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  SEARCH ENGINES - Tips and advice for submitting your site


There are a number of different methods to increase the traffic to your site, one of the easiest yet most effective methods is submitting your site to various search engines. How powerful are search engines in promoting your site? Well, recent figures show Yahoo had well over 16,000,000 visitors and even if 0.5 % of these people chose your subject matter for their search it would still mean a whopping 8'000 visitors not bad for a few hours work. Another fact is that 90% of all traffic is generated via the top ten search engines there must be something in it.
So why isn't everyone doing it you ask, well they are, but simply submitting your web address to a search engine (of which there are many to choose from) and expecting great results is an extremely ineffective way of gaining visitors. If various factors are taken into consideration, for example, the use of meta-tags and key-word phrases you can dramatically alter your positioning in the search engine ratings. Unfortunately, information on search engine and directory submission changes almost daily and to write out every pro and con would be endless. So after trawling through the web and fishing out the best pieces of information I have come up with a in depth article on the use of search engines as a basis to boost your visitor counter (and hopefully your click-through ratio). I will start by going through the basic methods and techniques involved and then on to some of the tricks of the trade and conclude by briefly looking at some of the better known search engines.

Quick Definition

There are in fact three different kinds of search sites to choose from. The first is a 'Search Engine', which in basic terms is a large database queried through a web page. Website owners will add their site to the database by filling in a few forms, this will instruct a 'spider' to visit the submitted URL. When the 'spider' reaches the site it will scan your HTML for relevant material (normally by means of Meta tags) and send the information it has gathered back to the database for listing. A commonly used example of this is Lycos. The second search method is known as a 'Search Directory'. A search directory is similar to the engine (in terms of using a main database), the only real difference is that instead of a 'spider' adding your web address to the database, it is done by hand, thus it is more accurate. A well-known example of this is 'Yahoo'. The final search method is via a 'Meta Search'. Instead of having its own database this method uses a program to query a number of databases from other search engines and directories, a popular example of which is Ask Jeeves. In this report, I am going to concentrate on the use of search engines as they are far more commonly used than the directory or Meta search (although many of the techniques that are going to be mentioned are also shared with the two other methods).

Important Pointers

One of the great things about search engines is that they are FREE - for the moment! This is why one of your main priorities is to get ranked as high as possible on search engines (as they are finding new ways to improve their profits, for example, by charging for higher listings). I shall go into detail on how to improve your positioning and other important factors in submitting your site later on in the report. What is important though, is that submitting your site (and submitting it properly) is only one half to search engine promotion. The other half is to monitor your site's positioning (and if it starts to fall, catch it and fix the problem right away).
Another important pointer is that the main search engines each have their own style and methods when it comes to finding your site. There are both positive and negative aspects of the 'magnificent 7', which I shall return to later.
Search engines tend to change their criteria regularly so a good listing today may not be rated so highly tomorrow! It is good to be indexed on as many search engines as possible thus cutting down the percentage of your business loss if you disappear from a large search engine or directory.
A point on web design is that 'spiders' do not like web pages with frames. They have trouble collecting the information when trying to get through the frames. So try to avoid frames if you possibly can. Another thing you should try to avoid is the use of software that produces extra pages culled from your site. Search engines do not like this software and you can in fact be penalised with a low ranking if you are caught!


So now that you have your new website up and running you need to get as many unique visitors as possible i.e. promote your site to the world-wide-web. There are two ways of submitting your site to an engine: you can either use a 'Mass Submission Program' (MSP) or submit it by hand. There are both positive and negative points to each technique of submission and in the long run it is you who is going to decide on the appropriate course. MSP is when you use a particular program to submit your site to the largest of the search engines (see 'Let someone do it for you') and quite a few others. The obvious advantage to this is that it is extremely fast and normally requires only one form to be filled in with the relevant details. Another benefit is that the programms will also submit your site to smaller search engines that you would never have thought of in the past (thus bringing a bit of extra traffic to your site). The negative side to MSP is, in general, that it does not do as good a job as submission by hand and is certainly not as accurate. Also, on some of the sign-up forms you are only offered a limited number of categories in which you can place your site. This would have a negative effect on fine-tuning your target audience (especially with Yahoo).

