When you have your site online, the next logical question is how to get people to visit it. Considering that you are competing with millions of other Web sites, that can be more challenging than you might think. Even if the focus of your site is narrow enough that you are competing with only hundreds of other sites, you still have a daunting task ahead of you. Because most people don’t go past the first 10 or 20 sites that a search engine brings up, your job is to get your site listed in that top group. How do you do it?
The first thing to understand about search engines is that they look for keywords on your site and categorize your site based on those word. If you know where to place your keywords, you can dramatically increase your chances of being in the upper echelon of search engine hits.
Choose several keywords. What’s important to remember here is that your potential visitors don’t necessarily know that they are searching for your page. Thus, you have to think in terms of how your visitors will conduct their search. Usually they are searching on a broad topic, planning to visit whatever pages come up high on the list. For example, suppose you have a site devoted to the Monarch butterfly, and you want to attract Monarch enthusiasts. Take some time to think through what words you would use in a search engine if you were looking for a page like yours. Perhaps you would choose butterfly, Monarch butterfly, butterfly migration, insects: butterfly, among others. Make sure that those words occur in the headlines and text of your pages.
Put keywords in the <title> element. Search engines also look at the page title. Which title is more likely to attract butterfly enthusiasts: Fran’s Home Page or Monarch Butterfly World? Choose your titles strategically.
Strategically place keywords in the top part of your document. The higher up in your document your keywords occur, the better. Search engines look toward the top of the file for keywords to categorize your site. If in constructing Monarch Butterfly World, the Web designer puts a half page of biographical information before ever getting around to his or her subject, chances are the site won’t score very high in the search engine rankings.
After you have optimized your site for search engines, you are ready to submit it. Although most search engines are automated and will find your site sooner or later, directories such as Yahoo! are not automated. The directory’s staff reviews every site that is submitted. If you want to be considered by these sites, then you need to submit your site to them. Submission also speeds up the process with automated search engines, drawing their “spiders” to your pages much sooner. You can do this yourself by accessing each search engine site and manually submitting your URL or by using site submission software or a submission service to do the job for you.
A “spider,” or “crawler,” is an automated program that visits and indexes Web sites and then makes the results available to search engines.
To submit your site manually, follow these steps:
Go to a search engine site; for example, altavista.com.
Somewhere on the page (usually near the top or bottom) there will be a link that reads Submit a Site or Add URL. Click that link.
You will go to another page that has a window where you can add the URL for your site. Just type in the URL and click the submit button. Within a few days, the engine’s spider will crawl through your site and index it.
There are hundreds of possible search engines you could submit to. If you want to speed up the process, consider using site submission service or software. Table 7-4 lists some options you might want to explore.
Search Engine Submission Service or Software
Search Engine Monkeys
World Wide Data Link
If you prefer a faster way, try a site submission service or software to automate the process. Many of the services charge a small fee but some offer limited submissions free of charge. With the software (which is usually shareware) you’ll have to pay a registration fee, but you’ll have the advantage of using the software as frequently as you want to without added fees. To locate a service, do a search on the keywords “site submission services.”
If you are promoting an online business, you can even pay a fee to search engines to feature your site along with search engine results for certain keywords. For example, if you’ve ever noticed the small advertising boxes that come up beside Google search results, those are paid ads which have been linked to the keywords you have searched on.
A few years back, Web authors used the <meta /> element and keyword attribute to help search engines index their sites. This element would be placed between the <head> tags of a document and would contain comma-separated lists of keywords that supposedly described a page's content. These keywords would be invisible to a page's visitors, but search engine spiders could make use of them for indexing and ranking a site. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous page authors began “spamming” the search engines by including long lists of keywords (for example, “xxx” or “sex”) that were unrelated to the page's content but would cause the page to come up frequently in search results. Because of this abuse, most search engines began ignoring the <meta /> element altogether. Although there are attempts to “resurrect” the <meta /> element in progress, none are broadly supported at this writing. For more information on the current state of the <meta /> element, visit the following URL: http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/03/24/index0a.html.
Don’t depend only on search engines to direct traffic to your site. There are many other ways to get visitors, and a savvy Web author will take advantage of all of them:
Promote your site through newsgroups and forums. You have to be careful how you do this, lest you be accused of spamming (sending unwanted solicitations to) the group. However, if you want your site to get noticed, try participating in one or two newsgroup discussions about your subject. If you add a short signature line with your URL, people might visit your site just out of curiosity. Also, as people get to know you and appreciate your expertise, they might ask you questions. You then can refer them to your site without spamming them. Check out Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com) for some possible starting places.
Include your URL in your e-mail signature. Add a signature line to your e-mails that gives your Web site, its name, and the URL.
Join a Web ring. A Web ring is a group of related sites that are interlinked. Someone who visits one site might follow the ring to your site. Yahoo! is a good place to start looking for a Web ring to join.
Check out banner exchanges. Banner exchanges often are free and a great way to get some publicity for your site. You permit someone else’s banner to be displayed on your site; in return you get to display your banner on their site.
Try paid banner advertising. This option isn’t great if you’re on a budget, but if you have the funds (for example, if you have an online business) you might experiment with some paid advertising.
Try reciprocal linking. This is when you agree with another Webmaster whose site is similar to yours to link your sites together. If you cultivate and choose reciprocal links properly, you can dramatically improve your rankings in search engine results.
Check with your local Chamber of Commerce. If you have a business, church, civic, or charitable Web site, your local Chamber of Commerce may be willing to post a link to your site on their own Web site.
Put your URL on your stationery and business cards. Get your URL out in whatever way you can. This includes putting it on stationery, business cards, and any other advertising you do.
Remember good old “word of mouth.” Be sure to tell everyone you know about your site.
It’s incredibly rewarding to see your site online for the first time. It’s even better when you begin to hear from people who have visited. Getting your site online might seem like a daunting process, but it’s really not that difficult. But don’t take the trouble to publish your site without promoting it. Publishing a site without promoting it is as silly as writing a book and then not telling anyone that you’ve written it. Tell people about your site. They’ll come. And if you’ve got a good site with quality content, they’ll come back!