"A web site that isn't optimized is invisible." - Brian Carter




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Top Search Engines and Directories

Rank Site Web Address
1. Google www.google.com
2. Yahoo search.yahoo.com
3. MSN Search search.msn.com
4. Google Images images.google.com
5. Ask.com www.askjeeves.com
6. Yahoo! Images images.search.yahoo.com
7. My Web Search www.mywebsearch.com
8. Dogpile www.dogpile.com
9. Yahoo! Directory dir.yahoo.com
10. AltaVista www.altavista.com
Source: Hitwise Competitive Intelligence; most visited search engine and directories during the week ending Feb 19th, 2005



Brian Carter, MS, LAc, Acupuncturist, herbalist, and author

Brian B. Carter, MS

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Expert
Brian Carter, M.S.

Brian Carter has designed nearly a dozen websites for himself and others, but more importantly, has brought more than half a million visitors to these sites since 1999- more than 20,000 per month in 2005, and, through various monetization strategies, this traffic has meant $5,000-20,000 monthly. Recently, he has devoted a limited number of hours per week to professional SEO expert consulting.

Achieving High Search Engine Rankings

Achieving a high search engine ranking is indeed realistic. And that's something everyone with a website presence should be doing.

But it's not as simple as it sounds. Which search engines are most important to score well in? Which ones update most frequently? Which are most reliable?

And how many pages and keyphrases should you compete with? Just one? Five? Twenty?

Then there are your tactics- if it were possible to achieve high search engine rankings without thinking about how search engines rank sites, there would be no need for search engine optimization. But you do need to know how they think, because language is complicated, and programs (search engine ranking "bots") are dumb.

Still, you don't want to spam or cheat- not only because you'd anger the search engines, but also because your pages would begin to look weird to your human audience. So you need to know where the line is that separates ethical SEO from cheating.

What's worse, search engines can change their criteria for rankings without warning- so achieving a high search engine ranking means either constantly monitoring all the search engines and updating your pages, or taking a long-view, long-term smart approach based on how all search engines work and are likely to work in the future. From a cost and time investment perspective, the second choice is obviously better.

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Christian SEO Services

I provide Christian SEO services in that I am a Christian, and therefore my ethical practices are consistent with the Christian character I strive to have and improve upon.

Many Christians like to work with other Christians - they prefer to pay Christians for services- that may be because they see the alternative as being "unequally yoked" or because they just feel safer with someone whose conscience and decisions are informed by the Holy Spirit.

I gave my life to the lordship of Jesus Christ in 2001, and my wife (before we were married) followed me in 2002. I have several websites on Christian topics. I am eminently grateful (beyond my ability to express it) for the love of God.

I'm happy to work with anyone, regardless of their faith- though the projects and ideas I will lend my time, talents, and treasure to are informed by my conscience. Which is to say, for example, I will not do SEO for adult sites.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Ethical SEO Firms

An ethical SEO firm (search engine optimization company) is committed to doing honest work that does not violate the terms of the major search engines. They keep abreast of SEO trends, are aware of what is considered search engine spam or gaming, and refuse to stoop to those tactics.

Ethical SEO firms are a positive force much like ethical marketers. Coming from a place of good character, clear conscience, and positive intentions, they help clients think about how to realize their business plans and marketing strategies in the online environment.

The Web is like the Wild West. Like that period of American History, the internet of the 90's and this first decade of the 21st century is a lawless Babylon replete with immoral tricksters. Search engines here are analogous to the law, and they are imperfect robot policemen always catching up to the latest expoits of unethical SEO marketers.

Ethical SEO techniques are sometimes called "white hat", and some ethical SEO experts become frustrated that leading search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask don't seem to be able to filter out the cheaters, but as an ethical SEO expert who takes the long view, I believe these genius SE engineers will figure it out, and those of us who do it the ethical way will be rewarded.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Guaranteed Search Engine Top Ranking Service

In search engine ranking, there is no guaranteed, and if anyone tells you there is, I suggest you run the other way, quick!

