e-Marketing Association
Step 3/ Search Engines and Directories

 

Introduction

This section will teach you the principles of an effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. As an online marketing professional, you need to approach your SEO strategy with creativity, and with the willingness to attain more knowledge. The road ahead is challenging but if you follow the guidelines given in this lesson you will be successful at optimizing your web site for search engines and directories.
SEO, in its simplest form, is the systematic process of submitting a domain name or URL to search engines and directories. A URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is the address of a document or other resource reachable on the Internet. The three components of a URL are the server domain name, file location, and specifying the protocol.
A high ranking search result position in search engines and directories is a powerful marketing tool to generate large amounts of traffic to your web site. Statistics show eight out of ten people surfing the web, use search engines or search directories to find their way around online.  Most web marketers understand the importance of attaining top search engine placement; but lack the knowledge for placing them there, and more importantly, keeping them there.  Experienced web marketers are also learning that being at the top of the all-aspiring search engines isn't always what it is cracked up to be.  Staying ahead of the search engines and continually working toward SEO is without a doubt, a full-time job.  Even then, ensuring that a site stay at the top for a given search criteria isn't guaranteed; in fact, most sites won't stay at the top for more than a couple of days even with constant watching and babying.   In actuality, affiliate programs and e-zines are proving more beneficial, rewarding, and profitable to companies than SEO.  Still the importance of search engine and directory submission know-how can not be overlooked.  Knowing how to concur them (or at least concur them for a few days at a time) is what this lesson is all about. 
Iconcast reported in its ICONOPOLL "Search engines are the most widely used navigational tools and the most misunderstood promotional tools."
Listed below are the basic fundamentals for an effective SEO strategy: 
    1. Understanding Search Engines and Directories 
    2. Page Content and Commonality
    3. Titles and Meta Tags 
    4. Frames 
    5. Building Link Popularity through Web Content 
    6. Paying for Placement 
    7. Tracking  the effectiveness of your SEO Strategies 
Understand Search Engines and Directories
1.  Understand Search Engines and Directories
    Search engine and directory sites provide relevant hyperlinks for search queries. Search queries (keywords or phrases) are typed into a search field by a site guest and then the engine or directory locates corresponding documents for the user. 

    Search engines send automated computer programs known as "spiders"  or "searchbots" to harvest and index the data out of every web site they crawl through.  Remember that each search engine sets different parameters for the "bot" as it combs the Internet. These differences are based on mathematical equations known as algorithms, which affect how sites are indexed and ranked. As a result, search engines are able, in most cases, to provide the user with the most relevant information because "bots" are continually adding and updating their databases.  Even so, marketers shouldn't wait around hoping a search engine will find their site; they should request listing. 

Directories are different than search engines because they are compiled lists of subjects and categories.  Search directories are set up in a large database.  Directories do not have the searchbot capability, but can be very powerful.  For instance, Yahoo!® is not a search engine; it is a search directory.  Another name for search directory is "web guide."  Directories rely on employees to review sites requested for submission into the database and to catalog the sites for ranking.   Database technology catalogs sites in many cases with traditional sorting and filing rules:  numerically and then alphabetically.  The database filing rule has influenced many reserved domain names.  When the web was  young, a site by the name of 4Guys.com was started.  4Guys is a web designing company.  Studies indicate that much of the success of this site was initially due to a smart naming convention on behalf of the founders.  Keep in mind that selecting a name beginning with a number no longer works in many search engines and directories- only those programmed to list search results with the traditional filing system method. 
Examples of Directories: Yahoo!, AOL, Look Smart, and NBCi
Examples of Search Engines: Google, Hotbot, Lycos, DirectHit, and FlipDog
 

Specialized Search Directories

Specialized directories accept only  sites with a particular subject or category.  For instance, there are search sites dedicated to the medical field, including but not limited to:

