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Developing a model to facilitate search engine optimization of websites by non-IT professionals

Master's Thesis 2009 114 Pages

Computer Science - Internet, New Technologies

Excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF TABLES

LIST OF FIGURES

Chapter 1. Introduction
1.1 Scope
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 Issues of Concern
1.4 Open Questions
1.5 Approach
1.6 Outcome
1.7 Contribution

Chapter 2. Background and Review of Literature
2.1 Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
2.2 Search Engines and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
2.3 Keyword Research
2.4 Keyword Placement
2.5 Link Building
2.6 Site Structure
2.7 Web Analytics and Metrics
2.8 Intelligent Search Engines

Chapter 3. Methodology and Design
3.1 Research Problem
3.2 Methodology
3.3 Design
3.3.1 Building the Model
3.3.1.1 Preparation for Testing Website Performance
3.3.1.2 Self-Assessment and Competition Analysis
3.3.1.3 Source Code Optimization
3.3.1.4 Off-Site Optimization
3.3.2 Testing the Model
3.3.2.1 SEO Inventory
3.3.2.2 Keyword Research and Selection
3.3.2.3 Source Code Effectiveness and Eliminating Page Errors
3.3.2.4 Acceptance Test and Evaluation

Chapter 4. Applying the Model
4.1 Selecting Websites
4.2 Installation of the Tools
4.3 SEO Inventory
4.3.1 SEO Inventory Feedback
4.4 Keyword Research
4.4.1 Analyzing Competitors
4.4.2 Selecting and Placing the Keywords
4.4.3 Finalizing the Keyword Research and Implementation Stage
4.5 Optimizing Source Code
4.5.1 Locating further Sources of Errors
4.5.2 Finalizing the Source Code Optimization Stage
4.6 Link Building
4.6.1 Link Building Feedback
4.7 Outcome

Chapter 5. Methods and Realization
5.1 Selection of Participants
5.2 Analysis
5.3 Case Study 1: FSTS Sprachreisen (Language Trip Courses)
5.3.1 Inventory of Website Performance
5.3.2 Analysis of the Keyword Density
5.3.3 Keyword Popularity compared to Competitors
5.3.4 Keyword Optimization Approach
5.3.5 Keyword Optimization Feedback
5.3.6 Source Code Optimization
5.3.7 Link Building
5.3.8 FSTS Check-List
5.4 Case Study 2: Deutschinstitut (German Language Courses)
5.4.1 Inventory of Website Performance
5.4.2 Analysis of the Keyword Density
5.4.3 Keyword Popularity compared to Competitors
5.4.4 Keyword Optimization Approach
5.4.5 Keyword Optimization Feedback
5.4.6 Source Code Optimization
5.4.7 Link Building
5.4.8 Deutschinstitut Check-List
5.5 Case Study 3: SALT Pro (Skills and Language Training)
5.5.1 Inventory of Website Performance
5.5.2 Analysis of the Keyword Density
5.5.3 Keyword Popularity compared to Competitors
5.5.4 Keyword Optimization Approach
5.5.5 Keyword Optimization Feedback
5.5.6 Source Code Optimization
5.5.7 Link Building
5.5.8 SALT Pro Check-List

Chapter 6. Results and Evaluation
6.1 SEO Awareness Feedback
6.2 SEO Inventory Feedback
6.3 SEO Metrics Feedback
6.4 Indicators of Improvement
6.5 Keyword Optimization
6.5.1 Analysis of Keyword Optimization
6.5.2 Keyword Analysis Feedback
6.6 Source Code Optimization
6.7 Final Feedback
6.7.1 FSTS Results - Summary
6.7.2 Deutschinstitut Results - Summary
6.7.3 SALT Pro Results - Summary

Chapter 7. Conclusions
7.1 Lessons Learned
7.2 Critical Analysis of the Research
7.3 Future Activity
7.4 Prospects for Further Work

REFRENCES CITED

Appendix A. Tables
A.1 Results from Questionnaires
A.2 Online Performance Reports

Appendix B. Screen Shots
B.1 FSTS Screen Shots
B.2 Deutschinstitut Screen Shots
B.3 SALT Pro Screen Shots

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1 Results from the preliminary questionaire how SEO has been handled

Table 2 FSTS: SEO Inventory Feedback from 25 February 2009

Table 3 FSTS: SEO Metrics Feedback from 8 April 2009

Table 4 Deutschinstitut: SEO Inventory Feedback from 26 February 2009

Table 5 Deutschinstitut: SEO Metrics Feedback from 23 April 2009

Table 6 SALT Pro: SEO Inventory Feedback from 7 April 2009

Table 7 SALT Pro: SEO Metrics Feedback from 27 February 2009

Table 8 FSTS Keyword Research and SERP Comparison

Table 9 Deutschinstitut Keyword Research and SERP Comparison

Table 10 SALT Pro Keyword Research and SERP Comparison

Table 11 Summary of the Google Analytics Report

Table 12 SERP bevore and after optimization

Table 13 Results of the FSTS optimization cycle

Table 14 Results of the Deutschinstitut optimization cycle

Table 15 Results of the SALT Pro optimization cycle

Table 16 Comparison of slow pages before and after the optimization

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1. FSTS: indexed pages compared to competitors on 14 February 2009

Figure 2. FSTS: indexed pages compared to competitors on 21 April 2009

Figure 3. FSTS: link popularity compared to competitors on 14 February 2009

Figure 4. FSTS: link popularity compared to competitors on 21 April 2009

Figure 5. FSTS: PageRank bevore optimization in December 2008

Figure 6. FSTS: PageRank after optimization in April 2009

Figure 7. FSTS: SERP for keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt england’ on 24 March 2009

Figure 8. FSTS: SERP for keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt england’ on 21 April 2009

Figure 9. FSTS: SERP for keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’ on 24 March 2009

Figure 10. FSTS: SERP for keyword ‘feriensprachkurse’ on 24 March 2009

Figure 11. FSTS: SERP for keywords ‘feriensprachkurse’ and ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’ on 12 May 2009

Figure 12. FSTS: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 31March 2009

Figure 13. FSTS: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 24 April 2009

Figure 14. FSTS: errors and problems detected on 04 Mav 2009

Figure 15. FSTS: W3C validation errors and warnings before and after optimization

Figure 16. Deutschinstitut: indexed pages compared to competitors on 29 March 2009

Figure 17. Deutschinstitut: indexed pages compared to competitors om 25. April 2009

Figure 18. Deutschinstitut: link popularity compared to competitors on 29 March 2009

Figure 19. Deutschinstitut: link popularity compared to competitors on 25 April 2009

Figure 20. Deutschinstitut: PageRank bevore optimization in December 2008

Figure 21. Deutschinstitut: PageRank after optimization in April 2009

Figure 22. Deutschinstitut: SERP for keyword phrase ‘german courses’ on 26 March 2009

Figure 23. Deutschinstitut: SERP for keyword phrase ‘deutsch kurse’ on 26 March 2009

Figure 24. Deutschinstitut: SERP for keyword phrases ‘german courses’ and ‘deutsch kurse’ on 03 May 2009

Figure 25. Deutschinstitut: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 31March 2009

Figure 26. Deutschinstitut: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 24 April 2009

Figure 27. Deutschinstitut: errors and problems detected on 05 Mav 2009

Figure 28. Deutschinstitut: W3C validation errors and warnings before and after optimization

Figure 29. SALT Pro: indexed pages compared to competitors on 29 March 2009

Figure 30. SALT Pro: indexed pages compared to competitors on 25 April 2009

Figure 31. SALT Pro: link popularity compared to competitors on 29 March 2009

Figure 32. SALT Pro: link popularity compared to competitors on 25 April 2009

Figure 33. SALT Pro: PageRank bevore optimization in December 2008

Figure 34. SALT Pro: PageRank after optimization in April 2009

Figure 35. SALT Pro: SERP for keyword phrase ‘coaching’ on 29 March 2009

Figure 36. SALT Pro: SERP for keyword phrases ‘business consulting’ and ‘business english’ on 29 March 2009

Figure 37. SALT Pro: SERP for keyword phrases ‘assertiveness training’, ‘business consulting’ and ‘business english’ on 01 May 2009

Figure 38. SALT Pro: SERP for keyword phrases ‘assertiveness training’ and ‘systemic coaching’ on 10 May 2009

Figure 39. SALT Pro: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 31March 2009

Figure 40. SALT Pro: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 24 April 2009

Figure 41. SALT Pro: errors and problems detected on 06 Mav 2009

Figure 42. SALT Pro: W3C validation errors and warnings before and after optimization

Chapter 1. Introduction

In the late 1990ies and early 2010s for an enterprise operating a website has been considered to be useful, but not really necessary. This attitude has been profoundly changed in recent years. For a typical online shop operating a website has been always essential, but not for enterprises which have been used to acquire new customers in the traditional ways. [4]

This research examines how the growing potentials of a virtual presentation have been implemented by Small and Medium Enterprises (SME's), and facilitates the optimization of websites for search engines. The research suggests that the development of the Internet and especially new approaches in search engine technology have been profoundly neglected by the majority of website owners or managers. Thousands of websites bop up and down in the virtual sea of the Internet. They are barely visible within the concentrated search focus achieved by the big players. Large enterprises usually have their IT staff taking care of, and optimizing their online presence. With this superiority of technical capital small company websites remain unrecognized. The awareness of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and its easy implementation need to be improved. Also the evolving trends of Internet search technologies will be addressed. Enterprises have to know how they can benefit from the latest developments.

1.1 Scope

Before an optimization can be implemented, knowledge has to be acquired how enterprises currently handle Search Engine Optimization, if at all. The information gathered from questionnaires will provide basic data. It has to be considered that most website owners are barely aware of SEO, therefore the initial questions need to be very basic, and in a way that they can be answered by non-IT professionals. The whole idea of this research is to introduce the potentials of Search Engine Optimization to non-IT professionals. A clear step by step procedure will lead website owners from one stage to another. The process can be sub-divided into 6 stages. Each one them depends on the results of the previous ones, and at the end the results will show if the target has been hit, and if further actions are needed. Generally, SEO has to be understood as a continuous process. Ones the first cycle of optimization has been completed, one can rarely lay back and relax. The performance has to be continuously observed, and the web pages have to be optimized again to be visible for search engines and the Internet users.

The mentioned stages of SEO which website owners and managers will be introduced to are:

1. Metrics – At the beginning the general state of the website has to be analyzed. First the website owner or manager needs to know the actual condition of the company’s virtual presence. This information can be gathered from programs and online tools which show the site’s statistics.
2. Inventory – Data taken from an analyzing program provide the base for starting the process, but also the comparison with competitors. The weak points need to be defined. The gathered data will be compared with data which will be collected later during the process of optimization.
3. Analyzing Market – This stage of the optimization process contains the greatest potentials. Knowing what users are searching for and how other companies deal with these issues is vital for the successful optimization process. The basic question which needs to be answered is how do users search for products and services offered by enterprises?
4. Objectives – The purpose of the optimization is to improve visibility, and the degree of popularity of the website. It is desirable to get a distinctive increase of website accesses. The illusion of a continuous rise - without subside - of user access has to be put into perspective. Generally, an up and down of the number of user accesses will be observed, although the trend should indicate an increase.
5. Implementation – The average website owner normally is occupied with the core business of his or her enterprise, and can not carry out all stages of the optimization. Usually non-technical tasks like market research and analyzing site traffic can be done by the website owner or manager. The task of editing and improving the source code has to be left to IT-professionals. Generally, the way of communication between website owners and IT-professionals determines the quality of the end result.
6. Observing Performance – A distinctive increase of popularity and site accesses does not happen over night. Optimization has to be understood as a continuous process. The content of a well authored website always changes, and therefore the source code also needs to be adjusted. Finally, the result of an ongoing performance monitoring determines the next steps of the optimization.