Even the best search engine ranking experts cannot ensure that every page of their websites gets top ranking. Search engines change their criteria, links to websites come and go, competition increases, specific tactics can be copied, etc.

What's more, each search engine has its own criteria for ranking, so your rankings will vary on each. It's possible for one of your pages to have a top five ranking on one engine, but be effectively invisible in another engine.

If you're looking for guaranteed search engine rankings, then you don't really understand search engine optimization. If an SEO firm offers guaranteed ranking, you'd better be sure their contract binds them to update their SEO work on your pages when search engines change their criteria. Otherwise, it's just a marketing gimmick on their part.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Guaranteed Top 10 Search Engine Rankings, and Guaranteed Top 20 Rankings

A guaranteed top 20 search engine ranking is certainly more realistic than a guaranteed top 10 search engine ranking. As I've said, nothing is certain in the search engine optimization world except change, and certain good long-term SEO strategies.

Your rankings on various pages and keyphrases will change like the weather from week to week, but ideally, the weather is generally good for your website because of the architecture your SEO expert has put into place.

Every keyphrase and industry is different. Even within the same industry, some keyphrases are more competitive, vulnerable, or glutted than others. Some are more profitable than others, some are more in line with your USP than others... intelligent SEO is an essential part of implementing a realistic business plan online.

But guaranteed search engine rankings are a suspect claim, or they must be written into your contract with the SEO firm.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

High Search Engine Ranking Optimisation

Our butter loving bretheren in England still can't spell optimisation correctly, but we love them anyway. Just kidding! It's the same story regardless of what country you're in, but SEO experts may use different sources of data to find out what exactly people are searching for in whatever your target country is.

In 2005, despite great growth in the online presence of the Chinese, Africans, and South Americans, the major markets and dollars are still in the USA and English-focused internet. An SEO expert can focus your efforts whereever is needed.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Increased Search Engine Ranking Position

Increasing your search engine ranking position is a much more realistic goal. Instead of focusing on perhaps unattainable perfection, you decide to be competitive in your industry and keyphrases.

A review of your niche, products, services, and target market will make it possible to unearth the most expeditious keyphrases to focus upon, and web page architecture based on time-tested and sensible SEO principles will ensure an increase in your search engine ranking position, web site traffic, and profits.

A good, ethical SEO firm will increase search engine ranking positions for all your most important keyphrases- at least as much as is possible in the current environment of flux and lawlessness.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Meta Tag Optimization Services

Meta tag optimization is not fundamentally different from all search engine optimization (SEO). Meta tags are only one aspect of SEO, and meta tag optimization is possible only when the needed analysis of your business, goals, keyphrases, and competition is complete.

There are, as usual, technical details to deal with- for example,

  • How many keyphrases to stuff into a keyword meta tag, and whether to use full keyphrases or the elemental words,
  • How to write a great description meta tag that appeals to both humans and search engines, and
  • How much repetition will be tagged as spam- whether you intend to spam or not, you need to know when to stop!

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

MSN Search Engine Ranking

As I've said, search engine ranking is different for each search engine. Yahoo, MSN, and Google, for example, all will rank pages differently, because they value different criteria.

To be more clear, they may all care about keyphrase usage in the same places on a page (title, headers, body, links), how many backlinks you have, what their link text says, etc. but they may assign different priorities to these criteria.

Various search engines also may have different maximum numbers of frequency and weight for usage before you trigger a "spam" threshhold. And all of this can change from month to month... in fact, with Google, it has been changing unpredictably for about a year!

MSN has been taking search much more seriously of late. They've been advertising it, improving their algorithms, and starting pay per click and profit-sharing publishing programs of their own. Obviously they are following in Google's footsteps and plan to compete in their typically vigorous fashion.

