This pager is a bit dated but contains some good information.

Search Engine Positioning

This paper is the result of a 3-month study by someone other than myself of the major Internet search engines. I know that you'll find this to be one of the best investments you've ever made, even if you use only a small portion of the information provided here.

Search engines have become EXTREMELY important for those people wanting to navigate the Internet.  It's hard to believe, but when I set up our first web server in the Fall of 1994, there was only one Web search engine!  Now there are hundreds and new ones are popping up almost daily.

There are presently (as of December, 1997) approximately 250.5 million web pages in existence worldwide. Web pages are being added at a rate of almost 200,000 per day! And this is just the start. Web growth is still in the acceleration phase.

When someone goes to a search engine, say Alta Vista, and does a keyword search, that search may produce tens of thousands of "hits."  The problem is that, due to the obvious physical limitations, only a few of these hits can be displayed at one time.  In the case of Alta Vista,  only 10 search results are displayed at a time. You want your page to come up in the top 20 -- preferably in the top 10 to have a good chance of being selected and visited by the person doing the search.

Now, to clear up one common misconception: there's no way that your page will come up in the top ten for every search done for every keyword.  This is impossible.  Your mission is to have your web page appear in the top ten whenever someone does a search for a keyword that defines  your narrow market niche.  Spend some time thinking about this. Narrow the focus of your web page down so that you  are able to define its purpose in one or two specific words.  

Bear in mind too that the work that you are putting into your web site -- the designing, setting up, submitting to search engines -- is a never-ending process.  Every 6-months to a year you need to repeat the whole process so that your web site stays fresh looking and well focused.

SEARCH ENGINE TYPES

It's a good idea to have a basic understanding of how the search engines work. There are three main types of search engines. The type depends on how they were programmed.

The study of types also shows the progression of Internet search engine technology.  The first type to evolve was the HIERARCHICAL DATABASE.

HIERARCHICAL DATABASES: 

Technically, this is not a true search engine.  It's really just a series of connected web pages.  But the pages are set up in a "hierarchical" or top down manner that allows you to quickly find the information you are looking for.  The most famous example of this type is YAHOO.

STANDARD SEARCH ENGINES:

You've probably used a type like this before.  If you've ever used the computerized card catalog at a public library, you've used this type of database.  You do a keyword search on the "author" field and every book written by that author is listed in alphabetical order. 

Standard Search Engines require that the information be put in them, one at a time.  If you've ever filled in a web page submission form, this information goes into a database.

Standard databases are usually designed to search for just keywords that you have typed into the "keyword" field.   When you are submitting your web page to a Standard Search Engine, the more keywords you list, the better.

DEEP SEARCH ENGINES:

The Deep Search Engines are the latest type of web search engine to develop on the web.  There are many types with names like Crawlers, spiders, robots, worms, and the like.  By whatever name, they all do basically the same thing: they visit web sites and index every word of every page on that site.

Submitting your web site to a Deep Search Engine is very easy. All you do is to tell it the URL to your web page. 

The search engine then visits your web site and indexes every word on every page.  Sometimes they will also explore the links on your page also!  This is truly amazing technology.

The Deep Search Engines pose a particular challenge to us who want to achieve good search engine positioning.

Because every word of every page is indexed, what differentiates one page from another?  Imagine two competing businesses, "Bill's Flower Shop" and "Ann's Flower Shop."  Each has a web site.  Each web site has the same product focus and contains the word "flowers"  about the same number of times.  Which will come up in the top 10 when a customer does a search on the word "flowers"?   As you will see, there are many, many small modifications to a web page that can be made to increase the chances for superior positioning. So let's get started!

THE SECRETS OF SEARCH ENGINE POSITIONING:

I've listed these secrets in descending order of importance.  Secret's #1 to #4 pertain mainly to hierarchical Database Search Engines.  Secret's #1 to #5 pertain to Standard Database Search Engines. Secret's #1 to #12 pertain to Deep Search Engines. 

 The key to ensuring that you consistently get good placement in ALL search engines is to memorize all 10 secrets.  Then apply these rules when you design your web pages AND when you submit your web pages to the search engines.  Pay particular attention to Secrets #1 to #4 when you submit your sites.  Pay particular attention to Secrets #5 to #12 when you design your web pages.

SECRET #1 -- LIST KEYWORDS IN THE TITLE

This is by far the most important change that you should make immediately.  Remember, your goal is to make a web page that gets listed near the top of the search. 

Once you are listed at the top, you also want to motivate people to click on your site.

 Let's be perfectly clear here about what I mean when I say "Title."  The title is the line that shows up at the top of the browser bar when you access a page. It is also called the page "Name."  To be specific, the title is defined in the HTML coding as: <TITLE> whatever the title is </TITLE>

It is important to remember that MOST DEEP SEARCH ENGINES INDEX THE TITLE WORDS FIRST AND GIVE THEM HIGHER RELEVANCE.  This is very important information for you.