In this work the organic optimization of websites will be discussed. This concept can be understood as the process where no paid advertisement campaign is involved. Such Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertisement options are offered by search engine operators like Google, Yahoo! or Live Search. The success of these campaigns depends largely on the advertisement budget chosen by the enterprises. [5]

1.2 Problem Statement

Within a decade the way how consumers have been searching for products and services has changed profoundly. In highly technology developed areas of the world the PC is the main instrument for finding information. The big players have learned to cope with the changing search engine algorithms and made their websites visible, so that their products and services are easily found by potential customers. Smaller enterprises not having their own IT-department on board are often left behind. Still the average website owners believe that having an online presence is just enough effort to attract new customers. There is still the common misapprehension that it is sufficient to have a few Meta tags in the source code which describe the company’s products and services. The fact is that there are still an alarming number of web pages which do not have any title (‘no title’).

For companies who want to improve their websites it is often difficult to know where to start. Often dubious SEO providers take advantage of the website owner’s lack of basic knowledge. There have been cases where enterprises bought an SEO package, hoping to get a top ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) of the major search engines. This might only work for a short period, until search engine algorithms recognize the spamming attempts, and then punish the site by downgrading its rank, or in worst case banning the site from the indexes at all. [6]

Generally, the website owners or managers who are non-IT professional need to be provided with clear step by step instructions how to optimize their web presence. An enterprise which has neglected the optimization of its website first needs to recognize the necessity of improvement. Once the enterprise is aware of the potentials it needs to be instructed how SEO best practices have to be implemented.

1.3 Issues of Concern

The reality is that not all SME website owners or managers can be addressed with this study, but the goal is - after this work has been published - to reach as many companies as possible, so they adopt the ideas of this research. Only 10 out of 130 companies contacted by e-mail agreed to take part in this research. This either proves that the awareness of SEO among website owners is still very low, or the enterprises rated the inquiry as spam mail. The selected companies will be required to install software tools to monitor the process which could be already a hurdle for some of them. As the project will go on the hurdles will getting higher. Among these are defining their closest competitors, selecting the appropriate keywords and phrases for certain pages, and monitoring the process. The main part of SEO is market research, the rest is public relations and implementation of source code editing, and monitoring the performance. SEO does not come easy. It is a lot of work, and participating companies must be aware of that.

To see the results of the optimization process website owners or managers need to be patient. There will be roughly 2 months available for the implementations. Results will not be visible immediately.

1.4 Open Questions

During the process of the optimization there might be some questions which will arise. From the author’s side that could be:

- Will all participants follow the given instructions?
- Will they be able to install the required tools and programs?
- Will the required data be available on time to continue the process?
On the other hand, the participants could have doubts if they will get the desired results by following the instructions given.
- Will the selection of keywords improve the ranking of a certain web page, or will it fall back?
- Will the implementation of inbound or outbound links improve the website popularity, or will it be downgraded by certain search engines?

1.5 Approach

To understand how Internet search is employed and how web pages can be optimized now and in the future, an understanding of today's search engines methods and evolving trends is necessary. In the project it will be discussed that web pages are treated differently by search engines, and how the search optimization is influenced by factors like keyword selection, content, structure, internal and external links. The base of a successful optimization is the website's content, but that is not enough do deal with the ever increasing competition on the World Wide Web.

In the research several websites of small enterprises will be investigated to find out why some show a better performance than others. It will be also interesting to learn if the web- site owners in general are aware of the SEO potentials, and its importance. In 3 cases where an optimization promises to improve a website's ranking, and therefore increase the website's traffic, procedures according to search engine guidelines will be applied. [19] The test will show if the implemented improvements will lead to a more successful web presence of these selected enterprises. It is equally important to find out if procedures for optimizing websites can be reproduced, and if they can be applied the same way in the near future. Methods like the semantic search promise a better handling of the ever increasing available information, and therefore a more efficient search experience for the Internet user. These evolving technologies will be also critically evaluated. In the conclusion recommendations will be given to website owners, managers and programmers that they have to be aware of technology changes, and if necessary adapt to these changes.

1.6 Outcome

Based on data collected from interviews a series of metrics will be specified to aid in the identification of website optimization levels. These will be used to determine which websites need to be optimized. At the on-page optimization the content, code and links will be optimized, based on the targeted audience. At the off-page optimization partnership with operators of other websites will be encouraged. This part of the project depends heavily on the cooperation of all participants. The websites will then be re-tested by applying the metrics initially identified to indicate optimization levels existing, prior to the optimization process. The results will be critically evaluated to determine the success of the metrics, and whether the methods applied have led to a more successful web presence. A model of the process will be developed and deployed to selected SMEs for testing. Similarly, the websites optimized by SMEs utilizing the model will be evaluated utilizing the metrics, to help determine the success of the model. Additionally, a questionnaire will be developed for the SMEs to help determine the usability of the model. All results will be critically evaluated.

Search Engine Optimization is based on ongoing proceedings. Once a website has been optimized, its performance has to be tested continuously. This can be only efficiently achieved if the information given to the website owners is based on non-technical recommendations.

1.7 Contribution

Often the process of website optimization is one sided, and for the website owner or manager who has limited knowledge of web technology difficult to understand. IT professionals are mainly focused on the technical implementation.

The website operator first has to research the market before he or she can give instructions for the technical implementations which are required for an optimization. The website owner or manager will be instructed how to use online resources to find his or her place in the market. These tools will also help to decide what keywords and phrases should be used, so that the products and services described on the website are found by potential customers. The research aims to involve the website owner or manager in the process. This will raise his or her awareness of the competition who tries hard to get to the top position of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and that an optimization of the website and monitoring its performance is a vital part of the online marketing.

The main work of the optimization is market research and promoting the website. These two important parts of the optimization process can not be outsourced. Only the owner or manager knows his or her closest competitors, and is able to promote the enterprise's online presence. Once the operator of a website is involved in the process, he or she will better understand the potentials, but also the limits of an optimization, therefore the website owner or manager will be able to better communicate with his or her webmaster.

When these requirements have been meet then the objectives can be implemented and the well informed website owner or manager will be able to better understand and monitor the process. With this approach the communication between non-IT and IT professionals will be improved. This is the precondition for a successful optimization process, and eventually improved website performance.

Optimization of the content and the promotion of the website have to be regarded as a continuous process. The process can not be finalized at a certain point. The conclusion will be the website operator periodically has to monitor the performance of the enterprise's online presence, and take immediate action when the performance deteriorates due to more aggressive competitors or changes in search engine algorithms.

Chapter 2. Background and Review of Literature

The topic of optimizing web pages to get a top placement on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) has been heavily discussed in literature and online resources. But like with many technology oriented news the knowledge is shared among experts and does rarely get to the person who really depends on it, in this case the website owner or manager. Even when it gets there it is often not properly understood because of the way it is presented.

2.1 Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Webmasters, developers, programmers and SEO experts have been learning to live with the way search engines absorb and present the available information on Internet, but the website owner often remains disoriented. Usually website owners and webmasters have to work together to make an enterprise's website visible. Scanlan (2008) clearly explained that when someone searches for products or services your enterprise wants to sell and your site does not appear on the first page of search results, than your site is considered to be invisible. [7] This is a tough statement because there are only 10 places available.

Search Engine Optimization is all about making the pages of a website visible for search engine spiders. To start with the optimization the actual performance of the website has to be analyzed. Important factors are the number of indexed pages, inbound links and PageRank. The latter factor depends on the popularity and age of the pages. Scanlan (2008) recommended that the goal of the optimization is to be at least two units ahead of the PageRank your closest competitor has. [7]

In their paper Ghose and Yang (2008) stated that “SEO refers to the process of tailoring a website to optimize its unpaid (or ‘organic’) ranking for a given set of keywords or phrases”. [5] Organic optimization means that no advertisement campaigns have been used. The success depends fully on the optimization of the content, site structure, external and inbound links. Generally, non-organic optimization falls under the definition of Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

2.2 Search Engines and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Rognerud (2008) described that Google, Microsoft, Ask and Yahoo! are the four big players in the search engine market. Google has the largest market share. [8] The founders of Google profoundly have changed the way search engine used to index pages. According to Brin and Page (1998) PageRank was a new approach how the web pages were ranked. The citation graph of the Web which was largely unused in existing search engines has been an important resource for defining the quality of web pages. Therefore Google search results were considered to be more relevant. This reputation helped the market leader to attract the majority of Internet users and advertisers as well. [9]

When an enterprise decides to include (SEM) Search Engine Marketing (non-organic SEO) in the optimization process, then it has to use an advertising service offered by the major search engines like Google, Live Search or Yahoo!. Google AdWords for example tries to attract customers by offering them a service which does not exceed a predefined budget. An advertiser can define keywords, and add them to the Goggle AdWords account. When a user clicks on the ad, then the company will be charged with a fee which depends on the amount the advertiser has bid on. Feldman et al. (2007, p.3) stated in their paper that “the ultimate goal of an advertiser is to maximize traffic to their website, given a certain advertising budget”. [10]

2.3 Keyword Research

Search Engine Optimization is based on the selection of popular keywords and phrases. Usually the web page content already provides keywords which can be used for optimization. Once a list of keyword has been created it can be expanded by brainstorming. King (2008, p.13) recommended benchmarking the competitor’s websites to see which keywords they use, and also to include plurals, splits, stems, synonyms and common misspellings. [11] For the website owner or manager there are various free online tools available for the keyword research.

Google offers free online research tools like Google Trends, Insights for search, AdWords, and the Suggest Tool. Also yahoo.com provides with its search field a simple way to find popular keywords and phrases. King (2008) mentioned that these free tools are limited compared to paid services like Wordtracker. For ambitious website operators and SEO professionals he recommended using Wordtracker for streamlining the process of key phrase discovery. King (2008, p.15) stated that the ultimate goal is “to discover the primary key phrase that accurately describes the overall business, product, or service but which still has adequate search demand”. [11]

2.4 Keyword Placement

Keywords which are placed in the URL and title of a web page have the highest impact on search engine spiders. Also keywords should be also included in the Meta section of the source code. Experience has shown that keywords placed in Meta description have more value then those in the Meta keywords. The reason for this is that in recent years many webmasters were abusing this section of the source code by keyword stuffing. Therefore search engine algorithms had to be changed to disregard such spamming attempts.

Rognerud (2008) explained that search engines today don't put too much emphasis on the keyword Meta tag, as it is largely ignored. Therefore critical keywords and phrases should embedded within bold tags and heading tags. Also the use of keywords is recommended in anchor text and hyperlinks. Using these tags puts more emphasizes on the selected keywords and phrases, and improves the chance to be indexed by search engines.[8]

2.5 Link Building

The founders of Google paved the way that pages are not only valued by their defined keywords, but also how they are valued by Internet users. It has been Google's motivation that ‘popular’ pages will be more useful for the person searching the Web than pages which have been indexed by the keyword based approach. To gain popularity inbound links are needed.

