Among the millions of pages out here, how will people ever find ours?
meta tags  ~ searches and directories  ~  link requests and exchanges
news and discussion groups  ~ off-line media  ~  keep score  ~ more
Making Pages Guidelines Weblication  ~  Weblicity  ~  Training

"If you build it [and they find out about it], they will come." 
-- Field [with liberties] of Dreams

In 1993, before the Internet went public, there were several hundred Web pages. No one really knows how many Web pages are available out here, but by 1997 most of the estimates were in the tens of millions. Now most estimates are over 100 million, but things may be calming down a bit -- one Web Growth Summary that counts Web sites, rather than individual pages, reports that the rate of growth is now decreasing: The Web only doubles in size every six months. 

Creating useful Web pages, putting them up on the Web, and keeping them up to date -- those are all necessary aspects of Web publishing, but they're not sufficient.  Just as a book publisher has to have some way to inform people who might be interested in reading a particular book that it is available; likewise the publisher of a Web-page has to find some way to let people know that a page providing that particular type of content is available.  'Weblicity' is what we call it, and it requires careful planning, which is made more difficult by the fact that the ground rules keep changing. 

Here we discuss several different ways of letting people know about your pages: searches and directories, link requests and exchanges, newsgroups and discussion groups, and off-line media are all useful; but before contacting any of them, developing a clear description of your page is the first step. We discuss that in the section on title tags and meta tags, along with keeping up with the changing requirements of  the automatic indexing robots. Finally, we discuss some methods for getting information about how you're doing, in a section titled keeping score

Title Tags and Meta Tags:  Get Ready for Automatic Indexing

Before you worry much about how to get information about your pages to potentially interested Webbers, think about what you want to tell them. Your first opportunity to do that comes as you build the page itself.  Web pages can include several types of formal descriptions of themselves: the title, obviously, as well as "meta" tags  for "description,"  "keywords," and "classification." 

Most important of all formal descriptors of your page is the Title.  The title will appear at the beginning of the listing for your page in Web search services like Alta Vista and Web directories like Yahoo!  It will also serve as the bookmark label when people bookmark your page, and it will show up on the title bar of browser and editor windows. 

When a search engine's Web robot finds a page with no formal meta description included,  it will create an index containing all the words on your page, and when your page comes up in a search the results will display the first 20 words or so as a short description, along with the title. You can influence how your page is indexed by using the META tag to specify additional keywords to be included in the index, and a short abstract. 

The information in the META tag is not displayed when the document is loaded into a browser. 

Webmaster's Guide To Search Engines:  "How search engines index your site, tips on improving your ranking, and how to maintain good search engine design." 

Yahoo!'s List of Pages on  Improving Search Engine Placement

META Tagging for Search Engines  from the Web Developer's Virtual Library: "It is possible for you to control how your page is indexed by using the META tag to specify additional keywords to index, and a short abstract. This tag can be used to augment documents with information that is not normally displayed by browsers." 

The META Tag:  Controling How Your Page Is Indexed by Alta Vista:  Many Web directories and search engines try to help you understand how to work with them more effectively, as with this page from Alta Vista. 

Using META Tags to Define Index Terms for Your Page includes Infoseek's guidelines for improving your page's relevancy score in a search:  "Use a highly descriptive title, include a META tag description, and create META tag keywords that contain comma-separated phrases.  Use an assortment of synonyms that accurately describe your site, but don't try to boost the site's relevance by repeating keywords. The overuse and repetition of keywords may result in a lower relevancy score and possible omission from Infoseek's index." 

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Register Your Site with Directories and Search Engines

Various Web directories and search engines require different amounts of information about you and your page when you register with them -- with some, the process is as simple as sending them an e-mail message containing the URLs of the pages you wish to register.  Others require quite a bit more information, so the process may not be nearly so easy.  Yahoo!, for example, wants you to look through their directory and suggest an appropriate category for each page you wish to suggest -- see Yahoo!'s page on How to Sugest Your Site for details. 

