February 18th 2004 - Optimizing for Yahoo or for Inktomi (or is it the same?)

Yahoo now have an Inktomi index, but not really an Inktomi ranking algorithm (as seen on MSN). The flaw with Inktomi was too much attention to everything other than body content. This is fine in a perfect world where every webmaster is honest and only wants to help the search engines provide relevant content. Anyone who believes that exists or could ever exist is not cut out for this game ...

Anyway, enough pessimism – what gets a good Inktomi ranking? And, does Yahoo seem to be displaying the same leanings in its new algorithm ... and lets just make that clear, Yahoo do have a completely new algorithm unique to only Yahoo search results.

In my humble opinion, these are the things Inktomi uses to rank:

Title – Your title can be up to 100 characters long and should have a keyword density of at least 20%. Avoid using special characters such as ‘&’, ‘@’, ‘$$$’, ‘#’ etc. as these do not look good in search results and (may) get you penalised. Use a different title for every page or else it may not get listed as Yahoo/Inktomi is clamping down on duplication.

Meta Description Tag – Previously the description shown for Inktomi indexed sites was the description from the meta description tag. If no meta description tag was in place it would display the first 250 characters of (crawler) readable text from the page. As with titles, make sure the description on every page is different and relevant to what is on the page.

Meta Keyword Tag – Yes, they actually used this to determine what your site was about. This led to thousands of webmasters filling their meta keyword tag with completely unrelated keywords in an attempt to increase general traffic. Guess what? It didn’t work! If you have one hundred keywords in your keyword meta tag but none of those keywords appear on the actual page of your web site, they are either ignored or your site is penalised for spamming. Inktomi is one of the most ruthless indexes for penalties and they ban more sites than Google for lesser offences. Again, the keyword tag should be different on every page. Not every page in your site will be about the same things although they may have a general theme. Make you title, description and keywords unique for every page and they will be treated as unique and ranked separately. This gives a great opportunity for you to maximise your keyword/phrase coverage by optimizing different parts of your site toward different keywords/phrases.

Comment Tags – These are words included in < ! -– keywords here -- >. Inktomi does not pay attention to these so stuffing comment tags (basically hidden text) with keywords will not affect your ranking. It does not seem as though keyword stuffed comment tags will get your site removed from Inktomi/Yahoo though, but it may do in the future so don't push your luck (even if Altavista like them, I think you'll benefit more from pleasing Yahoo!).

Alt Tags – Yes, they do pay attention to alt tags. No, it doesn’t really boost your ranking by more than 0.000001%. Be warned, if you put far too many words or repetitions in your image alt tags then they will be classed as spam. Basically, if it’s not going to help you users, don’t rely on it for ranking purposes. It can’t really help you but it can hurt you.

Noframes Tags - A step ahead of Google in this department for reasons I don’t want to discuss here. Yahoo does like the noframes tag on framed pages, indeed without one you don’t stand much of a chance to get ranked. Make sure the text you place in the noframes tag is unique (ie not a straight copy of your meta description) and that it has at least 250 characters, preferably 500. Don’t make the mistake of placing an entire HTML version of you framed site in the noframes tag.

Body Content – Inktomi has had its caching capabilities pushed up to a 500k limit, this is five times more than Google’s 100k limit which means that larger web pages may stand a chance of being fully indexed by Inktomi.
Make sure your body content is at least 500 characters or more. The new Yahoo algorithm seems to favour web pages that have over 1000 words on them. The more words, the more repetitions of your keywords you can have without pushing the limits of keyword density.

e.g. If your page has 500 words and your keywords are repeated 40 times then you will have a density of 8%. If your page has 1000 words and your keywords are repeated 40 times on the page, your density is a nice clean 4% but you still have 40 occurrences of your keyword on the page.

A keyword density of around 3%-4% in a 1000 word page is optimal. The lesser the number of words, the higher your density should be to make sure Inktomi can distinguish between your keywords and the rest of your site.
Whereas Google seems to be moving toward Latent Semantic Indexing, Inktomi/Yahoo seems to be sticking with full phrase matching. In other words if a user types ‘Cheap Egyptian Holidays’ into Yahoo, it will tend to favour sites that have the complete phrase ‘Cheap Egyptian Holidays’ on it. Followed by the sites with the phrase ‘Egyptian Holidays’ with the word ‘Cheap’ somewhere else in the text. Followed by sites with ‘Cheap Holidays’ with the word Egyptian somewhere else in the text and so on and so on … This leads to webmasters optimizing for Inktomi/Yahoo to choose their keyphrases very carefully and to make sure they are repeated frequently rather than broken up all over the page.
The most recent studies show that the average web user is becoming smarter and they know that to get more relevant results they need to type two or three words into a search engine. The single keyword search is becoming less and less common. A simple example is users typing “idaho fishing rods” rather than just “fishing” into a search engine is something that was beyond the regular search engine user a year ago.

Yahoo/Inktomi also seems to give weight to keywords/phrases that are placed in bold tags - < b > < / b > - as long as they seem relevant, don’t go overboard and don’t place every keyword/phrase in bold tags. Mix it up with underlines, italics, headers and leave some just plain. This will lend more authenticity to your keywords. Although Yahoo/Inktomi still seem to weight header tags (H1’s and H2’s) they do not give them as much relevance as Google. It must be said, however, that the majority of top 10 ranking sites do have H1 tags, but so do the next 100 results ...

Internal Linking - Became popular when search engines were experimenting with ‘Themes’. The idea being that if the anchor text of your site contained your keywords/phrases then it was likely that there were pages on those topics. Yahoo/Inktomi does not seem to be using Internal Linking anchor text to judge what your site is about. Each page is taken as an individual whereas Google will take all the pages of your site and condense them to get an overall impression of what you’re about. Both search engines will rank pages individually depending on their own optimization, but Yahoo will not boost your ranking dependant on the theme of your site, only on the page itself.

Inbound Links - Due to the great number of link popularity companies that sprung up when Google’s PageRank was first introduced, the importance of internal linking has evolved. Just having 1000 links into your site does not mean that you will be ranked highly for all of your keywords. In my opinion, Yahoo seems to only give weight to inbound links to your site from sites with similar content. Google, on the other hand, seems to give a link weight if it contains keywords about your site. This theory is based on several factors, the most prominent being Google’s high ranking of framed pages that have inbound links with those keywords in the anchor text. The links do not have to come from similarly themed sites. Yahoo does not allocate keywords to a framed page based on inbound linking anchor text alone, in fact, you’d be hard pushed to find decent ranking framed pages in Yahoo unless their title, meta tags and noframes tags are impeccable.

Outbound Links - As with Google’s ‘PageRank Leaking’, Yahoo also does not like too many outbound links – even to your own pages! Try and keep the linking text on any given page to under 5%. Your site map page will be fine as you do not expect your site map page to rank in results. You will not be penalised for the number of pages linking in, just the amount of linking out you do compared to the text on the page. Think of it logically, if you’re on a page of a web site that seems to be linking out more than giving information, it’s rational to assume that the page is just a doorway to more informative pages. As always, don’t create spammy link pages with more than 20 links per page and don’t link to sites that are of completely different topic. Using Reciprocal Linking software will also get you penalised as the pages generated by this software are as obvious as my Granny’s warts.

Summary - Well, I hope that’s given you some food for thought. Remember, algorithms change as often as your wife’s moods so keep checking up to date news articles for more information. As you’ll notice from this article we have not endorsed anything that search engines do not advise themselves. If you overdo any part of your optimization then expect a penalty. Just keep telling yourself – “if the search engine owners looked at my site and its coding, would they ban me?” If the answer is yes and you’re using deceitful techniques you will eventually get caught.

Best of luck
Michael Beverley
Internet Heaven

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