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Search Engines: The Thrill of the Hunt!

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You’ve perfected your Web site, declared it on your business cards and stationery, included it in marketing materials and advertisements, and proudly given the URL to all of your family members and friends. Now, you wait anxiously for all to visit, right? Wrong! The work has just begun.

Ironically, you can gather volumes of information on the subject of this very article by searching the Web. There is no lack of information on the Web, but finding and sorting through it can be a major task. Here, you’ll get a glimpse of just what kind of work you need to do after your company’s Web site is complete. Before you promote it, your Web site will need to meet the standards of today’s Web users. It should be a destination that (1) interests people enough that they bookmark it and come back to visit and (2) warrants the work you are about to perform to get people to do just those things.

After you have accomplished those goals, how then can you draw in the millions of Web users who have never heard of your company to your informative, exciting, dynamic Web site? One answer, of course, is search engines. Most Web users looking for a particular service, product, or just plain information rely on a search engine to point them in the right direction. But the number of search engines can be overwhelming, and, as with any new technology, firm standards have not yet been developed and put into practice.

You can select search engines in two ways: by manually choosing the search engines you want to be listed with and submitting your site to each, or by having an automatic submission service do it for you. We recommend that you start with the major engines yourself and possibly follow up with a submission service for the smaller engines. Doing the major ones on your own is good experience, and it may lead your company in new directions, depending on the industry or niche your company fills with your Web site. You just have to get your hands a little dirty. Using one of the automatic services may save time for listing on all the smaller engines, but, even on those, you will need to do your homework. Choosing which service (free, for fee, honor system) to use may take as much time as submitting to the most popular engines.

Search Engines

There are two different types of search engines: categorized and indexed. Categorized engines (sometimes called directories) place sites by category, and users usually drill down into those categories before issuing the search (for example, Yahoo!). When submitting to a categorized engine, you need to find the category or categories your company fits in and submit specifically to those categories by keying in your information. Indexed engines take some general information from you and let software (a robot, spider, etc.) automatically index your site (for example, HotBot). When taking this approach, it is important that you code your site correctly so that the indexing software works effectively. The line between categorized and indexed engines can get fuzzy because an indexed site may have categories and a categorized site may let users search the whole Web, but, in general, they describe the two ways in which you submit your site.

Figure 1 shows a list of popular search engines to start with (not listed in any particular order). You should also try to get listed with any search engines that are specific to your industry. Search engines come and go, and their popularity changes every week. Stay on top of the changes to ensure you are listed with the right ones.

To submit to these sites, go to their respective home pages and find one of the following links:

• Add URL
• Add a site
• Suggest a site
• Add your company
• Add a page
• Submit URL Some search engines allow you to delete a site that is no longer valid. When your site changes, simply resubmit. You will most likely not receive confirmation that your site is or is not added. Some engines are quite picky about what sites they add and where, especially the categorized ones. And the timeframe involved in all this? If you go with an indexed search engine, your site may be added quite quickly, but the categorized engines can take weeks to list your site. If you find you are not listed after a few weeks, resubmit; it may take several submittals.

The Science

For both categorized and indexed engines, you normally need to provide five standard pieces of information:

• Site title
• Site description (usually 20 words long)
• Site URL(s)
• Keywords
• Email address What differs is the way in which you give categorized and indexed engines your information. When submitting to a categorized engine, it’s a good idea to have a separate document with the information on it so you can cut and paste it into each submission. (Some categorized sites allow longer descriptions, which you can also keep in your cutand-paste file.) For the indexed engines, you need this information coded into your site (we’ll explain how to do that in a moment). In either case, you want the content in your site to contain the same keywords and messages, especially on your home page.

To code this information in your site, use either HTML or, in Domino, passthru HTML. Figure 2 shows the use of HTML’s META tag to insert search information into your page. In Domino, you first create an editable text field called $$HTMLHEAD, and, then, in the formula, use passthru HTML (as shown in Figure 3). Note: If you are using Domino R5, you can use Document Properties to assign your page title, and META Tags for your description and keywords.

