Now That I've Published My Web Pages, How Do I Get People to Find Them?

The purpose of this page is to provide you with background information on search engine technology and useful tips on creating web pages that can easily be found by others.

How do search engines work?

Typically, a search engine works by sending out a spider to fetch as many web pages as possible. Another program, called an indexer, then reads these web pages and creates an index based on the words contained in each web page. Each search engine uses a proprietary algorithm to create its indices such that, ideally, only meaningful results are returned for each query.

Spiders are used to feed pages to search engines. They are called spiders because they crawl over the Web. Other terms for these programs include "webcrawlers" and "indexing agents".

Because most Web pages contain links to other pages, a spider can start almost anywhere. Following these external links is how search engines are able to find your site regardless of whether or not you register your URL with them. As soon as it sees a link to another page, it goes off and fetches it. Large search engines have many spiders working in parallel.

Robots will then revisit your site periodically to refresh the recorded information. The revisiting of links is the reason why some search engines don't require you to inform them of dead links. Eventually, their robot would try unsuccessfully to update the information on a dead link and realize it no longer exists.

General Tips for Getting Listed in Search Engines: 

Since each search engine looks at different elements of your page, you should implement as many of these tips as possible to obtain a good ranking in a search engine list:

  1. Use keywords in the <title> of your document, making them as descriptive as possible. When visiting your site, some indexing agents will go first to the <title> tag. For clarification purposes, the <title> tag is what a browser will display in its title bar and is not simply the first line of HTML that shows up on your page. (Although your first words of introductory text should be descriptive as well.) Search engines will display the text located between the <title> tags when your web page is listed in a search results listing. By making your <title> descriptive, you'll be better off than those who only have keywords within the text of their page. It will also be helpful when people bookmark your web site. If a more descriptive name appears in a person's bookmarks (or "favorites" list), it will be easier to find your site at a later date.
  2. Some search engines assign greater relevancy to text located at the top of a page than to text located in the middle or at the bottom of the page. The search engines assume that web page authors will present their most important information first. If your page has a main graphic at the top, you should place some descriptive text either underneath or beside the image. The search engines will index this text and assign it a high level of relevancy.
  3. Use <meta> tags, which allow you to provide even more detail about your Web pages and thereby gain greater control over how your pages are indexed.
  4. Use <alt> tags, especially if your site contains multiple photos or graphic-image maps at the top of your home page. Some search engines will take into account the text within an <alt> tag when creating your site's description and keywords. In addition, you will be greatly appreciated by all people who visit your site with their Auto Load Images option turned off or by those who prefer to use character browsers. <alt> tags are placed after an image file and generally look like the following:
    <img src="/images/losrios.gif" alt="Los Rios Community College District">
  5. If your site utilizes frames, you should be aware that search engines treat frames as if they are links within your main page. As a result the engines will review and index your main page and, at a later date, return to index each individual frame just as it will return to index all other internal links within your web site. Therefore, in order to have your main page (typically titled index.html or welcome.html) indexed accurately and efficiently, you should add some descriptive text between the <noframes> and </noframes> tags of the HTML source coding of your main page. The <noframes> tags are usually placed below your frame set information. The frame set information is designated by <frameset> and </frameset>. This text should include your most important keywords and keyword phrases. Adding this text will provide the search engines with content from which to derive keywords for indexing. After this change has been made to your Web site, the page itself will appear exactly the same to anyone using a browser that supports frames. However, users of browsers that do not support frames (i.e. Netscape 1.0 or lower) will now be able to successfully view your home page.