One more example:  Family related sites.  If you are looking for family-oriented sites, here's a list of search directories to try:
  • A search directory for children (guess which company this search directory is from) -- Yahooligans
  • Another search directory especially for children -- Peachpod, found at Peachpod.com
  • Community oriented search directory -- Munisource, found at munisource.org
  • A search engine especially for women -- Femina, found at femina.cybergirl.com
  • A search engine for family history information -- Your Family, found at yourfamily.com
We've only provided two categories.  Keep in mind there are as many categorical search directories as their are hobbies, interests, and careers in the world.  You may have never heard of one of these specialized search directories before, and maybe you have, but guaranteed, people who are into these subjects either as a career or with a high personal interest, have invested time into finding out about them.  Many of these search directories are highly advertised in specialty magazines and publications that have a list of subscribers, so the sites are getting hits.

In addition, the larger search engines and directories will often pull from the databases of these smaller specialized search directories to add to their site listings.  So, listing your site with a specialized search engine may help get you listed with a bigger, harder to get listed with, search directory or engine.

Where do you go to find these specialized search directories? -- 
Try these five sites that offer listings of specialized search directories:

  1. http://www.searchability.com -- This is an excellent resource for finding a specialized search directory.  Background information about the directories and their specialties are included. 
  2. http://nightfall.simplenet.com/SearchEngine/ -- The "Ultimate World Wide Web Search Engine Collection"
  3. http://submitit.linkexchange.com/subcats.htm 

  4. At this site, the categories are listed, but there are no direct links to the sites.  It's a great resource for specialized directories, but you have to use logical deduction to figure out the URL for each site.  Don't forget to try .com, .org, .net., .gov, .mil, .cc.  when trying to figure out the address.  Also some addresses may or may not have the .www.
  5. http://www.thefrontpage.com/search

  6. This is an absolute gold mine of links to search directories.  The links are provided on this site!  The collection is updated often. 
  7. http://www.looksmart.com/help/searchengs.html

  8. This is a search engine listing from Looksmart.  Regional and foreign country search directories are included.
Nuts and Bolts of Submitting Sites

Nuts and Bolts of Submitting Domain Names

Since directories and search engines use different means to interpret data, you need to incorporate a targeted submission plan to maximize your chances for a high-ranking position.  This requires a web marketer to become intensely savvy in the different levels of SEO, because one process might work for one search engine but not for another.  How to discover what works for each search engine is a big question.   The answer is actually quite easy to find but depending on the method you choose, will likely require you either a little time or a little money.
  1. By visiting each of the search engines and directories the marketer desires to list the site with and clicking on the "Help" button, marketers can read tips for submitting pages to that particular engine or directory.
  2. Join a private membership group where information regarding search engine happenings  and many other targeted marketing-related information is shared by corporate leaders.  One such site offering a private site to Internet marketing professionals is MarketingChallenge.com
  3. Another way to discover more about search engines and directories and what is recommended  for each is to sign up for eMarketing and eCommerce ezines - and read them!

Page Content and Commonality

2.  Page Content and Commonality
 

Informative Content
Many search directories will not even consider listing a site without clearly-labeled educational expertise included on the site. 

Many people go online just looking for information and education, daily searching for data.  Offering informative, valuable, educational information on a topic of specialty will positively help your SEO strategy.

Commonality
    Search Engines and Directories will boost site listings based on the following criteria:  Let's say that Karen was online searching for a birthday present for her mother and she searched on the following words:  "Glen Campbell CD"
    1. The more places the words are found in common on the page, the higher the search engine and directory ranking for that site.  In other words if  the words "Glen Campbell CD" were found in the - 
      • Title
      • Keywords
      • Description
      • URL (web site address)
      • Content on the page
      - the higher the page will result in the search listings.


    Search engines and directories have their own cataloging and indexing methods.  As an example, Lycos uses the first 200 characters in the Description Meta Tag and then indexes the 100 most important words on each page for its rankings.