Inbound links can come organic if the website provides informative content which other website operators find worth to mention. But with the vast information available on the Internet a web page can stay unnoticed for years. Social networks might help to get some links, but without any other initiative the popularity of the site will stay low. If content seems worth to be mentioned, than partnership with other website owners and webmasters has to be encouraged. This can be achieved by kindly asking a webmaster of a particular site to place a link, or attract other webmasters with a ‘Link to us’ message on the website. Either way nobody wants a link to or from a web page with a low PageRank, or a bad reputation. Walter (2008) described that the number and quality of sites which link to your own site determine how Google rates the reputation of your site. [12]

2.6 Site Structure

Generally, SEO is largely focused on the selection of keywords, and link building. All the good efforts can be degraded by an unfavorable site design, and overloaded source code. A site design which is user friendly is not always search engine robots friendly. Walter (2008) explained that graphical enhanced websites using JavaScript or Flash technology can be a barrier for search engine spiders. In such cases the webmaster is challenged to change the source which makes the site more findable. [12]

The optimization of the source code is usually difficult to understand by a website owner or manager who is not an IT professional. One way to check if a site structure does not oppose any barriers to search engines is by disabling the JavaScript and CSS functions to see if all content is still available. When designing or optimizing a website a progressive enhancement is recommended. Walter (2008) explained that by keeping the structure (HTML), presentation (CSS), and behavior (JavaScript) separate the content remains accessible to search engine spiders. [12]

To further test the quality of a website the owner should use a SEO analyzing program or online tool to get some useful information how the site has been programmed. With this information the webmaster can be confronted, and be instructed to improve the site.

2.7 Web Analytics and Metrics

If an enterprise hires a SEO specialist for optimizing its Web presences, or tries to get the job done by itself, then it is vital to specify Web metrics. To assist in analyzing online traffic, indexed pages, link popularity and PageRank, various software packages and online tools are available. With their standardized reports typically user sessions and details, and the quality of the website’s source code can be determined. For marketing strategies it is important to know how users access the pages, and from where they come. But some limitations have to be taken into account when interpreting data from server log files, as it is discussed by Weischedel and Huizingh (2006). Among these limitations are cached pages which are not logged by the server, search engine robots requests or the true location of the visitors. [13]

Even though the website owner has to anticipate imprecise results, the general trend of the performance should be observed. Some pages might perform better than others. Rognerud (2008) explained that by monitoring the entering and the exit pages, and keeping an eye how long visitors spend on each page will give an idea what keeps the visitors interested, and what might cause them to leave your site. [8]

The website owner or manager will soon learn that a significant increase in traffic wont just happen overnight. The time it takes to see the result of an SEO effort depends largely on the products and services the enterprise offers, and the number of websites it competes against.

2.8 Intelligent Search Engines

Search engines have been trying to deliver search results that match the meaning of the search query. Measuring the popularity of a web page is one attempt trying to improve the quality of search results. But all the good intentions can be degraded by spamming attempts. Designing a 100 percent spam proof system seems impossible. SEO hackers will always find a way to outsmart a so called ‘bullet proof’ system. [6] To get to the point Hakia (2008) stated that “today's search engines bring popular results via statistical ranking methods but a popular website may not always be credible, and a credible website may not always be popular. As a result, searchers suffer in many ways ranging from wasted search time to using misleading information”. [14].

The idea of the semantic Web has been discussed over the last decade. The Internet user needs a search engine which delivers more accurate search results than the current search engines do. Swoggle and Kosmix are just two examples which try to improve the quality of Internet search in the near future. But the lack of widespread adaptation and popularization has made the idea of the ‘intelligent’ search a theoretical issue.

Questions like how information in HTML will be transformed into machine readable data has only been answered partly. In their paper Plessers and De Troyer (2004) discussed the integration of annotation into the original phases of the Web Site Design Method (WSDM). They justified their theory because “this way we can take advantage of the information available during the website design process to ease and improve the annotation process”. [15] Although the described process seemed logical, but the question arises how the contents of billions of already existing web pages can be annotated in a practical and cost effective manner.

Anyone using the Web and involved in SEO must be prepared that the way we search for and write content may change profoundly in the near future when a small company called Powerset was acquired by Microsoft for $ 100 million. Currently Powerset's search is limited to the information presented on Wikipedia. The search query can be either entered in the ‘usual’ way or in a natural language style. There is no need to add semantic information to the HTML page with the use of ontology. By reading a text Powerset ‘understands’ its meaning by making ontological relations. This approach could solve the problems which slowed the widespread application of the semantic search. Finally delivering rich content would be the only way to get a top ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The question is if an approach such as Powerset has in mind can be applied for the whole Web, according to Greenberg (2008). [16]

Chapter 3. Methodology and Design

This research is based on the assumption that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of websites is widely neglected by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The reason for this could be either the lack of awareness for implementing SEO or the lack of available technical capital. It can be assumed that enterprises with their own IT department should be aware of the latest SEO practices.

Literature which covers the optimization of websites for search engine addresses IT professionals by the majority. The average company owner who is mainly focused on the core business often has limited resources to deal with ‘technical’ details. This research aims to educate the average website owner or manager that for successfully operating a website a basic understanding of SEO procedures is needed, and that the collaboration with IT professionals is vital.

3.1 Research Problem

For the project a number of enterprises will be selected which agree to implement SEO procedures for their websites. The websites to be optimized should have a manageable size which allows optimizing the content and source code within a set period. Enterprises which are interested in taking part in the research will be provided with a preliminary questionnaire to find out how they have been handling their online presence, and if there is a need for action. (Table 1)

The research outlines how SEO procedures will be implemented by enterprises following instructions according to a developed model. To evaluate the effectiveness of the recommended implementations a set of metrics has to be applied, and then measured. This metrics will be applied according to standard SEO procedures. Such procedures include benchmarking websites by analyzing their performance, and improving the following characteristics:

- Traffic - this gives the website operator information about total visitors, percentage of new visitors, average time spent on website, and bounce rate, over a specified period.
- Indexed pages - the efforts of a Search Engine Optimization can by evaluated by the number of indexed pages by a search engine. If a web page’s content seems ‘relevant’ to search engines robots, chances are higher to be include in their index.
- Inbound links - the number of links referring to the owner’s website largely depends on its content which is worth to refer to, and actively popularizing the web pages in social bookmark services and online indexes.
- PageRank - this widely adopted valuation of a web page is the result of a rigorous SEO implementation.

3.2 Methodology

The realization of this research is oriented on the principals of the Action Research (AR) as it was discussed by Baskerville (1999). It can be regarded as participatory method based on a five-step method. The participants will be guided trough the diagnosing, action planning, action taking, evaluating and specify learning phase. [17]

By implementing Search Engine Optimization it is vital that enterprises who apply the suggested model can get immediate access to the website data. Keeping in mind that the research is focused to non-IT professionals, the data have to be easily accessible. To get a meaningful result, the same sets of metrics have to be applied before and after the optimization.

The stepwise process of search engine optimization will be carried out in a controlled environment. The tested enterprises will be provided with the necessary tools, enabling them to independently test the implemented improvements. [17] To verify if the procedures have been properly implemented, the results will be evaluated according to the set metrics. At the end of each stage the participants will have to report the results of the stepwise implementation.

3.3 Design

The project will describe the approach where already available software is used to implement the SEO process. The stages are adapted from the “classical waterfall model” as it was described by Dawson (2005, p.114). The development of the model will be subdivided into the following stages: [18]

- Requirements Analysis – data needs to be collected to find out how SEO has been handled by SMEs, and how search engines in general weight online content. Here it will be also described what tools and software will be required to achieve the objectives.
- Specification – the competition and the actual state of the website performance will be analyzed before the objectives can be specified. Here the keywords matching the content will be specified which will be the basis for a successful implementation.
- Design and Coding – the two can be combined as the design of the targeted optimization directly impacts the source code optimization. The main design features are keyword and content optimization, increasing source code effectiveness, and reducing code errors.
- Testing – since SEO will be described as continuous process, this stage will be already used in the ‘Requirements Analysis’ and ‘Specification’. The final testing will show the experiment’s outcome.
- Implementation – here the enterprises who wish to implement the model will be provided with the necessary documentation. The acceptance test can already be a part of the previous ‘Testing’ stage.

3.3.1 Building the Model

The data required to start the optimization process will be provided by the preliminary questionnaire which will be given to company owners and managers who are interested in optimizing their websites. This data will be necessary to analyze how the Search Engine Optimization has been handled in the past, if any, and if the website operators are aware of the importance of their online presence and competition.

3.3.1.1 Preparation for Testing Website Performance

To measure the effectiveness of the suggested implementation website operators need to be provided with tools. To facilitate the introduction of testing the performance, these tools need to be readily obtainable. In this case it is recommend using the Web CEO program, and selected online services. Before and after the optimization the same tools will be used to receive results which will be based on the same measurement.

3.3.1.2 Self-Assessment and Competition Analysis

An effective and successful optimization is based on a thorough analysis of the company’s market position. This can be achieved be defining the keywords and phrases which best describe the enterprise’s business, incorporating competing websites. The recommended programs and tools which have been installed in the previous stage and online keyword suggesting tools will be used in this process.

3.3.1.3 Source Code Optimization

This stage incorporates the implementation of the defined keywords and phrases from the previous stage, and the widely neglected optimization of the source code effectiveness. The same program which was used for defining the enterprise’s market position will be also useful for analyzing the website performance with regard to source code effectiveness and eliminating errors.

3.3.1.4 Off-Site Optimization

At this stage of the optimization the persons involved in the process will be asked to actively popularize the presence oft their website. This will be achieved by bookmarking the web pages in various social bookmark services, registering the site to online indexes, and requests to webmasters of partnersites to place back links.

3.3.2 Testing the Model

It is planned that each of the suggested stages will be tested for its successful implementation, and providing the desired results. It has to be pointed out that the factor time greatly affects the desired results, therefore in this case the preference of weighing will focused on the successful implementation of the required tasks.

3.3.2.1 SEO Inventory

To assure the required programs and tools have been successfully installed, and the persons involved in the process can retrieve and interpret the current website performance, basic questions have to be answered. To efficiently collect the required data participants will be provided with a questionnaire which can be accessed online.

3.3.2.2 Keyword Research and Selection

The outcome of the Self-Assessment and Competition Analysis will be having the optimum selection of keywords for every web page to be optimized. The participants will have to state which keywords and phrases have been chosen to improve certain pages rankings on the Search Engines Results Page (SERP).

3.3.2.3 Source Code Effectiveness and Eliminating Page Errors

Following the implementation of the preferred keywords the website owner or manager will be advised to report the actions taken to improve web pages efficiency with regard to page size and problems detected earlier.