Hand submission is by far the more accurate way of submitting your site. If you submit your site by hand you are able to optimise your site to get the better listing on a search engine. Unfortunately by submitting your site by hand, you are going to have to stay up all night, laboriously puting your details into every engine (believe me when I say it is a big chore). If you are someone who doesn't really have the time for the web and just wants an extra bit of traffic, I recommend the MSP method. If on the other hand you want more targeted traffic and have time to spare I suggest submitting your URL by hand.

Once you have submitted the various pages to a search engine, it shouldn't end there. Web pages (and sometimes even whole sites) can get dropped from search engines as a result of servers being down, software bugs etc. If you want your site to have a good ranking you need to submit your web pages on a regular basis. I am not talking about every few days but submitting three times a month will cover any drop in ranking from occurrences like, for example, updated cache results for popular searches. 


Hopefully by now, you would have worked out how you are going to submit your site, but before you press the submit button you need to do some background work on the different 'tags' you are going to use for the engines' spiders. Tags are fundamental in promoting your website and gaining a high position in the search engine. If you think that approximately 25 new WebPages are being added to the internet every second, you need to stand out from the rest (i.e. create a search engine-friendly page). There are numerous tags available, for example, image alt tags (which are the small pop up boxes of text), header tags (it is good practice to repeat the page title in the header tags and use headers that support the content on the page) and underline tags (they allow you to underline certain words and phrases). I feel Meta keyword tags and less so, Meta description tags (which provide users with a brief description about your page) are extremely relevant to the job of a search engine 
In basic terms, Meta tags are little snippets of HTML that are placed between the head tags on a web page. Meta tags are important for they contain information that a search engine can use to help your ranking within their results. They allow you to tell the search engines what keywords and descriptions you feel are relevant to the page that is being submitted (so the engine won't have to guess what your page is about). Please remember that it is not ONLY the Meta tags that are used by search engines; InfoSeek uses meta tags, description tags and key word tags to index pages. On the whole the majority of the large search engines concentrate on the subject matter of the Meta tags. If you are new to Meta tags, a good place to start would be They also off a free newsletter for ongoing search engine advice.

Key words Search

Ok, so now you have the tags, what words should you place in them. Please note that keyword searching is the most common form of text search available and the majority of search engines do their text retrieval using keywords. Unless you, the web-site owner, specify the keywords for a certain web page it is up to the search engine to determine them (i.e. it will pull out words that it thinks are most relevant). It is also up to you as a web master to make sure the words that you choose reflect the subject of each page.
There are a HUGE number of different ideas and variables when it comes to choosing your keywords. Some good practice skills include looking up keywords that your competitors use ( and setting yourself a target of hundreds of keywords or phrases. You should also name pages using keywords; instead of calling them 'page1.htm' call it the name of the service/product you are offering.
Important issues that can sometimes be forgotten include misspellings (this shouldn't be overlooked as even the less obvious variations of words attract traffic), phonetic representation (say your key words out loud and write down what they sound like. For many visitors try to guess the spelling of a word) and pluralisation (while indexing your site, many engines will automatically append the plural to the single keywords, but it is not always certain that they will pluralise a key phrase search).You should also try to change two keywords into hundreds of keyword phrases, for example, from 'frying' and 'pan', you can get 'frying-pan', 'fryingpan', pan frying' etc. 
Some people find it almost impossible to gain a top position with a keyword and rely solely on keyword phrases to bring in qualified leads. I believe a mixture of both words and phrases works well in the search engines. It is good practice to place phrases into the title and Meta keywords and especially the headings and body of the page.
If you are really serious about the use of keywords, then it is advisable to think about the non-English speaking visitors (it is predicted that Chinese will be the predominant language of the web by 2006). To attract foreign visitors, you should include the relevant foreign keywords in the Meta tags. If they find your listing on a search engine and can understand the English title, they will click through.
Most of the search engines themselves have set forth various guidelines for the use of keywords, for example, the character count for the amount of keyword tags should be around the 1,000 mark (Altavista) and a keyword within a tag should not be repeated more than seven times (it should be noted that a number of search engines are now penalising for excessive repetition).

Keyword searching does have its negative side though. It tends to find it difficult in distinguishing between words that are spelled the same way but mean something different. Unfortunately this tends to lead to hits that are completely irrelevant to the said query. Search engines also cannot return hits on keywords that mean the same thing, but are not actually entered into the query.