Link Swapping
Another term for link swapping is "reciprocal links."  Briefly explained, the more sites linking to a site, the higher in search results the referenced site goes, due to the popularity factor with search engines and directories.  Link swapping is a form of viral marketing.
Alt attributes in Img Tags and Title attributes in Anchor Tags
Search engines use ALT attributes in image tags for keyword commonality searches.  Search bots do not have the capability of reading text contained within images and therefore rely on the ALT attribute for content referencing.  So if a company had the following graphic on their web site, the search bot would not have the ability to read the words on the image, but it could read and catalog the important company functions listed on the image with the help of an ALT attribute added to the image tag.  Roll  your mouse over the image to view the contents of the ALT attribute:
Dry Cleaning, Pressing, Clothing Restoration, and Item Preservation
Title attributes within anchor tags provide the same benefit, with one exception:  they provide a way for the contents of the link to be defined on an even-clearer level.  While ALT attributes for images work in both Netscape and IE, the Title attribute is not currently supported by Netscape. However, even though the site guest may miss it, the search bot will pick it up.  In addition, computer aided devices designed for assisting individuals with disabilities rely on ALT and Title attributes in all browsers for communicating content to surfers.   Here is an example of an Anchor tag with a Title attribute (roll your mouse over the link if you're viewing this site in IE):

Be sure to download a free pass to the basketball game.


Titles and Meta Tags

3.  Titles & Meta Tags
 

Titles
The <TITLE> tag is the first item many search engines read.  The search engine then continues to look for the searched word in the Meta Tags, URL, and page content.  The <TITLE> tag is also what search engines pull up to display the search results as well as what people bookmark.  Therefore, page titles should correlate with the keywords the target audience would most likely type in the query box of a search engine. Each page on your web site should have different titles based on specific keywords or phrases. A title should contain keywords and be descriptive of the page being indexed.  Example: Lets say that you own Sports.com and it has 20 web pages that each display information about different sporting good items. Twenty pages with relative, yet different content provides a grand opportunity to submit each page separately to each search engine. Obviously, listing more than one page from a site with a search engine benefits the merchants and the consumers. On one hand the merchant benefits due to increased pages submitted to search engines and on the other hand, customers benefit because they will have an easier time finding the information that directly pertains to their search and interest.
 

Keywords
The overall objective of a marketing strategy is to tell the right message to the right audience. Marketers should keep in mind what their target audience is looking for as they create keyword lists. The following will provide a starting point for building a database of keywords and keyword phrases.

  1. Visualize yourself as a potential customer. 
  2. Organize your keywords into separate categories and lists. 
  3. Think of specific words that qualify your visitors. 
  4. Use every available tool to help you (i.e. software, thesaurus, etc.) 
  5. Stay away from broad and unspecific keywords. 
  6. Never use trademark names of other companies. 
  7. Consider using words that are often misspelled. 
  8. Another important point about keywords is that you will want to use them in your Title tags, Meta Tags, and throughout the entire web site. Many search engines rank sites according to their keyword prominence. Continually evaluate your site for new keywords and phrases to add to the Meta Tags.


META Tags
The term META tags comes from the word meta data, which means data that describes data. You should think of META Tags as a Table of Contents or a brief summary of a long article. Mainly, META Tags enable the developer to communicate specified information to search engines. Also, META Tags allow the developer to convey to the search engine the name, description, and main keywords of the site.

META tags provide a way for the key phrases to be summarized on the page. Meta Tags are useful tools; however, they do not guarantee high ranking search results. 

Meta tags are used by search engines to catalog a page within a directory.  The Meta Tags are defined at the top of each page.  The following Meta Tags need to be defined on each and every page for search engine optimization: Keywords, Description, Generator.  Although not as critical as the other three Meta Tags, another good Meta Tag to include is the Author tag.  In addition, if desired the company can add a Copyright tag to the page.  Here are examples of the tags:

<META NAME="Keywords"  CONTENT="keyword1, keyword 2, keyword3, keyword4, keyword5, keyword6, keyword7, keyword 8, ...">
<META NAME="Description"  CONTENT="A 25-word or less description of site content, written in sentence format and using keywords">
<META NAME="Generator"  CONTENT="program used to create the page">
<META NAME="Author" CONTENT="Name and title of author">
<META NAME="Copyright" CONTENT="&copy; calendar year,  person or entity owning the copyright"

*Note:  Although the Meta Tags are not visible on a page when added in the <HEAD> of a document, the &copy; represents the legal copyright symbol in the code.  In addition if the &copy; is added between the <BODY> tags in HTML, the copyright symbol does display on the page, as shown:  ©  .  In WYSIWYG editors, holding down the ALT key while keying in 0169 will also return the copyright symbol.

