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  The Process

"Many a small thing
  has been made large
by the right kind
of advertising."
- Mark Twain

Search Engine Positioning     

Did you know that more than 85% of Internet users find their destinations on the Web using search engines?

Search Engine ranking is a fairly common Web Promotion topic. If you are at all interested in generating traffic to your site, it is an absolutely critical topic to learn about.

It is estimated that less than 30% of web sites still make effective (or any) use of Meta tags. If there is only one thing you are going to do to promote your web site, this should be it.
Be sure to also see these other pages: Metatags Page, Search Engine Optimization, Keyword Rich Pages and Automatic Meta Tag Generator.

Some sources indicate that some major sites generate up to 50% of their traffic from good Search Engine positioning. Note however, that this may merely be an indication that the site is already so popular that visitors are simply searching for the URL of a site they already intend to visit. (Search: DISNEY, Result: www.disney.com).

Since few of us already have Disney's name recognition or our users are not inclined to type our corporate name with a www at the front and a .com at the end, general positioning by subject on the major search engines can play a significant role in generating traffic.

If you search for "Website Developers" on Alta Vista, the Ossining Design Guild site may come up #1. How do we do it? The fact is by the time you read this, we may have slipped to 10, 20 or below with these keywords.

Hopefully our position under a similar set of keywords or on another search engine will mysteriously climb to help gain some of the losses from a slip somewhere else. The fact is the algorithms used to rank a web site are very
complex and changed often. This is as much to prevent a web site from manipulating its ranking as it is to find the optimum means to determine position. Even the search engine developers would have a hard time predicting which sites are going to end up on top (excluding GoTo were you pay for your position).

Be very skeptical of anyone that is willing to guarantee you a top-ten search engine ranking for a fee. That is unless you are will to accept a high ranking under searches for some obscure search term. In fact it is not the ranking that is important but the number of links that your ranking generates to your site. Your objective consequently, is to get a high ranking under meaningful search terms.

Having stated there is no way to assure a top ranking on a search engine, there are certainly many things you can do to give yourself an edge and improve your position. The most important of these is to make effective use of the HTML meta tags. These tags are placed in the HEAD of a web page and provide many of the search engine spiders with much of the information they use to rank your web site. If you check our main web page (or just about any other page on our site) and do a View Source, you will see the Meta Tags at the top of the page. The three most important are:

<TITLE>Meta tags</TITLE>
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="All about Meta Tags">
<META NAME="Keywords" CONTENT="meta tags,search engines">

The TITLE tag is used to provide a title for your page. It is a bit like the title of a book but since some search engines use it as the sole description, you should probably view it more like a banner add for your site.

The Meta Description tag is used to describe the contents of your site. It is often listed below the Title in the Search Engine search results. Since it may also be used to help rank your site, you should probably use short
descriptive phrases that will both help categorize your site and entice a potential visitor.

The Meta Keywords tag is probably the most important. This is a list of words and phrases that are used to match with people's searches. If for example, you have entered the keywords: "blue cheese, festival, party" and some one does a search for "blue cheese party" then you will have a match and a possible aromatic visitor. If you are offering a service such as Web Page Design and you enter keywords such as "Web, Page, Design" and a search is made for "Web Page Design" then you will also have a probable match, but so will 250,000 other sites. Obviously getting a good ranking will require more effort.

When setting up your web page, you should be careful to orchestrate the content so that it will be more effectively index under the keywords that you believe are the most important. If you want to get a high ranking
under "Blue Cheese" then make sure you use these terms frequently and near the top of your page. For example:

<Title>Blue Cheese festival</Title>
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="Our Blue Cheese Festival highlights">
<META NAME="Keywords" CONTENT="blue cheese,festival">
(body tag goes here)
Welcome to our Blue Cheese Festival highlights page. We will...


Most Web Masters whether they work on their own personal web site or work on a fortune 500 company web site, are constantly looking for ways to improve their ranking on the major Internet Search Engines. There appears to be no system to ensuring a top ranking unless you buy it on the GoTo search engine. Even so, there are many things a Web Manager can do to significantly improve their site's position.

These are some of the things you need to do when setting up your
Meta Tags and some of the things you need to consider when composing the text on your page.

The Page Title, Meta Description and Meta Keyword tags are the most important. These tags are placed between the <HEAD> tags at the top of the HTML document, i.e.

<title>Enter a page title</title>
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="Enter a page description">
<META NAME="Keywords" CONTENT="Enter,search engine, meta tags ">

These suggestions may be helpful when formatting these tags.

1. The title is similar to a book title but should be more descriptive. It will be displayed at the top of the Browser and with the link to your site from many Search Engine lists. "Jim's Electric Train Hobby Shop". You
should limit the title to 69 characters.

2. The text from the Description Tag is often displayed below the link in many search engine lists to describe the contents of your page. It is also often used to categorize your page. You should consequently try to format the description with some of the most important keywords and text from the body of your web page. "Electric Trains and other Hobbies at Jim's Hobby Shop".

3. Your Meta Keyword Tag should list all possible combinations of keywords and phrases that may be used to search for your site. You can be quite liberal here since you have up to 2000 character that can be included. List
your keywords and phrases separated by commas and avoid junk words like "Worlds greatest, best" etc. Use lots of different combinations of your keywords including common misspellings but do not repeat as this may be interpreted as spamming and stop the keyword indexing. A good example would be: "electric train sets,electric trains,train sets, trains,trans,hobbies,hobby shop,toys,toy shop,games" etc.
Keep going through all possible combinations without repeating yourself. Use the plural form of words when it makes sense.

One of the most difficult dilemmas we face when it comes time to compose a web site is deciding how to set up the main page. The dilemma is whether to create a page that is as esthetically pleasing and as innovative as possible or to create a page that is going to be indexed better by the
majority of search engines. If Search Engine positioning is a higher priority, then you will need to set up a page that includes a reasonable amount of well-chosen text.

Most search engines use this text to help categorize and rank the page. Lycos in particular, requires at least 75 words in order for your page to be indexed.

Here is another tip for those wo use CSS Cascading Style Sheets) to dynamically position elements on your Web Page. Many of the search engines only look at the first 80 or more words on the page. When CSS are used, the text positioned at the top of the page does not necessarily need to be the text that is first read in the HTML document. Add the text that you wish the search engines to read first immediately following the Body Tag
but use CSS to position it at the most appropriate location on the Web page.

Most search engines will now test pages for spamming and de-list them. Here are some things NOT to do:

1. Keyword stuffing. Keywords that are overused by repeating them too many times in the Meta Tags and text body.

2. Page redirects. Most search engines do not like this. If you must have one, insure that it has a reasonable delay.

3. Invisible text. Over use of hidden text or setting text to the same color as the background so that it can be indexed but not seen.

4. Small Text. If the print can only be read by a lawyer with a magnifying glass, it will be incarcerated.

These restrictions often influence web designers to create pages that are designed more for the Search Engines than for the people viewing them. The ability to accommodate both is the sign of a good web designer.

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