On submitting URLs to search engines

Companies are sprouting everywhere and spamming the internet pushing their alleged capacity to register websites with hundreds of search engines. Frankly, I have no personal knowledge of the validity of their claims, since I have steered clear of them. Let me explain why.

No two search engines are alike. They collect information about websites in a variety of ways. Almost all search facilities gather the information about your site from direct submissions. Some use "crawlers" or "spiders" to visit the site and catalogue the information. Some of these use your title, keyword, and description metatags; some don't. Frequently all you are asked to provide is the URL or the URL and an email address. Some ask you to provide all the information yourself when you register the site. The information requested varies greatly, from a short list of keywords and a short description to everything including your name, telephone number, and physical address. Some ask you to drill down a heirarchy of categories to find the one that suits your site; some restrict you to one category, some allow more than one; some even ask you to suggest a new category for your site if an existing category is not suitable. Some want you to submit the front page only, while others ask you to submit every page of your site separately that you wish to separately submit. Some tell you categorically to submit your site once and never again, while others ask you to update your submission regularly. Some visit your site by hand to ensure that you're not using inappropriate gimmicks and that your site is an appropriate one to list. Others are fully automated. Some register your site within seconds, some within days, some within weeks, some within months, and some never.

I have little doubt that appropriate software can accommodate many of these differences. I do doubt, however, that the URL submission services give you the feedback.that is essential to ensuring success. Search engines are not always prepared to accept submissions. Sometimes the facility has just had enough for now, and sometimes the submission process is simply down for technical difficulties. Sometimes the facility tells you up front that it cannot accept new submissions, at least for the time being. Sometimes you don't find out until you get an error message. Sometimes the error was not with the facility, but somewhere between you and it. If you use a service, you will likely never know if your automated submission reached the most popular engines.

What do you do when you have used a service, a search facility tells you never to submit twice, but you still don't see your site registered? You're on your own.

It is especially important to have carefully designed your site and meticulously prepared your metatags in advance of submission. Once you're in the catalogues, it's difficult to change things. Misspellings or other screwups in your metatags can be devastating. Being personally familiar with the registration process will help you properly design your site and tags. Possibly the biggest mistake site developers make with their tags is to include too many keywords. If you're selling flowers in Peoria, you need just two keywords: "flowers" and "Peoria." Everything else just dilutes your probability of coming up on top when someone searches for flowers in Peoria.

There is really only one way to do it right. Submit your own site to each search engine one at a time. You will receive email from many of the facilities confirming your submission, but you need to follow up on all of them. It is esssential that you keep track of when you submitted what to which search engine and whether it appeared to take. Write it down somewhere. A few weeks later follow up by searching for your site using the appropriate key words that you expect prospective visitors to use. Write down the results. This may also tell you if you need to revise your metatags. Submit again if necessary and if allowed. Some of the best facilities take more than a few weeks. Follow up again. And again.

This search engine page is designed to take some of the pain out of this.

Another advantage to this approach is that you can vary your keywords from engine to engine, at least those that don't rely on metatags. Meta search engines are becoming more and more popular, and slight variations might help to bring up your site. The emphasis here should be on the word "slight" unless your site is appropriate to a variety of queries (in which case you should probably divide it into multiple sites with separate URLs).

I can always tell when sites have used a search service - when I beat them to the top of the lists every time!

Chuck Gardner