How to Manage Search Engines

From WDVL: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Web Technology

  See also Search Engine Watch

They send out robots looking for you. Don't hide in a dark corner - here's how to talk to them and make sure they understand what your site is about. We can't guarantee you a number one listing (don't be fooled by those who say they can) but we sure can keep you well away from the bottom slot.

Several search engines, e.g. Alta Vista and Infoseek Guide, make use of the META tag in addition to analyzing the text of your web pages. There is no silver bullet to get a page to appear at the top of each search engine results. In general, any page competes with several hundred or thousands of others for the same audience. You can only 'beat' others by offering some unique thing, and reflecting that in your choice of keywords. Here are some general tips that help a page appear more relevant:

Select your title with extreme care. It is what the web will know your site or page as. It is worth a lot of effort. Normally the first header (H1) will be the same as the title. The title should contain your more important keywords. If someone seeks 'web development tips' and a search engine returns several pages, one of which is titled Web Development Tips, then they will visit probably that one first. Do not add superfluous text to the title.

Use <H1> ... </H1> near the top of your home page to repeat the title of the page. It is fine to put an attractive logo at the top of the page, but a logo does not mean anything to a search engine. Consider using the two, a logo and the header.

Select your keywords with extreme care. Determine the two or three dozen keywords that seem to be the most important to your site, then ensure that the most important of these are in your title and mentioned early on your web page. Examine your competitors, or similar sites on the web. What keywords did they use? Where do they show up in a query using these keywords? The WDVL is about HTML, CGI, and a few other things.. and so are thousands of other pages. Most search engines will not give us credit for being more, or better, about HTML and CGI than the others. ( Lycos might.) Yes, you have to state these things that your pages are definitely about, but you have also to find keywords that set you apart from others. Not many people are likely to seek exactly webmaster's encyclopedia (that returns WDVL as first result in Lycos) but keywords such as those, and - " - metasearchers, Wilbur, JavaScript,... " - - serve to bring WDVL nearer to the top for people that seek intelligently. You can not do anything for those that simply type a couple of words and hope.

Do not repeat your keywords too many times, it can work against you. In the past pages rose to the top if they included lots of words repeated. This trick of data manipulation is called - " - spamdex " - -, but it no longer works in most search engines. For example, InfoSeek warns that using a keyword more than seven times in a meta description will cause the description to be ignored. Pages with repeated words are now penalized and will no longer appear prominently on a results of search listing.

Keywords you consider important may not be exactly what users entered. Use a thesaurus or brainstorm with yourself and others and come up with these keywords and synonyms, and rank them, most important first. It is important - spend a lot of time on it. How, for example, do we can make The WDVL appear high on lists if keywords such as - " web development" - - are entered?

People might find us by entering more words, such as - " - web development and software technology" or even "webmaster's encyclopedia of web development and software technology." Adding just one or two supplementary words can dramatically make a site more relevant, and it can be hard to anticipate what these words will be.

Have a descriptive paragraph on your home page. This paragraph will be used in the HTML Head and in your introductory blurb. It is what search engines will usually display to the user if your page is among the results of the query. It is what people that manually index the web will usually use for an annotation.

Catalogues of search engines contain the text read from the pages they have visited. If you want your web page to be found using some key words, be sure to include these words near the beginning of the web page. If you don't want your site to be found using some key words, make sure they are not included on the web page. The spider makes determination about relevant words based on how words are used on the page. If a page lacks descriptive text, then there is little chance this page will come in high in results of a query of a search engine. It is not enough for this text to be in the graphics. It has to be HTML text. Some search engines will catalogue ALT text and text in the comment and meta tags. To be sure, a straight HTML description is recommended. If you really can not put a text description there, use the META tag.

Some search engines catalogue only what they find in the user - visible portions of text of your web pages. They ignore anything in META tags, comments, and anything in Java and Perl scripts or CGI directories. If you use frames, consider using <noframes> to include the information for searchers and for people whose browsers do not support frames. Spiders are not often capable of indexing automatically redirected pages.

The more frequently words are found in web pages catalogued by most search engines, the more difficult it is to find any particular page containing those frequently - used words. For example, "HTML forms and CGI" will appear in thousands of web pages. Your page could appear as number 51,939 on the search result list of 93,000 web pages that all four of these words appear in.

Removing or Revising pages

If you do not want your site to be catalogued at all, follow instructions on robots.txt files. Robots can be made to ignore part or all of your site when this file is used. Be sure to delete old pages from all search engines that you no longer want catalogued. If you revise your pages, resubmit them so they can be re-indexed.

Offer Text - only Versions

If your home page has lots of graphics or Java scripts, if you use the page redirection, or if most of your site is contained in a database, Perl and CGI, considers creating a text - only web page that describes your company/organization sites.

Describe the "who/what/when/where" of your site. This sort of page is a huge assistance to people seeking specific information, for the visually impaired that use text - to - voice translators and for people that use text - based browsers such as lynx. Put this text only page in your top - level directory, link it to the home page and submit an ADD SITE request for the text - based page.