Promoting Your Web Site on the Web

The purpose of this document is to provide you with background information on search engine technology and some Tips on how to get your Web site to appear on the result pages of search engines and directories. We are by no means promising any miracles. However, this information will help you better understand search engines and directories and will hopefully serve to put you in a better position than you currently are in now.

What is a search engine?

Search engines utilize indexing software agents often called robots or spiders. These agents are programmed to constantly “crawl” the Web in search of new or updated pages. They will essentially go from URL to URL until they have visited every Web site on the Internet.

When visiting a Web site, an agent will record the full text of every page (home and sub-pages) within the site. It will then continue on to visit all external links. Following these external links is how search engines are able to find your site regardless of whether or not you register your URL with them. Submitting your URL, however, does speed up the process. It notifies an agent to visit and index your site instead of waiting for it to eventually locate you through one of your external links.

Robots will then revisit your site periodically to refresh the recorded information. The revisiting of links is the reason why some search engines don’t require you to inform them of dead links. Eventually, their robot would try unsuccessfully to update the information on a dead link and realize it no longer exists.

Finally, an easy way to tell whether a Web index is a search engine as opposed to another type of directory is by the information it requires when adding your URL. A true search engine will only need the Web address. The indexing agent takes care of the rest.

How do search engines differ from directories, announcement sites, and guides on the Web?

Directories:

The main difference between a search engine and a general directory is that a directory will not list your URL if you do not register it with them. They do not make use of indexing software agents and so have no way of knowing it’s out there. As a result, their registration form will be considerably longer than just your URL. Directories are usually subdivided into categories and you have to submit your URL under the most appropriate heading.

Announcement Site:

The explosion of sites being added daily to the Web has created a need for announcement sites that track all of the new sites that join the Internet. Announcement sites are not only useful for Webmasters and marketers to kick-off their online promotion campaign, but also for users to keep current on what’s happening with the WWW. Depending on the announcement site, different Internet documents can be announced — new web pages, new articles as well as new resources. The time period policy also differs from announcement site to announcement site, but all “announcements” are posted for a temporary period of time. Once removed from the What’s New section, most announcement sites archive these pages so users can continue to access them.

Guides & Cool Sites:

Guides are quickly becoming an important source for finding interesting and useful sites on the Web. In general, Guides review and rate only a small percentage of all sites submitted. Therefore, make sure your site is “rate-worthy” before posting. Most of the guides allow reviewed sites to use their special icons as a sign of quality. Cool sites usually select one new Web site every day. Getting selected as a cool site will attract high traffic, but that traffic will usually only be experienced for a temporary period of time.

General Tips for Getting Listed in Search Engines

Each search engine looks at different elements of your page, therefore we highly recommend implementing as many of these Tips as possible.

A. Use keywords in the <TITLE> of your document making it as descriptive as possible. When visiting your site, an agent will go first to the <TITLE> tag. For clarification purposes, the <TITLE> tag is what a browser will display in its title bar and is not simply the first line of HTML that shows up on your page. (Although your first words of introductory text should be descriptive as well). Search engines will display the text located between the <TITLE> tags when your web page is listed in a search. By making your <TITLE> descriptive, you’ll be better off than those who only have keywords within the text of their page. It will also be helpful when people bookmark your web site. If a more descriptive name appears in a person’s hotlist, it will be easier to find your site at a later date.

For example, instead of using <TITLE> Suncorp </TITLE> as the title of Suncorp’s home page, <TITLE> Suncorp: Tanning Supplier </TITLE> would be much more descriptive. It would also place greater emphasis or relevancy on “Tanning Supplier” when calculating keywords.

B. Descriptive Page Text Search engines assign greater relevancy to text located at the top of a page than to text located in the middle or at the bottom of the page. The search engines assume that web page authors will present their most important information first. If your page has a main graphic at the top, you should place some descriptive text either underneath or beside the image. The search engines will index this text and assign it a high level of relevancy.

C. Use <META> tags which allow you to provide even more detail about your Web pages and thereby gain greater control over how your pages are indexed. Not all search engines make use of <META> tags, but adding these tags to your pages will make them more accessible to the search engines that do.

<META> tag codes are inserted within the <HEAD> </HEAD> tags. The basic syntax is:

<META name="description" content="a health and fitness center located in Atlanta">

This will control what appears as the summary of your Web page and will be displayed after the title of your document in the index listing. The content of the description should clearly convey what one can expect to find when linking to your site.

<META name="keywords" content="running, weight control, nutrition, aerobics, cholesterol, Georgia">

This will allow you to provide extra information about your page to the search engines without it being visible to the reader. While search engines do take these keywords into account when indexing your page, they are still going to index the entire contents of your page as many sites do not include <META> tags. Since this is the case, there is no need to be redundant. Include keywords that will not necessarily be derived when a robot visits your site. In other words, “health” and “fitness” need not be included in your list of keywords as it is part of your <TITLE>. Robots index both the description and keyword <META> tag contents as searchable words. Hence, your site will come up in a search if someone typed in “nutrition” or “health center” from your description. One way to maximize the usefulness of keywords is to incorporate singular and plural cases of words as well as active and passive verbs. For example, diet, diets, and dieting will yield similar but somewhat varying results in a search. Since you’re able through tags, why not guarantee you come up on all of them.

