketing services for their customers. However, some of the methods they use to obtain top positions are considered to be spam by the major search engines. How do you tell the difference?

Track Spider Activity on Your Site
Search Engine Guide, Dec. 12, 2003

Review of Robot Manager Pro, which creates robots.txt files and monitors spidering activity on your web site.

Search Engines and Web Server Issues
SearchDay, Nov. 18, 2003

What is the best way to move a site from one server to another without affecting search engine visibility? After a site redesign, how can you communicate to the search engines that old URLs should be redirected to new URLs without affecting positioning? A panel of experts addressed these and other server-specific issues.

An SEO Copywriting Makeover Turning “Not” Into “Hot”, Nov. 18, 2003

Two-part case study about turning copy into content that pleases search engines and humans.

Playing Googlebot with Mozilla Firebird
ChrisSEO, Nov. 17, 2003

Nice tip here on how to tell a web site that you are the Google spider (or potentially, any other spider). However, I doubt this lets you interact with a site in the way that the Google spider will. Just saying you are Google does nothing to cause your browser to act the way Google’s crawler actually does, any more than saying to someone that you are a famous movie star will convince someone of the case. The tip is mainly useful if you want to see content that’s targeted at a particular spider through the use of user agent name. For sites that use IP targeting, this won’t help.

An SEO Copywriting Makeover Turning “Not” Into “Hot” Part 1 of 2, Nov. 17, 2003

Beginning of a case study about turning copy into content that pleases search engines and humans.

SEO at the Expense of Good Copy — No Way!
High Rankings Advisor Newsletter, Nov. 11, 2003

Good copy does not mean that you have to sacrifice search engine positions, Jill Whalen explains.

SEO Confusion: Keywords by Page or Site?
High Rankings Advisor, Nov. 10, 2003

With crawler listings, each page stands on its own merits, apart from others in your site.

Digging Deeper into Search-Friendly Design – Interview with Shari Thurow
Search Engine Guide, Nov. 3, 2003

Two part article that covers Shari Thurow’s simple but effective tips on building content that’s friendly to humans and search engines alike.

Reader Q&A: October 2003
The Search Engine Update, Oct. 22, 2003

Answers to the following questions from readers:

+ Will paid ads on Google or Overture hurt your unpaid listings?
+ Why can’t I find the submit link for an Open Directory category?
+ Do I have to pay a new submission fee if I change my web page?
+ Where can I find out the popularity level of shopping search engines?
+ Why did the Open Directory drop my sites?
+ Do search engines read the words within links?
+ How do we get Google to drop misleading and spammy web pages?
+ Is there an easy way to find out what the cost or a particular term is on the various search engines?
+ I don’t see AllTheWeb in the search engine ratings pages you maintain. Why not?
+ I am trying to find out which search engines have the most users and what keywords are used the most when navigating to sites in particular subjects. Can you help?
+ Why do you recommend search engine math commands over Boolean commands?
+ Do you know anything if Froogle will be released in the UK or elsewhere? What other UK shopping search engines are there?
+ Is the meta description tag still worth doing?

Nip and Tuck – Three Quick Tricks for Writing SEO Copy
Search Engine Guide, Oct. 1, 2003

Tips on writing copy that pleases crawler-based search engines and humans.

Lessons in Failure – The Top 10 Ways to Ensure Your Search Marketing Strategy Sucks
Marketleap Report, July 24, 2003

Good top ten list of things NOT to do if you want to get found by search engines.

Search for Iraqi ‘WMD’ becomes big hit on Google
AP, July 15, 2003

Enter “weapons of mass destruction” on Google, and you’ll reach a very funny web page. It’s a take-off on an Internet Explorer error page that makes references about being unable to locate weapons of mass destruction. For the record, Inktomi and AllTheWeb also make this one of their top ranked pages, as well.

Reader Q&A: July 2003
The Search Engine Update, July 17, 2003

+ Is paid inclusion for crawlers like AllTheWeb and Ask Jeeves/Teoma worth the bother?
+ Is Cold Fusion a problem for Google? Can it follow from a form to pages generated from it?
+ I received a bogus invoice about getting listed on search engines! How can companies like this be stopped?
+ Google’s broken! It no longer lists descriptions for many URLs. Why?
+ Google’s homepage now has porn links on it! Why hasn’t there been an outcry over this?
+ I was contacted by a company that swears they have an agreement with Microsoft to sell navigational keywords that work with the MSN 8 browser. Is this real?
+ The wrong domain name was printed on our packaging, and we can’t buy the name from the company that actually owns it. How can we solve this problem with search engines?

