There’s a lot of information on the Internet about how to get your website listed on search engines. The whole point of doing this is so that when visitors search for a particular topic (hopefully the one that your site deals with), your site will come up in the search listing, and the visitor will be directed into your site. This is particularly helpful if you’re trying to sell something, which we’re not; however, anyone who spends time building a website would like to have visitors! What follows is what I’ve learned from firsthand experience, which differs somewhat from what’s common knowledge on the Internet.
First off, a lot has been said about the importance of
META tags. Perhaps I should take a moment to explain
META tags, for those who may not be familiar with them.
If you look at the source codes for many Web pages, you will
find a tag in the
<head> of the document
(near the top) that looks like this:
<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1" />
META tags define general characteristics of the document. This one,
used on many Web pages, defines the character set as
Character encoding is necessary in order for the document to validate. But other
META tags are used for other purposes, including search engines. For
<meta name="description" content="Variety includes photography, computer art, crafts, humor, creative writing, weather and links, web design, faith, food, Pokemon, Digimon and Ummamum." /> <meta name="keywords" content="cars, automobiles, classic, American, Ford, Fairlane, Chevrolet, Impala, Camaro, Oldsmobile, Delta 88, Pontiac, Firebird, Le Mans, Buick, Skylark, Chrysler, Plymouth, Omni, Horizon, AMC, Gremlin, Pacer" />
The first tag is an old description of our own website, once used on our Home page. This tag is very important; most search engines use this description in their actual search listings.
The second tag defines keywords that visitors can use to search for your site. In the example, the site deals with a variety of older cars. The problem with this tag is that in fact, most search engines do not use it! The reason for this is that webmasters have abused the tag by repeating words and/or using words that have nothing to do with their site. For instance, a pornographic Web site once listed every state in the Union twice, plus a variety of other non-related topics! Some search engines won’t list you at all if you do this.
For several months during the year 2000, I used (sensibly) the
META tag on our site. We were listed on several
search engines, but I tried searching for several of the keywords and
never found anything. Instead, they listed us under “Ummamum”
(the site was called Ummamum’s Kingdom),
“Charlie Petitt” (my own name) or other words that occurred
on the page. Based on that experience, this is what the search engines
appear to be looking for:
The Title is the most important, because it describes in a nutshell what your site is all about. Use a
<title>tag that’s as descriptive as possible, but not over 60 characters, since that’s all that show up in most search listings. Here is ours:
<title>The Oo Kingdom - Digital Home of Charlie Petitt & Family</title>
This explains why searching for “Charlie Petitt” worked so well.
METADescription Tag is the next thing they look for, for reasons already stated. Again, make sure it’s descriptive, concise and accurate. Maximum length for most search engines is 150 characters. Don’t follow the example above (which appears that way to keep the page width intact), but put the entire description on one line. Some search engines may display
where you broke to another line.
The Text on the Page. This will come as a disappointment for those webmasters who favor a large image or a fancy Flash movie on their home page. Search robots find no information in that stuff; it’s the text that determines the page’s content as far as they’re concerned. A case in point: Once, on Ummamum’s Kingdom, I mentioned on the Home page that we had pictures of Joe’s birthday party on the site. Also on the Home page, Joe’s Digimon site was mentioned in a separate paragraph. A search engine robot crawled our site to gather info for listings, and a month later, a visitor searching for “Digimon birthday cake” landed on our site!
Moral: use HTML text wherever possible, rather than images or other media presentations, to provide information relevant to your site. That way, the search robots will find your site’s real content.
Try to use “keywords” within your page that visitors are apt to search for. If your site pertains to antique washing machines, for example, try to use the phrase “antique washing machines” in the text of your page (or better yet, in the title). And the higher it appears in the source code of your page, the better. Web crawlers (the robots that index sites for search engines) will ignore your visual layout.
The same general rule applies for links as for text. Robots will miss your image maps and Flash navigations. Be sure you have good HTML links leading to all of your pages. The Oo Kingdom includes a Site Map page with links written entirely in HTML. The page is intended to help visitors find everything on our site, but search engine robots will find it useful as well.
Standards compliant, accessible website design may well be the best key to search engine placement after all. Read the article by Brandon Olejniczak (August 4, 2003) entitled Using XHTML/CSS for an Effective SEO Campaign.
Now comes the matter of submitting your site to the search engines so it will get listed. Again, I’ve seen services on the Internet that will do this for you… for a price!
Personally, I would rather submit manually to several of the major search engines. Since this is a non-commercial family site, I choose to submit for free, but webmasters of commercial sites may choose to pay for premium submission. Search Engine Watch can point you in the right direction. The site is an excellent source of information on the subject. It’s interesting that I compiled the bulk of this page long before I learned of Search Engine Watch, and my findings agree with theirs.
There’s no need to submit every page on your site; only submit the top two or three pages. Some crawlers (Google, for example) only require that you submit your home page, and they’ll find the rest (providing that you have good HTML links).
Submit about once a month, or whenever you make significant changes in your site, so the listings remain current, and to prevent your site being inadvertently dropped from the index.
NOTE: I used to submit once a month but have stopped doing so since July 23, 2002. Since then, The Oo Kingdom continues to appear on numerous search engines all over the globe, and we receive an ever-increasing array of visitors each month.
Listed below are some “free submission” pages for several leading search engines.
- Directories (powered by human beings)
- Crawlers (powered by robots)
Best wishes in your quest to be searched for and found!