Last week, we talked about the importance of good content on a web site. Good content not only attracts the attention of readers, but it also attracts the attention of search engines and directories.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SEARCH ENGINE AND A DIRECTORY
Often, people call everything a search engine. But that is technically incorrect.
There are two kinds of sites people use for finding things – search engines and directories. It is important to understand the distinction because they each require a different tactic to get listed properly.
A search engine takes the URL you submit and sends a piece of software called a spider out to it. The spider builds information about your site based on the page content and which other sites are linking to it. An example of a search engine is Google. So, the important point here is: How your site pages appear in a search engine is entirely dependent on the content the spider finds on your pages.
A directory, on the other hand, is a manually compiled and organized list of links. When you submit your information to a directory, you give the directory the description and keywords and that is what it uses to create a description of the page. An example of a directory is Yahoo!. The important point here is: How you appear in a directory is entirely dependent on what you put in the form when you register the site.
I should note that the big search sites like Yahoo! and Google really have hybrid models. Google is primarily a search engine, but it does have a directory component. Yahoo! is primarily a directory, but it has a search engine component, too.
Most people only use Yahoo! or Google to find stuff. In many cases, the results from other search sites are coming from either Yahoo! or Google as well. For example, AOL’s search results are actually coming from Google. So, being well-represented in Google and Yahoo! is really all you need to worry about.
Directories are pretty straightforward. We’ll dive into them in a minute. But first, let’s talk more about search engines.
HOW SEARCH ENGINES KNOW WHAT YOUR SITE IS ABOUT
As mentioned above, search engines work by sending a special piece of software called a spider to your site and building a description based on what it finds there.
So when you “register” a site with a search engine, all you are really doing is giving the engine a URL so it knows where to send the spider.
Once the search engine builds what it thinks is the appropriate description of your page, it stores this in a database. So, when someone searches using a search engine, they are not actually searching your site, but instead they are searching a description of your site compiled by the engine’s spider.
Now, you might ask, how does a search engine take all those descriptions created by its spider and turn them into search results? Easy. It uses another piece of software called a ranking algorithm to decide in what order it should display the descriptions. The ranking algorithm is basically a mathematical formula used to try and guess what the most relevant results should be based on what keywords the person searching for information has entered.
Sounds straightforward, right? Consider the following:
+ Search engines regularly change their ranking algorithm and spider software in an attempt to improve the relevancy of their search results and thwart attempts by outsiders to manipulate the results. For these reasons, exactly how search engines rank results are closely guarded secrets.
+ People are constantly trying to manipulate search engine results so that they appear on top for a given search (it is a huge business). Some are doing it ethically by providing good, relevant content. Others are doing it unethically through a variety of a ways that have been devised over the years to trick search engines. People who are doing it unethically are eventually found out and their sites are banned from ever appearing again. So the “tricks” are not worth the risk.
+ Most people search on two-word and three-word phrases. People rarely search on a single word.
How does all this affect your submission strategy?
First and foremost, pages you submit to a search engine need to have good content that contains the keyword phrases (two-words and three-words in length) that you want to be found under. You can’t be found under a phrase that isn’t even on your page. And no engine will rank your pages high for a phrase if the page doesn’t have the content to back it up.
Second, it is so difficult to rank high for a very general phrase like “fruit tree” that it is, for all practical purposes, impossible. You have to remember, an engine like Google has tens of billions of pages in its index. Do you know how many documents containing the phrase “fruit tree” appear in an index of that size? As of this writing, the answer is 2.7 million. No way you are going to be in the top 10 with that kind of competition.
But if you optimize your content for something like “lemon bonsai tree”, the odds get better. Google returns only 16 sites when searching on that phrase. Focus your page content on that and you will likely be in the top 10, and you have a good shot at actually being number one.
TO META TAG OR NOT TO META TAG?
There is lots of conflicting advice as to whether you should use META tags on your site. META tags are special HTML code you add to describe what the page is about. They look like this:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”KEYWORDS DESCRIBING THE PAGE CONTENT GOES HERE”>
<meta name=”description” content=”A 10- TO 20-WORD DESCRIPTION ABOUT THE PAGE GOES HERE”>
The search engine spider would use the keywords it found in the META tags to classify the content and to describe the link in the search results.
You can quickly see why this method of indexing content didn’t last. The tags are defined by the page creator, who can put anything he or she wants for keywords and description, even if what he or she puts had nothing to do with the content of the page.
Nowadays, the major search engines either ignore the tags outright, or give them very little consideration. It doesn’t really hurt you to use them. And it is considered good form to have them. So put them on your pages, but don’t fret over them.
OTHER THINGS YOUR PAGES NEED
Here are two other things your pages definitely need to be search engine friendly.