Lately, my own observations of how the big search engine services have ranking pages have increased my esteem for MSN rankings. Like Google, MSN actively indexes lots of pages, which helps you get SEO results quicker, but unlike Google, MSN has been more stable and predictable, which is good for both SEO and business. Google, on the other hand, has made life hard for even ethical SEO people- if traffic from Google is your lifeblood, you've probably suffered over the last year. They don't seem to understand that businesses require consistency to operate well, even to survive.

At first, I didn't welcome MSN's entry into search. But as Google continues to produce strange and unstable results about which now even normal search users are complaining, I am encouraged my MSN's search engine ranking techniques. No one has a crystal ball, but if MSN's way of doing business loudly and making big, slowly updated software is any measure, their aggressive pursuit of search market share bodes well for both SEO efforts and companies that want consistent search engine rankings.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Search Positioning SEO Services

Search Positioning SEO is rather redundant, I suppose, but when has redundancy ever stopped a good phrase from claiming mindshare?

Search engine optimization (SEO) means positioning web sites- or more specifically, web pages- high on search engines... and not just for any old phrase, but for keyphrases that real people are already typing into search engines, keyphrases that haven't already been vomited into a million other web pages.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Ranking High on Search Engines

Ranking high on search engines is indispensible. Other ways to get traffic to your website are:

  1. Handing out thousands of business cards personally
  2. Putting your web address on your mailings
  3. Paying for visitor clicks (PPC)
  4. Getting links from other high traffic website

But #1 is inefficient, #2 only works each time you do a mailing, which is expensive, besides which a % of your mailing list doesn't go online much, #3 is expensive and you keep having to pay for it over and over, and #4 isn't easy without a quality website... also, #4 happens naturally if you have high search engine rankings.

Elsewhere, I've answered a number of frequently asked questions about PPC vs. natural/organic search engine optimization rankings. The bottom line is that high search engine rankings will get you free traffic, thus more profit. But PPC is an important and powerful supplement to natural SEO. Both are ideal, but it would be foolish to do PPC without natural SEO. These days, ethical SEO is just part of how to do good web design.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Ranking Solution for Your Web Site (Besides My Consulting)

You can go a number of different ways if you need a solution to increase your web site rankings. I know everyone can't afford an SEO expert, and some people like to know how things work, or to do it themselves. So here are some other ranking solutions you can employ:

  • Keep up with what's new in search engine rankings with the best forums (make sure you read a lot before you post anything dumb):
  • Get tools to help you optimize your web site rankings:
    • All in One Web Site building and ranking solution: If you haven't started your web site yet, consider using Sitesell.com's Site Build It! all-in-one solution. I used it for my home-herbal-remedy.com website, and it works fine. It's nice for those with little html ability, but for us pro's it's a bit clunky- which explains why I haven't taken the time to make it look better. ;-) It's a great deal, well worth the money.
    • Web Position Gold 3 - $150-$350 depending on what you get, but an all in one tool with lots of great features.
    • Web CEO - this one has a paid and a free version. The free version is pretty darned good, considering the price

If you're not sure if you want to invest in SEO expert consulting, I'd suggest you read the forums, and try the free WebCEO yourself. This will give you a much better sense about the real question, which is- do you want to deal with all that yourself?

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Search Engine Ranking San Diego

People sometimes want a search engine rankings service from someone in their own city- despite the fact that the internet has changed all that so that you can get help from the best person anywhere.

Talking to someone in person can be reassuring... getting eyeball to eyeball is the only way some people can decide to trust you. (Personally, I work with people all over the U.S. I don't rely on people outside the U.S. simply because it would be difficult to sue someone who cheated you... I felt better hiring a programmer from Maryland than India.)

I live in San Diego, and I'm happy to provide SEO services to San Diego companies who need search engine ranking help. Likewise, instead of writing a bunch of pages for other cities' searches, I respected the people of those cities- that they wanted someone local.

Of course, there are a number of San Diego SEO firms and SEO experts, and you don't have to choose me. In fact, I only have a limited number of hours to devote to SEO consultant work, because I run several other sites, write books, and teach medical classes at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Search Engine Optimization for High Search Engine Ranking

This is what it's all about. High search engine rankings make you visible to real people who are already searching for the services, products, or information you offer. Without search engine optimization, high search engine rankings will elude you.