Concept-based search

There is an alternative to keyword searching and that is concept-based searching. Unlike the keyword search, the concept-based search systems try to determine what you mean, not just what you say i.e. it returns hits on documents that are 'about' the said subject you are searching.
The best known example of a search engine that relies on concept-based searching (a.k.a. clustering) is Excite (which sticks to a numerical approach and calculates the frequency with which certain important words appear). My opinion is that keyword searches are more accurate, because to get a really precise result in a concept-base search, you need to enter a lot of words, which then needs to be refined.

The 'magnificent 7'

The 'magnificent 7' refers to the seven largest search engines available; if you manage to get a high listing on one of these, you should be pretty well-off traffic wise. As I mentioned earlier, each search engine performs searches using a variety of different techniques. To help you in your submission techniques I will quickly go over the methods of each one and tell you the positive and negative aspects to each engine.

Alta Vista - this engine uses all the words in your HTML (except comments). It is a fast and powerful search engine with a huge number of features allowing for an extremely complex search. Beneficial points include fast searches and the fact that it recognises both proper nouns and capitalization. It also uses both the web and Usenet. Unfortunately with Alta Vista, multiple pages from the same site show up too frequently, but overall it is one of the best to join and use.

Excite - Excite develops summaries from your web page from the text within your HTML (it ignores Meta tags but tries to identify your site by a dominant theme from keywords i.e. it uses a concept-based search technique). Positive aspects include a large index along with excellent summaries. Regrettably Excite fails to mention the format or the size of the hits it returns. It is still a very popular engine to use.

Hotbot - Hotbot bases it searches on your Meta tags (both description and keyword). This engine claims to be the fastest around because of the use of parallel processing, which distributes the load of queries as well as the database over several workstations. It is an effective search engine, unfortunately the help files are still not great.

Infoseek - This engine relies primarily on your Meta tags to determine your index number (if there are no Meta tags, it looks at the first 250 characters on the page). Infoseek is a reliable, powerful and extremely fast search engine due to the use of the 'Ultraseek engine'. It is hard to knock Infoseek because it also gives the URL of searches, the size of the document and the relevancy score.

Lycos - Lycos uses a portion of your page as an abstract and then sends one of its 'spiders' to automatically choose the keywords that will be associated with your page. It also offers the opportunity to search for image and sound files. With its large database and comprehensive results Lycos should be a definite engine for you to submit your site.

Webcrawler - Like the majority of the top seven engines, Webcrawler relies on your Meta tags to determine your ranking. Webcrawler's popularity is always increasing as it belongs to AOL (and as you know many new surfers sign on from AOL). This engine is easy to use and offers a service whereby you can check to see whether a particular URL is in the index. Webcrawler does not seem to be as fast as the other engines and unfortunately there is no way to refine a search.

Yahoo - Although not exactly a search engine, Yahoo is an extremely important resource. Yahoo is very different to the other engines as it indexes websites into different categories. The form asks for your URL, page title, and category that you would like you web page placed and a description of your page (so it doesn't really matter what is in your HTML). Yahoo is very easy to use and navigate but only a small portion of the web has actually been catalogued by Yahoo (restricting your search).

Let someone do it for you

By now you should have a basic understanding of how search engines work and the way they can help to promote your site. If you are really serious in getting a high rating and are willing to spend less time but a little money, then I recommend getting some outside help.
If you do not have the time to go to each search engine individually and submit all your relevant details then why not join the tens of thousands of others and get a third party to guarantee a total number of targeted visitors. Directories like, and allow you to buy visitors for 1 cent each!!! an extremely cheap submission service. For around 10 you can use their multisubmit tool which lets you submit 25 URLS at a time to several search engines.
Another great piece of software is the Site Promoter, which actually works to get your site placed higher in the search engines (it picks the right keywords for you and inputs your information just the way the engine wants it).
Earlier on I told you the importance of checking on your ranking after you had submitted your page. A piece of software called Web Position Gold, consistently and comprehensively monitors your websites search engine position, making sure you are ranked high. Web Position even allows you to keep an eye on your competitors' rank in relation to yours!
So there are a number of different pieces of software and services that are available. What I recommend to start with is that you submit your web pages by yourself. This will increase your confidence and make it easier for you to understand how search engines work. When you have grasped the fundamentals then maybe you could think about getting some outside help, especially if you plan on submitting your web addresses to as many search engines as possible. Remember, the more search engines and directories you sign up to, the more visitors you will receive, and when it comes to affiliate marketing, that can only be a good thing.

James Cooper

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