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Build it and they will come?

Making sure your Web site is on the Internet's radar

POSTING YOUR WEB SITE TO THE INTERNET IS LIKE DROPPING IT into a black hole: No one will be able to find it unless you include it on a map. The road maps of the Internet are the search engines and directories that help people find sites on the topic they are looking for. To attract people to your site, it helps to understand how these search engines and directories work. While they may appear to work the same way, they take different approaches to helping folks find what they are looking for.

* Directories. One common way to find sites does not involve a search engine at all, but a directory. Yahoo is probably the best-known directory service. A directory starts by organizing sites into very broad categories. It then lets users narrow their choices by choosing ever more specific categories. However, the goal of a directory is not to list all Web sites, only the most useful ones. Usefulness is determined by the directory organizer. If your site makes it, great. Otherwise you are out in the cold. To suggest your site to Yahoo visit [less than]www.yahoo.com/info/suggest[greater than].

* Key words. All search engines use key words in one way or another to help users find information. It is critical that you identify the most likely words people will use to search for your site. One way to test key words is to do your own searches and see what kind of results you get. To get an idea of how other people phrase searches, spend a little time watching Metaspy (www. metaspy.com). Metaspy shows real-time searches as they happen. A word of warning, though: About half of all Internet searches are for pornography. Netscape users can view real-time searches via Webcrawler (www.webcrawler.com/SearchTicker.html).

Once you have your site indexed, be sure to regularly check how well it is coming up in searches. SubmitNow (www.submirnow.com) and Web Site Garage (www.websitegarage.com) can also check your site and make suggestions to enhance its visibility with search engines. They charge about $25 a year.

The first place to use your key words is when submitting your site to the various search engines. Keep in mind that, over time, search engines have learned to ignore many overused words and phrases. Most search engines today will totally ignore a phrase such as, "a wonderful Web site," so don't waste your time putting it on your home page. Also remember that many search engines will only index what you submit to them as a description. They will not even bother to visit your site.

* Spiders. Some search engines operate differently, using what are called spiders. Spiders are programs that crawl around the Web visiting sites. They create an index of the words found on the site. Often they omit common words like "a," "and," and "of." They may also ignore words like "Web site" or "Internet" that do not help them identify the content of the site.

Some spiders index the entire site; others only use the first 200 words on the home page. Some pay special attention to subheads, tagged as [less than]H1[greater than], [less than]H2[greater than], or [less than]H3[greater than] in HTML. However, keep in mind that spiders cannot read words that are graphics.

* META tags. Many spiders conduct searches by reading a site's META tags: words that are invisible to the Web site visitor but give the site designer an opportunity to describe the site to the spider. Ideally, a Web site would use META tags to help surfers find their sites. However, if you abuse META tags by using repetitive key words in order to increase relevancy, the search engines will not list you. For the same reason, some spiders--Lycos (www.lycos.com), for example--use META tags as only part of their indexing. Other search sites such as Excite (www.excite.com), Webcrawler (www.webcrawler.com), and Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) ignore them completely.

* Links. Should you let people link to your site? It will be much more visible if you do. Links are the Internet equivalent of word of mouth. Spiders often look for links as an indication that someone else thinks your site is worthwhile. If you belong to an association, you can usually request a link on the association page.

* Traditional media. Remember that the Internet is not the only place people learn about Web sites. Increasingly, traditional media are reporting on useful Web pages. Be sure to promote your site in your newsletters and other marketing materials and to send out press releases when you update your site.

Bernie Khoo is director of research and information and webmaster for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.
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Author:KHOO, BERNIE
Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Date:Jun 1, 1999
Words:811
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