Search engine submission guide

So you've launched your site, it's looking great and you're waiting for the traffic - and waiting.. and waiting.

It's a popular misconception that the adage of "build it and they will come" applies to the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of new sites are launched each year - and many of these will fail due to a lack of traffic.

The best sources of traffic are still to be gained from search engines and thankfully there are still some major players that will list you for free.

Before you submit to these engines, it's important to consider the following points.

Content is king

Images are a great way to enhance the aesthetics of your site, but search engines can't read them; although the use of "alt" tags with images may assist. It's of crucial importance to balance visual creativity with textual content. Text is the stuff that search engine spiders love!

Just what is a Search engine spider?

Search engines utilize special software to crawl through pages on the web, following links from one page/site to the next. These programs are known as spiders or "bots".

Content relevancy

Ok, so we've established that there needs to be plenty of text on your pages. The next issue is relevancy. Ask yourself this question. How would you find the products or services offered on your site if you were looking for them via a search engine? The query you would use would be comprised of what is known as keywords or keyphrases. It's important to have plenty of these keywords and keyphrases generously peppered throughout your page content - but not too many occurrences for reasons I'll address later on in this article.

The other point to bear in mind is that not everyone would search for your genre of products or services the way that you would. It's important to survey people to get their ideas on how they would search. There's also some online services you can utilize that track keyword searches from various engines. A good service to try is the Overture search term tool:

This is not a definitive indicator, but will give you a good idea about how people are searching on Overture. Overture is a PPC (Pay Per Click) search engine.

Site structure

Like humans, search engine robots need to be able to navigate throughout your site easily. Unlike humans, search engine spiders are not quite as savvy in their ability to navigate. Some advanced menu systems, especially those that use JavaScript, act as a brick wall to search engine spiders.

If you are using an intricate menu system and you're not sure as to its search engine friendliness, it would be a good idea to create a site map. A site map is essentially a page that lists all (or the most important) pages on your site with standard HTML links to those pages. In order to make your site map human friendly as well, don't forget to add a brief description next to each page link and to add a link to the site map from each page on your site.

Back links/reciprocal linking

Exchanging links with other similar sites of good quality not only boosts your targeted traffic via visitors coming directly from those links, but can also generally boost your search engine rankings. Seek out other good quality sites in your category, but not necessarily in direct competition, and politely approach the webmaster about the possibility of a link trade.

You'll be more successful in your reciprocal link requests if you have already placed a link to the target webmasters' site on yours. When implementing a links page, don't list hundreds of other sites, start off with 10 - 20 and then send out your request. After a couple of weeks, start removing the links where a webmaster hasn't reciprocated and run through the process again.

Reciprocal linking is a subject that is covered in more detail in our web site promotion and marketing guide. If you'd like to find out how many sites are linking to you, try our link popularity tool.


Meta tags are elements within your HTML source code that provide information for search engine spiders. Unfortunately, many site owners have abused Meta tag usage and many engines no longer use the information when calculating rankings. Although this may be the case, it is still important to have Meta tag statements to cover as many scenarios as possible.

Meta tags should be placed between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags of your document. Note: Meta tags are protected under copyright, so it's not wise to copy someone else's tags verbatim.

The most important tags:-

Keywords Meta Tag:


<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="php,mysql,microsoft,frontpage,web,site,hosting,web host">

This should be a comma separated list of relevant words/phrases. These words should reflect your page theme. Be careful not to repeat the same keyword too often or to use non-relevant words, otherwise search engines may consider you to be spamming.

Keep your most important keywords and phrases within the first 100 characters of this statement.

Wherever possible, try and use a different keyword statement on each page.

Recommended length of 500-750 characters.

Description Meta Tag:


<META NAME="description" CONTENT="Quality web site hosting services supporting PHP, MySQL and Microsoft FrontPage are provided by ThinkHost - the best host company.">

The page description is produced along with the page title (see below) in the results pages of some search engine queries. Some search engines' robots use the first few lines of text on your page as a description if the description tag is not present, so ensure that paragraph one of your page is also relevant.

Try not to repeat the same word more than once and put the most important terms at the beginning of the description statement. Try to use a different statement for each page.

Recommended length of 170-200 characters

Title tags are crucial

Many site owners and webmasters have a tendency to put something like "Welcome to" as the text for their page title tag. Considering that most search engines place importance on this text when calculating rank, this practice is probably not a good idea. Your title tag text, as with any other textual aspect of your site, should be relevant to the page and topic discussed.

Here's an example:

<TITLE>Quality PHP-MySQL web site hosting - ThinkHost</TITLE>

The Title tag is also found between the <head> and </head> sections of your source code. The TITLE tag should be kept between 10 - 15 words (60-100 characters).

File/folder naming

Some search engines also place ranking value on the domain name, folders and files within a web site. While you may not be able to do anything about your business/domain name, you can name new pages and folders relative to their topic. If you are using multiple word names, split them with a hyphen e.g:


As with anything else optimization related, everything in moderation.

