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Rev Up Those Search Engines

October 1, 2000

4 Min Read
Rev Up Those Search Engines

Rev Up Those Search Engines

More tips for marketing on the Internet

By Michael Zervas

Bigger is notnecessarily better in the case of the World Wide Web. As the web continues to grow at arate beyond all expectations, it is becoming increasingly challenging for those of us whorely on this medium to access information and/or to get out our sales message.

The web's spectacular growth is rendering it almost impossible to pinpoint, within areasonable time frame, the exact information one is looking for. In the past,"surfing" was the way to go. This translates to unstructured, serendipitousbrowsing, wherein you start with a particular Web page and follow links from page to page.By making educated guesses along the way, you likely will find what you need. This methodcan be fun when you have the time to explore and experiment, but when time is of theessence, surfing can quickly lose its charm.

There is a better way, and it costs nothing: search engines. These are databases thatorganize all information on the web into categories that can be searched by topic. Asearch engine's job is to present information that best fits and suits your needs. Theinformation it contains will enhance your chances of coming up as a "hit."Listing your website within a search-engine database is a great way to draw attention toyour product and/or service.

Think of thesearch engine as a fully stocked, 24-hour-a-day library. You request a book at the frontdesk (or request information form a search engine), and a staff of librarians, workingaround the clock, seeks the information for you by constantly checking all the shelves or,in the case of the search engine, continually combing the Internet.

As the user, you enter a keyword that connects you to a database. Search-enginesoftware (called "spiders") have been constantly and continuously combing theInternet for documents and their web addresses. These are collected and sent to theengine's indexing software, where information is extracted and sent to a database. Someengines index an entire document; others index by title only. At this point, the searchengines assemble a web page, listing the results as hypertext links.

At their core, the major search engines (Yahoo, Alta Vista, Lycos, Infoseek, etc.) usea location/frequency method of determining relevance. For example, if you were searchingfor "Bill Clinton," most engines would return pages primarily ranked by whereand how often those words appear in each document. To be more specific, a page entitled"Bill Clinton's medical history" is likely to be considered more relevant thanothers where the Meta tag (the title for each page on your site) doesn't mention Clinton'sname. Therefore, it's important to note that the location of a given term is a majorfactor. Similarly, a page that repeatedly mentions Clinton is sure of getting more of aboost than one with only a single reference.

Location and frequency, though critical, are not the only factors to take intoconsideration. Each search engine has a unique blend of techniques that constitutes itsalgorithms, or the mathematical formula for ranking and sorting search engines.

Getting Ranked

Because location and frequency are so important, the title (Meta tag) for each page onyour site must be a major consideration. The search engines will use the Meta tag todetermine the relevancy of your site to their keywords. The best practice is to designyour site verbiage so that it marries with your Meta tag and with potentialkeywords that can be used to find your product and services.

Be warned: Most search engines filter submissions to avoid "spamming," whichis the term used to describe the electronic equivalent of junk mail. It is appropriate,though, to resubmit your site at three-month intervals, but be sure to check the searchengines to see how you are ranking. Packaged software is available to accomplish thistask.

Once you have determined your ranking, you may want to change your page content andMeta tags before you resubmit. If you follow this procedure of resubmitting throughout theyear, you will have a much better chance of climbing the rankings.

Michael Zervas is co-owner of the Michaels/Wilder Group, a specialized advertisingagency incorporating three divisions: Yellow Pages, Internet and recruitment advertising.Based in Phoenix, the award-winning firm's client base includes America West, Luby'sCafeterias, Quaker Oats and Conseco Financial Services. Mr. Zervas can be reached at [email protected].

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