• I never told you that, did I?

    by  • 25 March, 2004 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    Some people have very diplomatically brought to my attention the fact that I never said anything about what it was exactly that I did here in Crete. I checked the archives of the Chronicles, because I thought I had narrated about that. Apparently, if I did, I only did it mentally.

    So, to make up for leaving you that long in such immense tension, here is what I do: I am the SEO of a tourist organization. Waddasayaboudat? A SEO, no less! Before you go al wild, SEO is far, far, very far away from such reverred acronyms as CEO, CTO or CFO. It stand for Search Engine Optimizer and is the biggest misnomer there ever was, but I didn’t invent it. A SEO doesn’t optimize any Search Engine. He or she optimizes websites so that they are better positioned in the Search Engines.

    The organization I work for has a number of websites related to Greek ferries to Greece and the Greek islands, to Hotels in Greece and to general tourism, including group tours, car rentals, excursions, etc. When you go searching on the internet for a company that you can spend your money on the next time you come to Greece, we like to be that company. So we do our best to be found at the top spot or there abouts of the search results. That’s my job, to make sure that we are nicely positioned at the top of the major search engines.

    There are thousands of search engines out there and it was a little intimidating at first when I tried to get a grasp of them. The year that I worked for this company, in 5 weeks it will be exactly one year, a whole lot has happened which made this an immensely interesting job to do. You see, in order to do this work, you need to understand how these search engines collaborate with each other. When you have figured that out, it already becomes a little less overwhelming. Then you have learned that of the thousands, maybe a dozen are really relevant. Quite a difference, isn’t it? These past 11 months have seen a lot of mergers and fall-outs, which make the landscape of the search engines quite a bit more surveyable.

    In order to do this job, I first need to understand how the search engines work of course. For some of them, like Google, that is both an art and a science. Google publishes guidelines for webmasters which, when adhered to, give you a better chance of scoring high in the search results for some particular keywords. The actual algorithm that Google uses to position webpages is however the best kept secret in the industry, and everybody’s guess. There are numerous tricks published on equally numerous websites that claim to know how Google works and how you can “convince” Google that you have the best page, in order to get a top position. Most of those tricks don’t work.

    What does work is analyzing the log files of the website to try and detect certain patterns in visitors behaviour and find out what makes them stay on the website or leave in disgust. I like doing that. It takes up most of my time. Naturally I visit a lot of other websites, those of our competitors, to see what they do and more importantly, how they do it. Those are the pages that are returned for the same keywords that bring up our sites.

    With all this information in my head I then make proposals for changes and amendments to our web pages such that next time they will hopefully be postioned even higher, or for more search terms, or in more search engines, whichever is appropriate. A lot of attention goes to the text obviously, because that is the only thing the search engines see. In the proces I educated myself a little bit in the copywriting trade, an absolute necessity. Of course I can’t always have it my way. I have to first convince our webmaster/web designer that this is needed. He has a focus, like most of his collegues, on the esthetics of a web page. Last but not least comes the owner and director of the company who also has outspoken ideas about the appearance of this websites. That’s three highly opinionated persons and stubborn characters clashing regularly. Great fun!

    Anyway, to round this off, so that you will have learned at least something useful, until recently Google was the top dog in the search engine world. Now Yahoo! is claimed to have taken that position, and MSN is close on the heels of those two, in their usual way leveraging their monopoly position on the desktop to tie the searchers to their search engine. It’s called “pulling a Netscape”. Microsoft is good at those things and usually gets away with it without as much as a slap on the hand. Enough of that though. Some old trusted names like Altavista are going to disappear very soon too. Yahoo! inherited them when they bought Overture and has no need for them anymore. I give this special mention to Altavista because it was the first search engine I ever used, some 10 years ago or so, when it was still an experimental system at Digital Equipment, now long gone in the belly of Compaq, itself swallowed by HP.

    Whatever, I really can’t understand why you would be interested in any of that, but you asked for it, so here you got it…

    In an upcoming episode you’ll get to learn about the secret life of Yvonne. Much more interesting. Watch this channel…

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