  Here is an example of a META tag format:

<html> 

<head> 

<title>YOUR TITLE</title> 

<meta name="keywords"content="keyword phrases"> 

<meta name="description" content="Your site's summary here"> 

<!--You can add additional tags in this comment tag, as well--> 

</head> 

</html> 

The META tag description should contain multiple keywords that flow in a logical,  well organized sentence. To achieve the best rankings, place the first choice keywords at the beginning of the description and keep them close together.

The length of the meta description will vary according the each search engine's specifications. Infoseek, for example, accepts a meta description tag up to 1024 characters long, while Hotbot specifies 150 characters as its guideline. In general, it's better to keep the characters under 250, otherwise they might be cut off in the search results.

Unethical Practices
The war of search engine placement might tempt some to use a popular search term or stack keywords to increase chances of higher search rankings. This type of search engine technique is known as spamdexing. The earliest form of spamdexing sprouted in the early web years when programmers realized they could fool search engine "bots" by repeating phrases in html code so that they were invisible to the visitors and noticed by spiders indexing the site. In the end if you use such practices you will most likely fail. For example, search engines are becoming smarter and more sophisticated every day. There is a good probability they will catch the spamdexing and place a block on the site, restricting the site from indexing privileges. Here is a quick list to help you remember which practices to avoid:

  • Never use words that don't apply to your site's content 
  • Never repeat the same words over seven times in a row 
  • Limit how many doorway pages you submit 
  • Be careful not to submit too many URLs at once 
  • Never submit the same page twice in one day. 
  • Read the fine print at the search engine or directory for how much time to allow before again requesting submission.  Courtesy is very important online.  You are still dealing with people. 
Search Engines and Frames
4.   Search Engines and Frames
Be careful how you use frames. They were developed with the intention of making it easier for people to navigate through a web site by keeping a section of the web site constant.  However, frames have traditionally proven to cause problems for users and web masters due to the inability of some search bots to read content on pages within the frames.   If you are familiar with frames, you will know that the FRAMESET document is the page that joins the other pages in the browser window.  On a site that is done completely in frames, the index.html page will be the FRAMESET document, not the page with content that the user sees.  Therefore, the search bot and the site guest are not evaluating the same page for content relevance.  Frames can cause problems in printing, search engine indexing, in compatibility issues with older browsers, and even in bookmarking.  To help search engines catalog your FRAMESET document, use the NOFRAMES tag within the FRAMESET document:
<NOFRAMES> Site content and secondary navigational options</NOFRAMES>


Build link popularity through web content
5.    Build Link Popularity through Web Content
Link popularity is primarily measured by the number of other web sites linking to the site.  However, the number of web sites isn't as important as the quality of web sites offering the links.  Not only is link popularity important because of the traffic you receive, but it also helps because "spiders" sent by search engines are programmed to analyze link popularity.  Many of the top search engines rate sites on the amount of links that point to a web site.

One of best ways a web site can attract large amounts of links to itself is to provide valuable and meaningful content. If the only goal of your web site is to sell items or services, why would anyone be interested in linking to it?  Realistically, the only chance this type of web site has in generating links would be to seek them out through associate and affiliate program links, which means paying for them.

There is a better way if you are willing to put time and effort into it.  Let's say you operated an art web site. You could provide biographies of famous and up-and-coming artists. You could build a search function so that people could look up information about art according to the different time periods. Also, what if you developed an art glossary or enabled people to critique different pieces of art through forums or discussion groups?  The art site would then have value to site guests due to access to meaningful information.  As marketers improve site quality, others may ask to share a link.