1.) Every page needs a descriptive title tag. The title tag is what appears at the top of your web browser when you load a page. It looks like this:
<TITLE>Your Page Title Goes Here</TITLE>
Be sure that the title tag contains the phrase you want to be found under. So if the page is about lemon bonsai trees, the title should be something like:
<TITLE>An Introduction to Lemon Bonsai Trees</TITLE>
2.) Every web site should have a site map. A site map is simply a page off of the main page of a site that has links to every page or major section within the site. WritersWeekly.com’s site map is here:
Remember, search engine spiders work by following a URL and indexing whatever they find on the page. If there are other links on the page, the spiders will follow those, too. You want to make it easy for the spiders to find all the pages on your site by giving them a list of easy-to-follow links.
Let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about directory submissions.
GETTING LISTED IN YAHOO!
I mentioned earlier that Yahoo! is the major directory people use to find things online. You want to be listed there just because of this fact.
While you can get listed in Yahoo! for free, the review process is excruciatingly slow. Getting listing within this century requires dollars – 299 of them specifically.
Paying $299 bumps you to the top of the list. The site gets reviewed and included within 7 days. The fee is non-refundable, even if they reject your site. But almost no site is rejected, so you need not worry.
Being listed in Yahoo! is important because search engines (like Google) take that listing into consideration when deciding how your site should rank in the search results. The fact that you paid to be listed in a major directory shows that you’re serous and that the site is going to be around for a while.
Yahoo! is the only directory I can say, with confidence, is worth paying to be listed in.
SUBJECT-SPECIFIC SEARCH ENGINES AND DIRECTORIES
The most effective search engine and directory registration strategy is to get listed in Yahoo! and Google, then focus on finding subject-specific search engines and directories.
So what are subject-specific search engines or directories? Say, for example, your site is about rare coins. You would want to make sure it is listed in Coinlink.
Here are the major places for finding these types of resources:
And, as you might have also guessed, there is a way to use the search engines themselves to find other subject-specific directories and search engines.
The way you do it, though, is a little complicated. You use a web site known as a metasearch tool. These sites take the keyword phrases you enter and submits those phrases simultaneously to multiple search engines, They then cross-references the results to remove duplicates. The three major metasearch tools are:
Take a phrase from the list of keyword phrases you’ve developed and add, in quotes, the following phrases after it:
“submit your site”
“submit a site”
“suggest a site”
“add a site”
“add a url”
“suggest a url”
So, for example, if your keyword phrase is “rare coins”, you’d format the queries like this:
“rare coins”, “submit your site”
“rare coins”, “submit a site”
“rare coins”, “submit site”
“rare coins”, “suggest a site”
“rare coins”, “suggest site”
“rare coins”, “add a site”
“rare coins”, “add url”
“rare coins”, “add a url”
“rare coins”, “suggest a url”
Cut-and-paste each, one at a time, into the form of whichever metasearch tool you want to use (you may want to try all of them, as they can each give different results).
What you should get back are all the web pages with those two phrases on them. That is in theory, anyway. What you actually get back are web pages with those two phrases on them, mixed together with lots of web pages that aren’t relevant. You’ll have to pick through the results and pull out the pages relevant to your needs. You’ll want to look for sites that are clearly directories and that also accept submissions.
Once you go through the above processes, you should end up with a list of search engines and directories that accept submissions from web sites that cover specific topics.
I’ve dumped a lot on you today. So, here is a step-by-step summary of how to go about registering your site with the search engines and directories:
Step 1 – Make sure your site has good, substantive content. Going through all this work to register a site with just a few pages of content is a waste of time.
Step 2 – Think about the phrases you want to be found under and make sure your content has those phrases in them. Stick to one concept or subject per page of content. Don’t try, for example, to write a single page of content that contains articles about maple bonsai trees and lemon bonsai trees. A search engine spider won’t index either article very well. Focus on niche topics, not general topics.
Step 3 – Make sure the title tags of your pages have titles that accurately reflect the content of the page. The same goes for the META tags.
Step 4 – Be sure your site map is up and linked to from the front page of your site.
Step 5 – Register with Yahoo! first. You can do that by going here:
Be prepared to provide a short description containing the terms you want be found under.
Step 6 – While you are waiting to be listed in Yahoo!, follow the steps above to find subject-specific search engines and directories. Register with them.
Step 7 – Once your listing shows up in Yahoo!, submit to Google. You can do that here:
Next week I’ll cover the subject of getting links to your site. See you then!
Articles In The Series:
- What Is Online Marketing? – Part 1 of 6
- What Is Online Marketing? – Part 2 of 6: The Web Site
- What Is Online Marketing? – Part 3 of 6: Search Engine/Directory Registration
- What Is Online Marketing? – Part 4 of 6: Getting Links
- What Is Online Marketing? – Part 5 of 6: Joining The Discussion
- What Is Online Marketing? – Part 6 of 6: Online Advertising
Involved in Internet marketing since 1995 (when it officially became a profession), Richard Hoy advises on, and helps execute, Internet marketing efforts for solopreneurs and clients of digital marketing agencies. His current focus is search engine optimization for books on Amazon and for local businesses on Google.