The Art

Search engines have to rank sites (whether or not that ranking is visible when the results from a search appear) and present them in the order ranked. For many engines, a percentage is listed next to each site returned as a result of a search query. That percentage can be calculated in many ways. Some percentage rankings are determined by visitors voting for favorite sites, while others are calculated by word frequencies. The search engine can draw those word frequencies from your keywords or from the content of your actual site. They can be calculated by how many times a word appears on a page or gleaned from the ratio of a particular word against the total number of words on a page. Confused? The best advice is this:

• Put in all keywords that truly match what your company and site offer, anywhere from 50 to 100 keywords maximum. If you put in too many, some of the algorithms will not work in your favor. If you don’t put in enough, your site won’t be a match when it really should be.

• Use important keywords throughout the content of the site, especially on the home page. If you have text within a graphic, it will not be indexed and will not be calculated in the keyword count, so make sure your keywords appear in text as well as in graphics.

• Assign ALT tags (coded like the META tags in Figure 2) to all your graphics. ALT tags describe the graphics for users who have the graphics option on their browser turned off, and they are sometimes indexed by search engines. You may assign ALT tags in Notes using the Picture Properties dialog box or in HTML, like this:

BORDER=0 HEIGHT=100 WIDTH=150

ALT="My Company Name”>

You can find an independent service to do some of this work for you. Such services can analyze your position within different search engines by the keywords you have listed. You can get reports that actually list what your ranking may be and make recommendations on how to improve your position or ranking.

Web Marketing Magic

But submitting your Web site to various search engines is really just the beginning. Promoting your Web site is not magic; it takes work and creative thinking. After getting listed, you should consider getting linked directly from other sites (your customers, vendors, partners, and other regional companies with which you associate). You should also consider submitting for Web site awards for design or information so that you can get added recognition (and more visitors). In addition, you should think about advertising (online and offline), creating online newsletters, and offering contests and promotions. After your site has been available and you’ve started promoting it, you need to measure its effectiveness by getting tools that can analyze your hits. This can be anything from a simple report to business intelligence and data mining technologies. For AS/400 users, that’s where the power of the database engine really pays off.

Each step in building and promoting your company’s Web presence is iterative and exciting. If you haven’t jumped onto the Web yet, know that it’s worth the time and the effort—and that your competitors are probably in knee deep already.

Yahoo! www.yahoo.com Yahoo! is probably still the most popular search engine on the Web. It is also the one you need to take the most care in submitting to. Yahoo! is categorized, and you can submit up to two categories. Finding the categories that fit your company is important because Yahoo! checks your site and matches it to the categories you choose. Follow the submission guidelines carefully. Yahoo! and IBM recently announced an agreement to offer Yahoo! services on IBM Aptiva PCs.

HotBot www.hotbot.com HotBot is a good indexed site and has some interesting advertising recently. Excite www.excite.com Pay attention to its guidelines for submission. You pick a category, but, from there, your site is indexed with its spider.

Lycos www.lycos.com Lycos looks like a categorized engine, but when you are submitting, it acts more like an indexed engine. Lycos now has an association with Open Text (now called Livelink Pinstripe) and also has an agreement with IBM and the new Aptiva PCs.

LookSmart www.looksmart.com This is a categorized engine, so, again, you need to drill down to find the categories under which you should be listed. You can submit to more than one category, but you need to do a separate submission for each one. Starting Point www.stpt.com This engine is categorized. You input all the information and find the place where you want to be listed. AltaVista www.alta-vista.net AltaVista is a popular indexed site.

Infoseek www.infoseek.com Infoseek is an indexed site. A new project called GO Network has been launched with Infoseek, ABC News,

Disney, and ESPN. WebCrawler www.webcrawler.com This indexed site is associated with Excite. Search400 www.search400.com This site was designed specifically for, and is a great site from which to retrieve, AS/400 information. If your company is an AS/400 vendor, you can be listed as a vendor and have your site indexed (both for free) and list white papers and press releases (for a fee). Search400 is powered by AltaVista.

Figure 1: Your Web site should be registered with the most popular search engines.



Greg Bear

CONTENT="The Web page of Hugo and Nebula

award-winning science fiction author

Greg Bear.">

CONTENT="science fiction, writing, writer,

greg bear, hugo.">

Figure 2: Use the HTML META tag to place description text and search keywords into your Web page.

"[Symatrix Technology, Inc.

CONTENT=""Symatrix Technology is a Lotus

Notes and IBM Business Partner in

Portland, Oregon."">

CONTENT=""computer, AS/400, Lotus, network,

technology, IBM"">]"

Figure 3: Domino has a META tag for description text and search keywords that is similar to HTML.

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