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    Perl Archive : TLC : Webmaster : Search Engines are Getting Smarter
    Guide Search entire directory 

    Date Published: 1999-12-19

    by Kevin Nunley

    Have you had this experience? You go to your favorite search engine, type in a keyword for the kind of web sites you're trying to find, and the search engines comes back with "There are 20,132 pages that contain this information."

    Yikes! Where do you start? The people who design search engines have heard your complaints. Most have been working hard to make search engines smarter. Here is how engines are changing and how you can take advantage of these evolving features.

    With the exception of Yahoo, which uses real people to review web sites (and, technically, isn't really a search engine), all search engines are computers. When you register your URL (web site address), the computer runs over, takes a quick look through your site, and reports the information back to the search engine's data banks. In general, computers aren't as smart as people, so savvy web designers have come up with all sorts of tricks to talk search engine computers into giving them a high listing.

    No doubt you've clicked over to the top two or three listed sites, only to find that they have little to do with the topic you're searching for. That's exactly what search engine designers are trying to get away from.

    Increasingly, today's smarter engines look at the title of your site, the meta information that you've included in the Head of your HTML code (we'll get to that), and the actual words that are on your page. If you put "Denver Broncos" in your title and meta info, but your web page is about how to fix a sink, the search engine knows something is wrong. It won't give you a good listing.

    All this means that it's easier than ever for busy business folks to put together a web site that search engines will like. Here's what to do:

    1. Make your web page (or your entire site) closely focused on a topic that can be summed up in a single keyword or two. My site is about "marketing." The title of the page (the name that appears in the little box at the top of your browser), the meta information, and the words on my page all talk about "marketing." When a search engine indexes my site, the computer has no problem figuring out that my site really is about "marketing"...and there's LOTS of mentions of "marketing" there.
    2. Different search engines focus on different aspects of your site, but most place a heavy emphasis on your title--that line in the box on your browser. Be sure to include your most important key word. Some people like to include it twice if they can use it in a logical sentence. I could use"Nunley's marketing site: free marketing information." Of course, going too far with search engine tactics can make your site read and look funny.
    3. Several search engines put heavy emphasis on your meta information. That's a line in your page's HTML code that gives the engine additional information on the topic of the site and keywords that correspond with what's in the text. Don't get too carried away with using one keyword. Keep it down to seven times at most (otherwise the search engine will disregard the keyword).
    4. Some search engine experts are now advising NOT to repeat a keyword in any form or fashion. Engines are starting to penalize for that. Many top sites now simply list seven or so keywords and leave it at that.
    5. Search engines can't yet read pictures (even the smartest computers still get human faces confused with pictures of pie!), so provide lots of copy that talks about your main theme and keywords. In other words, make your site about what your title and meta info claim it's about.
    6. All this makes it harder for web designers to trick search engines. In a way, that's good for those of us who are too busy doing other things to become experts in search engine registration. There's a simple formula for success: Design a site that is full of good information on a particular topic, and give the site a name that clearly and accurately describes it. That's good marketing, too.

    Now I know you're in a hurry, so you'll be pleased to know that 80% of the people using search engines go straight to one of the six biggest:

    Right now you can register with the first six with one click at .

    Go to each engine and look for the link that says "add URL." For Yahoo, you must first go to the listings of sites like yours, and look for the "suggest a site" link on that page.

    I also advise registering with AOL Netfind. AOL's 15 million members make it the single largest window to the Internet.

    William R. Stanek, author of the book "Increase Your Web Traffic in a Weekend," has provided two handy places to register with many more major link libraries and business directories:

    Granted, I've tried to explain search engine registration in simple terms. There are many more insights and nuances you can explore (a whole industry has grown up around search engine manipulation). But following these simple guidelines will ensure that your web site is search engine- friendly. You will be much more likely to receive a favorable listing that will dive many more prospects to your web site.


    Kevin Nunley works with small businesses and organizations providing affordable marketing advice,copywriting, and Internet promotion. Reach him at or (801) 253-4536.


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