Reader Q&A: June 2003
The Search Engine Update, June 17, 2003

Readers have recently asked:

+ To be found in both UK and US search engines, do I need to pay inclusion fees twice?
+ Is there a search engine that would allow me to see web sites as they were presented in the past?
+ Is white space and JavaScript before my body copy hurting my rankings?
+ Should we use dashes or underscores in our URLs to separate keywords?
+ How can I get Google to count links to a domain that I accidentally let expire?
+ What does it really mean when Lycos InSite advertises that I’ll be shown on non-US search engines?
+ What are the best resources for finding information about search engine technology?
+ When a search engine spider crawls across your site, does it count as one unique visitor or multiple unique visitors?
+ Do frames still matter given that “paid listings” are the norm these days?
+ Where can I get software to run my own search engine?
+ Is labeling graphics with applicable keywords considered spam?
+ Why am I getting an “Internal Server Error” when I try to submit to the Open Directory?
+ How can I target Germany with pay per click ads?
+ Will search engines see HTML text that’s generated by JavaScript?
+ Do search engines consider mirror pages to be spam?
+ Where can I get software to search my Linux-based web site?

Tapping Into Natural Traffic
Search Engine Watch, June 10, 2003

In this article, a look at systemic improvements that you can and should make across your site as a whole. Doing so should increase the traffic you gain from search engines naturally, or what in 2002 started being referred to as “organic” traffic.

Capitalization Issues
Search Engine Watch, June 10, 2003

There are two basic strategies you can follow to help increase the odds your page will turn up when someone specifies case in a case-sensitive search engine. One is conservative, the other is for those absolutely paranoid about missing out on traffic. A look, in this article.

Hiding JavaScript
Search Engine Watch, June 10, 2003

Background on how search engines have dealt with JavaScript and an introduction to JavaScript include files.

Optimizing Flash for Search Engines
SearchDay, May 6, 2003

Macromedia Flash and other non-HTML formats can pose problems for search engines, unless you take appropriate steps to optimize the content. Search Engine Watch members should follow through from the blue box to the members edition of this article.

Accessible Flash: SEO for Flash
Sitepoint, May 2, 2003

James Ellis provides an extensive tutorial on making Flash sites more search engine friendly, though it is based around PHP.

Attract Visitors With Multimedia Search
NetMechanic, May 2003

Briefly covers multimedia search engines and provides links to using meta data for Flash and Windows Media files.

Ten Tips to the Top of Google
SearchDay, April 30, 2003

Having a Web site that gets found in Google isn’t hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are ten tips to get you started.

Analytics boost Discovery.coms search engine traffic by 300%, sales by 35%, April 10, 2003

I’ve said it many, many times. Small, simple changes to make your site more friendly to search engines can sometimes have a big impact on traffic. saw a 300 percent in traffic from Google. Did they buy links from sites with a high PR value? No. Did they get involved with a sophisticated link swapping service? No. Were customized doorway pages and cloaking involved? No. All the site apparently did was change the home page from being served dynamically into a more search engine friendly HTML design.

Styling Your Copy for Search Engines AND Visitors, April 8, 2003

Want to be found for “widget manufacturing?” Then it helps to use those words naturally in your copy. A short illustration on how to do just that.

Translating Flash for search sites, March 7, 2003

Macromedia is reaching out to search engines to help make Flash content created with its software more accessible. That’s great news, assuming your Flash files contain some substantial textual information. If they don’t, then expect you’ll still have problems with search engines.

Maximizing Search Engine Visibility
SearchDay, Mar. 5, 2003

This definitive guide to search engine optimization and marketing offers solid fundamental advice for creating search engine friendly sites, at the same time debunking myths and snake oil “techniques” that can bedevil the unwary webmaster.

Secrets of Successful Search Engine Optimization
SearchDay, Mar. 6, 2003

Despite persistent myths, there is no silver bullet: The best search engine optimization firms conquer client marketing challenges through research, education and plain ol’ hard work. Search Engine Watch members should click through to the special members-edition.

