11/96 Features: The Search Is On (Ratings)
The ratings game
WHEN A SEARCH engine displays 10 hits per page, you don't want your page listed as No. 11. Appearing on the first page of a query result increases the likelihood the searcher will visit your site.
To give your site a better chance of making it into that first page of results, make sure it's correctly listed in the engine's indexes. Most offer a URL registration page. Fill it in and a spider will crawl your site.
Several services will register your site with as many engines as you like-for a fee. For yet another fee, some search engines promise your site will make it onto that valuable first page of hits. A service called Open Text, for example, charges at least $2,000 for such a guarantee.
But you can do several things on your own to raise your standing or at least to make sure search tools report your site correctly.
- Submit multiple URLs. Include all major pages on your site. Spiders usually start from the home page and move down a predetermined number of levels (usually one to three). By registering multiple URLs with a search engine, you increase your chances of having additional pages included in the index. Registering pages individually often reduces the time it takes the engine to add pages to its index. It also ensures that pages several levels down aren't left out.
- Avoid starting pages with image maps. Spiders may be unable to negotiate an image map.
- Don't assume the agent is psychic. Expect to wait two to four weeks before your site shows up on major search engines, and possibly even longer for updates to be recognized. If you've overhauled your site or changed links substantially, don't wait for the search engine to find it; re-register.
- Use meta tags. This ensures engines that support them receive accurate site descriptions. The keyword tag, for example, lets you add relevant search terms of your choosing:
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="windows magazine, win95, Windows 3.1, NT, winmag, reviews">
The description tag includes a sentence that describes your site, which can be searched and automatically added to the results lists of many engines:
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="WINDOWS MAGAZINE contains reviews, tutorials and buying advice for Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows NT users.">
- Don't go overboard; many engines check for duplicate meta tag entries and penalize sites when the same keywords appear too often.
- Don't use common search operators in your site title or URL. The symbols "=", "$" and "?" can give search engines headaches.
- Check your registration regularly. WebCrawler offers a URL status form that makes it easy to check your site's last WebCrawler update, but other engines aren't so informative. Often, the quickest way to gauge the success of your site's index is to search for it. If you turn up a results set that shows you're far down in the relevancy rankings, examine the sites that beat you to find out why.
- Check the integrity of your links regularly. Recursive links (those that call themselves) may confuse spiders.
- Persuade others to link to your site. Some engines search a site more frequently if it appears popular-that is, if lots of sites are linked to it. To get an idea of how popular you are, click on WebCrawler's Special button. This guides you through a backward surf of every site that links to yours. If the ride is short, you've got work to do.