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Search Engine optimized web site design & hostingThis article addresses search engine specific guidelines

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Submission URL varies by category:

At the end of September, 2001 Yahoo made some sweeping changes to their service. Something that they haven't done in years. Since Yahoo receives more traffic than any other search engine or directory on the Web, you must pay careful attention to changes at this service.

At first glance, you may notice that Yahoo's new search results looks much more like other crawler-based services such as
Google. Rather than displaying, in some cases, huge lists of categories at the top of the search results, Yahoo now limits these matching categories to five or less. In addition, they display new, shorter names for the categories that are easier to read. Appropriate categories are also displayed underneath each search match. Google has been doing this for quite some time. In my opinion, the new format is a much-needed improvement for the end-user.

For better or for worse, the ranking system has changed significantly. Therefore, some people are going to see increases in traffic from this change, and some will see losses. If you're one that has taken a drop in traffic or rankings, then it's critical you understand how the new Yahoo works.

From a Web marketer's perspective, it's now easier for prospects to find your Web site in the Web site or Web page matches. The user no longer has to wade through as many as three or more pages of category when searching on popular keywords. What this means is that fewer people will be finding Web sites on Yahoo by clicking on a category.

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Web sites in Yahoo categories have traditionally been ranked alphabetically. Sponsored and "popular" sites have been placed in special sections at the top of some of these categories as they still are today. However, in the past, having a company name that ranked alphabetically high was a huge advantage because so many people found sites by browsing alphabetically listed categories. Now, I predict, we will see a greater percentage of people will be finding sites by clicking on a Web site listing directly from the initial search results.

Does this mean that having an alphabetically favorable company name is no longer an advantage? Certainly not. However, if you have been strapped to a company name that was not alphabetically favorable, this new format can work to your advantage.

Areas that Yahoo Considers
So how does Yahoo's new ranking algorithm work? Essentially, Yahoo looks for the occurrence of the keyword(s) being searched in three areas. These areas consist of the following:

1. Yahoo Category - If the keyword appears in the category in which your listing appears, then you will receive a significant boost in ranking. Therefore, if you have a choice of being in a couple different categories, pick the one that includes the best keywords in its name. Be sure to conduct searches on your keywords prior to submitting to Yahoo. This will help you to determine the ideal category to suggest to the Yahoo editors.

2. Title of the Web site - This is generally the company name. You'll see it as the hyperlink portion of the listing. When you submit to Yahoo, you'll still want to use an alphabetically favorable company name whenever possible. As before, the name will need to match the company name used when you registered the domain. You should also include the name in the Web site title and in your contact page. If you're inconsistent, Yahoo will reject your submission or change the title to what they feel better represents your company name. Some Web sites use their domain name as their official company name. Yahoo will accept that too, but you must be consistent.

3. Web Site Description - Always include your best keywords in the description of the site that you submit to Yahoo.

4. Web Site Domain - You'll improve your rankings by including keywords in your domain name. In the case of Yahoo, you do NOT have to have each keyword separated by dashes, although that won't hurt. For example, if your domain was carbuyingtips.com and someone searched for the word "car," Yahoo would still count it as a match.

Factors that Influence Yahoo Rankings
When using keywords in the three areas above, Yahoo will consider four factors in regard to how many "points" it will give to a listing with the keyword appearing in one or more of the three areas.

1. Prominence - Yahoo places significant emphasis on WHERE the keyword appears in each of the areas. Therefore, if the keyword appears at the start of a title, description, or domain, it will be given more credibility than if the keyword appeared in the middle or end of the area.

2. Frequency - The number of times the keyword appears in each area is important. Generally, Yahoo editors are not going to allow you to repeat your keyword more than once in any area. The only time they might allow it is if it does not make the description look awkward. Your best bet in regard to frequency is to make sure your best keyword appears in as many of the three areas as possible.

3. Weight - It is suspected that Yahoo divides the number of keywords in the description (and possibly other areas) by the total number of words to compute a keyword weight. Therefore, if your keywords occupy a higher percentage of the total description, then that keyword will have more influence. Therefore, one strategy might be to minimize the number of total words in your description. However, this is generally not a viable strategy with Yahoo since it would limit the number of different keywords you can cover and your ability to write something that persuades people to click.

4. Proximity - When searching on a keyword phrase, the closer together the words in the search phrase are to each other in your description or elsewhere, the better you'll score. Both words, or at least a derivative of each word, needs to exist in the listing. For example, you can search for European cars and still get a match on a listing containing European and the word "car" in the singular form. However, if the user searches for "European cars" (plural) using quotes around the phrase, Yahoo will not match on "European car" (singular) since the user requested an exact match.

Click-through Popularity
The other significant variable affecting Yahoo rankings is your click-through popularity. Yahoo is believed to track the number of people that click on your listing in proportion to the number of times your listing is being served. They are also thought to be measuring the length of time the user spends on your site before coming back to Yahoo. If your site reaches a "critical mass" in terms of popularity, you'll get catapulted into their "Popular Sites" box near the top of the page.

The amount of time spent on your site also influences your click-through popularity score. If a visitor goes to your site from Yahoo, and then immediately hits the back button and chooses your competitors site, you are penalized. The thinking is that the content on your site was either poor or did not apply to the user's query. Lots of clicks from the same IP will not have an effect, but lots of clicks from a variety of IP addresses can help your click popularity rating if most clicks stay awhile on your site. This is similar to the way Direct Hit ranks pages.

Although I've given away many valuable tips for optimizing your submissions for Yahoo's new format, you might be asking, what can I do if I'm already listed? What other methods can I use to maximize my visibility on Yahoo? How do I keep the Yahoo editors from messing with the wording in my submission and thereby screwing up my rankings?



When submitting to the search engines, play it safe. Don't submit over and over again, and look at each engine's submission guidelines carefully. If you're going to err, err on the side of being conservative. The moral of the story is, don't trick them. Give them content.



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