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If you want some traffic to your site, you MUST get listed in the search engines and directories. If everything else equaled one hit to your site, then getting properly listed in the search engines equals ten or twenty hits. That’s the ratio – search engine listings are ten to twenty times more valuable than anything else.

In fact, the common advise is to totally ignore every other type of marketing and advertising on the web until you get your site completely listed in the search engines and directories. That’s pretty good advice.

When you create a web site the first thing you want to do is create a good site. Your pages should be well designed, with keywords in your Metatags, Description, Title, ALT tags, text and header (H1 and H2) tags. Spend some time working on this – it is important to get it right.

So what does this mean? You must first decide on your sites theme. Let’s say your site is about asthma. Okay, look in a good thesaurus and find synonyms for asthma. Look in the dictionary and check the definition and read some encyclopedia articles. While doing this make a list of words which are related to asthma.

Now pick some of those words and include them in a short (70 or so character) title. This becomes your tag. Create a 200 word description (becomes the DESCRIPTION Metatag) and list the words you found in the KEYWORD Metatag.

When you design your page, be sure and include at least one header

and a few sub headers

and include some of your keywords in those. Also, the first paragraph following each header tag should be written very well and include a peppering of keywords.

Got some graphics? Include a few of those on the page and be sure to add descriptions using the ALT field on the IMG tag. It’s a good idea if these ALT tags each include a keyword or two.

Be light on the use of Java, JavaScript, Activex and other fancy things – it’s okay to use these techniques and tools, but search engines do not like them at all. In fact, most will ignore or assign a lower rank to anything except straight hypertext links.

Avoid framing your site – and if you do use frames, be sure to include an unframed version to submit to the search engines.

I’ve also found it to be a good idea to create “hallway” pages which act like site maps. These pages are just pure text and links to every page on the site. These are great for submitting all of your pages to search engines at once. These also solve the question of “how deep do search engines crawl a site?” because they place every page on the second level.

I know what you are thinking now – what does any of this have to do with the search engines? As it turns out all of this is critical. You have to remember that what a search engine is trying to do when it spiders your page is determine what your page is all about. The more you can make this obvious, the higher ranking you will get.

Since many search engines are now beginning to look at the popularity of a site, it is a good idea to get your link exchange program going before you submit to the larger search engines. It is also an excellent idea to list your site in directories (including Yahoo) before submitting to the big 10 engines. Remember to submit all of your link exchange partners to the search engines BEFORE you submit your own site. This will help you get a higher ranking right away.

From my own experience, you should hand-submit to the largest dozen directories, then hand-submit to the top dozen or so search engines. Use an automatic submission program to submit to the remainder of the search engines and directories. Following that, join as many web rings and communities as are appropriate to your site. Only when you have all of that covered should you move to FFA lists, opt-in emails, classified ads, and so forth.

I’ve also found that banner exchanges (especially Linkexchange) are virtually useless. I reviewed my own logs and determined that out of 1,000 unique hits to my site only one was due to a banner exchange. Now I would assume that very well designed banners could increase this ratio, but based on what I’ve learned this would follow after getting the site listed in search engines and directories.