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August 21, 2007

Search Engine Index SEO Experiment | Top 5 Position Analysis


Good morning this is the final part of user statistics and demographics for the top 4 engines. Excluding AOL as it is powered with Google results. Day 1: MSN / Live; Day 2: Yahoo; Day 3: Ask.com; Day 4: Google.Today we will explore the SEO metrics of the sites that these engines are indexing the the average page 1 top 5.

I did some research and found some very interesting, and unfortunately disappointing results from these 4 engines. I suspect you will be disappointed as well. I conducted my own little search experiment to explore the SEO use and effectiveness in the average top 5 search result position of these engines. Please, read the details and definitions of the experiment before we get started.

So now that you have an idea what I am talking about, lets get started. The engine with the overall freshest data was MSN / Live with and average cache elapse of just 6 days and a range of 1-14. Google, who I expected to clinch this metric, came in at 8 days. Ask.com has a terrible "freshness" problem, their average elapsed cache was 31 days. They ranged from 21-85 days. Does this sound like a good thing to you?

I am so seriously disappointed in the load times of the experiment. Believe it or not there was 2 pages that loaded in over 373 seconds on a 28.8 measurement. The relative standard is 30 seconds. Its not written in stone, but everyone should be looking a speed. Users have the entire Internet at their disposal, why should they wait that long? Answer, they don't! Msn / Live had the fastest pages with an average speed of 41.32 seconds @ 28.8 kbs. The worst was Google, clocking in at 74.35 kbs.

I checked out basic Meta tags for a few reasons. I wanted to see who was using keyword tags, and whose were badly misused. I saw some stuffing, but not much. There were some tag violation however, I actually saw a keyword tag that was 598 characters! MSN / Live had the least Meta violations, while Google had indexed the most in the group.

I checked the markup of the pages in general for warnings and errors. The engine with the cleanest code in the results was Yahoo, who average an astounding .30 errors over 20 results. Google was a pretty close second at .45. I was very impressed with the low amount of page errors. However, Ask.com, had 17 times more errors than Yahoo!

I checked server headers for a "last modified" date. I really think if Google is going to start displaying "fresh"results, then having a modified response in the header is a necessary element to use. I found and extremely low amount of headers formatted to respond with the "last modified" date. There were only 22% of the sites I checked are using them. The oldest header response I found in the experiment was 11/2002 in MSN / Live. Pretty sad...

I checked link popularity to get a general feel for the listed sites linking power and prowess. I found both ends of the spectrum on all engines, in all positions. However, Ask.com nailed this one with an overall average link popularity score of 1,207,648.

I added PageRank, as not to disappoint anyone. I am not entirely convinced that it benefits a web site at all. I optimize for SERPs. However, you will be interested to know that I saw many zero PageRanked sites in the top 5...Even #1. Ask.com came in high on this metric also, averaging a PR 5 for all 20 pages. This was a close race though.

I optimize - optimise for long tail terms quite a bit, and it never fails to amaze me what people search for. So I checked these engines to see how they fared in returning these elusive long tails. Google drove this one home, scoring 95% of the pages returned with all of the queried terms. MSN / Live did a nice job also coming in at 85%. Dragging up the rear was Yahoo and Ask.com at 75%. I think overall they all did better that I had expected.

I checked each page for a clear "page updated" date, or a news / post that had a date. I found that the sites were even less likely to let users know when the content was updated. Google results fared the best here by a long margin, with 11 of 20 pages.

Total SEO score, was a pretty tight competition. Each engine supplied it's own merits to make up for shortcomings and still bring in a decent score. MSN / Live was the top dog with a total SEO score of 7.73/10. While Google came is last at 7.25, so it was a pretty close margin.

I used an old restaurant manager's scoring system to rate the overall results. A first place was worth 4 points, a second 3, a third 2, and a fourth 1. The overall possible points for the 13 metrics used was 52 for all except Yahoo, who I reduced to 51 as they had no cache date. MSN / Live came out clearly on top with a score of 71.2%. Yahoo was next with 66.7%. Google was 3rd scoring 61.5%, and Ask.com was last at 57.7%.

I really saw some crazy stuff. Cookies in server headers that has expired in 1981. I saw a great deal of webmasters who had not updated their copyright footers for as many as 8 years. I also determined that these 4 engines do not pull a whole lot of the same results. I thought I would see more of that. In the results used, there was generally only 1 or 2 results that were the same between any 2 engines. I think I learned a lot, maybe some stuff I didn't want to know. I am feeling a little discouraged that so many pages were in poor disrepair and not maintained. I wish Google would hurry that "fresh" notation to my data center. If you didn't view the data charts at the bottom of the details page, check them out.

I hope you gained something from this, I know I did. If you have any questions, please just ask. I would be interested in hearing any experiences you have with these metrics in relation to indexing and position also.

Peace and SEO

Melanie Prough
"Baby"

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2 Comments:

Forrest said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo's results are "fresher" than MSN's. For months MSN was the hardest hitting 'bot, but Yahoo has been pulling down more data ( in terms of MB and number of requests ) for about two months now.

Melanie Prough "Baby" said...

Hi again Forrest,

I wonder why they don't publish their cache date. It's odd. I never looked before. Slurp has been a busy bot for me too lately. I really think Yahoo is making a run at turning this this around and returning some respect to their business.
--Melanie