Web & Search Engine Facts You Need to Know to Win the Marketing GameWritten by David Gikandi
To achieve any goal, you first need to know everything there is to know about your goal and its influencing environment. That way you can formulate a plan of attack that will work, and avoid time-wasting activities that will not. This applies to everything: running a business, waging a war, winning a race, and of course, marketing your web site. Information is power.
Here, we will focus on some interesting facts on search engines and Web. We shall see how we can use these facts to promote our sites through search engines more effectively. Of course, there are many more ways you can market your web site, but most effective both in results and in costs is getting included in search engines and getting a good rank in searches for your products or services. That's because getting listed in a search engine is free, but if you are placed well, traffic from an engine is literally what will feed you. Search engines are most popular tools that web users use to find new information on Net.
- General Facts
Forrester Research estimates that there are 500 to 600 million pages on Internet. That number is growing fast. However, largest search engine, AltaVista, only has about 150 million pages indexed (about 27% of whole Web), with Excite and Lycos at only about 50 million indexed (about 10% of whole Web)! From September 1996 until September 1997, none of search engines increased size significantly, despite fact that web continued to grow! To a webmaster, these are shocking statistics! The two main reasons why relatively few pages are indexed are (1) Web is growing faster than engines can keep up with, and (2) many webmasters do not know how to design and submit their pages correctly. Getting and staying indexed well in a search engine needs a little more work than most people assume it does. You need a four-step approach.
The first thing you need to do is make sure that all your web pages can be reached from your home page within three clicks. Most engines will only crawl to three levels deep when indexing your site. Also, make sure all your pages have TITLE tags and META description and keyword tags as most engines now use these. It is also highly advisable to have META category, language, and robot revisit tags, and ALT tags on all your images. Don't just slap these into your pages. Put some thought into them. For example, text in TITLE tag for a particular page should start with a word that summarizes entire page (a keyword). Say you have a page that mostly has information on vacations in Cancun, Mexico. Your TITLE tag should read something like 'Cancun vacations, tours, and travels in Mexico. Packages include diving...' The word 'Cancun' starts sentence, and rest of sentence is made up of keywords that are related to content of page. This goes a long way in getting you better rankings. Same thing with META tag text. If you use frames on your site, make sure you use good NOFRAMES tags since not all major engines support frames. If you don't, your pages simply will not be indexed by those engines. If you use image maps, make sure you have a text links navigation bar somewhere on same page too as not all major engines support image maps either. Quick note: TITLE tag text should be only up to 200 characters long, with first 80 characters being most important as these are ones most engines focus on in ranking and results display. Do not simply repeat keywords in title tag. Make some grammatical sense out of sentences but ensure that keywords feature early and are not diluted by too many 'junk' words.
The second thing to do is to submit only your home page and perhaps one other major page and let engines crawl your site. I will explain this in depth below. The only exception is Infoseek. Infoseek does not crawl so you must submit every page on your site to it manually.
Because engines are so overwhelmed, you need a third step - you must monitor your submission and re-submit your home page every couple of weeks. The engine may have taken your submission but dropped it later (happens a lot with Excite), gone to your site and found it unavailable at time, or just not indexed your site due to a technical error on their part. Resubmitting and checking on your submission every two weeks will ensure that you will eventually get in and stay in index.
You also need to get as many people linking to your site as possible. Visit related sites and ask for a link to your site. There is a trend by engines to increasingly use link popularity and traffic as an indicator of relevancy. What this means is that more people link to your page relative to your competitors pages, more you will rank highly on engines. Not only will getting many incoming links get you a better rank on engines, but it will also get you a lot of traffic (following links is second most popular way people find new sites). Furthermore, on Excite, HotBot, and Lycos, link popularity also determines whether engine will crawl deep into your site and index more pages or not. Do not ignore this fourth step, no matter how hard it sounds!
For major engines, do not leave submission process to automated programs and services. The major search engines are too important and automated services sometimes do it wrong. You are only submitting home page and one other major page to Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, Infoseek, Northern Light, and HotBot - that is not much work to do manually every two weeks!
- About Spamdexing
Because search engines are so overwhelmed, they are coming up with more ways to make their job easier and weed out pages they feel are not worth indexing. One of new developments is that most engines now insist or highly recommend that you only submit your home page to them and let engine crawl through your site and index pages it finds. If you decide to go against this recommendation and submit a whole bunch of pages through online submission forms, you will risk being tagged as a "spamdexer" (index spammer). There is also an indication that engines like AltaVista give a higher ranking to crawled pages than submitted pages. So for your own interests, you want your pages crawled so that they have a higher score. Other engines like Excite will take same amount of time to add your pages to their index whether you submit them manually or let it crawl to them from your home page. So not only will you be wasting your time submitting each and every page you have to Excite, but you will risk spamming that engine. Conclusion: submit only your home page and one other major page and let engines crawl your site. The only exception is Infoseek. Infoseek does not crawl so you must submit every page on your site to it manually. You can make a list of URLs to your pages and email that to Infoseek if you have more than 50 pages you wish to submit (see their submission page for more details).
