Taking the pulse of search engine rankings

Taking the pulse of search engine rankings

A few months ago I tested my curiosity about and suspicion of “search engine optimization” (SEO).

First, I hypothesized that some people might search for a tool that helps them find their heart rate. Second, I created a website that did one thing: measure a user’s pulse. Third, I registered a domain made of words I thought someone might use when searching for such a tool.


(Fourth, I asked Annette to create a design for the site.)

The results were interesting: Placing search terms in page titles, headings and in the domain name isn’t worth a thing on its own to Google or Ask but is fantastically effective for Bing and Yahoo!.

Search results for “pulse calculator”

Search Engine Ranking
AOL Search (not in first two pages of results)
Ask.com (not in first two pages of results)
Bing 2
Dogpile 2
Google (not in first two pages of results)
Yahoo 2

Conclusion: My skepticism about promises of high rankings in Google from search term optimization was confirmed. Crafting content for search engines can work very well for some other search sites.

Other notes.

  • It will be interesting to see if posting this affects any of the rankings. Google’s ranking algorithm currently places a lot of weight on words near links from other sites.
  • If you’re looking to increase traffic to your site, optimizing keywords might not give the results you want even if you are very successful in getting a high ranking for your targeted terms. The image introducing this post is a Google Analytics report showing the search engine traffic for the last 30 days. There were only four visits to pulsecalculator.com in a month even though the targeted search term enjoys the #2 spot for Bing and Yahoo!, the second and third most popular search engines as of this writing.
  • Following from the previous point, any search engine campaign is likely to be more effective at increasing existing search engine traffic than creating traffic that doesn’t already exist. You can’t make people search for what you’re offering by optimizing keywords.