Design your web site to get registered with search engines

The truth is there are only a few positions at the top of a list of search engine results and getting to the top is not easy, guaranteed, or dependable. With one exception – pay for it – but more on that later. Let me explain how search engines work because meeting their expectations is what the really important stuff is all about.

First, there are 4 major players in the answer-a-search biz. Microsoft has about 24 million unique users, Yahoo and AOL each with about 20 million, and Google with about 10 million. Throw in Netscape and you reach about 100 million people. All the other engines are just chump change. If you can get properly placed on these engines you are in front of most potential customers and can look forward to an early retirement. Knowing what these engines look for is the key to getting registered and found.

These engines get their listings in a couple of different ways. You may submit your site directly to them, you may pay them for an enhanced listing, and/or you may pay for a third party service that pays for, or is paid for, space on the engine’s result listings. The below table explains the various services and fees from the big engines.

Content Management at Selected Engines

Free Listings Provided By
Enhanced Listing for Fee Provided By
Third Party Listings Come From

Commercial sites may be submitted at no charge for inclusion in the Web Pages section of MSN Search. Sites in the Web Pages section will be ranked below sites that are submitted via the paid submission service and will not be included in the MSN directory. There is no guarantee of acceptance or turnaround time for these submissions.
Listings provided by Look Smart
Same as enhanced


Yahoo! does not charge for any listings in the Yahoo! Directory. Yahoo! only charges for expedited reviews of web sites submitted for inclusion.

Yahoo! Express (expedited review) is part of a suite of services that Yahoo! created to service small business needs.
Sponsor Matches are paid listings provided by Overture Services, Inc.

AOL Search is a hierarchical Web directory, organized by subject. All user-submitted Web content is maintained by the Open Directory Project ( The Open Directory Project is run by a staff of volunteer editors who choose to evaluate and classify Web sites in one or more categories. The editor exercises the option of choosing to add a site, moving sites between categories and creating new sites.
Open Directory Project

Only the top-level page from a host is necessary; you do not need to submit each individual page. The crawler, Googlebot, will be able to find the rest. Google updates its index on a regular basis, so updated or outdated link submissions are not necessary. Dead links will 'fade out' of our index on our next crawl when we update our entire index.


www.netscape. com
AOL Search is a hierarchical Web directory, organized by subject. All user-submitted Web content is maintained by the Open Directory Project ( [Same as AOL]

When your URL comes to the attention of one of these engines they will come and visit you. Yahoo sends live paid people. Open Directory uses volunteers. Others use web crawlers or spiders to crawl around your web site and this is important because spiders are the other way you get registered – automatically and without having to ask for it. It is perfectly possible to get a listing merely because your URL is on a site visited by a spider. This, by the way, is one of the reasons you want links to you on other sites. Regardless of how they visit you, all engines are all seeking to classify you. Whether you like being labeled or not, they must label you in a meaningful fashion.

The volunteers, spiders, flunkies, and even paid submitters do this with descriptions and key words contained on your site. And they find these key words and descriptions in two places – meta tags and text on the web pages themselves. So you need to have both.

Meta tags (meta is Greek for denoting position – which is probably fair because this sounds like Greek to most people) are computer codes buried in the HTML text of a web page. They aren’t visible on a web page but can often be seen by viewing the source code of a web page. To see source code, click on a web page – not the graphic stuff but some text or a blank area – with the right hand mouse button and select View Source. The tags are at the top of the page and look like this:

Marketing for Idiots: Bulk Email blasters, Internet PR books and Web Site Templates.< itle>

Importantly, you can visit your competition and see how THEY promote themselves by seeing THEIR meta tags. You should do this with your competitor's web sites. You can learn a lot about what works by looking at what has worked. The two above tags and the title are where engines get their key words and descriptions.

The keen observer might say that there is a lot of redundancy in these tags and title. The words marketing, public relations, and mail blasters are repeated over and over. Is the author simple? Was his last job with the Department of Redundancy Department? He may very well be and it probably was. But the search engine spiders and flunkies are even simpler. They only know what is important if you tell them – repeatedly. And then tell them again. Redundancy is a very good thing at this point. So work some redundancy into your tags and title.

Not all spiders and flunkies read the meta tags and HTML code. Some read the text on your web pages. What is important is they use rules about what is significant and what to read. First, they read the title at the top of the page and figure that is what you are. Imagine for example's sake you are a veterinarian and you own Dr. Bob's Clinic. Doctor and Clinic are words that will register - but they won't help you very much. People who look for veterinarians on a search engine will probably do a search for 'vet', 'veterinarian', 'veterinarian' + 'city', etc. Therefore, to get placed to answer these searches, Dr. Bob should change the title on his web site to 'Veterinary Clinic of Palm Beach. So spend a lot of time on the title.

Spiders also look at the text at the top of the page to see what you do. And like you and I, they tend to lose interest after the first paragraph. So spend a lot of time on that first bit of text. And repeat yourself. And then repeat yourself again. And keep hammering those key words into the text. Again, if you were Doctor Bob, you would want your first paragraph to include key words in the following way: 'Dr. Bob Clump, Palm Beach Veterinarian, specialist in pet medicine.' This one sentence answers 3 searches (i.e., search for "Dr. Bob Clump", "palm beach vet", and "pet medicine".)

When you think you have it right put on your Homer Simpson hat. Dumb yourself down to the level of an under-paid flunky on the night shift and see if you still get the gist of what your web site is all about. Then simplify it with even more powerful and direct words.

By the way, when I say spiders read text I mean exactly that. They don’t read graphics. If your keywords are really graphics or icons the spider can’t understand them. So if your web designer is afflicted with art-directoritis (an incurable condition in which the afflicted party strives for ‘beauty’ at the expense of pleasing the spider) dump her. Fast. And get some text on the front page.

It is possible to get well listed without doing all this work and it happens all the time. But it is dumb luck, or a paid listing, or the site as been around so long that it has crept to the top of by some sort of sympathy algorithm. Do the work. You’ll be happier in the end.

That is the really important stuff. Get your key words and description properly worked into your site and you have given yourself the best opportunity to get properly listed on the best search engines.

Comments on this article? Contact me!

Jeff Gilman

About the Author

Mr. Gilman is the President of Galileo Consulting and Marketing for Idiots. He brings over twenty years of diversified business experience to his businesses from government, private sector and international consulting.

Jeff Gilman