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
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."
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
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
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
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.
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:
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".
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
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
2- Make sure to consider "sounds-like"
Remember that not all Search Engines are complex ones.
Thus, if one of your keywords is "Beirut",
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
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.