Spyware, Search Engines,
and Meta Tags

Times are changing. In this month's article we will examine factors impacting you and your online business: which browser to consider when designing, spyware, keyword density for Google and keyword meta tags.

Should My Site Be Designed For More Than Just Internet Explorer Viewing?

In The Beginning, There Was Netscape...

Long, long ago (maybe 1997-1999), in an internet far, far away, there existed a browser called Netscape. Netscape was everywhere and you had to make sure your web page looked good in Netscape. Netscape was free and was good.

The Evil Invaders From The North...

Microsoft, like a cold wind from Mongolia, then invaded the browser market with its various PC and Apple computer permutations. During this time we designed web sites for almost all the options as you just didn't know what your browser your visitor would be using. It was time consuming and expensive to create these subtle variations on web pages. A page that was perfect on a PC browser, looked like the writing on a pin head for a Mac machine.

Over the course of a couple of years (at least a decade in net time) Microsoft took the overwhelming market share from Netscape, to the point where we stopped designing for "lesser" browsers. The rational was that if the visitor was using such an old browser, it was probably an old machine, and thus probably not a "real viable" client.

Mozilla?

While Microsoft based Internet Explorer browsers are now even more dominant, something is beginning to occur. We are starting to see in our logs a slight shift away from Internet Explorer. In fact, our office switched away from Internet Explorer to Mozilla FireFox. We are frequently asked why.

I Spy, And You Don't Even Know It...

We installed several Anti-Spyware programs on our office machines and found EVERY one of our 23 stations was infected with spyware. Most Spyware was the pop-up kind, where we simply see unwanted ads. Some of the software would hijack our browser and make their home page or results appear. A common example is that competitorís mortgage ads could appear when people come to your site.

Also we found a very malicious spyware, software that captures keystrokes and sends those keystrokes back to the person group that installed the spyware. Those keystrokes can include password and user names, they can also include credit card numbers, all sent without you even knowing it. My 14 year old daughter, using the parental control version of AOL, plus cable access for her browser, averages about a Spyware program a day on her machine.

How Did The Spyware Get On My Computer?

Frequently the spyware is installed, without your permission or knowledge, when you visit a web site and the program exploits a flaw in the Internet Explorer program. Microsoft has released fixes to combat this problem, but the bad guys continue to find and exploit holes.

As a result, we switched over most of our office machines to Mozilla. The Spyware hackers know that Microsoft is the major player for the browser market and thus make their software exploit Internet Explorer. Lesser companies like Opera and Mozilla typically fly under the radar. Using this logic, we also use Eudora, not Outlook, for all our email.

All of this brings us back to which browser should you design for when creating new sites. We think more companies will start to mandate an alternative to Internet Explorer until the Spyware issues are under control. We suggest you monitor your logs and note how which browsers are being used to view your site. This will help you decide which browsers to test when designing your sites.

Keyword Density for Google

Oh, That Is Too Little...

We are often asked how often we should repeat a keyword on a web page to somehow solve the mystical formula that makes up the Google ranking algorithm. There are various levels to the answer of this riddle. The first is easy, you must have a keyword you expect to be found for, included in the visible content of your page. In example if you expected to be found for both Fort Worth and Ft. Worth mortgages, but only have Fort Worth on your web page, you will not be found for Ft. Worth. The same goes for Los Angeles Home Loan versus LA Home Loan. On a larger level, if you only have the keywords "home loan" but not "home mortgage" you will NOT be found for home mortgages in a search.

Oh, That Is Too Much...

As far as how many times to repeat a keyword on your page, there is another easy answer and that is, "Not too many times." Sometimes, with good intentions you accidentally fly to close the Google sun, and your wings are melted because you have used a keyword eight times with a 3.87% keyword density and, hypothetically, they only allow a 3.72% density. On the far end of the spectrum, if the Google spider visits your site and finds you have repeated the word "Phoenix Home Loan" 46 times on a page with 200 words, you are likely to be deemed "keyword spamming" and your site will probably only be found after they discover the location of Jimmy Hoffa's body.

Ah, That Is Just Right... Or Is It?

So far we have been a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where Goldi is trying to find the "just right" amount of keyword density. Unfortunately, that is difficult to decipher as keyword density is just one component of the Google ranking algorithm. Once you think you have found a way to cut through the Gordian Knot of this formula, you simply find you have gone to the next step which is a 144-squares per side Rubik's Cube. We suggest using keywords no more than 2-4% of the time on any given page.

Meta Tags: Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Meta tags are the little bit of HTML coding that doesn't show in the visible text of your web page, but was originally designed to contain keywords relevant to your site. Many web masters abused meta tags by including a set of keywords that might read as follows: Chicago Home loan, Illinois home mortgage, Pamela Lee Anderson. Before too long so many irrelevant keywords were crammed into the meta tags creating a Thanksgiving turkey overflowing with Paris Hilton, sex, download music, Survivor, MTV and MP3 stuffing. Because of this most search engines began to downplay the weight of meta tags.

We recommend the continued use of meta tags, but only a single keyword or keyword phrase per page.

In a few years we will be writing an article starting off with long, long ago, in an internet far, far away, and be talking about when spyware was prevalent, when Google was king, how HTML used to be the language of choice and how there was this thing called the "first internet" in late 2004. Times are changing.

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