3.3.2.4 Acceptance Test and Evaluation

In the final survey the participants will state their impressions about the implemented procedures, and the further proceedings. Independently, the outcome will be measured to compare the results with the initial state of the analyzed website, and critically evaluated. (To minimize the number of the required feedbacks it is possible to summarize the test results.) Figure 1 illustrates that the process can be restarted again when the results have not met the expectations.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1. Abstraction of testing the model

Chapter 4. Applying the Model

It is planned to find 3 small and medium enterprises websites which have a potential for improvement. The approach will be to use google.at for finding websites, and then contacting their owners or managers. They will be informed about the project. The selected business categories will be art trade, online shops, food, beauty, video productions, fashion, fitness, language trip courses, and language schools. To further narrow the results the search will be locally restricted.

4.1 Selecting Websites

The next step is to investigate if these website owners or managers are aware of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The companies which will reply will be given a preliminary questionnaire. From the questions answered it will be analysed how these enterprises have been dealing with SEO. The data will be used to find out which companies websites will be suitable for an optimization. The results of the questionnaires will show where action is needed. It is planned that first the current state of the websites has to be recorded. The recorded data will be used for comparison after the websites have been optimized.

The objective is that companies will be able to manage the process of the optimization. Therefore they have to be provided with the basic understanding of SEO. For monitoring the process, software tools need to be installed. The basic tools will be Google Analytics and Web CEO.

4.2 Installation of the Tools

The website owners will be instructed how to install Google Analytics and Web CEO. At the end of the SEO Inventory stage, the website operators will be required to answer questions regarding the installation process. These questions will be included in the SEO Inventory feedback.

4.3 SEO Inventory

For monitoring the progress of the optimization and notice changes in the website performance, basic data will be required:

- number of visitors per day
- average time visitors spend to look at pages
- percentage of new accesses
- percentage of visits through search engines
- number of indexed pages
- number of inbound links
- PageRank

4.3.1 SEO Inventory Feedback

It will be important to learn if website owners or managers were able to install the required programs and tools to benchmark their website, and compare the performance to their competitors. Additionally, it will be a learning process how to deal with the SEO process.

4.4 Keyword Research

The website operators will be instructed how to research for suitable keywords. The first step will be to select the appropriate tools which give valuable information about a website's current state regarding the keyword selection. For the 3 case studies different online services and the program Web CEO will be used. One important factor of a successful optimization is the density of keywords used on a web page. Among web designers and SEO experts a value of 2 to 5 percent is accepted. If the density of a keyword is below 2 percent of the content, then web page does not seem relevant enough to be listed on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). A value over 5 percent can be already classified as spam attempt, and be downgraded by search engines.

The online service www.linkvendor.com offers a tool which shows the keyword density of a web page. This tool can also be used to help the website owner to define the important keywords. Once the densities of the keywords which describe the business have been defined, their popularity has to be analysed. For this the keyword analysis tool from Google AdWords will be used. It lists the estimated monthly search volume. To limit the scope of the project a maximum of 30 popular keywords and phrases will be selected and used for benchmarking the website, and those of the competitors. The popularity of keywords and phrases can be also checked with help of yahoo.com, google.at, Google Trends and Google Insights for search. The website operator will investigate popular keywords, and placing them in the website content. Generally, a web page should be optimized for 2 to maximum 5 keywords.

4.4.1 Analyzing Competitors

After popular keywords and phrases have been defined, the website operators have to define their closest competitors. Here the enterprises will be confronted with the reality. It is important that popular keyword combinations will be tested for determining the web page’s ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

4.4.2 Selecting and Placing the Keywords

Website owners or managers will learn the importance of selecting and placing the appropriate keyword on the pages content. In some cases the website operator will not be able to edit the page source code which is necessary to optimize the title and Meta tags. In such cases the task will be given to an IT professional who will be instructed to edit the section of the page(s).

4.4.3 Finalizing the Keyword Research and Implementation Stage

The process will be evaluated after recommendations were given to the website owners or managers how to use appropriate keywords to improve the SERP. The participants will have to answer questions like:

- what were the prominent keywords on the main page
- what online tools were used to find popular keywords and phrases
- what programs and tools were used to benchmark their competitors websites
- what pages of their website were optimized
- what keywords and phrase were used for optimization
- how keywords were emphasized in the pages source code
- how many pages were optimized
- who participated in the keyword research
- who implemented the keyword optimization

4.5 Optimizing Source Code

An optimized source code is one of the major preconditions for being indexed by search engine spiders, and to get a good ranking on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). For the non-IT professional not familiar with (X)HTML it can be difficult to identify source code which could be optimized. The selection and placing of the keywords might be already challenging for the average website owner or manager. For that reason the cooperation with IT professionals is needed. The person who designed and programmed the website has to analyse, and if necessary optimize the source code.

The website owner can use a check-list to verify everything possible has been done to make sure that all the pages have been made visible for search engine spiders, and load faster. [20] This will include that:

1. everything unnecessary has been removed like gif, java or flash animations
2. that there are no nested tables (browsers need more time to parse them and search engine robots are limited to find relevant information)
3. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are used to separate the content from the presentation
4. images are optimized by reducing their file size, and inform the browser about their dimensions
5. the code has be cleaned up by removing unnecessary spaces between tags, empty tags and comments in the source code
6. the cleaned-up code has been validated to meet W3C recommendations
There are programs and online tools available, so the website owner can compare his or her website to competitor websites. The following programs and online tools will be incorporated in the optimization process: Web CEO, linkvendor.com, selfseo.com and http://validator.w3.org.

4.5.1 Locating further Sources of Errors

It is important that further errors can be located. To achieve this it is recommended to use a computer program like Web CEO which shows more details rather than an online service.

According to Web CEO Auditor function the code optimization will be focused on:

- errors
- problem pages
- broken internal links
- broken external links
- broken anchors
- usability
- page size
- slow pages
- deep pages
- maintenance
- redirects
- missing / invalid titles and meta data
- new pages
- old pages
- small pages
- missing ALT attributes or images
- missing WIDTH / HEIGHT attributes of images
- orphaned files

The website owner and his or her webmaster should be able to get a report about the site quality. The objective of this procedure will be that the criticized points need to be fixed by the person who has the appropriate knowledge and access to the source code, either the website owner or webmaster. For benchmarking the website and those of the closest competitors, online tools can be used.

4.5.2 Finalizing the Source Code Optimization Stage

The participants will be provided with an online questionnaire where these questions will be answered:

- on how many pages broken links were fixed
- on how many pages the file size was reduced
- how many pages do still have missing Meta descriptions
- if website source code was validated with the W3C.org validator
- if CSS were applied and optimized
- what persons were involved in the source code optimization

4.6 Link Building

At this stage the optimization of the keywords and source code should to be completed. The website owner will be instructed to place links of his or her web pages on social bookmark services, and online indexes like dmoz.at. Also the website owner can start to investigate if partner sites will be willing to place links on their sites.

4.6.1 Link Building Feedback

Website owners or managers might not enough emphasize the link building process. One reason can be that the process of finding link partners or registering the web pages to social bookmark services and indexes is considered time consuming, and not delivering the expected results. In practise it has been experienced that the chance of being registered to dmoz.at is very small, and that only a few social bookmark services show a link. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to learn how website owner or managers implement the link building. In the online questionnaire the following questions have to be answered:

- Which social bookmark services did you use?
- Did you submit your website to dmoz.at?
- Did you try to find link partners?
- Has your request for placing a link at a partner site been accepted or refused?

4.7 Outcome

At the end of the first optimization cycle all answers and analysis reports will be summarized, and critically evaluated. At this stage the participants can explain if the implemented procedures have led to a better website performance. Even more important is to learn how companies complied with the recommended procedures, and if they will continue SEO for their websites.

Chapter 5. Methods and Realization

At the beginning of the project’s realization it had to be analyzed what was the best way to find enterprises which were willing to take part. The obvious solution seemed to use a country specific search engine like google.at. The results from google.at were not efficient enough, so additionally the service of the yellow pages www.herold.at was used. For example to find enterprises which offer language courses in the city of Vienna the search query ‘sprachkurse’ and location ‘wien’ was used. From the herold.at results page it could be determined if the listed enterprises had a website. When this was the case the website was selected, and analyzed. Important factors for the selection were the number indexed pages, link popularity, age of website, and PageRank. Additionally, online services were used to test the websites source code, and optimization potentials.

5.1 Selection of Participants

In total there were approximately 130 website owners and managers contacted. 10 responses were received. The website URLs and business segments of these enterprises were:

- www.alle-tragen-wabi-sabi.at - a Vienna based business selling trendy fashion
- www.a-dress.at - a Vienna based business selling trendy fashion
- www.schuhefuerfrauen.at - a Vienna based business selling women's designer shoes
- www.wienerkonfektion.at - a Vienna based business selling trendy fashion
- www.cosmetic-massage-holzer.at - a Vienna based business offering beauty and wellness services
- www.reisserbilder.at - a Vienna based business selling art prints
- www.deutschinstitut.at - a Vienna based business offering German language courses
- www.salt-pro.com - a Vienna bases business offering skills and English language training
- www.fsts.at - a Vienna based business offering language trip courses
- www.learngerman.at - a Vienna based business offering German language courses

The owners and managers of the 10 enterprises were visited in person, and informed about the project. All were first given a preliminary questionnaire to find out their understanding of online marketing, and awareness of search engine optimization. 14 days after distributing the questionnaires they were all received by postal service or in person.

5.2 Analysis

Generally, questionnaires given to the fashion and beauty oriented business were only answered partly. Some oft them did not identify keywords or keyword phrases they would use to find websites of their competitors.

The answer given by the enterprises in the art and education business were much more detailed, giving the impression that they already were aware of the importance of keywords, and that they were interested in taking part in this research. (Table 1)

These companies were interviewed in December 2008. The objective was to introduce them to the project, and discuss the procedures of the project. It was agreed that they all install Google Analytics and Web CEO to measure their website traffic and performance. Only three enterprises installed the required tools, and sent the first feedback.

5.3 Case Study 1: FSTS Sprachreisen (Language Trip Courses)

The official name of the company is FSTS Sprachreisen (Language Trip Courses). The company owner Herr Hampel is also managing the website www.fsts.at which has been online since May 2000. Although the website already had a Google PageRank of 5 (Figure 5) there was a great potential for an optimization.

5.3.1 Inventory of Website Performance

Compared with competitors in the same field the number of indexed pages by Google was 751(Figure 1). The best performance had EF Sprachreisen with 2020 indexed pages. Also an important value was the number of inbound links. When benchmarking the website 40 (Figure 3) inbound links were shown. Here again the best performance had EF Sprachreisen with 323.

In the SEO Inventory Feedback from 25 February 2009 the website manager was asked to answer the questions listed inTable 2.The questionnaire was available online.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

5.3.2 Analysis of the Keyword Density

According to the results of linkvendor.com the density of the selected keywords looked as followed:

- 19.09 %: fsts
- 14.55 %: sprachreisen
- 6.36 %: sprachreise
- 5.45 %: ihnen
- 4.55 %: informationen, welteit
- 3.64 %: buchen, gesellschaft, studienreisen
- 2.73 %: America, destinationen, kostenlos, news, pair
- 1.82 %: aufenthalte, Austria. Camps, courses, erwachsene, executive, ferienkurse, intensivkurse, internship, lernen, school, schüler, sprachen, studienprogamme

Analysis and recommendations: it was recommended that the appearance of the keywords with a density greater than 5% had to be reduced. Non relevant for the optimization were: ihnen 5.45%, informationen 4.55%, gesellschaft 3.64%

5.3.3 Keyword Popularity compared to Competitors

Before the optimization could be started, an analysis of popular keyword was necessary. For selecting the keywords and analyzing the search engine position the Google AdWords Keyword Tool on https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal and Web CEO were used. The analysis was focused on 30 keywords and phrases with a search volume greater 100. The results were based on the queries: sprachreisen, sprachaufenthalt, sprachferien, sprachurlaub england.