Do not, however, excessively repeat keywords in a keyword <META> tag as search engines may penalize you for this. At present, InfoSeek and Lycos are two such examples and others may adopt similar policies in the future. The penalty will most likely be the spider disregarding the <META> tag and extracting keywords from the content of your page- as is usually the case. However, some Submit It! users have reported being dropped from a search engine’s database and felt keyword repetition played a role in the removal of their listing.

Who should definitely make use of <META> tags?

Sites using Netscape frames:

The main HTML file contains the tags, but fails to provide robots with any real useful information for selecting a Web site’s abstract. Therefore you should include a description summarizing the contents of the frames on your page with <META> tags.

Sites using Javascript at the top of their page:

If JavaScript code makes up the first several hundred characters on your page, you should use <META> tags to provide a description for your page. An indexing agent’s search logic is programmed to place more emphasis on the text located at the top of your page than the content it combs through towards the bottom.

D. Use ALT tags especially if your site contains multiple photos or graphic-image maps at the top of your home page. Some search engines will take into account the text within an ALT tag when creating your site’s description and keywords. In addition, you will be greatly appreciated by all people who visit your site with their Auto Load Images option turned off or by those who prefer to use character browsers.

ALT tags are placed after an image file and generally look like the following:

<img src="/images/submits.gif" alt="Submit It! : Web site marketing services and tools.">

E. If your site utilizes frames, you should be aware that search engines treat frames as if they are links within your main page. As a result the engines will review and index your main page and, at a later date, return to index each individual frame just as it will return to index all other internal links within your web site. Therefore, in order to have your main page (typically titled index.htm or ) indexed accurately and efficiently, we recommend that you add some descriptive text between the and tags of the HTML source coding of your main page. The noframes tags are usually placed below your frame set information. The frame set information is designated by and . This text should include your most important keywords and keyword phrases. Adding this text will provide the search engines with content from which to derive keywords for indexing. After this change has been made to your Web site, the page itself will appear exactly the same to anyone using a browser that supports frames. However, users of browsers that do not support frames (i.e. Netscape 1.0 or lower) will now be able to successfully view your home page.

Indexing Characteristics Specific To Individual Search Engines

Excite

At the present time, Excite does not make use of <META> tags. Since keywords and summaries are automatically generated by Excite, you have less control over their creation. However, there are still a few things you can do.

Excite’s software looks for common words or themes within a page. It then selects sentences for the summary that either contain these words or convey the overall theme. The words within these sentences are also used as keywords for which the site can be searched.

  • Especially at the beginning of your page, be as concise as possible and limit non-descriptive sentences. If the Excite robot comes across a number of ambiguous phrases, it will have to look deeper and deeper into your site to determine its theme and site summary. Along the same line, too little text will also force the robot to travel further into the site for more information in order to establish a theme.
  • Excite’s indexing software places preference on complete, punctuated sentences. If you have content, such as a quote, at the top of your page that you do not want Excite to include in your site summary, do not display it as a complete sentence. This will lessen the chance that the quote will be included, but will not guarantee its exclusion.

HotBot / Inktomi

  • HotBot supports both the keywords and description <META> tags.
  • If you strongly believe that your site was not ranked as high as you thought it deserved in a search query, HotBot allows you to send them an email to bugs@hotbot.com. Be sure to include the URL of the search page.

InfoSeek

  • InfoSeek supports both the keywords and description <META> tags. Your description can include up to 200 characters of text and the keywords can include up to 1000 characters of text. Do not repeat versions of a keyword more than seven times. If you do, InfoSeek will disregard the entire keyword list.
  • If you do not make use of the description <META> tag, InfoSeek’s agent will simply insert the first 200 characters after the tag as the web page description. Hence, if your Web document does not contain <META> tags, at least try to make your first 200 words accurately describe your Web site.
  • InfoSeek also indexes the ALT attribute in the tag. If the majority of your home page consists of graphics, you can describe your page with the ALT attribute.

The syntax for an tag code is:

<IMG SRC=”/images/clinton.gif” ALT=”picture of President Clinton”>

InfoSeek Ultra

InfoSeek Ultra will make use of <META> tags allowing you to control the description that appears in a search result as well as guide its web indexing in the selection of your site’s keywords. If you do not make use of <META> tags, Ultra will simply use the first few words it comes across as your Web site summary.

Lycos

Lycos creates Web site titles and descriptions from the text of your Web page. Lycos’ search agent selects a portion of the site that well represents its theme. It then displays this section as the site’s description.

The keywords are also chosen via artificial intelligence by Lycos’ spider. With this in mind, do not open your page with an image map. If you do, Lycos will not be able to take an abstract for your document.

WebCrawler

WebCrawler relies on the statement within the <TITLE> tag to use for the name of your page. While other search engines will derive a summary from the <BODY> text of the document, Web Crawler will default to the URL if you fail to include a title.

In conclusion, do not make it your goal to appear in the top ten list of every search engine. This would not only be a very difficult task, but would most likely end in disappointment. You are virtually guaranteed to have varying success rates with different search engines due to the collection of variables that play a role in every search result. These variables include size of database, method used for determining relevancy, policy on spamming, use of <META> tags and more. Hence, optimize your listings by capitalizing on the indexing criteria shared by search engines. If you have a favorite or preferred search engine that you feel strongly about being yielded as high as possible in a search, customize your Web pages accordingly. Just keep in mind that this might lessen your perceived relevancy on another.