Weekly SEO news: 29 April 2008
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

This week, we're taking a look at the usability of your web pages. A new Yahoo patent application indicates that your website usability can have an effect on your search engine rankings.

In the news: the click-fraud rate goes slightly down, Google gives tips on how to avoid web spam, a court finds that the keywords meta tag doesn't matter and more.

Table of contents:

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it helps you to get more out of your website. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Can your website usability influence your search engine rankings?

Do search engines care about the usability of your web pages? Does it make a difference whether your web pages are easy to navigate or not?

A recent patent application from Yahoo indicates that search engines might take a look at your web page design. The document includes a long list of factors that search engines can consider to determine the usability of a web page.

Why can usability be important to search engines?

The patent application contains a short paragraph that explains why search engines might consider the usability of web pages:

"It can be important to make web pages easy and pleasing to use, which can be particularly important for web pages it is desired to monetize. [...].

If such web pages are not easy and pleasing to use, the money-making potential of those web pages can be jeopardized. One conventional indication of whether a web page is easy and pleasing to use is called 'clutter.'"

Web pages with good usability usually have a higher conversion rate than cluttered web pages. Web pages with good usability often have a higher quality than other web pages and search engines try to return high quality web pages in their search results.

Which factors can search engines analyze to determine the clutter of your pages?

Yahoo's patent applications provides a list of 51 web page elements that can be analyzed to determine the clutter of a web page:

  • Total number of links
  • Total number of words
  • Total number of images (non-ad images)
  • Image area above the fold (non-ad images)
  • Dimensions of page
  • Page area (total)
  • Page length
  • Total number of tables
  • Maximum table columns (per table)
  • Maximum table rows (per table)
  • Total rows
  • Total columns
  • Total cells
  • Average cell padding (per table)
  • Average cell spacing (per table)
  • Dimensions of fold
  • Fold area
  • Location of center of fold relative to center of page
  • Total number of font sizes used for links
  • Total number of font sizes used for headings
  • Total number of font sizes used for body text
  • Total number of font sizes
  • Presence of “tiny” text
  • Total number of colors (excluding ads)
  • Alignment of page elements
  • Average page luminosity
  • Fixed vs. relative page width
  • Page weight (proxy for load time)
  • Total number of ads
  • Total ad area
  • Area of individual ads
  • Area of largest ad above the fold
  • Largest ad area
  • Total area of ads above the fold
  • Page space allocated to ads
  • Total number of external ads above the fold
  • Total number of external ads below the fold
  • Total number of external ads
  • Total number of internal ads above the fold
  • Total number of internal ads below the fold
  • Total number of internal ads
  • Number of sponsored link ads above the fold
  • Number of sponsored link ads below the fold
  • Total number of sponsored link ads
  • Number of image ads above the fold
  • Number of image ads below the fold
  • Total number of image ads
  • Number of text ads above the fold
  • Number of text ads below the fold
  • Total number of text ads
  • Position of ads on page

According to the patent application, Yahoo might also consider the presence of animated and flashing ads and the average ad luminosity.

What does this mean to your web pages?

Good website usability can greatly improve the conversion rate of your website. If your website gets many visitors but only a few sales then it might be that your web pages are too cluttered and that you have to improve your website design.

Google has a similar patent application with the name "Detecting and rejecting annoying documents" so it seems that good website design becomes more and more important if you want to get high search engine rankings.

The HTML code of your web pages must make a good impression to search engines. If search engines find that your web pages don't have the right content then these pages cannot get high search engine rankings.

Analyze your web pages with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer to find out how search engines see the contents of your web pages and what you can do to improve your pages so that they get top 10 rankings on Google and Yahoo.

Analyze your website now

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2. Search engine news of the week
Industry click fraud rate down slightly for first quarter 2008

"The overall industry average click fraud rate was 16.3 percent for Q1 2008. That’s down slightly from the 16.6 percent rate reported for Q4 2007 and up from the 14.8 percent click fraud rate reported for Q1 2007. [...]

In Q1 2008, the greatest percentage of click fraud originating from countries outside North America came from Monaco (3.1 percent), Ghana (3.1 percent), and New Caledonia (2.4 percent)."

Google's pointers on countering Web spam

"Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team and an engineer who's been working on the problem for eight years, offered some tips about combating it."

Court says keyword meta tags don't matter

"SEOs and SEMs have known for years that most search engines ignore or give minimal acknowledgement to keyword metatags. Lawyers, on the other hand, have been living in a parallel fantasy universe where keyword metatags single-handedly divert unwaveringly brand-loyal customers to piratical competitors."

Editor's note: If you want to know which web page elements are important to get high rankings, you should analyze your website now.

Search engine newslets

  • Yahoo introduces a variable minimum bid for YSM.
  • Google product search has been updated.
  • Yahoo tries to find the local center of search queries (PDF).
  • Google hiring freeze?
  • Yahoo Japan drops most in 2 years on profit miss.
  • Google shaking up URLs in search ads?
  • Justice dept looking at Google/Yahoo test.
  • Google your name, make a movie on what you find.

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3. Articles of the week
What Yahoo's board did wrong

"In the Microsoft-Yahoo saga, I believe Steve Ballmer was brave. He faced the truth and saw that, while Microsoft had spared no expense and made a valiant effort to compete in the Internet space, those efforts would not be enough to ensure the continued growth of the company. That's why its stock has languished in recent years. Analysts and smart investors know this."

A Google prototype for a precision image search

"Google researchers say they have a software technology intended to do for digital images on the Web what the company’s original PageRank software did for searches of Web pages."

The real threat to Google

"As more people use cell phones and their tiny glass screens to gain access to the Internet, Google and its fellow online advertisers will have less space, or what's called ad inventory, to place marketing messages for customers. Google makes money selling ad inventory. And its ad inventory is diminished on a cell phone."

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4. Success stories

"My website now ranks number 1 on Google. "

"Since using IBP we have been chipping away at the SEO mountain. We are a small US manufacturer (about $10 million in sales) and have huge International competitors that spend hundreds of thousands on their website and have offices around the world.

Once a month or so I run a report of the top 10 for my primary keyword. The previous report listed us as number 6. This time a got a strange dialog box that said it could not run the report because we were ranked #1 and it had no sites above us to compare us to!!! We are now #1 in 142 countries! Thanks IBP, you didn't make it easy, but you made it possible."
Larry Dunville President/Owner, www.DearbornCrane.com

Share your success story with us

Let us know how IBP has helped you to improve your website and we might publish your success story with a link to your website in this newsletter. The more detailed your story is, the better.

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5. Previous articles

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