Paid Placement

6. Paid Placement

One of the most popular forms of search engine placement is paid placement. GoTo.com is  known as the  web's top pay-per-click search engine.  With the success of GoTo.com it is seen as a mainstay rather than a trend--a big lift for the search engine industry in light of the recent struggles in low profits and large layoffs.

Staying on top of search engines and directories is a full-time job, and even if a company is successful at rising to the top 10 within a search result for a given topic, there is no guarantee that the next day the same criteria would return even close to the same outcome.  New sites request listing in exponential numbers.  Therefore, paying for placement is worthwhile to companies who have the money and do not want to deal with the constant demands and time constraints of SEO (search engine optimization).

While GoTo.com is the top pay-per-click search engine,  FindWhat.com is the largest pay-per-click engine (although not as popular as GoTo).  To be listed in GoTo, companies may try submitting their sites a few other search services used by GoTo:

Search results are referred to as  "editorial lists", which some have unsuccessfully been tried to purchase.
 

Here are a few of the paid ranking options in the field:

  • Banner ads can be bought by business who want to advertise under target keyword phrases. 
  • Content Arrangements allow search engines ability to promote the advertiser's content on a search result page.
  • Paid Placement can appear above, below, and along the sidebar of the editorial links. 
  • Paid Submissions are how search engines increase their revenue for charging the process of submitting URLs. Even though it doesn't guarantee a listing it does offer a quick review time set. 
  • Track the effectiveness of your SEO strategy

    7.    Track the effectiveness of your SEO Strategy

      Putting SEO to Work
      Here are four ways a company can put a SEO strategy to the test:
      1. Perform a log file analysis of all your search terms.
      2. Analyze and measure the traffic that comes from search engines and directories. 
      3. Compare the META tags with rankings of your competitors. 
      4. Implement Web Position Gold Pro, or other professional tracking and search engine optimization software.
    Many hosting companies provide this information.  A log file is a file created by a web server which contains all of the access information regarding the activity on a web site.  Log files are also available by installing software on the web server to check statistics on the site.  One very powerful software tool is called Web Position Gold Pro.  Web Position offers the following services (Description taken from the Web Position Gold web site): 
     
    1. Generates HTML pages designed for high search engine placement results. 
    2. Analyzes  existing web pages and gives plain-English advice on how to improve them. 
    3. Includes a simple, built-in HTML editor for fast and easy changes.
    4. Assists in uploading your new and changed pages. 
    5. Submits your pages to the major search engines automatically. 
    6. Reports your positions on each search engine for each keyword you are targeting. 
    7. Tracks the number of visitors to your site, where they came from, and what keywords they used to find you.
    In most cases you will want to resubmit your URLs every few months with new updated Meta Tags and Titles.  However, don't resubmit your URLs unless you have made changes.  And be certain not to send a request for submission to an engine or directory earlier than  stated on the web site of the search service as well as  in any correspondence personally received.
    How Not to Track a Site
    Do not misconstrue a hit counter for a valuable site tracking device.  On the contrary, hit counters are unprofessional and can do as much damage to a company image as poor site design, poor grammar on a site, or poor navigation and usability.  If hit counters were valuable marketing tools, don't you think large corporations such as Ford®, GM®, Eddie Bauer® (and the list is endless) would have one on their sites?

    A visible hit counter does not provide the following valuable information that all web marketers must know:

    1. How are visitors finding your site in the first place?
    2. How many of them make it past the main page?
    3. Which page of your site is the most popular?
    4. How long does the average visitor stick around?
    5. What is the average number of pages viewed?
    6. What path do visitors take through your site?
    7. What links do they use to leave your site?

    8.  
    Traditionally, collecting demographic and other statistical information has been called "Marketing Information Management."  On the web, Marketing Information Management is conducted using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).
    Advantages and Disadvantages of SEO
    Advantages and Disadvantages of Search Engine Optimization
    The upside of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be stated with the  term "free" (although not always true anymore) and there is never-ending information about SEO online.  In addition, marketers get better results if they personally submit a site rather than paying a third party to submit your URL to a 100 different search engines all at once.

