Tips on Submitting to Search Engines

This article was originally written in 2006. The statistics and information provided are from that time period and may no longer be accurate or relevant.

There are companies out there who will try to sell you on their submission services by telling you that for one low, low fee, they can submit your site to hundreds of search engines. No matter how low their “low, low” fee is, services like these are a waste of your time and money. The fact is, most search engines take their results from a handful of other engines and directories, and if you submit to the important ones, you have, in essence, submitted to hundreds. Not to mention that search engines don’t really require you to submit your site at all! Search engines develop their indexes by "crawling" the internet, and making copies, or caches, of the pages they find. If the search engines come across a link to your site, they will follow it, and copy your pages too.

If you have your heart set on submitting to the search engines, keep in mind that fully 81.1% of websurfers use only the top three search engines1 so by submitting to the important ones, you have already reached the vast majority of surfers.

Search Engines

So who are the top three search engines, and how difficult is it to get listed? In order of importance, they are Google, Yahoo and MSN. The ease of getting your site well-placed in their indexes is directly inverse to their order of importance, so let’s start with the easiest one first.

MSN:

MSN supplies its own primary search results, and is used by 11.4% of searchers. It is relatively easy to submit a site, and relatively easy to obtain a good ranking by having good site content, optimized keywords, and good, quality directory listings (which we’ll get to in a bit). MSN has its own crawler, MSNbot. Crawlers, also referred to as spiders, bots or robots, “crawl” the internet, following links and making records (caches) of the information they find as they go. This information then forms the basis for search results.
MSN submission info

YAHOO:

Yahoo also supplies its own primary search results, and also feeds AltaVista and Alltheweb2. Yahoo is used by 23.4% of searchers. Yahoo also has a crawler, called, creepily enough, Slurp. In addition to its search engine, Yahoo also has a directory, which is arguably the second most important directory on the web. Unfortunately, for commercial sites, a directory listing carries a $299 price tag, renewable yearly.
Yahoo submission info
Yahoo directory info

GOOGLE:

Google supplies its own primary search results, and also provides primary results to AOL & Netscape. Google is easily the most popular search engine and is used by fully 46.3% of surfers to locate information and sites. Google crawls the web with its spider Googlebot, but it also gets directory information from DMOZ, also known as the Open Directory Project. DMOZ is the most important directory on the web, and will be addressed more fully later. Google now also has a feature called Google Sitemaps, which allows you to submit information on all the pages of your website, and can lead to faster indexing. Even once you are indexed in Google, however, getting your pages to rank well in search results is challenging.
Google submission info

Search Engine Placement

The search engines use complicated formulas known as algorithms to determine where a particular website will place in search results. The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) community is rife with people who argue back and forth about the importance of various elements of the algorithm, but the truth is that no one aside from the search engine creators themselves really knows the absolute ins and outs of all the factors that play into search engine ranking. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some solid, basic techniques that can be helpful in getting your site placed higher.

1.   Good, clean web design that doesn’t include bloated code and that makes appropriate use of alt tags, heading tags and navigation.

Good SEO = Good Web Design / Good Web Design = Good SEO.
Crawlers can’t “see” your webpage; they only read and interpret the code behind it. Bloated code reduces the impact of the content of your site by burying it in amongst a bunch of text that is irrelevant to your page (other than making it display correctly, of course!). In addition, code should be valid and meet W3C standards.

Alt tags are text that replaces an image for people who have images turned off, or who are using accessibility software or handheld devices. Alt tags should describe the image, and if not overused, can be useful for reinforcing keywords. Alt tags for images that are simply graphic elements of a design, however, should not contain any text; this is poor SEO practice, and inconsiderate of your users.

Heading tags function like an outline. They provide structure to the page and tell the crawler which words on your page are particularly important to the overall content. Heading tags should follow a true heirarchical structure: <h1> should be used for main headings, <h2> for sub headings, etc. Heading tags should never be used just for the sake of SEO, but rather should truly convey the relative importance and structure of the content of your site.

