Guide to getting your site found on search engines

A lot of people make the mistake of asking after their site is produced "Why isn't it appearing on search engines?" If you are serious about having your site found by people all round the world then this needs to be taken into account at the design stage of your website, and even when making the choice as to which domain name to register. Once listed on search engines it is another matter to try and get a high listing/ranking and keep your site there.

We have compiled this information from various trusted sources, in particular http://www.searchenginewatch.com/ and http://www.searchengineguide.com/. The information is provided in good faith and as advice only.

Domain Names

If you are a company then it is best to have your company name as your web address (e.g. http://www.mycompany.co.im/ or http://www.mycompany.com/). There is more chance that people will remember your address if it is short so bear that in mind. The actual domain name you pick doesn't affect your ranking that much, but if you are going to go for a longer or more descriptive domain name then the words are best to be separated by hyphens as they will then be recognised by the automated processes of the search engines e.g. http://www.find-me-on-search-engines.com/ and you should try to use your main keywords.

Keywords

This is a very important concept when trying to get found on the Internet. You need to analyse exactly the words that best describe what you do, referring to your advertising copy may be a good starting point. You also need to get into the mindset of a customer searching on the Internet, what words would they type into the search box to try and find you?

Let us use a garage as an example, one that sells a particular brand of car on the Isle of Man. As a consumer trying to find the best deals I would probably type something like "car sales cheap deals isle of man garage" or if I was interested in one brand only "ford car isle of man". With these searches, a Ford retailer based on the Isle of Man should be able to appear in the top ten. If I had missed off the Isle of Man though, then the pages would be buried beneath all the thousands of retailers in the US and across the world. This is where you have to be realistic; a small company on the Isle of Man is never going to be number one on the search engine for a one word keyword like 'ford' or 'car.'

It is recommended that no more than 25 words are chosen, so in the example given it may be wise to choose as follows; "car, sales, garage, ford, dealer, isle, of, man, iom, deal, manx, cheap, finance, trade, in, cashback, fiesta, escort, ka, mondeo, focus"

Meta Tags

Behind every page of images and text you see through your Internet browser, is the HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) code that makes the site work. This is what the search engines read to work out how relevant your site is to a particular keyword used in a customer's search. At the very top of the page there are 'tags' that cannot be seen through the browser, but are important in classifying your site. These 'tags' are the meta title, meta keywords and meta description tag. A good web designer will discuss with you the main aim of your site and will ensure they code the relevant meta tags on your behalf. One important thing to bear in mind is that your main keywords (e.g. Isle of Man, Ford and Car) should also be used in the title and description fields to reinforce their importance. So a good title for this example site may be "the best Ford car deals on the Isle of Man from Bloggs and Co" and the longer description field could be "Are you looking for great deals on new and used Ford cars on the Isle of Man? The Bloggs and Co site has cheap deals on Fiestas, Mondeos, Kas and many more."

Content

There is no magical formula or cheat to do well on a search engine. At the end of the day it is worth bearing in mind their objective, to provide a customer searching for something with the most relevant pages. Therefore if you are designing a website, it is always important to ensure that there is a lot of content, text basically, that is relevant, well written and should naturally contain your 'keywords' several times. It is wise to avoid overloading with design solutions like 'frames' and 'flash' and 'javascript' as these cannot be read, and therefore the message will not be listed. At the end of the day, whilst the World Wide Web is increasingly graphical, most of us are searching for information, text information, so that is still the most important aspect of your site.

Regular Updates

The paragraph above details the importance of text, but many sites will write pages and pages of excellent copy, but after a year or two, if no changes are made, it will usually fall behind in the search engine listings. Information usually does have a short lifespan, as a customer searching a site will lose trust in information written two years ago. A website that carries out daily or weekly updates on their homepage, for example in the format of latest news with a date and time stamp, will usually come out ahead of sites that only have static information. It is worth working into the design a section that can be updated easily when you have new information to share.

Links

If you are trying to be the authority on a particular subject then a customer browsing the site would expect complimentary links to make their search easier. So in the example given, it would be sensible to consider linking to the main Ford site, giving more detailed technical and sales information on the models of cars, perhaps also to preferred finance houses for customers to choose the best deal. A list of insurance companies would be sensible too; the list of links could go on and on e.g. fan sites, accessories, modifications, other garages for service, parts etc. Not only is this a useful thing for the customer, making them more likely to use your services, it is also a recognised boost on search engines, they will classify your site as more useful as long as the links are relevant. Perhaps more importantly in terms of search engine rankings is to have lots of other sites link to you, again these have to be relevant to have any effect on the ranking e.g. the IOM web directory, lists of Ford Dealers, other garages, car insurance sites etc. The search engines automated processes will place more importance on a site that is considered a good one, e.g. worth linking to, by other high ranking sites

Search Engines

Once your website has been designed and published on the Internet it is a relatively straight forward task to register it with Internet Search Engines. The list that follows details the main search engines that should be concentrated on:

Search Engines
Google

The most popular Internet Search Engine

Bing Microsoft's Internet Search Engine
Ask Formerly Ask Jeeves
Yahoo Search Popular, well known Internet Search Engine

Basically these days the important sites to get listed with are Google and Bing, in that order. I would recommend waiting until the keywords and meta tags are inserted into the site, then at that point go to the links for the search engines as listed above. Then complete the short forms and see what happens. You will usually start to appear within a couple of weeks (it just depends when the sites next do their updates) but it can be up to 6 weeks. By then you will be more than likely listed and should start to see traffic from the engines. If after a few months you feel it isn't going as well as you would like, then at that stage it may be worth thinking about paid optimisation/placement companies, but you may be pleasantly surprised as to what you can achieve yourself.

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