    The downside is that SEO is very time consuming and some search engines and directories take months to review and list a submitted site. And as previously mentioned, there are no guarantees in getting or holding top placement on search results.
     

    Activities
    Activity, Part A  - Trying some Software 
    1. Visit Web Position Gold Pro online and Download the trial version of this search engine optimizing, site tracking plus program.
    2. Activity with site preferences for searching
    3. Activity with categories for specific sites and a Yahoo! example.
    Activity, Part B - An Exercise with Yahoo!
    Getting listed with Yahoo!, the Number 1 web directory service, is getting harder and harder these days, especially with the fee Yahoo! is now charging to submit a site.  Complete the following steps to have an introduction to submitting a site with Yahoo! 

    If you have a company site project you are working on, use it for this exercise.  Otherwise, think of an existing company you enjoy and know something about for this exercise.
     

      1. In order to submit a site to Yahoo!, you have to know what category and sub category, and even sometimes sub sub category or sub sub sub category in which the site would best fit.  To help with the top level category selection, here they are:
              1. Arts and Humanities
              2. Business and Economy
              3. Computers and Internet
              4. Education
              5. Entertainment
              6. Government
              7. Health
              8. News and Media
              9. Recreation and Sports
              10. Reference
              11. Regional
              12. Science
              13. Social Science
              14. Society and Culture
      2. Select at least two top-level categories, preferably four, to look into at Yahoo! See if there is a sub category that matches the site you’re trying to submit.  You may be surprised when you discover where the site fits within Yahoo!'s catalog of sites.  Look again at the list of top-level categories.  Submitting a site to one of the top-level categories is not allowed; marketers are asked to search a little deeper, to keep looking, until they find a sub category that fits with the type of site the merchant desires to submit.
      3. Getting the right category is a key factor to getting listed.  A key to selecting the right category for you:  look for similar competitors and ask yourself if your target audience would look for you there.
      4. Do not request a listing with more than one sub category.  Merchants who select more than one sub category to be listed will have their request for submission denied.  Therefore, choose wisely.  The Yahoo! representative assigned to review your site may decide that the site best fits somewhere else within the Yahoo! directory service.  Be prepared for the possibility of that happening.
      5. Yahoo! will then ask you to select a region. Select a region, if your company is a geographically segmented company.  For instance, if you are an eye doctor in Green River, Wyoming, chances are your site may be best suited in a regional category to help users in your area locate the site.  If your company is not geographic-specific, let Yahoo! list you in the general category.
      6. At the next step you will be asked to enter the Site's Title, a description, and the URL
        • § Copy the  Meta Tag description and the <TITLE>  from the home page of the site and use them here. 
        • Although Yahoo! is not a search engine, their staff will be analyzing the site for elements of  professionalism in order to include the site in their data listings. 
        • When typing in a description, keeping within the 25 words or less is crucial to being considered for listing with Yahoo!.  Do not push the limit or your luck in this area.
        • Remember two items of importance:
          1. Include relevant, valuable, educational information on the site.  This is a great enhancer and persuader for inclusion within the Yahoo! database.
          2. Yes, Yahoo! is a database that uses the traditional filing system for cataloging sites, but do not change the name of your site in the Title tag by adding an "A" in front of it such as "A Carpet Company in Salt Lake City, Utah".  Doing so is a great way to get the site bumped.
    Questions to Explore:
    1. Explain the differences between directories and search engines. 
    2. Describe how to make your web site search engine friendly. 
    3. Explain how Meta Tags help a web site with search engine optimizing.
    Additional Exercisees
    1. Type in a phrase in a search engine that your customer would mostly likely type. Click on the top five web sites returned in the search results. Analyze the site layout, content, and Meta tags used on the site. Remember, this is not an exercise on pirating.

    2.  
    3. Visit www.mediametrix.com, www.netratings.com, or www.netvalue.com. These sites post a ranking of the most visited web sites.

    4.  
    5. Write down 15 keywords or phrases that you would like to be searched by your potential customers.

    6.  
    7. Register for a free monthly newsletter at: www.searchenginewatch.com


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