Writing for Search Engines
SearchDay, Mar. 13, 2003

Creating search engine friendly web pages goes far beyond tweaking codes — it’s a delicate balancing act between pleasing the search engine and the people who will ultimately read (and act) on your content.

Home-Grown Search Engine Optimization
SearchDay, Feb. 6, 2003

Managing a search engine optimization effort needn’t be stressful if you follow these tips from a panel of experts. Search Engine Watch members should follow the link to a special members-edition of this article.

Optimizing Flash for Search Engines
SearchDay, Feb. 11, 2003

Your glitzy Macromedia Flash animations may dazzle and impress, but over-reliance on Flash may render your website all but invisible to the major search engines.

SEM Power Tips
ClickZ, Jan. 8, 2003

Tips on leveraging brands, the content of your listings, the content of your landing pages and other advice on getting more out of your search engine marketing campaigns.

Articles From 2002

Optimizing Pages with JavaScript and Style Sheets for Search Engines, Dec. 11, 2002

Tips on offloading JavaScript and other code to make a leaner page for search engines.

Ten Questions with: Jill Whalen, Nov. 2002

Jill Whalen is a veteran of SEO, and she reflects on trends and changes in search engines, how to brand yourself, why she believes building content works with search engines

Server Issues which could affect SE rankings, Nov. 18, 2002

Issues with IP addresses, robots.txt files and firewalls as they pertain to search engine indexing are all covered in this article.

Meet basics ‘or search engines won’t come knocking’
Next, Oct. 8, 2002

Think about how you link to your own pages and how you construct URL names are two important tips out of this article on ranking better with crawlers.

FAST Breaks the Flash Barrier, Sept. 18, 2002

A Guide to Search Engine Marketing
SearchDay, Aug. 8, 2002

A new book tackles the ambitious challenge of explaining how search engines work, and the optimizing and marketing techniques that can improve search engine rankings.

Search Engine Tips That Get Clicks
WebTalkGuys, Aug. 2002

I was interviewed about search engine marketing for the WebTalkGuys radio show. Those interested can read a transcript of excerpts or listen to an archived version of the show.

Dealing with Yahoo, LookSmart and the ODP
SearchDay, May 23, 2002

Getting your site listed in the major Web directories is crucial. Representatives from the Big Three share tips and techniques that help you facilitate the process.

Avoid Search Engine Roadblocks in Macromedia Flash MX
Traffic, May 1, 2002

Here’s the key tip when it comes to Flash — if you use it, and care about search engine related traffic, any important content will need to be represented in HTML, as well.

How Search Phrases can Help Copywriters – And Your Visitors
SearchDay, Mar. 19, 2002

Writing for search engines isn’t the same as writing for people. Here’s how to get copywriters excited and involved in the search engine optimization process.

Articles From 2001

SEO and the Web Site Design Process
ClickZ, Dec. 19, 2001

Tips on making your site search engine friendly during the design process.

Search Engine Marketing Case Studies
SearchDay, Dec. 18, 2001

Learn strategies and tactics for effective search engine marketing from three site owners who’ve experienced spectacular real-world success.

Creating Search Engine Friendly Web Sites
SearchDay, Dec. 12, 2001

Tips, techniques and new strategies for creating web sites search engines love, from two internationally regarded search engine optimization and site architecture experts.

Writing for Search Engines
SearchDay, Sept. 26, 2001

There’s a fine art to developing content that maintains a good balance between ranking well in the search engines and still appeals to the intended audience.

Leveraging Your Content
SearchDay, Sept. 25, 2001

Though they’re ‘cool,’ advanced design techniques such as frames, Flash and dynamically generated Web sites pose challenges for search engines.

Search Engines Often Ignore Sites Using Flash
MarketingSherpa, Sept. 20, 2001

Search engines don’t read Flash. That means if you use Flash, they may not find navigation links in the Flash content that leads them other pages. Flash-heavy pages also probably lack enough HTML content that would allow them to get ranked well for particular terms. This article has more tips on what not to do.

Search Engine Optimization Strategies
SearchDay, Sept. 18, 2001

Experts describe web page design solutions that can help boost visibility in search engine results.