5.3.4 Keyword Optimization Approach

The optimization was focused on keyword phrases with a relatively high popularity, and pages which were not listed on the SERP. The comparison was made with pages of selected competitors which had a top SERP ranking. (Table 8)

Keyword and Content Analysis

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘ Sprachaufenthalt England’ (Study of languages in England)

- SERP: 1 (Figure 7)
- PageRank: 1
- Domain age: 8 years 1 month (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 28 (google.com)
- Keyword density: sprachaufenthalt 0.48%
- Keyword density: england 0.48%
- Keyword relationship: 1.0

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Sprachaufenthalt England’ (Study of languages in England)

- SERP: 4 (Figure 7)
- PageRank: 5
- Domain age: 8 years (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 323 (google.com)
- Keyword density: sprachaufenthalt 1.08%
- Keyword density: england 0.15%
- Keyword relationship: 7.2

Analysis and recommendations: the reason for SFA Sprachreisen to be on SERP 1 is that both keyword densities were equal. It was recommended to improve the SERP of http://www.fsts.at/schueler-sprachferien-england.html by optimizing the page for the keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt england’. On the FSTS page the keyword ‘england’ had a density of 1.62% and the keyword ‘sprachaufenthalt’ did not appear in the content. To optimize the page for the keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthlat england’ (Figure 7) the appearance of the word ‘sprachaufenthalt’ had to be equal to ‘england’.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Sprachaufenthalt USA’ (Study of languages in USA)

- SERP: 2 (
- Figure 9)
- PageRank: 3
- Domain age: 10 years 3 months (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 47 (google.com)
- Keyword density: sprachaufenthalt 0.60%
- Keyword density: usa 0.48%
- Keyword relationship: 1.25

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Sprachaufenthalt USA’ (Study of languages in USA)

- SERP: 5 (
- Figure 9)
- PageRank: 5
- Domain age: 8 years (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 323 (google)
- Keyword density: sprachaufenthalt 1.08%
- Keyword density: usa 0.15%
- Keyword relationship: 7.2

Analysis and recommendations: compared to LISA Sprachreisen the appearance of the keyword ‘usa’ was too small. On the LISA page the relation between ‘sprachaufenthalt’ and ‘usa’ was factor 1.25 and on the EF page the relation between the two keywords was 7.2. It was recommended the relation between keywords which build a key phrase should be factor 1, and that the FSTS page http://www.fsts.at/schueler-sprachferien-usa.html had to be optimized for the key phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’ ( Figure 9). The keyword ‘usa’ had a density of 0.94%, and the keyword ‘sprachaufenthalt’ did not appear in the content. To optimize the page for the key phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’ the appearance of the word ‘sprachaufenthalt’ had to be equal to ‘usa’.

5.3.5 Keyword Optimization Feedback

The website manager was asked to send his feedback about the implemented keyword optimization.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

According to the feedback the first 2 optimized pages were:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Both of the pages were optimized for the keywords ‘Sprachreisen’, ‘Sprachferien’ and ‘Sprachreise’.

5.3.6 Source Code Optimization

For measuring website quality Web CEO v.7.7, selfseo.com and validator.w3.org were used.

- internal broken links: 7
- external broken links: no
- slow pages: 39
- load time: 1:11 seconds
- missing title tags: 4
- missing Meta description tags: 30

Slow pages and average speed: the average load time of the website had to be minimized by reducing the size of the 39 slow pages.

According to selfseo.com website speed analysis the average speed of the competitors websites were:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The recommendation was to reduce the size of the 5 slowest pages (Figure 12).

- http://www.fsts.at/sprachkurse-bei-lehrerfamilien.html
- http://www.fsts.at/schueler-bei-lehrerfamilien.html
- http://www.fsts.at/aupair-usa-bewerbung.html
- http://www.fsts.at/aupair-in-america.html
- http://www.fsts.at/pruefungsvorbereitung-sprachkurs.html

W3C Validation: the website's main page source code was checked with the W3C markup validation service http://validator.w3.org. There were 42 errors and 55 warnings detected. (Figure 15) The objective was to reduce the errors and warnings to an acceptable minimum.

5.3.7 Link Building

To check the number of inbound links the google.com command ‘link:www.fsts.at’ was used. According to the result 41 pages were found which had a link to fsts.at. To increase the number of inbound it was recommended to bookmark the website in popular social bookmark site like mister-wong.de, bonitrust.de or linkarena.de. Also partnership with other websites was recommended which offer similar or additional products or services. To make the website better known a dmoz.at entry was requested.

5.3.8 FSTS Check-List

The checklist below was used to monitor the participant’s activity. As soon as the reports were received the data could be analyzed and further steps could be carried out.

Table 1 FSTS timely report activity

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5.4 Case Study 2: Deutschinstitut (German Language Courses)

The official name of the company is Deutschinstitut (German Language Institute). The company owner Herr Mag. Markus Hippmann is managing the website www.deutschinstitut.at which has been online since May January 2004. A webmaster is responsible for the technical implantations. The website had a Google PageRank of 4 with a great potential for an optimization.

5.4.1 Inventory of Website Performance

Compared with competitors in the same field the number of indexed pages by Google was 785 (Figure 16). The best performance had Deutschakedemie with 1570 indexed pages. The number of inbound links was 56 (Figure 18). The best performance had Deutschakademie with 114.

SEO Inventory Feedback from 26 February 2009: The website manager was asked to answer the questions listed inTable 4. The questionnaire was available online.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

For benchmarking the website data from Web CEO v.7.7 were used.

Also here the SEO Metrics Feedback from 23 April 2009 was received relatively late. The website owner showed an understanding how to interpret the data from Google Analytics. Later in the process these numbers were used to notice a change in website traffic. (Table 5)

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5.4.2 Analysis of the Keyword Density

According to the results of linkvendor.com the density of the selected keywords looked as followed:

- 4.51 %: german
- 2.5 %: vienna, wien
- 2.71 %: cours
- 2.34 %: almanaca, course
- 2.00%: deutschkurs, jazyka, nemeckého
- 1.84 %: courses, tedesco
- 1.5 %: alemán, cursos, deutsch
- 1.34 %: information, niema, viena

Analysis and recommendations: on the main page the content was provided in 11 different languages. It was recommend optimizing the main page for English and German content

5.4.3 Keyword Popularity compared to Competitors

Before the optimization could be started an analysis of popular keyword was necessary. For selecting the keywords and analyzing the search engine position the Google AdWords Keyword Tool on https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal and Web CEO were used. The analysis was focused on 30 keywords and phrases with a search volume greater 300. The results were based on the queries: german courses, german classes, deutschkurse, deutsch kurse, deutsch lernen, deutsch sprachkurs

5.4.4 Keyword Optimization Approach

The optimization was to be focused on keyword phrases with a high popularity, and pages with a lower SERP ranking than the benchmarked pages of the competitors had. (Table 9)

Keyword and Content Analysis

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘German courses’

- SERP: 1 (Figure 22)
- PageRank: 6
- Domain age: 6 years 4 months (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 114 (google.com)
- Keyword density: german 0.99%
- Keyword density: courses 0.28%
- Keyword relationship: 3.5

The relatively high PageRank (compared to Deutschinstitut) helped to be on SERP 1.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘German courses’

- SERP: 13 (Figure 22)
- PageRank: 4
- Domain age: 5 years 2 months (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 56 (google.com)
- Keyword density: german 1.45%
- Keyword density: courses 0.63%
- Keyword relationship: 2.3

Analysis and recommendations: the keyword relationship was better than the one of Deutschakademie, but the SERP was lower. To get to a better position it was recommended to emphasize the keyword ‘courses’ by matching the density of the keyword ‘german’.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Deutsch Kurse’ (German courses)

- SERP: 1 (Figure 23)
- PageRank: 4
- Domain age: 10 years 3 months (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 82 (google.com)
- Keyword density: deutsch 3.26%
- Keyword density: kurse 0.78%
- Keyword relationship: 4.2

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Deutsch Kurse’ (German courses)

- SERP: 30 (Figure 23)
- PageRank: 3
- Domain age: 5 years 2 month (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 56 (google.com)
- Keyword density: deutsch 1.58%
- Keyword density: kurse 0.45%
- Keyword relationship: 3.5

Analysis and recommendations: the keyword relationship was better than the one of Deutschakademie, but the SERP was lower. To get to a better position it was recommended to emphasize the keyword ‘kurse’ by matching the density of the keyword ‘deutsch’. To further emphasize the phrase ‘deutsch kurse’ it had to be included in the page title, Meta description, Meta keywords, heading and bold font.

This was the original page title: Deutschkurs - Deutschkurse - Wien - German course - German courses - Vienna- curso de aleman - cursos de aleman Viena- cours allemand - corso di tedesco - Besuchen Sie einen Deutschkurs - Deutschkurse zu erschwinglichen Preisen - Visit a German course in the German institute in Vienna. The page title had to be optimized by removing keywords which are not relevant. An optimized title would be: Deutsch lernen - Deutsche Kurse - Kurse - Deutschkurs - Deutschkurse - Sprach - Sprache - Sprachkurs - Sprachkurse – Wien

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Deutsch als Fremdsprache’ (German as a foreign language)

Analysis and recommendations: none of the analyzed website's pages were listed on SERPs although there was a high search volume. This key phrase could be used a niche. As an example a web page with the URL www.deutschinstitut.at/ deutsch_ als_fremdsprache.htm could be created.

5.4.5 Keyword Optimization Feedback

The website manager was asked to send his feedback about the implemented keyword optimization.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

According to the feedback the first 2 optimized pages were:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The first page was optimized for the keyword phrase ‘german courses’. The second page was optimized for the keyword phrase ‘deutsch kurse’.

5.4.6 Source Code Optimization

For measuring website quality Web CEO v.7.7, selfseo.com and validator.w3.org were used.

- internal broken links: 1
- external broken links: 2
- slow pages: 54
- load time: 1:13 seconds
- missing title tags: 0
- missing Meta description tags: 0

Slow pages and average speed: the average load time of the website had to be minimized by reducing the size of the 54 slow pages. According to selfseo.com website speed analysis the average speed of the competitors websites were:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The recommendation was to reduce the size of the 5 slowest pages.

- http://www.deutschinstitut.at/kurs_nemackog_informace.htm
- http://www.deutschinstitut.at/deutschkurs_information.htm
- http://www.deutschinstitut.at/almanca_kursu_bilgi.htm
- http://www.deutschinstitut.at/curso_de_aleman_informaciones.htm
- http://www.deutschinstitut.at/tecaj_njemackog_informacija.htm

W3C Validation: the website's main page source code was checked with the W3C markup validation service http://validator.w3.org. There were 31 errors detected. (Figure 28) The objective was to reduce the errors and warnings to an acceptable minimum.

