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The SEO Algorithm – Best Practices and Quality Indicators

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 15 years and 250 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

I tend to have pretty much an abundance attitude with sharing information about SEO in most regards. I really don’t try to create smoke and mirrors around my work like it is some insanely difficult task. It’s not EASY, so I’ll be happy to give out lots of information to those willing to learn. There are of course tips from time to time that I come across that are not appropriate for public consumption because I’d like to make a little money from them first myself, or to respect the wishes of those I learned them from (check out Barry’s great post on when to blog vs. when not to blog).

Most “algo holes” get plugged within a reasonable amount of time, however, so it is not very advisable to rely on exploiting algorithm holes in order to attain good search rankings (I really can’t believe how whitehat I sound right now). This leaves us with best practices to create websites for better rankings. Andy the link builder recently posted about quality indicators which I wholeheartedly agree with. While the specific points are certainly debateable (if you really like wasting your time on that sort of thing), the overall concept is extremely sound. If you establish a total list of quality indicators and best practices, and check each one off on every site that you build you will be in very good shape. Why don’t more people do this? It’s damn hard. Validating a site for W3C standards alone is not an easy thing when you’re dealin’ with Uncle Fester’s nephew’s frontpage code.

My apologies to Andy for not responding to his great post earlier, but sometimes ya just gotta get some work done. This got saved as a draft post about one-third complete, and I thought it had enough potential to save it from falling into the abyss of unpublished half written posts.

I think it must be said that quality indicators are kind of like search engine ideals. Whether or not it is possible to actually gauge these areas of measurement is certainly far from my area of expertise. These are areas that would potentially allow to determine “quality” levels of given websites. Any area where a webmaster can potentially put a little more care into their website would be a logical place to reward for more positive search rankings. This does not however mean that any of these areas are currently being factored into algorithms (nor that they ever may be). This is only speculation to what some things that exemplify relative high standards of quality in a website that MAY be measured at a qualitive level and perhaps converted to a quantitive metric.

Quality Indicators
In addition to the Lou Holtz of Link Development’s fine list of quality indicators which included:

  • being hosted on a dedicated IP
  • outbound links (these might be the biggest IMHO — not only to put your site in its topical neighborhood, but also just a plain old GOOD neighorhood)
  • doctype and language metadata in your header
  • valid code
  • invalid code but linking to the W3C validator (“we tried!”)
  • existence of a print stylesheet
  • a file named privacy.*
  • the existence of Access keys (accessibility best practice)
  • a ‘skip navigation’ link (accessibility best practice)

I would also like to add:

  • Long domain registration period
  • Consistent link acquisition over time
  • Low link rot
  • Few broken links
  • User repeat visits
  • Adds or notes on personalized search results
  • Visitor duration – though often argued by SEO that like to rationalize their links’ pages as “resources”
  • High level of users that bookmark the page
  • Steady SERP position
  • CTR of links
  • DMOZ listing (yes, I hate this too, but I think a lot of us have seen decent evidence of it at least to speculate it a quality indicator)

Again, I’m not saying that these variables could or could not be easily spammed, or that they could or could not be used as search variables for any given reason. I am only saying that if I were to gauge the quality and relevance of a web page, these are a lot of the things I would take into account as “quality indicators”.
As for the definition of “quality”…It is a great topic to study extensively. Robert Pirsig, of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence” fame studied quality extensively. It’s a fascinating topic to to study along with the metaphysics of relevance, if you really enjoy twisting your mind into new and exciting dimensions.

Best Practices
Could be said to be along the same line as quality indicators

  • Good content that will naturally attract links
  • Help people to notice your content without being an spammer
  • Go back to Brett’s timeless SEO guide
  • Create a sitemap – both through Google and non-google

The only algorithm an SEO needs to know is:

(Content + structure) x exposure x time x links = increased traffic and success

Prepare for budgeting for an online business, and plan a realistic growth strategy and a site has a much higher likelihood for success.

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