Flash issues

Flash, for all it's wonderful features, is a major challenge to search engines. At the time of writing, no search engine spiders Flash content properly, although several companies are running technology trials. The bottom line is: unless it's absolutely necessary, don't have a site that's entirely comprised of Flash. Flash elements should be treated the same as images - an aesthetic adjunct, plus enhancement of functionality - but not the core technology of any site.

Multi-submission tools

You've probably seen services that offer to submit your site for free, or at low cost, to thousands of search engines. Considering there are really only a handful of search engines and directories worth submitting to, and this is better done manually, I would advise not to bother with these offers.

In most cases, the vast majority of so called search engines and directories you'll be submitted to will do nothing but generate a stack of junk mail sent directly to your inbox. In a worst case scenario, these services can actually damage your rankings.

Search engine and directory - there's a difference?

Most definitely. A search engine uses automated software to crawl the web in an ongoing process, whereas directory listings are added by human editors. Some examples:

All the Web: Search Engine
DMOZ: Directory
Google: Search engine (with a directory that is powered by another organization, DMOZ)
Yahoo: Directory (also with search engine results powered by Google)

You would have noticed from the above that even the largest companies utilize some data provided by other partners - this is called Search Engine Interdependency. By submitting to the companies listed at the end of this tutorial, you'll actually get coverage from many different engines and directories. It will save you a great deal of time.

Search engine positioning software

There are many different software packages on offer that promise to boost your search engine rankings. Treat any of these claims with great caution. Without going into too many details, many of these applications are frowned upon by major companies such as Google - the improper or over-use of them can actually get your site banned. And getting banned or penalized by a company such as Google can mean a very long road back - if ever.

Search engine spamming

This tutorial is just a basic guide to assist you in the very fluid world of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is a very delicate and complex process and no doubt you'll come across all sorts of weird and wonderful advice in your travels. Treat all of it with caution. Any strategy that is suggested that appears to try and "fool" search engines is very dangerous. Such strategies may include:

- Doorway pages (cloaking) - pages generated for specific search engines
- Keyword stuffing - repetition of keywords
- Hidden text - text that doesn't appear to the visitor (text the same color as the background)

All of these strategies can get you banned from most engines. Even if you use "bleeding edge" strategies and they improve your rankings, this may be only temporary. The end result may not be worth it. The best rule of thumb is Relevancy and Balance - relevant content, with relevant descriptions used generously, but not overdone. Just remember these three words: Content Is King.

Utilizing SEOP's

An SEOP is someone who claims to be a Search Engine Optimization Professional. Their role is to ensure clients' sites rank highly on search engines. As in any trade, there are good, not so good and very bad "professionals". Be very wary before hiring an SEOP. Anyone can get you a number 1 ranking, but will it be on popular search engine query terms? SEOP's who tout a top 100 ranking as a good thing should also be shunned. You really need to be listed on some popular terms in the first 30 - 40 results at the very least. Also, any SEOP that states they have a special arrangement with one of the major search engines is probably not telling the truth.

Search engine companies guard their algorithms for calculating page rankings very closely, and companies such as Google change their algorithm regularly to avoid over familiarity with ranking structures by SEOP's and spammers. What an SEOP does is essentially educated guesswork combined with trial and error. A good SEOP can work wonders for your rankings, a bad one can destroy what you already have - forever.

As with taking on any employee or contractor, check the background of any prospective SEOP carefully. If they cannot explain to you fully and logically what they will do for your site, or if they suggest strategies that appear to involve "tricking" search engines; it's time to find someone else.

Submission links

As mentioned previously in this tutorial, there's still a few quality engines and directories that will accept free listings. By submitting to the following, you'll also benefit from coverage on other sites, some of them major, who are "powered by" these companies. Always make ensure that your site is totally ready for submission before doing so; e.g. no "under construction" pages or dead links and that your meta tags and content are suitably adjusted.


You can submit up to 5 pages at a time for free.


You can be listed for free on MSN via their Inktomi powered results:


The world's most popular search engined. If you aren't ranked well in Google as yet, make the effort to be as soon as possible. Google supplies secondary data to a number of other search engines/indices and sites.

DMOZ (Open Directory):

A community of independent editors that offers free listings, but listing can take some time. DMOZ supplies data to hundreds of other sites and it's very important to be listed by them. Be sure to read the submission guidelines carefully

AllTheWeb (FAST):

Another good free URL submission search engine that will spider your entire site.

How long does it take to be listed?

This varies greatly. Generally, it can take up to two months to be properly spidered and listed by Google and up to 3 months for other engines.

More than just search engines

In order to get noticed on the web, you'll want to do a lot more than just focus on search engines. While good search engine rankings are very important, it's unwise to base a business plan around the fickle nature of top 10 listings. For further information, try our article on web site promotion and marketing:

We hope that you've found this guide to be useful. Search engine optimization is as much about luck, gut vibe and creativity as it is about science and we wish you well in your endeavours to climb to the top of the rankings!

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