5.4.7 Link Building

To check the number of inbound links the google.com command ‘link:deutschinstitut.at’’ was used. According to the result 733 pages were found which have a link to deutschinstitut.at. It was recommended to bookmark the website in popular social bookmark site like mister-wong.de, bonitrust.de or linkarena.de. Partnership with other websites was recommended which offer similar or additional products or services. A dmoz.at entry already existed.

5.4.8 Deutschinstitut Check-List

The checklist below was used to monitor the participant’s activity. As soon as the reports were received the data could be analyzed and further steps could be carried out.

Table 2 Deutschinstitut timely report activity

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

5.5 Case Study 3: SALT Pro (Skills and Language Training)

The official name of the company is SALT Pro Skills and Language Training. The company’s website is managed by Helena Buss and Mark Adams. The website www.salt-pro.com has been online for 2 years. The website had a Google PageRank of 3 with a great potential for an optimization.

5.5.1 Inventory of Website Performance

Compared with competitors in the same field the number of indexed pages by Google was 63 (Figure 29). The best performance had Berlitz with 1400 indexed pages. The number of inbound links was 1 (Figure 31). The best performance had Berlitz with 148.

In the SEO Inventory Feedback from 07 April 2009 the website manager was asked to answer the questions listed inTable 6. The questionnaire was available online.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

For benchmarking the website data from Web CEO v.7.7 were used.

SALT Pro was the first enterprise which sent the SEO Metrics Feedback on 27 February 2009. The website manager was interested to learn how to interpret the data from Google Analytics, and then later in the process use these numbers to notice a change in website traffic. (Table 7)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

5.5.2 Analysis of the Keyword Density

According to the results of linkvendor.com the density of the selected keywords looked as followed:

- 8.82 %: salt
- 5.88 %: business, language, skills
- 4.12 %: coaching
- 3.53 %: training
- 2.94 %: engish, march, team
- 2.35 %: april, executive
- 1.76 %: development, personal
- 1.18 %: communication, consulting, idiomatic, meetings, negotiation, systemic

Analysis and recommendations: the number of keywords with a density higher than 5% had to be reduced. Keywords ‘march’ and ‘april’ were not relevant for the analysis.

5.5.3 Keyword Popularity compared to Competitors

Before the optimization could be started an analysis of popular keyword was necessary. For selecting the keywords and analyzing the search engine position the Google AdWords Keyword Tool on https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal and Web CEO were used. The analysis was focused on 30 keywords and phrases with an estimated search volume greater 1000. The results were based on the queries: communication skills training, business consulting, business english, negotiation skills

5.5.4 Keyword Optimization Approach

The results showed that almost none of the above companies had their websites optimized for these popular keyword and phrases. The keywords had to be emphasized by placing them in the URL, page title, Meta description, Meta keywords and body text. To further emphasize their importance the use of headings, bold font and link attributes was recommended. In the first example the optimization was focused on keyword phrases with a high popularity, and the competitor’s pages within the first 10 SERP positions. In the second example an existing ranking had to be improved, where no competition was listed. (Table 10)

Keyword and Content Analysis

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Coaching’

- SERP: 7 (Figure 35)
- PageRank: 4
- Domain age: 2 years 4 months (archive.org)
- Inbound links: 45 (google.com)
- Keyword density: coaching 4.89%

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Coaching’

- SERP: no (Figure 35)
- PageRank: no
- Domain age: 2 years
- Inbound links: 1
- Keyword density: coaching 1.96%

Analysis and Recommendations: the density was below the recommended 2%. To emphasize the importance of the keyword its appearance had to be increased, and to be included in the Meta description and in bold font.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘Assertiveness training’

- SERP: 27 (Figure 37)
- PageRank: no
- Domain age: 2 years
- Inbound links: 1
- Keyword density: assertiveness 0.13%
- Keyword density: training 0.78%
- Keyword relationship: 6.0

Analysis and recommendations: to improve the SERP the density of both keywords had to be the same. The keywords had to be included in Meta description and Meta keywords. ‘Assertiveness’ had to be included in to the page title. To further emphasize the keywords they had to be in headings (<h2>) and bold font.

5.5.5 Keyword Optimization Feedback

The website manager was asked to send his feedback about the implemented keyword optimization.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

According to the feedback the first 2 pages which were optimized are:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

One the first page the keywords and phrases ‘SALT’, ‘business consulting’, and ‘business english’ were emphasized. The second page was optimized for ‘coaching’, ‘systemic coaching’ and ‘business consulting’.

5.5.6 Source Code Optimization

For measuring website quality Web CEO v.7.7, selfseo.com and validator.w3.org were used.

- internal broken links: 4
- external broken links: 5
- slow pages: 21
- load time: 0:49 seconds
- missing title tags: 0
- missing Meta description tags: 8

Slow pages and average speed: the average load time of the website had to be minimized by reducing the size of the slow pages. According to selfseo.com website speed analysis the load time of the competitors websites were:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The recommendation was to reduce the size of following pages.

- http://www.salt-pro.com/html/about.html
- http://www.salt-pro.com/html/team.php

W3C Validation: the website's main page source code was checked with the W3C validation service http://validator.w3.org. There were no errors detected. (Figure 42)

5.5.7 Link Building

To check the number of inbound links the google.com command ‘link:salt-pro.com’ was used. According to the result no pages were found which have a link to salt-pro.com. It was recommended to bookmark the website in popular social bookmark site like mister-wong.de, bonitrust.de or linkarena.de. Partnership with other websites was recommended which offer similar or additional products or services. To make the website better known a dmoz.at entry was requested.

5.5.8 SALT Pro Check-List

The checklist below was used to monitor the participant’s activity. As soon as the reports were received the data could be analyzed and further steps could be carried out.

Table 3 SALT Pro timely report activity

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Chapter 6. Results and Evaluation

The results of this research were based on the data taken from website optimization and analyzing program Web CEO, Google Analytics reports, and feedback from questionnaires. The findings of the online reports were made accessible by providing their URLs.

6.1 SEO Awareness Feedback

The first feedback received can be not considered as a result of the implemented procedures because its intension was to find out how SEO has been handled before these enterprises joined the research project. Enterprise interested in the research were visited and given a preliminary questionnaire in paper format. They were instructed to answer all the questions within a set period, and send in the forms.Table 1illustrates if the owners and managers of the selected websites were able to answer all the questions. It is important to note that all participants used google.at as their favorite search engine.

Questions 1-6 were more business related (except question 5) and were answered by almost all participants. At 7 and 8 participants had to answer questions where they first had to enter a given URL to get data. Here it was clear that some participants were already asked too much. Question 10 was about keyword selection, and the SERP position. Here almost all users were not able to answer this question. There was also very little response from question 12. All the remaining questions were answered well.

After receiving the feedback the companies were contacted again, and informed about the further steps. They were asked to install Google Analytics to answer the next set of questions. Finally only 3 companies were answering the request.

6.2 SEO Inventory Feedback

To be able to fully answer the questions in the feedback participants had to interpret the results from the Web CEO report. It also served as a preparation for the next stage of the optimization process. The results were available online.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In the summary it is important to note that for 2 out of 3 participants it was difficult to install the Web CEO software, although they were provided with a step by step installation guide. For two thirds the installation guide was useful. When anaysing the responses it seemed that the participants were able to answer all question relating keywords in Meta tags, competitors, SERP, indexed pages and inbound links. Answering this feedback served two purposes; making the participants familiar with key values for judging their own website, and raising their awareness of SEO in general.

6.3 SEO Metrics Feedback

Data presented here were taken from the questionnaires (Table 3,Table 5andTable 7), and Google Analytics report (Table 11). Participants were required to install the website traffic analyzer early in the process. The success of the optimization was partly measured on the following values:

- maximum number of visitors per day
- average time visitors spend to look at the pages
- percentage of new accesses
- percentage of visits through search engines

The summary of the Google Analytics report is presented inTable 11. The original reports were available online.

FSTS first report:
http://www.kappler.ch/dissertation/fsts.at_20090206-20090308.pdf

FSTS second report:
http://www.kappler.ch/dissertation/fsts.at_20090405-20090505.pdf

Deutschinstitut first report:
http://www.kappler.ch/dissertation/deutschinstitut.at_20090323-20090422.pdf

Deutschinstitut second report:
http://www.kappler.ch/dissertation/deutschinstitut.at_20090412-20090512.pdf

SALT Pro first report:
http://www.kappler.ch/dissertation/salt-pro.com_20090126-20090225.pdf

SALT Pro second report
http://www.kappler.ch/dissertation/salt-pro.com_20090405-20090505.pdf

6.4 Indicators of Improvement

The result of the optimization efforts can be either checked with a SEO analysis program like Web CEO or using online tools. The website operators were focused on the number of indexed pages, link popularity and PageRank..

The objective was to provide rich content and a rigorously source code optimization to increased the number of indexed pages, and therefore achieve an improved website visibility.

Table 4 Increase/decrease of indexed pages by Google

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

These numbers were taken from the Web CEO report. Alternatively the results were verified by Google directly with the ‘site:domain.com’ command. On 04 May 2009 FSTS had 783, Deutschinstitut had 695, and SALT Pro had 70. The differences showed that the results are not very accurate. To diagnose a trend the number of indexed pages should be monitored over a longer period by using the same measurement tools.

The number of links from external web pages depend on the website owner’s or manager’s efforts to popularize his or her website. The number of indexed pages and link popularity helps to increase the PageRank.

Table 5 Link popularity of the tested websites by Google

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In the first and third case the link popularity has not changed. The difference could be caused by inaccuracy. Deutschinstitut showed a distinctive raise. To verify the numbers it was recommended to use the Google ‘link:domain.com’ command. On 04 May 2009 FSTS had 41, Deutschinstitut had 52, and SALT Pro had 0.

In the preliminary questionnaire the website operators were asked about their websites PageRank. It can be understood as common criteria for an overall improvement of a particular page. It has to be considered as one factor which is widely accepted. Gaining on 1 unit of 10 available can be regarded as a positive trend.

- www.fsts.at: from 5 to 6 (Figure 5andFigure 6)
- www.deutschinstitut.at: from 5 to 5 (Figure 20andFigure 21)
- www.deutschinstitut.at: stayed at 3 (Figure 33andFigure 34)

6.5 Keyword Optimization

It was already mentioned that Search Engine Optimization for websites has to be considered as a continuous process. It was possible to get intermediate results. These strongly depended on the participation of the enterprises. It was interesting to learn that in some cases a web page with no ranking on a SERP at all can ‘move’ within a month to the first page of the Search Engine Results. (Table 12)

Each participant was given recommendations to improve keywords and keyword phrases, so the particular pages would be listed on the SERP. The results showed that the involved companies were willing to improve their web pages, and that they showed great effort.

