Help Users Find Your Site
Typically the first place that a user goes to find something on the Web is a search engine or directory. However, it isn’t often that a user looks past the first 10 or 20 results. Although there is very little that you can do to your Web sites that will guarantee it being ranked in the top 10 or 20 every time, there are some fairly simple things that you can do that will certainly help increase its ranking.
When a client approaches you about developing a site for them, there are two major expectations that they have. The first is that you design an attractive and useful site, and the second is that users will be able to use a search engine to find the site that you worked so hard to develop. Although achieving success with search engines depends on many factors outside the
realm of coding, you will certainly want to follow the steps and guidelines contained in this topic to meet the expectations of your clients.
Search Engines There is a difference between a search engine and a Web directory. A search engine uses a methodical approach to locate and index files on the Web. Once a search engine finds a file, it creates an index of the file and continues on, or “crawls,” to the individual pages that are linked to the original file. This process continues until the search engine has indexed the entire contents of a site and the pages that they link to.
Web Directories A Web directory is similar to a phone book. The owner of a Web site applies to be listed in the directory. Unlike a phone book, getting listed in a Web directory isn’t an automatic procedure.
Typically, once you apply to be listed in a Web directory, you have a choice of paying the directory service a fee to get listed, or not pay and wait for the directory service to list you on their time. A directory service will evaluate sites that have been submitted to them without payment and the ones they deem worthy are eventually listed—sometimes. Typically, a company
trying to create a large Web presence will pay top dollar to get listed in a popular Web directory, rather than sit around—often for months at a time—for a directory service to evaluate and list them.
Search engines and Web directories are a tremendously useful way to find information on the Web. For those who intend to publish a site, getting listed on search engines and directories is of the highest priority. When attempting to get listed on search engines and directories, much of the difficulty is due to the varying ways that search engines and directories operate and the confusion that is a result of mis-information that has been spread.
There are numerous ways to get traffic to come to your site through the use of search engines and directories. A few of these ways are the following:
• Get listed in Yahoo’s directory.
As of this writing, Yahoo! is the largest referrer on the Web. Yahoo! uses a combination of their vast directories and Google’s automated search technology to give users a variety of results. If speed and ranking is important, you can pay Yahoo! a fee to get your pages where they will be seen. Otherwise, it’s usually a waiting game.
• Get crawled by Google and Inktomi.
Inktomi and Google follow Yahoo! with regards to the largest referrers. Inktomi is the company that supplies the technology behind popular search applications such as MSN and Hotbot. Google is an automated search engine with a referral rate that is growing rapidly. The fact that Google holds alliances with both Yahoo! and America Online greatly strengthens this fact.
• Get as many people as you can to provide links from their site to your site.
In this case, the quantity and quality of the sites that link to yours are important.
You will get a bigger ranking increase from a higher-ranked site that links to
yours than one that is ranked near the bottom. This is particularly important for Google and Inktomi.
• Use an automated search engine submission service to submit your site to as many search engines as possible.
While there are free services that will submit your site to a small number of
search engines, services that charge a fee will usually submit your site to hundreds of search engines. The alternative is to submit your site to search engines individually.
• Provide page titles that are short and use keywords that users would most likely use as search terms.
• Include accurate keywords as meta data for your pages.
Don’t incessantly repeat keywords or include keywords that are unrelated to the page content. These are examples of keyword “spamming” and they don’t work in most current-generation search engines.
• Include a brief and accurate page description as meta data.
In some search engines, the page description is the text that is returned to the user by the search engine. Therefore, it is what they will be evaluating to determine if they would like to visit your page.
The following are ways to optimize search engine and Web directory success:
• Getting listed in Yahoo!’s directory can dramatically affect your site traffic
• Getting a high ranking on Google is typically a result of having a large quantity of sites link to you that are considered authorities (meaning that they are both high ranking and highly relevant).
Keywords When implemented wisely, keywords can help your site to be found by search engines.
To determine the keywords for a page on your site, the best advice is to think like a user who would want to visit your site. Try to match the keywords with the search terms that a user would most likely search on and you will have success in the search engines that use keywords. Come up with a list of nouns that might be something that a user might be looking for on your site. In some cases, you may be able to add verbs or adjectives to the nouns to create some key phrases (for example, fiction literature instead of simply literature). Providing complementary words to basic terms helps reduce the broadness of the keyword and will move your site in the rankings above others with broader keywords. Not every noun will need its own verb or adjective, so don’t worry about that.
Keywords are case insensitive. You probably don’t want the total number of keywords to exceed 50. In some cases, entering the most important keywords twice can have some positive effect. However, continuously repeating keywords is considered keyword “spamming” and it may have a negative impact on your rankings in today’s more intelligent search engines.
Page descriptions should be brief blurbs about what a user might expect if they choose to go to your site. In some search engines, the page description is displayed in the results along with the page title. When writing a page description, the goal is to provide just enough information so that a user can feel encouraged that they will find what they are looking for if they go to your page. It only needs to be a sentence or short paragraph. If your goal is to drive users away from your site, then including an
obnoxious marketing pitch or a list of keywords in the page description is a good wayto do it.
Help Users Find Your Site
To help users find your site:
1. Include an appropriate page title.
2. In the head section, add an appropriate page description as meta data.
<meta name=”description” content=”Makers of fine chocolates since
1923. Ms. Murphy’s Chocolates specializes in candy bars, truffles, holiday chocolates, chocolate recipes, and gift boxes.”>
3. Also in the head section, add relevant keywords as meta data.
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Ms. Murphy’s Chocolates,
chocolate, candy, candy bars, truffles, holiday, recipes, gifts,
4. Save the file.
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