Of course, you could pay per click, become a "sponsored listing" and be visible up there... and statistics show that most searchers don't know the difference between a natural search engine result and a paid one... but your pocketbook and your accountant know the difference.

In a well run business, search engine optimization should be treated like any other marketing strategy. It should pay for itself at least, if not lead to profits and business you wouldn't have seen otherwise.

If you can get high search engine rankings with search engine optimization, you'll get long-term traffic, prospects, business, and so on from a one time investment. If you only do pay per click advertising, you'll keep paying and paying and paying. You can do both, but SEO natural rankings are not optional.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

SEO Training Course

I'm developing a training course for aspiring SEO experts. Over the last six years, I've read up on all the techniques and strategies the experts have suggested, and I've done my own experiments as well.

My site pulsemed.org has more than 1,700 pages, at least 1,000 of which are keyphrase optimized pages. The website is a bit of a frankenstein, because I kept adding to it and changing strategies as I learned... but it remains a great resource for me to learn more and more about SEO.

So my SEO training course will be based both on the distillation of dozens of experts and ebooks, the thousands of SEO forum posts I've read, and my own in-the-trenches, scientist in the SEO laboratory experience... you'll learn from both my failures and successes.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Top Yahoo Search Engine Ranking

As I've said about MSN and Google, every search engine is different, and they all will rank the same page differently. Maddening, I know... but it's better to have more than one brain trust working on this search engine problem- and their competition with one another will ensure that search improves, and search engine rankings ultimately will be higher quality.

If you're new to the internet, Yahoo used to be just a directory- hand-picked pages in categories. But they've added a search engine "web" directory as well.

Anyhow, a top Yahoo search engine ranking is a lot like an MSN one right now- they're the second and third top used engines behing Google. As of March 2, 2005, they each get about 60% as much traffic as Google. And it's important to note that 60-70% of searchers of all three of these search engines use other search engines.

The point is that each of the major search engines is a tool, and you should strive for as many top rankings in Google, Yahoo, and MSN as possible- your web site should be optimized for all of them.

You could certainly strive only for top MSN rankings, top Google rankings, or top Yahoo rankings, but there's no reason to... using ethical best practices SEO strategies, you'll get good rankings on all of them, but not top rankings for every page- that's just the nature of the beast.

Back to the top of this page - Weird words? See my SEO Dictionary

Top Search Engine Ranking Web Site Design

It's a web in joke- and not a funny one- that web site designers will sell you on a great looking website that won't necessarily bring any visitors. Kevin Costner did not create the web, so if you build it, they might not come.

For example, some web site design people love Flash, but at this point, none of the search engines will rank a Flash page- all the text in the Flash is invisible to them. That's not to dis Flash, because it's great if used correctly.

Thus, more and more people realize that web site design must take your top search engine ranking goals into account. The best way to do it is to think SEO before you even build the web site!

Huh? How can you optimize something that doesn't exist?

You're right- you can't. But let's not get stuck on the words. The problem is, if you don't know anything about the web, and your web site designer doesn't know about SEO, he'll urge you toward cool looking stuff, and you'll think in terms of your business as it has been offline.

But online is different. Not totally different, but very different.

In a way, you have to go back to basics- no matter how many years you've been doing business, you have to think about your business plan, your goals, your unique competitive advantages, your target market, and so on. These all go into choosing the right keyphrases to dominate, and how you write the copy on the pages you create. Then you have a fighting chance of your web site getting top search engine rankings.

But if you already have a web site, you can still optimize it. We may have to change some things on some or all of your pages. We may have to create more pages.

And there may be other great options you haven't thought of or gotten the most out of, like an email mailing list... but that's another topic.

Your web site can achieve top search engine rankings. And it should strive for that- the web will only become more competitive- and you know how hard it is to compete the longer you wait... more competitors, more barriers to entry... now is always the time. :-)

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