Latest Bytes on Search Engine MarketingWritten by David Gikandi
The search engine world is always changing. They are always up to something new, using new technology, coming up with new requirements and rules, and, of course, running into new glitches. As a web site owner, you need to know exactly what they are up to at any one moment so that you can get your site well placed in their indexes. After all, search engines deliver bulk of traffic most sites get, so you cannot afford to ignore them. So let us have a look at what exactly is going on with various engines and how we can us this knowledge to our marketing benefit.
Tip: Use unique IP addresses for each site
Consider using a unique domain name and IP addresses for your doorways. Once in a while, it can happen that you go too far in your efforts to use various kinds of gateway pages (doorways, information frames, etc) to get higher placements on search engines. For example, you may be using too many keywords that are too alike and thereby ending up with duplicate pages or a cluster of high rankings for same keyword. AltaVista is especially watchful for such mistakes. The penalties for such an error are usually just penalization of offending page, or at worst case search engine may block any new submissions from offending site. To make sure that such a mistake will have no negative effect on your web site even if your gateway pages do spam an engine due to improper use, it is highly recommend that you get a unique domain name that has its own IP address (those numbers that look like 206.67...789 that your hosting service tells you point to your domain name). Get two domain names, one for your site and one for your web promotion material such as doorways. For best effect, ensure that these domains are hosted by different hosting services. That guarantees that each domain name will definitely have a unique IP address. If you want to stick to one hosting service, ask your web hosting service to make sure that each domain name is assigned an IP address that is unique to it. While you are at it, get your hosting service to ensure that (a) IP address given to you is not shared by other sites on their server and (b) it has not been used before by a previous site that was on their server. Any of these situations can cause you to get penalized by engines by spamming done by sites that share your IP address or one that used to own it.
Another good reason to have two domains is that AltaVista and Infoseek seem to have a limit on total number of pages you can have indexed from one site. Infoseek supposedly limits this to 600 pages per domain. AltaVista's limit is much higher, if they do have one. So having two domains and splitting your pages among them can be a good idea if you have many pages.
Finally, for most of major engines, having links to your main site from another domain adds to your rankings. So your main site will rank better if doorways pointing to it are from a different domain than from within it. Yet another good reason to get a new domain name and hosting account just for your doorways.
While you are at it, try to get a long domain name for your doorways that is made up of your most important keywords. For example, if your site is about real estate in New York, you might want to get name www.realestatenewyorkapartmentshouses.com or something like that. Keywords in domain add to higher rankings.
How-to: How to submit to search engines
For all major search engines, it is highly recommended that you only submit your home pages and hallway pages (hallways are pages that contain links to all your site's pages so search engines can find them). Let search engine crawl and find your other pages. Make sure that you wait at least 30 minutes in between each submission (e.g. if you want to submit a home page and two hallway pages to Hotbot, submit home page, wait at least 30 minutes, submit hallway page, wait again, then next hallway page). For best results, submit these pages manually using search engine's submission page. Do not submit your other site pages. This is in line with latest recommendations issued by search engines. In fact, on some engines you may get tagged for spam review or get extra submitted pages ranked lower if you submit anything other than home and hallway pages. For all engines, re-submit your home and hallway pages once every fortnight to ensure that they remain indexed.
Tip: Infoseek submission
Infoseek's Add URL function had been down for quite a while but is now back up. However, it seems to now take about 5 - 7 weeks for newly submitted sites to get indexed. Also, it now only accepts submissions for home page and not any other sub page. Fortunately their crawling seems to be good and eventually spider will come to your home page and follow all links it finds on home page to index sub pages. So forget about submitting other pages on your site - just submit home page and make sure that all other pages on your site can somehow be reached from home page by crawler.
Infoseek also uses channels as a search option. If you merely submit to usual Add URL link for general search engine, you wont be found in channels. So browse Channels on Infoseek and find one suitable for your site and submit your home page there.
Tip: Excite delays and subdirectories issue
Excite is still, in our experience, slowest of major engines when it comes to getting new pages indexed. It takes months to get pages indexed at times. We hope this is going to improve soon. We are sure a negative image is not what they want so we are betting that they are working on fixing this. The point to note is that Excite seems to be indexing every few months, talking in pages that were previously submitted before. So you should go ahead and treat it as if it works - submit your site as usual and re-submit every fortnight. When they do index again, at least you will be in queue and get indexed.