Navigation is not only critical for the users of your site. The design of your navigation can affect whether or not crawlers can access all the pages of your site. Crawlers can’t read javascript or pictures, so navigation should be text based, and all internal links should be carefully tested to be sure they aren’t broken. We strongly recommend against the use of javascript or image-based navigation for a variety of reasons, but if you simply must use javascript or buttons, you should provide text links throughout your site at the bottom of your pages.

2. Appropriate, well written content that includes careful use of keywords.

The cornerstone of search engine optimization is quality, relevant content. Content should always be written for your visitors first, and search engines second. Keyword use is often abused; keywords should fit naturally into the text of the page, and should not be used more than probably 4 or 5 times on an average page. If you’re in doubt as to whether you’re overusing keywords, try reading your copy out loud. Keywords should be used with their variations (plurals, etc) and careful use of common misspellings can sometimes be helpful in search engine placement, but misspellings should never form part of the body copy!

3. Appropriate use of metatags.

The most important metatags for SEO are the Title and the Description. The Keyword metatag has been overused and abused, so most search engines don’t make much use of it anymore. There is no harm in including it, but don’t expect it to help much. Metatags should be carefully written; they should be unique to each page, and they should accurately reflect the content of the pages. Description metatags can be a useful place to include intentional misspellings, since they don’t display to the user of the page.

4. Links to your site.

Having other websites that link to your site is very beneficial for two reasons. First, search engines factor the number of links to your pages from quality related sites into the algorithm they use to determine search placement. The importance of links is currently hotly contested, however, building solid, quality links is still an important part of SEO. Second, links increase the likelihood that a crawler will find and index your pages. The more opportunities you create to be found, the easier it will be to find you. Building links too fast can be detrimental, and link farms and link creation services should be avoided at all costs. One-way links are much more valuable than reciprocal links.

Directories

Directories are listings of websites, generally organized into categories, and are an important part of search engine placement. Rather than focusing on submitting your site to multiple search engines, quality directories are a more appropriate place to put your submission efforts. Search engines make use of directories to find content, and directory listings provide valuable links to your site. There are different types of directory submissions, and two directories are of particular importance.

DMOZ:

The is the directory to submit to. Google and many other search engines use this directory’s content, and a listing in DMOZ can be very powerful. Submissions are free, however all sites must be reviewed by volunteer editors prior to being listed, and not all sites are guaranteed admission. Because the directory is human edited, the time from submission to listing can be very long (anywhere from two weeks to two years). Do not submit your site more than once; this is not helpful, and may harm you in the long run.
Instructions for suggesting your site to DMOZ

YAHOO:

As already mentioned, placement in the Yahoo directory can be helpful in getting good placement in Yahoo search results. It is also beneficial to placing in Google, as Google regularly crawls the Yahoo directory for new content. Unfortunately, it also carries a $299 submission fee for commercial sites, and you will have to decide if that price is within your budget.

FREE DIRECTORIES:

There are some very good quality free directories that provide valuable links with no strings attached. These are a good place to direct your directory submission efforts. A quick internet search will help you turn up listings of directories that you can submit to.

RECIPROCAL LINK DIRECTORIES:

These directories provide a free listing in exchange for a link back to their site. Provided the site is relevant and does not engage in shady SEO practices, these links can be useful, but you should avoid overusing reciprocal link directories and if you are going to have very many of these types of submissions, a separate page should be created for the links. Some reciprocal link directories will waive the requirement to link back to the directory if you pay for your listing. Depending on the fee, the importance of the directory, and your budget, this may be a better option than a reciprocal link.

PAID DIRECTORIES:

These directories provide a listing in exchange for payment, ranging from $10 to $200. Again, depending on the fee, the importance of the directory, and your budget, listings with these directories may be beneficial.

Above all, however, keep in mind that the groundwork for placing well in the search engines is laid with your content. Your website needs to have something useful and relevant to offer your visitors, and your site should always be built around your visitors’ needs and interests first and foremost.

1 Danny Sullivan, Nielsen NetRatings Search Engine Ratings, http://searchenginewatch.com/reports/article.php/2156451, January 24, 2006.
2 Michael Bloch, Taming the Beast: Search Engine Relationships,
http://www.tamingthebeast.net/articles5/search-engine-relationships.htm

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