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How to get listed on search engines in 2004

Written By: Steve Nichols

Its fine having an internet presence, but if your site doesnt appear on search engines no-one will ever know you exist. A few years ago the whole process of making sure you appeared in search results was easy. You created your web site, added a few Meta Tags, uploaded the files, registered it with a few engines and bingo instant visitors.

Unfortunately, the glory days of search engine placement are long gone and it is getting harder by the day to get a good position.

If you want to be found nowadays you are going to have to be far more canny and probably lucky too.

The first step is to make sure that your site works correctly, with no missing links, images or other nasties. Then you need to make sure that all your pages have Title tags. These generate the wording that appears in the blue bar at the top of Internet Explorer and also appear in the returned listings when you run a search.

A title tag like Welcome to Mish Mash Communications is all well and good, but it doesnt really contain any real search terms. That is, if someone is searching for Mish Mash Communications you will probably be found, but a title like Mish Mash Communications experts in corporate communications strategy is better and richer in keywords.

In fact, keyword rich copy is the secret to a good search engine placement. Make a list of 20-30 search terms that you think people might use to find your site and then make sure those terms appear towards the top of the copy on your pages. You can spread them across a number of pages, but as long as the keywords appear in the title tag and towards the top of the page you will stand a better chance of being found.

The jury is out on the importance of Meta Tags nowadays. These are invisible keywords and descriptions that have to be added to your pages. They used to be used by search engines to index your pages, but are no longer seen as relevant.

Once your pages are ready the fun starts. The first search engine worth registering with that is still free is Google. First, check that your site isnt already registered by putting the full URL into Googles search box. If it isnt you can submit the URL at http://www.google.com/addurl.html. Google says that you only need to add the index page as its spiders crawl the rest of the site automatically. In my experience this doesnt always work, so it is best to add each relevant page.

Once you have submitted to Google expect a delay of up to 12 weeks before your site appears in fact it may not appear at all as there are no guarantees.

Then nip over to http://uk.docs.yahoo.com/ukie/express/splash.html and either cough up 199 for guaranteed submission or risk the free submission route. Commercial sites are supposed to be paid for, but I have successfully had commercial web sites indexed by Yahoo using the free route. Yahoo takes a bit more time as you have to navigate to the appropriate section before you submit.

Next stop is http://dmoz.org/ – the Open Directory. This powers Netscape Search, AOL Search, Google, Lycos, HotBot, DirectHit, and hundreds of others and is still open to free submissions. Beyond this, submission is going to cost you money. For a more comprehensive guide to search engines see www.searchenginewatch.com . Next month we will look at how you can use paid-for advertising on search engines, such as Google Adwords.

FAQs (262 words)

Q. What is a search engine anyway?
A. A search engine is a computerised way of tracking down relevant pages on the web by looking for keywords that you specify.

Q. So as long as I have registered with a search engine will people find my site?
A. Not necessarily. If your company has a unique name and people are searching for that name the chances are that you will be found. But if you hope that people will find you with more generic terms like corporate communications you are sadly mistaken.

Q. Why is that then?
A. A search for corporate communications on google.co.uk throws up more than 1,000,000 pages. On Google.com it is more like 7,600,000. To get a high placement for such a term you need keyword rich copy with the term corporate communications very high up on the page and tonnes of reciprocal links.

Q. What is a reciprocal link?
A. It is where another site links back to yours. Search engines rate link popularity as an important factor in where it places you in its results. The more links the better. It is always worth asking the webmasters of relevant, but none competitive sites, if they will swap links with you.

Q. How can I check if sites are linking to mine?
A. Use the term link:(yourURL) on Google to find out. This works on other engines too.

Q. So what is the secret to a high listing?
A. Unfortunately, the secret is to have deep pockets and go for sponsored listings or adverts. But if you apply all the techniques in this feature you do stand a better chance of people at least finding you by your company name.

About the Author

Steve Nichols specialises in online communications and has acted as consultant and trainer for many blue-chip companies including Aviva, AWG, BT, Shell, Standard Life, HBOS, BNFL, AstraZeneca, Diageo, Accenture and Australia New Zealand Bank.

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