Search engines are funny things. Search engines use "bots's" to go around the internet, indexing anything and everything. They act just like a very interested child, following every link they can find, even reading information that is not visible to human visitors (Meta Tags). There are some that are very specific to what they like, maybe airplane parts, or maybe they are just after your images. Most search engines also allow the general public to go to their site and "recommend" a web site. This just sends their "bot" out sooner than it normally would to index the recommended web site. Every search engine follows different guidelines when indexing your site, and when determining what ranking each site will get when someone is searching the web using their engine.
Before you do anything else...
Before you work at getting you site listed at all on any search engines, you need to do a little work if you haven't already. It's not hard, and nobody can do this for you. You MUST establish the correct "Meta Tags" for your website. Meta Tags are hidden information that search engines use to list your website. In most search engine search results, the brief text displayed in the results page is the "description" tag (see below).
OK, so what are these meta tags, and how do I check on them?
Basically you need to ensure that you have a "keywords" and "description" meta tag on each and every web page. If you are using the Tools For Organizations site content administration tool, then all you have to do is select the check box "Change Page Title, Keywords or Description Meta Tags" checkbox BEFORE choosing to load a specific page. When you do this, you will see 3 new editable boxes appear:
- Title - Not actually a meta tag, but shows up under this admin option... This is used to tell the world the title of your page. When you go to this page in a browser, this is the text displayed at the top left corner of the browser bar. This frequently should include the domain name first, so that when visitors bookmark (hopefully) your page, they also know the web site the page is located on. Next, just give the page a brief title. meaning less than 5 words for sure. The name you place in here is also used by the site content admin tool when letting you select which page to edit, so it has to make sense to you as well. If this page is a sub-page in a section, then you should name it accordingly:
"ToolsForOrgs.com: Contact: Directions".
- Keywords - 50 words or phrases, comma delimited. In order of importance, and the first 25 are absolutely the most important since some search engines only read the first 25 words.
- Make sure you spell all the words correctly! If you mispell a word, you WILL miss many visitors. Thinking about that, you can also include mispellings if they are very common, along with the correct spellings.
- NO CAPITAL LETTERS. No caps means a search for "Austin Texas" will always match if you had "austin texas" in your keywords, but in some cases, if you had used caps in your keywords, a search for "austin texas" would NOT match your site.
- Don't repeat words or phrases. You can use:
but, you cannot use:
Repeating does not help you, it uses up valuable word count space.
- Ideally each page could have a different keyword set, but usually the keywords are the same across the site. If you're really industrious, mix up the first 25 and last 25 on each page.
- Description - This should be one or two sentences, which describe your organization in a nutshell. Change the two sentences into one run-on sentence. You CAN make the description tag different on each page on your website, however, this is usually not needed. Use normal spellings and punctuation. You might make the first sentence about the page purpose, and the second about your organization... or combine them... "Driving directions to the Tools For Organizations office located in Santa Fe, New Mexico where we specialize in development of mission specific online tools and programs for non-profit organizations (NPO's)." I included probably 8-10 of my keywords in this sentence.
Choosing the BEST keywords & description text...
OK, this is not so hard. Come up with an initial list of words and phrases that people might use to find your site on a search engine. Next, go to a few search engines, and perform those searches. Ignoring the 'paid' search results (usually 2-4 sites highlighted differently than the others, and at the very top of the list), go to the first 3-4 'real' search matches. Once on their home page, right click your mouse on an area of their page where there are no images or text. A menu will appear, with an option to "view page source" (or close to that). This will open their page in a text editor, and you can then look for their meta tags, to see what they used. You are looking for , for both keywords and description. Read the contents of these, and make notes about words you hadn't thought about. Use this to create your ideal set of keywords and description tags.
Paying to get your site listed on search engines...
There are MANY companies out there that will try to sell you on a service to list your web site with 40-4000 search engines! Most of these are literally search engines specific to things like finding airplane parts, many more require that you place their logo on your homepage in order for them to list you, many others are not in english, and it goes on. How many search engines can you name? If you can name 10, you're ahead of the rest of us. What does this mean? Over 99% of the people out there ONLY use the top 10 most known search engines. Paying someone to list your site on any others is a waste of your money. Not only that, but these companies use programs to list your site, not a human, so they actually can list your site WORSE than you would, even though you may have never even done it before. Not only that, but it's FREE to list your site on all the search engines. Do it yourself, you only have to do it once, although paid services will try to make you think it has to be done monthly. Unless you change your site content significantly, you will never need to resubmit your site to any search engines. You can however, if you are really serious about being #1, regularly check where your site show's up on search engines, check your competitors meta tags (as described above), and re-do your site tags, then resubmit your site.
What search engines want...
The absolute BEST thing you can do to help your site rate better on the search engines, is to have content, and more content. Keep your information updated, and expand your site as needed (without becoming cumbersome to visitors). Meta Tags as described above... Next is the more sites that have a link on their site to your site helps on some engines. I don't recommend 'exchanging links' with everyone you can, just make your site a resource if possible. Include your web address in all press releases (since many of these may end up on online magazines or newspapers).
Some of the top search engines...
I'm going to list some search engines below that you can register on, and a few others that you cannot register on... and here's why... Some of the top seach engines specifically search other search engines. You cannot register with them, since if you are on the search engines they search, then you will be on them too. Many of these type of search engines WILL offer paid listings. Generally speaking, with the exception of Yahoo.com, your site will automatically start showing up on ALL search engines in 3-6 months, even if you don't register on a single search engine.
In no particular order: