Tag Archives: ranking

Keywords and web search engines

The number of keywords used varies for a variety of reasons, for instance user intent and what our information needs are, but some studies have found interesting keyword statistics.

How many keywords are typed?

One study looked at the number of keywords used for website search engines, such as Wall Street Journal, and found that keywords are between 2.9 and 3.7 words. Another study found that we use, on average, 4 terms for normal searches but up to 6 terms for advanced searches. The exact number of keywords varies from search engine to search engine, let alone from person to person.

Another user behaviour study found that people generally type 2.7 terms or 13.6 characters. Further analysis also found that 17% have not been able to return to a webpage they once visited. This shows memory and search engines go hand in hand. Striking websites, however, are more likely to be remembered since it triggers an interest. Great content, catchy logos and effective designs make striking websites.

Looking specifically at search logs from file-sharing websites, equivalent to transactional queries on web search engines, one study found that keywords were usually between 5 and 6 words. User intent heavily influences the number of keywords we type.

Fewer keywords are more popular and competitive.

Photo showing fewer keywords are more popular; thus competitive. Source.

There is less competition, from an SEO perspective, for longer search terms. Some scholarly articles have argued that long tail queries were associated with poor search success. It is not a good idea to only target long tail queries.

Importance of long tail searches*

Easy to rank
More conversational and natural
Long tail searches work well with content marketing
Especially if you are creating an informal content marketing campaign or using actual questions.

*Modified from (The Marketing People no date: online).

User behaviour and algorithms

One thorough study of Yahoo log files found that 88% of repeat clicks occurred if search engine rankings did not change whereas 47% clicked on new websites if rankings changed. Searchers’ like new websites by exploring a range of results on a search engine results page.

How many keywords do you type into a search engine? Tweet Gerald.

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  1. Graphic, Visualization, and Usability Center. GVU’s Tenth WWW User Survey. October 1998.
  2. Lau, E.P. and Goh, D.H.L. (2006) In search of query patterns: A case study of of university OPAC. Information Processing and Management. 42[Issue number missing] pp. 1316–1329
  3. Ruthven, I. (2003) Re-examining the potential effectiveness of interactive query expansion. Proceedings of the 26th Annual ACM International Conference on Research and Develpoment in Information Retrieval. New York: ACM Press pp. 213–220
  4. Teevan, J. Adar, E. Jones, R. and Potts, M. (2006) History repeats itself: Repeat queries in Yahoo’s logs. SIGIR. pp. 703 — 704
  5. The Marketing People. (no date) 6 reasons why long tail searches are important too [Online] [Accessed on 09th September 2013]

Google: One person with multiple domains

So you have multiple websites and you link them but is this good practice?

Can I link all the websites I own? *

Linking a handful of websites is okay and may be appropriate, for instance, having site-a that sells ice cream to site-b that sells sweets. This is, obviously, a strong connection so this type of link is okay for Google. But the problem arises whenever you have 50 websites, for example, and you decide to link these sites together. Google does not like these kind of links because one person is unlikely to produce excellent content for 50 different websites.

*Adapted from (GoogleWebMasterHelp 2013: online)

The bigger picture

Since Google has confirmed AuthorRank they will be able to monitor these situations more closely. Before AuthorRank is implemented you are best sorting, if you have a lot of, domains out now. Only link to add to the user experience. One question which will keep you right: If I add link-z will this benefit my user in a direct way?

Posted by: Gerald Murphy
(Twitter) @GeraldMurphySEO
(WordPress) A blog about search engines. Search “gerald murphy seo”


  1. GoogleWebMasterHelp. (2013) Does linking my two sites together violate the quality guidelines? [Online] [Accessed on 25th April 2013] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0-jw_PfwtY

Quality, SEO and Google

What is ‘quality’ information?

One of my objectives for an undergraduate dissertation is to examine what the ‘added value’ of subscription services are. To do this I have to attempt to define what ‘quality’ is.

Markland (2005:23) states that there have been many attempts to define quality information but the following words are related to what ‘quality’ information might be:

  • Accurate
  • Current
  • Reliable
  • Peer reviewed
  • Speed
  • Relevance
  • Usefulness

Why does quality matter to Google?

Google (2013: online) suggests that the following four principles should be applied to every website: (i) make user-based pages, not search engine focused pages, (ii) don’t deceive your users, (iii) Avoid tricks to improve Google rankings (would you be comfortable explaining to someone what you have done?) (iv) Have unique, valuable or engaging information on your site to stand out from the crowd.