Whatever keywords you want associated with your page, make absolutely sure that you place them in the title.

SECRET #2 -- START THE TITLE WITH A NUMBER OR THE LETTER "A" Without going into a long boring explanation, computers sort the alphabet in a strange way.  The letter "A" doesn't really come first. Actually, the numbers and characters on the top row of keys on your keyboard will be sorted before any letters. These characters are (in order of sorting): A space first and then,

! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . / 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : ; < = > ? @ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z [ \ ] ^ _ ` a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z { | } ~ 

So, what does this mean?  It means that a title that begins with a number, or one of the other characters above will appear first in an alphabetically sorted list. 

For example, here is a list of names that have been sorted alphabetically:

! Hurst Harbor Marina Home Page (*) New Life Health Food Home Page 1,000 FREE Places to Advertise on the Internet AAA Wally's Filling Station A Night To Remember Dating Service Ben's Automotive Repair Home Page  

Be realistic though about the title of your web page and don't go overboard with this.  People will judge you by the first impression they receive.  Look at this title:

 !!!!!!!!!!! MLM BREAKTHROUGH - EVERYONE GETS RICH !!!!!

 or

 AAAAAAAAAAA Jack's Auto Supply

Even though the preceding titles will certainly be listed first, I doubt that they will get much traffic.

They are fairly annoying, to say the least. Choose your title with care.  Make sure it fits your image, and try to start it with the letter "A" or a number.

SECRET #3 -- HAVE MULTIPLE LISTINGS ON THE SAME SEARCH  ENGINE  

There's a rule with most search engines that you cannot list the same page more than once.  In fact, most search engines will now delete duplicates automatically.  This does not prevent you however from using pages with different addresses. 

For example, let's say that you own a travel agency and specialize in vacations to Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. 

You might want to design several pages around the keywords of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Vacation, Travel, South America, etc. 

http://mytravel.com/mexico.htm

http://mytravel.com/brazil.htm

http://mytravel.com/argentina.htm

http://mytravel.com/vacation.htm

http://mytravel.com/travel.htm

http://mytravel.com/samerica.htm

You could then have each of these pages link to your main page.

SECRET #4 -- CHOOSE THE RIGHT CATEGORY

When you are manually submitting and are presented with a choice for category, always choose the category that comes first alphabetically.  The reason for this is that search results are usually sorted alphabetically by category first.  Thus, this improves your chances of being listed first.

Please note here to always choose a category that fits your web page.  If your web page is for "travel," don't list it in the "advertising" section just because that is first.

SECRET #5 -- INCLUDE CREATIVE KEYWORDS

I almost cringe every time I look at this list, but I have to tell you about it.  This is a list of the top most requested search words of 1996 as reported by "Wired Magazine."  Here we go...

1)  sex

2)  women

3)  nude

4)  adult

5)  gay

6)  erotic

7)  erotica

8)  naked

9)  pictures

10)  software

You DO NOT have to use these keywords in your title in order to get high positioning.  I list them here only to give you ideas.  I have seen examples where webmasters have "woven" one or more of these words into their title and gotten some outstanding results. For example, a rather bland title for a summer camp, "Grady Spruce Summer Camp -- Fishing, Hiking, Boating" was changed to, "Grady Spruce Summer Camp -- Learn ALL the Naked Facts That Make Us So Popular"  

As you can probably imagine, the hit count for the new page went through the roof.

There are also many other often searched for words that you could incorporate into your title.  Examples are auto, attorney, lawyer, child, toy, computer, music, home, loans, shareware, software, sport. 

SECRET #6 -- PROPER SELECTION OF KEYWORDS

The best way to pick your key words is to imagine that you are a customer who is looking for your product or service.  On what keywords will you search?  Spend quite some time thinking about this and you'll come up with some good choices.  You might even want to consult with some other people about this to see what words they would use.  You might be surprised.

Selection of keywords is crucial so spend a lot of time on it.  Make a list of as many as 50 words and then narrow it down to about 10 to 20.  Keep this list handy for when you actually do your online posting.  Don't rely on memory alone as you need to be consistent.

Once you have your final list of keywords selected, put them in order.  You'll find that ordering them in a certain way makes what I call "power combinations."  For example, an auto supply store webmaster used the keywords "oil" and "motor" (among others). He might better list them as " motor oil ." Power combinations are likely to result in listings at the top rather than near the top.

 SECRET #7 -- THE META TAG

 The meta tag is a line of HTML code that you insert into your finished web page.  It is "hidden" in that it has no effect whatsoever when the page is viewed in a browser. 

The meta tag is seen only by Deep Search Engines when they come around and do their re-indexing.

