What is a Search Engine?
'Search Engine' - it's a strange piece of Internet jargon, but what does it mean? As you might already know, a search engine is a website which lets you find other websites - a kind of Yellow Pages for the Internet!
To use a search engine, you type in some words that describe the site you're looking for, and it shows you a list of sites that might be suitable.
Search engines you might know include Google, Bing and Yahoo! Search, but remember that when you use your ISP's home page to search, you're still using a search engine - even when you search for something on AOL, MSN or Freeserve.
Remember, if you want to go direct to a particular website that you already know, you don't have to use a search engine - you can just type the site's web address (its 'domain name') into the box at the top of your web browser labelled 'Address'.
Getting more visitors from Search Engines
So, if you are a website owner, you want to make your website appear higher up the search engine listings.
This means that when someone types in some words that are relevant to your website, your site pops up near the top of the search engine's results. This is a good thing because it means you'll get more visitors to your site.
First, you should know that the search engines are generally very slow to update their listings - they often take 6 to 8 weeks.
This means that any changes you make to your site will take some time to show up in the search engine listings. Our Free Trial websites, because they only last for one week, rarely appear in the search engines at all.
We're sorry, but we can't speed up the search engines (though we often wish that we could!). They're run by completely separate companies to us.
Anyhow, here's some tips to help you get a good position for your website in the search engine listings:
Create good titles for your pages
Now, to raise your position in the search engine results, you need to concentrate on the titles of your pages. You need to describe the page - for example, imagine the title of your site is 'Andy's Plumbing Services'. This is fine to start with, but unless a visitor is searching for your site specifically, they're unlikely to find it in the search engines.
In the case of our plumbing site, people we want to attract might search for 'plumber london' or 'uk plumber'. So we should change the title of the site to 'Andy's Plumbing: Plumber in London, UK'. This is a better title because it includes more words people might type into a search engine ('plumber' as well as 'plumbing', 'london', 'UK').
Here are some examples of good and bad page titles:
- Bad title: HOME PAGE
This is a bad title because it doesn't describe the site at all.
- Better title: Holiday Cottage to Rent, Cornwall UK
This is better because it does describe the site, and it includes some words that people might search for. But we can still improve it...
- Good title: Holiday Cottage to Rent (Vacation Rental) Near Cardigan Bay, Cornwall UK.
This is a good title because it includes lots of words people might type into the search engines.
Americans would search for 'Vacation', while Brits would be more likely to search for 'Holiday'. It also includes both the words 'Rent' and 'Rental' - you want your site to be listed whichever word people search for.
If you're a business, then unless your product is available to the whole world (perhaps it is if you offer mail order), you're probably interested in people visiting your website who live near enough to come and purchase from you.
So include your country in the title, and if you're in the USA then include your state, the whole word and the abbreviation - e.g. 'Florida (Fl)'. Some people will type the state name into a search engine, and some people will type the abbreviation.
Remember, the Internet covers the whole world - visitors who arrive at your site from a search engine don't know where in the world you are, unless you tell them.
Include lots of useful textual content in your site
The search engines tend to give preference to sites that they think (or rather, that their algorithms show) visitors will find useful.
So, what you need to do on your site is to write as much content as possible - articles, essentially - which are genuinely useful to people visiting your site - even if they don't intend to buy from you or use your service.
For example - using the imaginary plumbing site that we were discussing above - useful content to add to this site could include how to fix different plumbing problems. It might seem that the plumber would be putting himself out of business by helping people to fix their own plumbing problems without his assistance, but in fact this kind of content would be likely to make his site rank higher in Google and the other search engines - and therefore more likely for potential customers to find him.
Some further resources that you might find useful:
- Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone. This classic article is simply the best guide to getting excellent results with Google (the most important search engine).
- If you're thinking of paying someone to improve your search engine rankings, we strongly recommend you first read Google's Guide to Search Engine Optimizers.