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Creating Search Engine ready HTML pages
 
One thing is for sure about web page design and site publishing. Not letting people know your new pages exist is about as useful as wings on a wombat. Tags, page title, meta tag and content is what you need to consider as a whole for search engine preparation.

There is much rhetoric and many quoted differing studies about which is the most productive - search engines or remote links - and the answer is to go for both. After following topic threads on the subject for a long time, the following information can be taken as current, generally to very successful, and worth the little trouble to implement.

I will use the words "most", "many" and "some" quite often, as few search engine robots and their indexing mechanisms work the same way - an often frustrating fact of (web) life. Also, the boffins that design and write the major search engine programs are constantly changing the way each one works, and a trick discovered today will probably not work in six months or so; perhaps even work to your detriment - beware of people that promise the world if you pay them to submit your site.

On this page I have included the basic and most important methods that give you a better than even chance of successfully getting your site pages indexed well, although of course a lot comes down to the competition you have from similar sites and that's where remote linking can help. This information is widely accepted and proven. Any opinions included are noted as such.

By referring to "major" search engines, I mean the top ten to twenty search engines that use complex methods to index your site, and not just compile a list of page names and a few key words. Beyond the latter is a large number of "Directory Lists" also often referred to as search engines.

Once you have prepared your pages as suggested here, the best results mostly seem to come from you adding your page or site URL on the major search engine submission forms personally. The links on the search engine sites for submissions are usually simply written as "Add URL" or similar.

Title Search
Firstly consider the humble <title>...</title> tag. The title tag resides? nested within the <head>...</head> tag and it is the head tag that holds the primary information necessary for the search engine robots (
the term "robot" refers to software programs constantly running on search engine servers that automatically "inspect" your pages once submitted, and hopefully repeatedly inspect your pages for changes every so often thereafter).

Also described in my "Understanding Tags" tutorial, the title tag holds information that will appear in the top bar of the browser window (what is the title text for this page?). If your page successfully appears in a search listing, many search engines display the page title only, or before a brief paragraph of the page content. So the title should contain words from, or an oversimplified description (not an essay!) of, the contents so as to hopefully tell the surfer! that they will find what they are looking for on your page.

Meta Tags Search
You should also include in your title, a couple of words that appear in the following two "meta tags". These very important tags must also be placed nested within the <head>...</head> tag pair.

<meta name="description" content="?????">
<meta name="keywords" content="??, ????, ???, ????">
Do not change the format or try to combine these tags!

The "description" attribute allows you to write a brief outline of the page contents and it is this that will appear in some search lists along with the page title. There are various requirements quoted for the number of characters allowed within the quote marks ("..."), but generally if you can say what you want to say in 200 to 250 characters, you should be OK with most robots that inspect this tag.

The "keywords" attribute is the one that attracts most interest by web designer news letters etc, because there can be several variations. Each single word in the value must be separated by a comma and do not use UPPER case letters. Some robots that inspect this meta tag will accept multiple words (a string) in place of one, ie ="soup, pea soups, thick soupy stew, soupkitchen", but which engines index and search-match each as a string and which just read each word as it would other single words is not clear.

And now my sample in the previous paragraph brings us to the next important issue, repeated words. Notice I carefully used the word "soup" in four different words without repeating it as one.

Once upon a time it was a good trick akin to spamming to repeat keywords for higher indexing and subsequent listing ratings. But not any more. Apparently repeated words are ignored by most indexing robots, AND some of the major engines will ignore ALL keywords after the first repeated word is found. Therefore ="soup, soup, soup, soup, pea, vegetable, kitchen, broth, soup, celery" will result in a measly one word (soup) for indexing - so be warned.

A few Keywords in all four!
The most important words you want indexed should be at the beginning of the "keyword" values. Also have at least a couple of them in the "title" tag AND the "description meta tag, PLUS make sure that you have all your primary keywords appearing as many times as possible through out the texts of the page contents. Your title, description, and keywords must reflect the content.

The paragraph above just about sums up the basics of preparing your pages for search engine placement. Another issue promoted by some is the recognition of sub-headings highlighted in bold. Apparently a few robots detect such text as having special meaning IF they contain words from the keywords list. Keep it in mind.

Contents: a Search Engine Robots idea
Contents 'aint contents, Fred. Sorry, just loosely quoting local TV advertising! But the idea is the same. At least one major search engine decides for its' self just what it thinks?? is important text within the whole page. You may have noticed some search result listings that make no sense what so ever. In this case, the best you can do is make sure your content is of high quality (re subject), set up the tags and content as explained and hope for the best.

Some other major search engine robots do not scan all of your page texts, but only assess the first 200 characters. Look at the first paragraph at the top of this page. It contains quite a few words that I might want as primary "keywords", ie (web, page, design, tag, tags, title, meta, search, engine). That paragraph contains about 211 characters, so the words "search" and "engine" will be included - IF that was the first 200 characters.