Quality information and Google

If your website is relevant and useful, or any other words identified by (Markland 2005:23), it is a quality website. Quality websites will have excellent rankings. Focusing on obtaining a quality website, therefore, will allow you to rank very high on Google.

From this post, alone, you can see that focusing on ‘quality’ is very important. If you want your website (blog, wiki…) to rank well on search engines you need to create quality information. Wikipedia’s relationship with Google, arguably, could explain why Wikipedia articles rank high for a lot of Google searches. Does this suggest that Google is placing more weight on quality information?

A personal case study of quality

This blog is attracting hundreds of hits for the following question: Is Bing better than Google? One could argue that this post is well written, a comment made by another blogger, which has allowed it to rank well on Google UK. To help with accuracy it is a good idea to include references on your website / blog post. A reference acts as an accurate, relevant factor for a topic by identifying that you have completed research.


  1. Google (2013) Webmaster Guidelines: Best practices to help Google find, crawl, and index your site [Online] [Accessed on 01th April 2013] http://alturl.com/s87u8
  2. Markland, M. (2005) Does the student’s love for the search engine mean high quality online academic resources are being missed? Performance Management and Metrics. 6(1) pp. 19 — 31.

SEO and Google

Optimising meta data for Google*

Develop and maintain an established domain name
Create a good URL and stick with it. Google places weight on the words your URL is comprised of, so it is a good idea to create a good URL: An URL, containing specific and important keywords, which is well thought out is a good URL.
It is also worth noting that links from established domain names are highly desired by Google. Links from universities, libraries and museums, for example, are very good links to obtain.
Robot friendly design
Avoid or minimise frames, forms, scripts, animations, log-ins and session identifiers
Use stylesheets and avoid mark-up clutter
Create CSS stylesheets, rather than combining CSS and HTML, to keep WebPages smaller and ‘proper’ by following best practice (i.e. semantic).
Text and content
Create excellent content, written clearly and explained fully, for your viewers. Do you ask a question at the top of the article? Is this question answered clearly in the article? Is the text well-laid out, clear and easy to read? These questions will help you create excellent content.
Links and meta data
Avoid using href=”click here” in link anchors. Make these links excellent by using descriptive links, such as, href=”Gerald Murphy’s search engine technology blog”
Meaningful title tags
Write descriptive title tags by making excellent use of English. The following questions will help you to write descriptive title tags: What is this page about in a few words? Does the title tag summerise the most important elements of this page?

*Adapted and expanded from (Dawson and Hamilton 2006:314)


  1. Dawson, A. and Hamilton, V. (2006) Optimising metadata to make high-value content more accessible to Google users. Journal of Documentation. 62(3) pp. 307-327

Back to basics: What can I do to improve my seo?

There are so many websites offering advice and guidance on how to improve your website’s rankings. This post touches on the basic things you should consider to improve your rankings.

Use a unique title and description
It is surprising how many people avoid using the title tag. Sometimes, in fact very often, people put one word into the title tag, but it should be used in full. What is the subject of this page? How can I say what this page is in one or two short sentences? Use these questions to make full use of the title tag.
Keep the title and description clear, concise and written with an interesting angle. Does the title and description grab a person’s attention? Would a person click through the search engine results page (SERP) and visit this page?
Strictly speaking a title tag is not meta data, or data about data, but search engines do use it. If search engines use it, you should too.
Use proper semantic code
There are lots of websites offering tips on how to write good HTML (semantic code). As a tip, use proper tags. If it’s a paragraph, tag is as a paragraph. Equally so, if it’s a main heading, tag it as a heading 1 tag, a sub heading, tag it as a heading 2 tag….
Think about the page layout. Does your site have an excellent structure? Is it clear? Do you help ‘scanners’ (i.e. include bullet points)? Does your HTML code follow best practices (i.e. do you only use one h1 tag? Followed by h2’s and h3-4s)?
Think about the user of your website
Would you say your site is user friendly? Do you put the user first, followed by seo second?
Search engines are getting clever because they recognise what most of the content is on your site. They do not mine all of it, but they have a fair idea what a webpage is actually about (i.e. term frequency etc). If you have good content, and semantic code relating to this content, you are putting the user at the focus of the site. Search engines like user focused websites.
If you are bored and want something to do, read your own website. Does the writing make sense? Is it easy, be honest, to navigate and read information? Do you ask a question as a heading, for example, and answer it in the body of the text? Is this answer clear? These sorts of questions allow you to start putting the user as the focus of your site.
Images and other ‘hidden’ content
Search engines cannot see pictures. For this reason meta data is important so search engines can read the pictures on your site. Does each image on your site include targeted keywords within the image’s name? Do you use alt text to explain what an image is?