Code Red An SEO Problem?
The Search Engine Update, Sept. 4, 2001

The Code Red virus may be having an impact on search engine optimization work. The article below details how the virus produced a seeming increase of traffic, without there being any real increase at all.

Increase your Click-Throughs with Killer Title Tags, July 24, 2001

Using the terms you want a page to be found for in the HTML title is essential. Unfortunately, some people don’t take the extra step of ensuring the title is also written to attract clickthrough. Good tips on making your titles standout.

eRetailer Grows Revenues 24% in Six Months Through Search Engine Optimization, July 20, 2001

A camera retailer goes from getting four percent of his traffic from search engines to 24 percent, after using the Inceptor search engine optimization software (now called Excedia). In addition, conversion rates were higher than with other online advertising efforts.

Fredrick Marckini on Search Engine Positioning
WebReference, July 19 & 26, 2001

The author of the new book Search Engine Positioning answers questions and discusses the topic. Part 1 is the first URL, Part 2 the second.

Search Engine Submission and Resubmission Guidelines
Search Engine Guide, July 6, 2001

Interview with Position Technologies’ Jim Stob, on when to submit and resubmit to search engines.

Search Engine Optimization — FREE!
WebMonkey, June 5, 2001

In-depth article on the most important things you can do to attain good placement with search engines.

New Directions in Optimizing Page Content
ClickZ, June 13, 2001

Overview of top issues in attaining search engine traffic.

Avoiding The Search Gap
The Search Engine Update, May 2, 2001

Study finds that search engine referrals are low — but searching as an activity remains high. This explains the search gap. And, if you’ve focused all your efforts on getting people to your web site via search engines rather considering what happens after they arrive, you could be a victim of the gap. Learn how to maximize visits to your site.

How to Sabotage Your SEO Campaign
ClickZ, April 25, 2001

What NOT to do in order to gain better rankings on search engines.

Designing for Search Engines and Stars
Digital Web Magazine, April 19, 2001

A nice summary of good design tips that can also improve search engine friendliness, with linked examples

Seeding the Engines: Part 2
ClickZ, April 18, 2001

Tips on the process of submitting to search engines.

Seeding the Engines: Part 1
ClickZ, April 11, 2001

Step-by-step to optimizing web pages for search engines, beginning with keyword search and content tuning.

Search Engine Strategies Hits Hub, March 21, 2001

Recap of my presentation on the basics of submitting to search engines.

Writing and Ranking for the Search Engines
ClickZ, March 7, 2001

Jill Whalen and Heather Lloyd-Martin begin a new monthly column on ensuring that your page content is well written from a search engine’s perspective. An introduction to the concept, and what they’ll be providing in columns to come.

Interview: Shari Thurow, March 2001

Shari Thurow is one of the Search Engine Strategies conference’s most popular speakers, covering ways to make existing content in a web site more friendly to search engines. A succinct summary of her tips and advice on achieving good rankings.

Resuscitating Dead Links
ClickZ, Jan. 4, 2001

Don’t get mad that a search engine continues to list dead links to your site. Instead, make use of that traffic! Pay particular attention to producing a custom 404 page. It’s an essential component of making your site more usable.

Articles From 2000

Getting Listed and Staying Listed

ClickZ, Aug. 23, 2000

Some hands-on tips for submitting and monitoring listings.

Six Secrets to Search Engine Writing Success

Content Exchange, July 17, 2000

Tips on writing copy to please search engines.

Looking for the Best ROI
ClickZ, June 28, 2000

Review of two tools designed to measure the return on investment in search engine promotion and other promotional activities.

Content Matters Most In Search-Engine Placement

Information Week, June 12, 2000

Nice overview of search engine placement issues.

Articles From 1999 & Earlier

You’ve submitted to all the search engines. Now what?

Web Developer’s Virtual Library, Nov. 29, 1999

A nice, short guide to other key things you can do to promote your site in addition to search engines.

Use AltaVista and “flypaper” to attract visitors to your site

Richard Seltzer, May 1998

Richard Seltzer, a marketing consultant at Digital and co-author of the AltaVista Search Revolution, discusses how placing content on your web site can serve as “flypaper” to bring in visitors.

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