Well-known elements weighted in search engine algorithms are html titles, body text, and back-links. SEO companies talk about these elements one dimensionally – choose the keyphrases you’re targeting, put them in the html titles, put them in the body text, get back-links from related sources with the keyphrases in the linking text. This kind of search engine optimization works over the long term, although it is becoming increasingly difficult to become a contender for competitive phrases. The reason has a lot to do with site age.
From previous patent applications and from support for the existence of a “Google Sandbox,” it is safe to assume Google tracks the age of a site and the site’s history, including linking history. In fact, establishing a good history with Google may be as important as having well written html titles and high quality back links. Because of this new dimension, it is important to talk about keyphrases, titles, body text, and back links from a temporal point of view. Most importantly, the keyphrases you choose to target for a site in the short term may not be the keyphrases you want to target in the long term.
Short Term Vs. Long Term Keyphrase Targeting
Observed from optimization experience, there seems to be a Google ranking timeline:
1. No Sandbox. Quick rankings for a couple weeks.
2. Sandbox. No rankings for moderately competitive terms 9-12 months.
3. Short Term – out of the sandbox. Rankings for less competitive terms.
4. Long Term – more than a couple years old. Rankings for more highly competitive terms that are related to the less competitive terms.
Of course a couple years is a long time in terms of search engine evolution, so this observation is definitely subject to change. The point to this, however, is it may make sense to target less competitive (perhaps “tail end” keyphrases) in the short term and change the focus of a site (slightly) to target more competitive terms once the site has reached maturity. The maturity of the site has to do with the number and quality of links it has acquired (a good portion should be naturally acquired because of business relationships or high quality content), rankings for less competitive terms, and the amount of content (number of pages) in the site. When a site has matured, old less competitive terms that were once targeted on the home page can still be targeted on sub-pages. More general phrases that are typically fewer words in length can then be targeted on the home page. The site should already have a history of good rankings with the less competitive phrases and should maintain good rankings for these terms. The links to the home page should still count toward rankings for the new, more competitive terms since the new terms are related to the old terms.
Benefits to Making the Divide
The short term is a long time for a small company that is new. It is important to get results immediately, so it is important to target realistic terms that generate traffic immediately. By planning these phrases so that future expansion can be made, a smooth transition can be made to a long term, higher traffic goal without altering a site’s text or navigation significantly.