I hope to expand on this post in the near future. I hope it was useful. Why have a great website if no one can find it?!

This post was updated on Sunday, 10th Feb 2013 (20:05) after an experienced visitor commented on my content (and points).

An analysis of the searches (so far) on my blog

“gerald murphy manchester metropolitan university” (within the first few weeks)
this returned a hit because I have used each of these words on this blog. In fact, these words are enclosed in heading tags, as well as, strong tags.
This search was generated at the end of November 2012. The hashtag suggests that someone was miming social media, and by doing so, my reblogged post on the free and open internet got picked up. Hence the hit.
“gerald murphy information and communication”
Just like the first point (above) a searcher landed on my blog, at the start of Dec, because each of these words appear on posts within this blog. Furthermore, they appear in the heading tags, or are enclosed in strong tags within paragraph tags.

How to improve your blog rankings

The first thing to do is register your blog to common search engines. You can do this via the WebMaster tools/settings. By doing so, search engines will send their bots to your site. These bots will gather information on your blog. You can make their work easier by using the proper tags in your HTML (heading tags, strong, emphasis etc).

By using proper HTML you can also place more value on your terms. If there is an important word (or phrase) place in in the heading. If you can think of few words to describe the whole post, place these in the title. If you want to help readers to scan your blog, put the important terms in bold (use the strong tag, not b). This is discussed in the SEO post last week.

Blogs are personal, not necessarily corporate

Traffic is good so long as it is relevant traffic. In other words, the focus should be on quality, not quantity because you want relevant searchers rather than a mass of frustrated searchers who land on your blog by accident. This blog, for example, is unlikely to get many hits, but it is likely to get many relevant hits. If a person searches for anything related to search engine technology, SEO and my name they will be directed to this blog. They are likely to know of me, if they don’t already know me.

Corporate companies, for this reason, are always looking a mass number of hits because they are well known, unlike Gerald Murphy!

Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation (abbreviated as SEO) is the ability to find websites on the Web by searching for keywords. True SEO is focusing on organic searches because the results are all related to the term(s) that have been searched, rather than displaying Pay Per Click results. One of the latest developments is Academic SEO because it makes various formats (e.g. media, PDF etc.) easily found [1].

Using the correct keywords allows you to be found. If you are using the wrong keywords, you will not have a lot of hits.

How do people find my blog?

The best way is to learn some basic HTML. Put a title on every post, use headings on each post, make important words/terms in bold. This will also help scanners to read your blog! The image below should get you started on good HTML practices.

How to use HTML on a blog or website

How to use HTML on a blog or website

How do people find geraldmurphysearch?

A “gerald murphy manchester metropolitan university” search will direct you to this blog, but why?
Short answer: by following good use of HTML. The detailed answer: I have posted a post with my name which was enclosed in a heading 1 tag, and it has been inserted in a title tag, as well as being printed in bold (or strong).
This meant that search engines could interpret these words as being important. For example, a heading 1 tag indicates that these words are related to the body of the text. Whereas the title keywords indicate what the whole document is about: what is this post saying?

Use the WebMaster tools
The blog is registered with search engine bots (the programs which scan and read the HTML tags and content) via the web-master tools under the settings tap of WordPress (see image below). This means that bots visit this blog from time to time, doing a quick scan of what tags I have, and index them so people can search for them.
WordPress' Tools

Where to find the WebMaster settings on WordPress?

How do you improve your rankings?

Organic searches take a little time, but a good place to start is with your HTML. You don’t need to be a technie person to use HTML. HTML is just the start, one you write a post ask yourself:

How can I sum up this post using 5-10 words?

Write these words as tags. Next, ask yourself does the title tag sum up the whole post? Are the most important terms in the heading tag?

This post, for example, might be displayed for the following search terms “how to improve search engine optimisation rankings”. Hopefully you know why*?!


  1. Beel, J., Gipp, B., WildeAcademic, E. (2010) Search Engine Optimization (ASEO): Optimizing Scholarly Literature for Google Scholar & Co. [PDF available on this link]

* SEO is in the title tag (title of the post), “improve” and “rankings” are in a heading tags.