But I also have a coloured heading, the copyright symbol and my site name. Ooops, that totals about 261 characters and I would lose the words "search" and "engine" after all. The more successful pros pay a lot of attention to this, so take the extra time and plan your content. You do not have to be a professional copywriter to work it out.

Search Robots cannot read Bitmap Images
Or can they? Of course they cannot read the text shapes in a bitmap, BUT some do read the "alt=" attribute in a correctly formatted "img src=" tag ie:

<img src="????" alt="Search Engines, tags and meta tags" height="??" width="??" border="0">

I have seen a few pages on the Internet where the designer? has included complete letters home to mum - well almost - in the alt= attributes trying to get that elusive #1 spot. This is going a bit too far and I have checked some in the search ratings and it is usually in vain, plus it is very distracting and looks down right ugly as one moves the cursor over their page (especially not good for the commercial or corporate image).

Still it is worth trying, have the alt= text make sense in relation to the image (that is what it is for, for the many surfers that have images switched off) and just include a few of your primary keywords if and where you can.

Those awful Frames
Not only do many web surfers dislike frames (probably because so many don't present information as well as they are supposed to, or make low resolution viewing a pain), but search engines ignore them. When most search engines receive a page or site link, the robot goes to the page submitted, assesses it, and then proceeds to follow all the hyperlink tags to the other pages on the site and so forth. If you have 100 pages all starting from page names with "target="??" frame window references within the "Frameset" tags, then you may never get onto a major search engine at all.

The answer is simple and forces you to publish your site as it should be if "frames" are incorporated. Construct it so the visitor has a choice between "using Frames" and "no Frames". Because the pages then have to contain normal hyperlinks, the search engine robots will be happy too.

Remote Linking
This is often touted as the better option compared to search engine rating paranoia. Few things beat the visible hyperlink and brief descriptive text links to your site, when they are accepted and listed on another site of similar interest. A current topic in some forums is the reported future move by major search engines towards weighting search-match results with the number of other sites or pages linking to each other - from remote sites, not locally amongst your own pages. It has by all accounts created quite a stir and supports my suggestion below to go and get linked!

For most sites, don't expect much from the so called Free Link Listings that get spammed with pyramid scheme and sex site listings. Your listing will probably only last an hour or so as it is pushed off the list by the auto spamming, plus they are rarely orientated towards special interest sites  or "targeted", and that is what you need. Where you mostly end up through the "pay for hundreds of submissions" sites is much the same. A few are quite reputable, but only use the big names, ask for proof of success, and check yourself. I recommend you mass-submit yourself and I recommend (use but not connected to) the program called Net Submitter Pro for use from your home computer.

All webmasters should search for other sites of similar interest and politely offer a mutual reciprocal link arrangement. You will get disappointments from those that think they would be sending people away from their site, and some may even be offended. Most understand the Internet and are quite willing. (my worst - "read funniest" - experience was a few months ago from a twit probably smoking a strange fat cigarette at the time who complained about the quality of the site and couldn't find anything. He quoted links on a couple of pages only two lines from the page link in question?). Don't be put off, it does take time, is worth while and sometimes you make some good contacts with mutual interests.

Don't Be A Smarty!
Do not get clever and use mostly non-content related primary words in the "keywords" attribute value. There is plenty of evidence that this not only offends, but the trapped viewer will leave without finding out what you really have to offer, PLUS you will lose out because your real content will not be indexed for genuine searchers of your site content.

There has been plenty written about these failures and I refer to such examples as "sex" and related words, "giveaway" or "money" and related words combined with "free", or even opposition site names etc etc (these obvious traps really offend the viewers intelligence).

If you truly have content that is free as opposed to many sites that charge for the same content or product, then by all means include the word "free" in the tags and content text. The word free is one of the most used search words, and as long as the description and title is honest and interests the surfer, you will get genuine page hits.

Change regularly
Because the major search engine robots return at various intervals (supposedly), another option that attracts a lot of favour amongst the pros is to change the title and description tags every 3 or 4 months. This helps to convince the robots that your pages have changed. Rearrange a couple of words, turn a singular into a plural and later vica-versa, replace "and" with "/" and vica-versa etc etc. But never use the otherwise correct "&amp;" ISO character entry for "&" or any other ISO definition. Indeed it is apparently good practice to leave out all but alphanumeric characters.

Renaming Indexed Pages
Duplicating pages, but with a different name, can be recognised as one of the old spamming tricks. To over come this, amongst the informative topics in the "Understanding Tags" tutorial is the simple steps you must take to avoid losing your search engine rating.

Good luck. Ron

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e-mail 1997 '98. Last Revised:  Friday, 31 October 2003 22:04