Getting your site at the top of a search engine’s list is every company’s dream. But how can you guarantee that when someone keys in "human resources" or "on-line recruitment" they will be directed to your site?
Search engines, the mechanisms for finding sites on the Internet, break down into two main types: "spider" engines that search and index web sites in real time and directories that are compiled manually.
Directories, such as Yahoo, select certain sites based on interest, relevance and merit, meaning that most sites listed in a directory will be particularly appealing to visitors. Some actually combine the two approaches.
It is in your interest to target all three types. Around 15 site visits will cover the main search engines and directories available, which will amount to less than a morning’s work. The following guidelines should increase your chances of good search engine coverage. If you want to find out more, go to www.searchenginewatch.com, which has a host of technical tips for improving your ranking.
In engines that use spiders, you need to use meta tags, which provide a useful way of controlling the summary of your site in some search engines. The two most important meta tags are "keywords" and "description". The former allows you to supply keywords that you want your site to be associated with and the description tag lets you come up with a summary of your site – instead of the search engine creating it.
So supply your web designer with the keywords you think will work best for you. If you’re an on-line IT recruitment company, place something along the lines of "jobs, recruiting, IT, computing, contracting". When it comes to describing your site in the description meta tag, tell the search engine how you would like your site described – think of it as placing an advert in the search engine results. The above on-line recruiter should, for example, key in, "Over 50,000 CVs held, and 100,000 jobs posted, specifically targeted at the IT sector".
There are bits of your site that you don’t want indexed by spiders, such as your "How to contact us" page, or the investor relations part of your site. You can stop this happening by getting your designer to include a robots.txt file in your root directory, The robots.txt file is a means for webmasters to keep search engines out of their sites.
For more information about robots.txt, go to http://info.webcrawler.com/mak/projects/robots/exclusion.html . You can also use the Robots meta tag to suppress the indexing of certain pages although the robots.txt file is generally more widely supported.
Demand for web sites rarely stays static – it can be affected by the time of day or week, product releases or other events, like a major exhibition or event. Products called load balancers can enable you to distribute incoming traffic across more than one Internet server, which will enable you to maintain the performance of your site. Load balancing can be handled by intelligent routers, or by application server software. Suppliers of such a service include: Cisco (www.cisco.com) and F5 (www.f5.com).
- This is adapted from an article that first appeared in Computer Weekly by Danny Bradbury. Computer Weekly is promoting E-Business Month for November. Initiatives include IT suppliers Dell and March First giving free e-business makeovers. www.ebusinessmonth.com