Search Engines



General principles

Search engines are software programs that run on web sites and which allow people browsing the Web to find things that they are interested in. It's the most common way of searching across the Internet.

This page explains how to ensure that when someone does an online search, it is your site that they will find. This subject is really complicated so we have simplified it down to  seven rules for search engine registration.

The top search engines are AltaVista and Yahoo, but there are lots more such as Excite and Lycos. If you don't know about search engines, have a go at looking for stuff that interests you.

Search engines store information about web sites, so that when they are asked they already have the details to hand. In our site resources section you can find links to sites which cover the subject in much greater detail.

Remember that search engines can give you lots of possible answers. Unless your site appears in the first page or two of results, people can't be bothered to look further and your site will be missed. So we give you some simple rules which will likely put you higher up the results list.

We don't explain why these rules will work - if you want to know you're going to have to spend the next week or two on the subject.

Up to date advice

Search Engine registration is big business and is changing rapidly with new engines and new technologies coming out all the time. The information below is good general advice but it is worth occasionally checking for new developments. There are several sites which monitor these developments and keeps you up to date with all the latest tips and tricks. A couple of these are listed below.

Rule 1
Seventy five percent of users don't go beyond the second page of search engine results. That means if your site isn't in the top 40 results, you probably won't be noticed.

Rule 2
Choose a key phrase or phrases that you believe that your customers will use in searching for a product or service like yours. Try to avoid thinking of just single words as they will get too many hits making it very unlikely that you can get ranked on the first or second pages.

Rule 3
Put the key phrases in your title and meta tags (Description and keywords). Use lower case. That's because over 80% of people search entirely in lower case and only two of the major search engines are completely case sensitive. For example, suppose you are running a sailing site and you have decided that 'boats for sale' and 'yachts for sale' are the search phrases your potential customers are most likely to use. You would set up your meta tags something like this:

<TITLE>sailing on the seven seas: boats for sale, yachts for sale</TITLE>

<META Name="description" Content="boats for sale, yachts for sale and everything you need to know about sailing">
<META Name="keywords" Content=boats, sailing, sails, boats for sale, yachts for sale">

Rule 4
Put these same key phrases near the top of your web page (note that this might be in the left margin to be seen by search engines as at the top), repeat them in the text and in Alt text and comments.

Rule 5
Get as many links to your pages as possible from other sites as this will affect your ranking in some major search engines.

Rule 6
Don't put text in small or whited out (or same color as background) - you will be penalized by several search engines. Don't use frames. As at January 2001 Excite, Inktomi, Go and Lycos won't link through them.

Rule 7
Manually submit your pages to the major search engines (some require payment). Resubmit on a regular basis (you can obtain software that will help you with this):
bulletAOL (
bulletAsk Jeeves
bulletFAST (
bulletGo / Infoseek (Go is the only one that doesn't do deep crawl i.e. go through your entire site).
bulletNetcenter (Netscape)
bulletNorthern Light
bulletOpen Directory (
bulletWeb Crawler
bulletWebTop (

Several of these share the same underlying database.


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