The word "meta" means "over" or "first." The meta tag is like a mini index of your web site and is searched first by the search engines.  When the search engines see this tag, they will read the contents and index these words (after indexing the title).  Then, depending on the search engine, either indexing will then stop, or the search engine will continue to index the remainder of the page.  Either way, the net result is that words contained in the meta tag are given a LOT of weight.

 The HTML code for the meta tag looks like this: 

<HEAD>

<META Name="description" Content="write descr. here">

<META Name="Keywords" Content="write your keywords here">

</HEAD>

One important point here:  Don't list keywords multiple times in the meta tag.  If you do, you risk having your submission rejected.  At least one search engine will not list pages that have any word repeated over 6 times in the meta tag.  And it looks like other search engines  might follow suit.  

You should include meta tags in all your pages.  They are certainly worth the small amount of trouble to include. I am not aware of any web page design programs that automatically include the meta tag, so you'll have to add them manually.

This might be a good spot to bring up the subject of web design software.

A NOTE ABOUT DESIGNING WEB PAGES

There are many good web page design programs out there. 

If you don't yet have one, or if you have one but are dissatisfied, I recommend one called WebExpress by Microvision Development, Inc, (www.mvd.com).  I like software that is so well designed that you don't need to read a manual to get started, and WebExpress fills the bill perfectly. Please note that I get no commission out of this.  I just recommend it because I've looked at all of them and you'll probably save a LOT of money if you look at this one first.

One thing though, you'll have to spend a little time becoming familiar with HTML coding. It's not hard at all. 

Actually, the best way doesn't even require a book.  Just examine the coding of a few pages that have already been designed.  Compare what they look like when viewed normally through a browser to the code.  Then play around with changing the code slightly and viewing again through the browser.  You'll quickly catch on to what the various codes mean and what they do.

SECRET #8 -- KEYWORD STUFFING

Keyword stuffing is the practice of listing keywords many times on your web page.  You'll sometimes see this as you surf the net.  Usually the words are listed in small type at the very bottom of the page.  For example, a modem manufacturer's home page might have the words "computer modem computer modem computer modem__" listed repeatedly a hundred times or more at the bottom of the page. You can also set the text color the same as the background color so that these words do not show up when the page is viewed.

This practice works but is coming under some scrutiny by the search engine developers.  WebCrawler has started deleting listings that employ keyword stuffing.  So if you do this, check the search engine regularly to make sure that you are still listed.

SECRET #9 -- HOW TO DOUBLE YOUR RESPONSE RATE

Just add an "S" to the end of every key word. If someone is looking for autos and types that in, your web site would not be hit if you listed the keyword "auto."  So the rule here is to always list the plurals of every key word.

SECRET #10 -- HOW TO NETWORK!

Contact other related web sites and exchange links with them.  You'll also find that most associations now have web sites. 

They'll provide free links for their members and sometimes they'll even exchange links with non-members.  All you have to do is ask.

Another thing you can do is to create several sites based on a very specific theme.  For example, If you own a travel agency, you could create a dedicated site to the "art of packing a suitcase."  This would be of interest to anyone who travels and also to airline companies, cruise lines, suitcase and baggage manufacturers, clothing and garment manufacturers, cleaners, etc.  The traffic that can be generated by using these techniques can be unbelievable.

SECRET #11 -- THE "NO NO" LIST  

NEVER submit your listing before your web page is actually up, online, and tested.  If the search engine checks out your site and your site isn't there, you're history. You'll then have to re-submit.

NEVER submit your listing to an inappropriate category.  It will just be deleted by the webmaster and you may never be listed there again, even if you do re-submit.

DON'T type in all upper case type.  It's considered to be SHOUTING and is very inappropriate.

SECRET #12 - MAKE USE OF "SUBLIMINAL" KEY WORDS

Let's say that you own a travel agency, as in Secret #10. The obvious key words would be "travel," "airlines," and "vacation."  Use other, distantly related, but associated key words, like "luggage," "baggage," "clothing," "beach," "surf," "bathing suits," "fun," and "entertainment."

 HINTS FOR MAKING SUBMISSIONS EASIER

 Create a file using Window's Notepad.  The file should contain your home page's  Title, URL, Key Words, a 15 word description and a 25 word description, as well as your personal data such as company, address, phone, fax, email addresses, etc.  Then, just open this file when you get to a submission form.  You can easily cut and paste directly from the text file into the submissions form. 

This will not only save you A LOT of time, it will also  standardize your submissions.  You also will be immune to misspelled words, which can really lower your response rate.

 Be sure to have at least 2 descriptions, one short and one long.  Some search engines even require both.

 Search engines vary greatly on the time from your initial submission to the time you are finally posted on the site.  This can vary from a few minutes, in the case of EXCITE, to several months in the case of Alta Vista.