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Search Engine Friendly
by Vix! March 16, 2000

Click, Laugh and Enjoy @

More than half of the total traffic on a web site comes from search engines. As a matter of fact, a high percentage of this traffic results from junk material generated by a search engine for a certain keyword.
This will cause many surfers to visit your site accidentally. For example, a certain user might be searching
for the word "joke", while a certain page might contain this word without being a humor page itself.
As a result, it will be displayed in the "Search Results" page and the user might visit it.

Whether you answer a certain visitor's questions or not depends on the content of your site and on the kind
of visitors you are expecting. The most valuable visitors are the ones that ended up finding what they were looking for. This is simply because they will bookmark your site and might visit it again as soon as they have another question in mind.

From the above, we can learn why search engines are so important. In addition, it is important to note that most users today use search engines as an essential utility to find what they need on the web. Because of that, it is crucial for you, before designing your web pages, to know how to make use of these search engines.

This article is divided into two sections: the first explains how search engines work, and the second informs you how to design a certain web page while being "search-friendly."

How Do Search Engines Work ?

Search Engines are programs that read in certain data, query a certain database for answers, and return back the results. Search Engines, in general, can be divided into three sections: Spiders, Search Interfaces, and Querying Engines.

1- Spiders
Sometimes called Robots or Crawlers, Spiders are programs acting like secret agents. Their job is to search the web for all available files and add them into the Search Engine's database. Moreover, every encountered file is scanned for embedded hyperlinks that are either traversed immediately or scheduled for a later traversal.

Theoretically, if we start from a good initial set of files and traverse all encountered hyperlinks, a spider will
end up having indexed the whole web. In practice, however, this is not true since many files are skipped. These files include dynamic documents (generated by CGI programs), pictures, sounds, JavaScript customizable pages, and many more.

Directories (such as Yahoo), on the other hand, do not work the same way as Search Engines. All links are discovered or submitted by human beings (no spiders used), and are added after being personally examined.
This difference makes the resources of Directories much more valuable, although much smaller in quantity than the enormous resources of spiders. Another major difference between Search Engines and Directories is the way each one assigns the keywords for each page it encounters.
With Directories, keywords are entered by human beings. Thus, there is no problem with that.
On the other hand, spiders need to get their keywords from each file they scan. Thus, every file encountered is cleaned from all its markup and tags to get the initial plain text displayed on the screen.

But, some files contain large amount of data and this may cause the Search Engine's database to become a very large file. To avoid that, spiders look for Meta tags.

Meta tags are HTML tags that have the following form:

<META NAME="..." Content="...">

Meta tags must be placed inside the <head> section of an HTML file. Keywords and phrases in the content
part can be seperated by commas for better readability. The maximum number of keywords is Engine-dependent. For some engines, 25 words or 200 characters have been specified as an upper limit.

While searching for keywords, spiders look for the following meta tag:

<META NAME="keywords" Content="business, company, alcohol, bottles, beer">

The above tag tells the spider that this page has business, company, alcohol, bottles, and beer as keywords. Thus everytime a user, for example, searches for "alcohol", this page will be returned as a possible answer.

But what if no meta tags were available? In this case some Spiders would consider few lines of the HTML file
as a source for keywords.

Another use of the META tag is for excluding a page from spiders. By adding the following tag:

<META name="robots" content="noindex">

You will tell spiders to bypass the page without indexing.

2-Search Interfaces
In this part, we will learn how Search Engines, in general, communicate with users.
The most common way used for communication is through HTML forms. Thus a search engine will look like this:

search box

Once the user enters what he is searching for inside the text field and clicks on the Search button, the Interface will call the Querying Engine.

3- Querying Engines
A Querying Engine is a CGI program that reads data from a certain source (like an HTML form), searches
a certain database for matching keywords, and returns back all matching results to the user.
Querying Engines vary in complexity. The simplest form is that which accepts one word at a time.
A complex engine, on the other hand, may look for keywords that sound like the ones entered by the user.
For example, if a certain user enters "Brummana" as a keyword, the Querying Engine may search also for "Broummana" or "Broomana".

Search-Friendly" Web Design

When we say "Search-Friendly" Web Design we mean designing web pages while baring some few tips in mind. These tips will make sure our page gets all the traffic it is supposed to have. In order to achieve that, our page must be well understood by the Search Engine's spiders.

1- Brainstorm Keywords
Make a list of all words that best describe your site. This list can reach 50 words!
From this list create a top 20 list and a secondary list of 10 words.
Take into consideration your visitor's point of view and what they may be looking for.
Before registering your keywords, test your top 10 by trying them out.
If you were satisfied with the results, you are ready to register them.

2- Make sure to consider "sounds-like" words:
Remember that not all Search Engines are complex ones. Thus, if one of your keywords is "Beirut", consider
also "Beyrouth" and "Bayrout". Similarly, consider mistyping keywords. For example, an English beginner student might specify "foud" while searching for "food" although they don't sound the same.

3- Give your web site a good title:
The title is the text that appears on the title bar and the task bar. It will be what appears in visitor's bookmark to identify your site. Moreover, many spiders scan this line of text, so be sure it makes sense and it includes a major keyword or two.

4- Use <META> tags in your HTML file
As we previously discussed, META tags are very important for spiders. They give the crucial image of your site. This information is important when deciding in which category to place your web site.

5- Do Not Register your web site until it is completely finished
Researches showed that visitors, in general, do not return to sites that are still "under construction".
Moreover, many search engines and directories will not register this kind of sites.

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