What is a search engine?
A search engine may not be exactly what you think of when you hear the name. When you are searching for something on the Internet using what you believe is a search engine, it may in actuality be a directory or announcement site. For example, Excite, InfoSeek, and WebCrawler are search engines. Yahoo is an example of a directory site.

While a directory site is simply a database organized by category, search engines are considerably more complex. Search engines use automatic web surfing agents, typically called spiders or robots. The goal of these agents is to visit every site on the Internet by visiting every URL they can find.

When an agent visits a web site, it reads the whole page and follows all links on it. In this manner, a search engine can index your whole web site even though you only submit your home page. The agent takes the information it reads on your web site and uses it to position your listing within its catalog. Each search engine ranks your site using different criteria, so it is important to follow all of the tips below.

Use a descriptive title
Note that the title of our home page is "NetInterface Consulting: web site design and network implementation" and not just "NetInterface Consulting". Many search engines display this title when they list your page in their database. It is much easier to for the person performing the search to tell what your site is about if the title tells them clearly. It also makes things easier for someone that bookmarks your page in case they forget what exactly your web site is based on its name alone.

Include meta tags
Meta tags are special HTML tags that only search engines see - a web browser does not display them as part of your page. For this reason, they are an ideal location to place extra information for the search engines to use when listing your site. There are two types of meta tags that you will want to use - description and keywords.

The description meta tag should be a short, concise description of your site. This is often what is displayed as the summary of your web site when the search engine lists it, so it is important that it clearly tells the person what they can find on your site.

The keywords meta tag is where you can specify keywords you would like your site to be listed by. A search engine will try to derive some keywords from the content of your page, but this is a place you can specify additional keywords. It is a good idea to use several variations of the same idea, such as web site, www site, and website. However, be careful not to excessively repeat keywords, as some search engines will penalize you for this and actually rank your site lower than a site with less keywords.

Use relevant text on your page
Search engines read your whole web page when they index it and use what it finds in several ways. Most search engines will attempt to generate keywords based on the body of your page, so a descriptive paragraph on your page will help it be listed under the appropriate headings. Also, the search engines usually give a higher ranking to text placed at the top of the page as compared to text on the middle or at the end of the page.

Validate your HTML
It is important that the HTML on your web site is accurate, otherwise a search engine may become confused and not index the page correctly. Most web browsers are relatively forgiving and may display your pages correctly even though they contain HTML errors, but this is not true of all search engines. Most HTML editors, such as HoTMetaL and FrontPage, can validate the HTML automatically so if you use one of these tools, be sure you have this feature turned on. If you do not use such an HTML editor, there are several online validation services that will check your HTML for you.

What else can you do?
NetInterface has been working with the Internet much longer than the World Wide Web has even existed. Because of this, we have a very thorough understanding of how search engines, as well as all other aspects of the Internet, work. For the best possible search engine results, contact us today to discuss how we can help you optimize your search engine listings.