Using indexing agents such as robots or spiders, search engines update their databases frequently with new URLs and index information. Bots and spiders scan the Web, seeking out new or updated pages, moving from URL to URL. Chances are, many agents have already scanned your site.
When hitting a particular site, an agent will read the full text of every page in the site’s hierarchy, from the home pages on down, and hit all external links as well. This way, the agents are able to locate, read, and catalog sites, whether they are registered or not. You can, of course, register your URL with a search engine; however, that just puts your site in the “to-be-scanned” queue.
The agents will return to your site every so often to rescan it and refresh the information in the database. This is an automatic process, and typically, you don’t have to let the search engine know of dead links, as was the case in days past.
Many site builders don’t have the faintest idea how to get their sites listed with the major search engines. Certain tags can help with this process, letting agents index your site using the most descriptive and pertinent information. These tags include <TITLE>, ALT, and the most important, <META>.
When using the <TITLE> tag inside your documents, you need to make it descriptive, since the agents typically go to the <TITLE> tag first. The <TITLE> tag is what the browser displays in the title bar as well as in the first line of HTML in a typical Web page. The agents will generally read the information between the <TITLE> tags and enter that in their databases as a description of your site, although each does so in its own unique way.
For example, before taking into account the importance of the <TITLE> tag, a site’s title may look like this:<TITLE>Plastech Corp.</TITLE>. This is not descriptive, and will only bring people to your site who are already looking for Plastech. But how about: <TITLE>Plastech Corp. – The Plastic Supplier To The World</TITLE>? That’s more descriptive and certainly sets up the site for more traffic from those looking for information on plastic.
Along the same lines as the <TITLE> tags, you may want to consider using ALT tags to define an image with text. This way, your page has a better chance of being indexed correctly by an agent, even though there is no text displayed with the image. For example, look at: .
The Power of the <META> Tag
Despite the impact of the <TITLE> and ALT tags on search engines, the <META> tag is by far the most crucial these days. The <META> tags let you give search engines much more detailed information about Web pages and thus even more control as to how your site is indexed by the search engines.
Not all search engines use the <META> tag yet. However, you can count on its increased use as site builders become more aware that it pays to advertise. It’s so easy to use the <META> tags with a site that there is really no reason you should not put in yours today.
The <META> tag codes exist between the <HEAD> tags. Here is an example: <META name=”description” content=”a major supplier of plastics”>.
The above syntax will control what the search engines display as the summary of your Web page, usually after the title of the Web page. Be careful. Understand that the content is a formal description of your Web page and that millions may see it, many more than will look at your site itself.
To ensure that even more people hit your site, you may want to enlist other features of the <META> tag, for instance: <META name=”keywords” content=”plastics, plastic, plastic boxes, plastic bags, corporation, Virginia”>.
This line, although not visible to the search-engine user, lets you add more relevant keywords for the agents to index, providing a better chance for your site to be found. If someone enters “plastic bags” in a search engine that has indexed the above line of code, the search engine will point that user to this page since “plastic bags” is now listed in its content. This is independent of whether or not it’s actually displayed on the page.
One way to best use keywords is to ensure that you include both singular and plural versions of the same keyword, such as “plastic” and “plastics.” You may want to include the active and passive voices of the same verbs as well, if applicable. However, it’s not a good idea to repeat words in an attempt to maximize the chances of search-engine users finding your site. InfoSeek and Lycos have automatic policies to penalize sites that practice this or will dump them altogether.
Another <META> tag that you may use is the robots tag. An example is: <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX”>. This lets you display a Web page you don’t want indexed by an agent. Of course, it’s up to the search engine whether it ignores it or not.
With the tags described in this column, it’s possible for your site traffic to increase significantly now that people can finally find you.