6.5.1 Analysis of Keyword Optimization

- FSTS ‘sprachaufenthalt england’; MSN showed and SERP decrease. This result could be affected by the competition increase from 228 to 341.(Figure 7andFigure 8)
- FSTS ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’; both MSN and Google showed an increase. The page moved from the invisible Web to the top SERP.
- FSTS ‘feriensprachkurse’; Google showed a distinctive increase from position 20 to 9.
- Deutschinstitut ‘german courses’; the position moved from 13 to 9.
- Deutschinstitut ‘deutsch kurse’; the position moved from 30 to 28.
- SALT Pro ‘business consulting’ and ‘business english’; for both keyword phrases no improvement could be recorded. (Figure 36andFigure 37) In contrast the keyword phrases ‘assertiveness training’ and ‘systemic coaching’ moved from position 27 to 11 and 12. (Figure 37andFigure 38)

6.5.2 Keyword Analysis Feedback

In this feedback participants were asked to answer questions concerning the optimization of the keywords. The results were available online:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

6.6 Source Code Optimization

The source code optimization was one of the most neglected parts of the whole website optimization. The website operators were instructed to watch the quality of the source code. This included keeping the size of each document at a minimum, to assure that CSS were properly used, no nested tables were used, all links led to an existing document, and that the source code was validated. For the non-IT professional some tools can help to identify sources of errors. Fixings these errors in most cases had to be left to the webmasters.

In March 2009 Web CEO indicated the 5 slowest pages of the tested websites. The results shown inTable 16were based on testing the websites before and after the optimization. In the first and third example some pages and image sizes were reduced. The slow pages of Deutschinstitut had not been optimized at the time this report was written.

The www.fsts.at page errors and problems before the optimization were:

- 7 internal broken links
- 4 missing title tags
- 30 missing Meta descriptions
- 42 markup validation errors
- 55 markup validation warnings

Another W3C markup validation showed the same results as inFigure 15. The error and warnings have not been fixed.

Figure 14shows the latest state of the FSTS website. The internal broken links were reduced by 1, the pages with missing title tags increased from 4 to 11, and also the pages with missing Meta description increased from 30 to 41. Here it was interesting to get the answers from the final feedback.

The www.deutschinstitut.at page errors and problems before the optimization were:

- 1 internal broken link
- 2 external broken links
- no missing title tags
- no missing Meta description
- 31 markup validation errors

Here also another W3C markup validation showed the same results as inFigure 28. The errors have not been fixed.

Figure 27shows the latest state of the Deutschinstitut website. The number of broken links and other errors stayed the same. The conclusions were in the final report.

The www.salt-pro.com page errors and problems before the optimization were:

- 4 internal broken links
- 5 external broken links
- no missing title tags: no
- 8 missing Meta descriptions
- no markup validation errors

Like in the beginning of the optimization the W3C markup validation service showed no errors. (Figure 42)

A look at the source code errors and problems inFigure 41revealed that some of the errors and problems detected before the optimization were fixed. The number of external broken links was reduced by 1. The pages with missing Meta description were reduced by 4.

6.7 Final Feedback

In the final feedback participants were asked to answer questions regarding source code optimization, link building, and their impression about the SEO implementation in general. It was interesting to learn how they interpreted the results. There were 21 questions to answer. The survey results were available online:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

6.7.1 FSTS Results - Summary

The website owner of www.deutschinstitut.at sent his feedback on 15 May 2009. The results of the Google Analytics report were already presented inTable 11. The success of the first optimization cycle can be regarded as neutral. (Table 13) The improvement of the source code had to be emphasized.

This included reducing the number of:

- slow pages

- broken links

- pages with missing title tag

- pages with missing Meta description tag

- W3C validation errors and warnings Google Analytics indicated an increase in visitors. The momentarily decline of time spent on pages and the increasing bounce rate had to be monitored. Increasing the number of inbound links had to be emphasized. According to the feedback the Web CEO program and Google tools were used. The SEO implementation was continued. The website owners opinion about SEO was: “It is constant process, which takes much time, but is absolutely vital!”.

6.7.2 Deutschinstitut Results - Summary

The website owner of www.deutschinstitut.at sent his feedback on 13 May 2009. The results of the Google Analytics report were already presented inTable 11. The success of the first optimization cycle can be regarded as neutral. (Table 14) The improvement of the source code had to be emphasized. This included reducing the number of:

- slow pages

- broken links

- W3C validation errors Google Analytics generally indicated a decreasing performance. Only the percentage of visits through search engine showed a slight increase. The reason for showing this number could be based on the overlapping of the first and second Google Analytics report. It is important to monitor further trends of the website traffic. The positive aspects were that the website manager was actively increasing the number of inbound links, and reducing the number of slow pages. According to the feedback the Web CEO program and other tools were used. The SEO implementation was continued. In the final feedback the website owner stated that: “We once paid for a linking service through a company, what brought as bad links and a worse ranking in search engines. Now it is difficult to get ahead again and will take some more time”.

6.7.3 SALT Pro Results - Summary

The website manager of www.salt-pro.com sent the feedback on 06 May 2009. The results of the Google Analytics report were already presented inTable 11. The success of the first optimization cycle can be regarded as neutral. (Table 15) The improvement of the source code has to be emphasized. This included reducing the number of:

- slow pages

- broken links

- pages with missing Meta description Furthermore, the off-page optimization had to be improved by intensifying the link building. The development of the website traffic had to be monitored to identify further trends. The website had still very low visits. This could delay the improvement of the website’s performance. The positive aspects were that the website manager was actively using the Web CEO program and Google tools, and that the SEO implementation was continued.

Chapter 7. Conclusions

The results of the research proved that there is a great potential of facilitating search engine optimizations of website by non-IT professionals. Working together with 3 selected enterprises shed some light on the problems which exist. In a perfect world a website owner or manager would search the Internet for all available information about SEO, and tell his or her webmaster to implement it. But we live in a world where only a very small fraction of website operators know what SEO stands for, and how it is implemented in the web design and editing process. It should be the duty of every IT professional involved in web design and programming to educate the sponsors. But even the professionals often ‘forget’ the most important part of the design, making the website visible for search engines and users. This responsibly is left to the enterprise running the website. How to address all of them is a question which can not be easily answered.

7.1 Lessons Learned

In this research only the basic SEO procedures were addressed for two reasons; not to overwhelm the persons involved, and not to go beyond the scope of this research. Time was limited and the results show that much more time is needed to see a major performance increase of the optimized websites.

It was relatively easy to convince the participants how important the right selection of keywords and phrases was. Programs and various online tools facilitated the keyword research, and benchmarking websites. This procedure was understood quiet well by all participants. Shortly before the results were available google.at introduced the suggestion tool. This function will help to select popular keywords and phrases. By comparing the search volume with the competition persons involved in SEO can better estimate the efficiency of a particular keyword or phrase which is known as the Keyword Efficiency Index (KEI).

There was a concern to propagate source code optimization. The effects of overloaded, erroneous and invalid source code of web pages were not visible right away. Only sophisticated analyzing programs showed that such pages can cause barriers to search engines, and consequently will not be visible for Internet users. This part of optimization has to be emphasized.

The findings of this study are suggestive that enterprises must fully take into consideration the implications and responsibilities of commitment to website usage as the primary means of providing information for customers.

The rapidly changing technology requires that enterprises who want to be kept informed how to improve their websites should regularly read about the latest SEO developments. They can refer to online resources like www.seochat.com, www.searchenginewatch.com, forums.digitalpoint.com and Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. [6]

Google recently announced that by indexing of RDFa markups it officially supports the ‘semantic’ web. Therefore new ways of Search Engine Optimization will be unfolded. The search engines algorithms now recognize structured data which are embedded in websites, and are displayed as ‘rich snippets’. RDFa provides the basis for these structured data which allows to insert semantic web capable data into conventional (X)HTML pages. Currently Google ‘understands’ a range of semantic annotations which express persons, organizations or reviews of services or products. The Internet user can benefit from this by getting search results which show meaningful additional information that have been automatically added by Google. For search engine optimization this open new possibilities to design the search engine results more interesting. [21]

7.2 Critical Analysis of the Research

In the beginning of the project it was important to motivate the website owners, and not to give tasks that would overwhelm the persons involved in the process. The preliminary questionnaire had questions that were difficult to answer. It was too early to ask the participants to find out the SERP of a certain keyword combination. Making the introduction to SEO as easy as possible would increase the quality of the feedback, and facilitate the access for the participants.

The use of website analyzing programs like Web CEO gives the tester a variety of testing and benchmarking options. For the average website owner installing and configuring such a tool seemed difficult. To further test and benchmark websites, the use of online tools without sophisticated configuration would be preferable.

The time available for implementing the recommend procedures was very short. To notify a distinctive improvement of website performance it was necessary to monitor the website performance beyond the scheduled period. In the results section it was mentioned that overall performance of the tested websites did not change. The positive aspects of the project were that the basic SEO procedures were very well implemented, and the website operators stated that they will continue the implementation. Still the source code efficiency regarding page size and errors needed to be addressed.

7.3 Future Activity

The participants of this research mainly followed given instructions. The researcher had to attend the process by continuously monitoring the performance of the implemented procedures. A small number of participants could be managed this way, but there were situations where they had to be reminded to implement certain tasks. It would be desirable to extend the research by incorporating a large number of participants. To efficiently achieve a successful research, the process needs to be ‘automated’. The participants will be given small tasks which have to be completed within a given period. Each participant can watch the progress of the others. This competitive environment can be a motivation for each participant to be ahead, and complete the given tasks within a given period. The researcher’s role will be to monitor the process, and evaluate the progress of each participant.

7.4 Prospects for Further Work

This research attempted to bring the necessity of SEO procedures closer to small and medium enterprises which in the past did not utilizes the potentials to improve their website visibility. The evaluated data could be used for interpreting trends in site access and raise the awareness of website problems, but did not tell the company owner or manager much about the online presence usability. The applied metrics were focused on clickstream data. Weischedel and Huizingh (2006) stated in their paper that “clickstream data can only partially reflect the effectiveness of a site. Clickstream data display the ‘when’ and ‘what’ of web visits, but are of limited use to answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about customers’ site use”. [13] To get the answers for the ‘how’ and ‘why’ the users opinion needs to be involved. This project could be expanded by determining how website owners and managers are learning to combine information which come s from clickstream data sources, and customer opinions. Only this way the website can be optimized to fulfill the user’s demands, improve the page rankings and the overall performance of the enterprise’s online presence.

Another important issue of SEO is how to be integrated in Content Management Systems (CMS) where a group of people are able to change and edit online content. In such cases guidelines have to be established and being followed. To assure that these guidelines are being followed control mechanisms need to be established. In such an environment it would be desirable to automate the SEO process. The user who changes or edit the content would be given suggestions for the best SEO practices. The question would be how practical such system would be and how it can be customized to the evolving search engine algorithms.

In the end it can be affirmed that search engines have a great impact on the information available on the Word Wide Web. The fact is that the same search engines can also be affected by the way the information is presented. The interaction of both sides is vital for the continuity of a system that is changing the way how we all access and share information.

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[8] Rognerud, J. (2008) ‘Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization’ . Madison: CWL Publishing Enterprises, Inc.

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[11] King, A. (2008) ‘Website Optimization: Speed Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets’. Ten Steps to Higher Search Engine Rankings. Sebastopol: O'Reilly, pp.11-16.

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(Accessed: 14 May 2009)

APPENDICES

Appendix A. Tables

A.1 Results from Questionnaires

Table 1shows the number of answered questions from the preliminary questionnaire.

