How to get your site listed in search engines
14 November 2006
This is an often discussed topic between website owners, as obviously the traffic for most sites comes from search engines, so everyone is as keen as each other to get as high as possible! It is also an area where an awful lot of rubbish and speculation gets stated as fact, so make sure that you take 'facts' stated about the topic with a good pinch of salt.
Search Engine Basics
To generate their massive indexes of sites, search engines use automatic programs called 'crawlers' - these travel the web, going to pages, saving information about what is on these, and noting where the links on each page point to. If a link on the page points to another page that the search engine hasn't got in the index, then it is added to a list of pages to visit later - this is how websites are discovered by crawlers in the first place.
When you search for a page in a search engine, it looks in its index and returns a list of the pages that it believes are best matched to what you are searching for. The two main factors that it uses for this are the content of the pages, and what it perceives to be the popularity of the pages.
To make decisions about how relevant the content of a page is, the search engine will compare the words that the user has searched for against the sorts of words that are in the page: the more often that the words appear and the closer the pattern of words to the user's search phrase, the higher the page will score.
To decide how much weight to put behind the score for the content of a site, search engines then try to establish how popular particular pages and sites are. The main factor that they will base this on is how many other websites have linked to it. This means that the simple way to get your site noticed in search results is to make sure that your pages have plenty of incoming links.
However, don't think that you can just fill your pages with hundreds of hidden keywords and phrases, or just get your link added to loads of link directories. Anything you think of to try to artificially inflate your position in the search engines will most likely have been previously done by so many people that it will not in fact improve your position, but will be noticed as 'Spam' by the engines and be stored as a 'black mark' against your site.
Even if your tricks were especially clever and fooled the search engines for a while, it is inevitable that at some point, an overnight change to the search engine's weighting would wipe you off people's results pages.
The Right Way
The simplest and best long term approach to making your site feature highly in the search engine rankings is to fill your site with something that people are interested in, or is of value to them. This is probably not what most site owners would like to hear - a quick fix is the most appealing prospect to anyone instead of hard work! However, this doesn't have to be arduous if you decide on an approach that suits you - for instance:
- If you have an online shop, a good way of promoting it would be to write a few articles on the same sort of topic as the items in your shop - these should interest and gently persuade people rather than being obvious advertising though.
- If you are an artist or illustrator looking to get work, a few free high resolution pieces of your art will bring in people to your site to look at them.
- Making genuinely helpful or informative posts on popular forums which allow you to link to your site in your signature is another great approach. Just brazenly plugging your site isn't going to help though!
If people tell you that what you really need to get your site well ranked by engines is Meta Tags, then they are about a decade behind the times - yes, a well worded description of the page in a meta description tag is probably a good idea if you don't have anything else to do, but you certainly shouldn't be using meta keywords tags. Read more about meta tags in another of my articles.
Another commonly written untruth is that regularly submitting your site to the search engines raises your ranking. The only benefit that submitting your site to the search engines once can bring is if you do not have any incoming links, the engines can know about your site earlier. Once you are in the listings, then there is no benefit at all to submitting your site or new pages on it to the search engines.