Table1Results from the preliminary questionaire how SEO has been handled

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Interrogated enterprises: 1. SALT Pro, 2. Learn Personal, 3. FSTS Sprachreisen, 4. Reisser Kunstdrucke, 5. Alle-Tragen-Wabi-Sabi, 6. A.Dress, 7. Schuhe für Frauen, 8. Cosmetic Holzer, 9. Wiener Konfektion, 10. Deutschinstitut

Table 2shows the SEO Inventory Feedback questions answered by FSTS on 25 February 2009.

Table2FSTS: SEO Inventory Feedback from 25 February 2009

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 3shows the SEO Metrics Feedback questions answered by FSTS on 8 April 2009.

Table3FSTS: SEO Metrics Feedback from 8 April 2009

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Table 4shows the SEO Inventory Feedback questions answered by Deutschinstitut on 26 February 2009.

Table4Deutschinstitut: SEO Inventory Feedback from 26 February 2009

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Table 5shows the SEO Metrics Feedback questions answered by Deutschinstitut on 23 April 2009.

Table5Deutschinstitut: SEO Metrics Feedback from 23 April 2009

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Table 6shows the SEO Inventory Feedback questions answered by SALT Pro on 7 April 2009.

Table6SALT Pro: SEO Inventory Feedback from 7 April 2009

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Table 7shows the SEO Metrics Feedback questions answered by SALT Pro on 27 February 2009.

Table7SALT Pro: SEO Metrics Feedback from 27 February 2009

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A.2 Online Performance Reports

Table 8illustrates the list of popular keywords and selection for the www.fsts.at keyword optimization.

Table8FSTS Keyword Research and SERP Comparison

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Table 9illustrates the list of popular keywords and selection for the www.deutschinstitut.at keyword optimization.

Table9Deutschinstitut Keyword Research and SERP Comparison

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Table 10illustrates the list of popular keywords and selection for the www.salt-pro.com keyword optimization.

Table10SALT Pro Keyword Research and SERP Comparison

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Table 11illustrates the summary of the Google Analytics Reports taken before and after the optimization.

Table11Summary of the Google Analytics Report

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Table 12illustrates the SERP of the selected keywords and phrases before and after the optimization.

Table12SERP bevore and after optimization

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Table 13serves as an abstraction of the www.fsts.at first optimization cycle.

Table13Results of the FSTS optimization cycle

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Table 14serves as an abstraction of the www.deutschinstitut.at first optimization cycle.

Table14Results of the Deutschinstitut optimization cycle

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Table 15serves as an abstraction of the www.salt-pro.com first optimization cycle.

Table15Results of the SALT Pro optimization cycle

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Table 16illustrates that the reduction of slow pages has not been fully accomplished by the time the report was created.

Table16Comparison of slow pages before and after the optimization

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Appendix B. Screen Shots

B.1 FSTS Screen Shots

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Figure1. FSTS: indexed pages compared to competitors on 14 February 2009

Figure 1shows the Web CEO results of indexed pages on 14 February 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.ef.co.at, www.sfa-sprachreisen.at, www.flamenco-sprachreisen.com and www.sprachreisen.at.

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Figure2. FSTS: indexed pages compared to competitors on 21 April 2009

Figure 2shows the Web CEO results of indexed pages on 21 April 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.ef.co.at, www.sfa-sprachreisen.at, www.flamenco-sprachreisen.com and www.sprachreisen.at.

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Figure 3. FSTS: link popularity compared to competitors on 14 February 2009

Figure 3shows the Web CEO results of the link popularity on 14 February 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.ef.co.at, www.sfa-sprachreisen.at, www.flamenco-sprachreisen.com and www.sprachreisen.at.

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Figure4. FSTS: link popularity compared to competitors on 21 April 2009

Figure 4shows the Web CEO results of the link popularity on 21 April 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.ef.co.at, www.sfa-sprachreisen.at, www.flamenco-sprachreisen.com and www.sprachreisen.at.

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Figure5. FSTS: PageRank bevore optimization in December 2008

Figure 5shows the determined PageRank before the optimization.

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Figure6. FSTS: PageRank after optimization in April 2009

Figure 6 shows the determined PageRank after the optimization.

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Figure7. FSTS: SERP for keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt england’ on 24 March 2009

Figure 7shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt england’ on 24 March 2009.

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Figure8. FSTS: SERP for keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt england’ on 21 April 2009

Figure 8 shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt england’ on 21 April 2009.

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Figure9. FSTS: SERP for keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’ on 24 March 2009

Figure 9shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrase ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’ on 24 March 2009.

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Figure10. FSTS: SERP for keyword ‘feriensprachkurse’ on 24 March 2009

Figure 10shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrase ‘feriensprachkurse’ on 24 March 2009.

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Figure11. FSTS: SERP for keywords ‘feriensprachkurse’ and ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’ on 12 May 2009

Figure 11shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keywords ‘feriensprachkurse’ and ‘sprachaufenthalt usa’ on 12 May 2009.

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Figure12. FSTS: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 31March 2009

Figure 12shows the 5 slowest pages which were detected by the Web CEO program on 31 March 2009.

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Figure13. FSTS: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 24 April 2009

Figure 13shows the 5 slowest pages which were detected by the Web CEO program on 24 April 2009.

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Figure14. FSTS: errors and problems detected on 04 Mav 2009

Figure 14shows an overview of detected errors and problems of the FSTS website on 04 May 2009.

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Figure15. FSTS: W3C validation errors and warnings before and after optimization

Figure 15shows the same number errors and warnings detected by the W3C markup valitaton service before and after the optimization.

B.2 Deutschinstitut Screen Shots

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Figure16. Deutschinstitut: indexed pages compared to competitors on 29 March 2009

Figure 16shows the Web CEO results of indexed pages on 29 March 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.deutschakademie.com, www.alpha.at, www.actilingua.at and www.ikivienna.at.

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Figure17. Deutschinstitut: indexed pages compared to competitors om 25. April 2009

Figure 17shows the Web CEO results of indexed pages on 25 April 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.deutschakademie.com, www.alpha.at, www.actilingua.at and www.ikivienna.at.

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Figure18. Deutschinstitut: link popularity compared to competitors on 29 March 2009

Figure 18shows the Web CEO results of the link popularity on 29 March 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.deutschakademie.com, www.alpha.at, www.actilingua.at and www.ikivienna.at.

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Figure19. Deutschinstitut: link popularity compared to competitors on 25 April 2009

Figure 19 shows the Web CEO results of the link popularity on 25 April 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.deutschakademie.com, www.alpha.at, www.actilingua.at and www.ikivienna.at.

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Figure20. Deutschinstitut: PageRank bevore optimization in December 2008

Figure 20shows the determined PageRank before the optimization.

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Figure21. Deutschinstitut: PageRank after optimization in April 2009

Figure 21shows the determined PageRank after the optimization.

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Figure22. Deutschinstitut: SERP for keyword phrase ‘german courses’ on 26 March 2009

Figure 22shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrase ‘german courses’ on 26 March 2009.

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Figure23. Deutschinstitut: SERP for keyword phrase ‘deutsch kurse’ on 26 March 2009

Figure 23shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrase ‘deutsch kurse’ on 26 March 2009.

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Figure24. Deutschinstitut: SERP for keyword phrases ‘german courses’ and ‘deutsch kurse’ on 03 May 2009

Figure 24shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrases ‘german courses’ on 03 May 2009.

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Figure25. Deutschinstitut: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 31March 2009

Figure 25shows the 12 slowest pages which were detected by the Web CEO program on 31 March 2009.

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Figure26. Deutschinstitut: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 24 April 2009

Figure 26shows the 14 slowest pages which were detected by the Web CEO program on 24 April 2009.

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Figure27. Deutschinstitut: errors and problems detected on 05 Mav 2009

Figure 27shows an overview of detected errors and problems of the Deutschinstitut website on 05 May 2009.

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Figure28. Deutschinstitut: W3C validation errors and warnings before and after optimization

Figure 28shows the same number of errors detected by the W3C markup valitaton service before and after the optimization.

B.3 SALT Pro Screen Shots

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Figure29. SALT Pro: indexed pages compared to competitors on 29 March 2009

Figure 29shows the Web CEO results of indexed pages on 29 March 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.berlitz.at, www.trigon.at, www.kuzio-consulting.com, www.konas-consulting.com and www.createmomentum.at.

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Figure30. SALT Pro: indexed pages compared to competitors on 25 April 2009

Figure 30shows the Web CEO results of indexed pages on 29 March 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.berlitz.at, www.trigon.at, www.kuzio-consulting.com, www.konas-consulting.com and www.createmomentum.at.

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Figure31. SALT Pro: link popularity compared to competitors on 29 March 2009

Figure 31shows the Web CEO results of the link popularity on 29 March 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.berlitz.at, www.trigon.at, www.kuzio-consulting.com, www.konas-consulting.com and www.createmomentum.at.

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Figure32. SALT Pro: link popularity compared to competitors on 25 April 2009

Figure 32 shows the Web CEO results of the link popularity on 25 April 2009. The benchmarked competitor’s websites were www.berlitz.at, www.trigon.at, www.kuzio-consulting.com, www.konas-consulting.com and www.createmomentum.at.

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Figure33. SALT Pro: PageRank bevore optimization in December 2008

Figure 33shows the determined PageRank before the optimization.

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Figure34. SALT Pro: PageRank after optimization in April 2009

Figure 34shows the determined PageRank after the optimization.

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Figure35. SALT Pro: SERP for keyword phrase ‘coaching’ on 29 March 2009

Figure 35 shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrase ‘coaching’ on 29 March 2009.

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Figure36. SALT Pro: SERP for keyword phrases ‘business consulting’ and ‘business english’ on 29 March 2009

Figure 36shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrases ‘business consulting’ and ‘business English’ on 29 March 2009.

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Figure37. SALT Pro: SERP for keyword phrases ‘assertiveness training’, ‘business consulting’ and ‘business english’ on 01 May 2009

Figure 37shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrases ‘assertiveness training’, ‘business consulting’ and ‘business english’ on 01 May 2009.

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Figure38. SALT Pro: SERP for keyword phrases ‘assertiveness training’ and ‘systemic coaching’ on 10 May 2009

Figure 38shows the Web CEO results of the SERP position for the keyword phrases ‘assertiveness training’ and ‘systemic coaching’ on 10 May 2009.

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Figure39. SALT Pro: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 31March 2009

Figure 39shows the 15 slowest pages which were detected by the Web CEO program on 31 March 2009.

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Figure40. SALT Pro: slow pages detected by Web CEO on 24 April 2009

Figure 40shows the 15 slowest pages which were detected by the Web CEO program on 24 April 2009.

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Figure41. SALT Pro: errors and problems detected on 06 Mav 2009

Figure 41shows an overview of detected errors and problems of the SALT Pro website on 06 May 2009.

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Figure42. SALT Pro: W3C validation errors and warnings before and after optimization

Figure 42shows that no errors and warnings were detected by the W3C markup valitation service on 02 April 2009 and 05 May 2009.

Details

Pages
114
Year
2009
File size
1.6 MB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v373781
Institution / College
The University of Liverpool
Tags
developing

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Title: Developing a model to facilitate search engine optimization of websites by non-IT professionals