Other than waiting for people to discover your site and recommend it for you, you have these options 
              1.Submit to each individually by hand. 
              2.Submit to several sites after filling out one form, using software help. 
              3.Employ an agency to do whatever they think is appropriate (and lucrative). 

Here's a list of Major Search Engines that may help.  Before you go to a lot of trouble and /or expense submitting pages to a hundred different sites, consider the fact that over 90 percent of Web searches are done on the ten or so most important sites.  If you decide to use the help of software or an agency, you'll still need to know which services are the most important, unless you have unlimited funds. 

We strongly recommend that you do it yourself, unless you are paying someone to develop and maintain your pages for you, and can also afford to pay them to submit the pages for you. The reason is that whoever submits the pages has a good opportunity to develop an understanding of what the various services are looking for, as it pertains to your particular set of pages.  If that valuable knowledge resides in the awareness of someone other than the person working with the pages, it may never be used fully for tailoring your pages for accurate automatic classification. 

Keep track of the information you submit -- you'll probably need it again. 

Yahoo!s list of Web Site Promotion Companies and Yahoo's directory of Site Promotion Pages list many sites offering software assisted submission of your pages to Web directories and search engines.  For example, Register-It helps you register your site with 16 different search engines for free, and TrafficWhiz offers several free services.  Many of the sites that offer free services also offer to perform miracles for you if you pay them. 

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Newsgroups and E-mail?

Spam:  Unsolicited, self-serving newsgroup postings and e-mail messages.  The first and most important rule for using electronic messages to promote your Web site (or anything else) is to avoid spamming.  People hate is receiving spammed messages, and you might have your Internet accounts canceled as a result (not to mention making enemies when you are trying to cultivate friends). 

One newsgroup that is always appropriate for announcing new Web sites is comp.infosystems.www.announce -- the Usenet newsgroup set up specifically for this purpose. The newsgroup’s FAQ explains where and in what format to send notices of new sites. 

In other groups, whether your announcement is spam or not is a real issue, to which there are no cut and dried solutions.  Here are some points to consider: 

If you join, and legitimately participate in a newsgroup or an e-mail discussion group (for example by contributing to the discussion or by usefully answering questions), hardly anyone will object if you use your URL with a very brief description, such as a page title, as your e-mail signature. 

If your site has a free resource - of high quality - that would be of real interest to most people in a particular newsgroup, then you may validly post your URL there, as well.  The best way to do it is to ask to have it put in the group's FAQ -- a list of answers to frequently asked questions posted periodically for newcommers.  If you want to post it to the group more than once, you can ask what would be an acceptible interval.  (Don't be surprised if you get answers like "How about never?) The opinion of the group as to whether your post is spam or not will depend on their assessment of whether you could legitimately expect many of the members to genuinely appreciate the information. 

If some particular member expresses an interest in information that is available on your site, try to be intelligent about whether you should send that information to that particular person or post it for the whole group in case others are interested as well. 

The return address you give when posting to a newsgroup may wind up on a large number of mailing lists. You may wish to use a mailing account that you use only for outgoing mail rarely or have dedicated to spam mail (if you don't care that people in the newsgroup can't reach you).  Free Web-based e-mail accounts are good for this purpose.

Now that we've cleared that up, here are three lists of e-mail discussion groups, and an introduction to what an e-mail discussion group is

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Awards, Link Requests, Banner Exchanges and Web Rings

This section is a catch-all group of additional ways of increasing traffic through your site. 

Link requests and link trades are simple, straight forward, free and appropriate ways to get other pages to link to your page. If you find a Web site that is meaningfully related to your site, you might ask them to link to your page -- to put a link to your page on their page.  If you would feel comfortable having a link to their page on your page, you might offer to trade links -- each page adding a link to the other. 

You might think of requesting a Web award as a special type of link request. Several hundred sites give awards for various aspects of Webical coolness. It's not much trouble to ask one of them to consider your site, and any award you get, even Joe's Cool Site of the Millisecond, has some potential for bringing interested people to your site. Yahoo!'s list of Best of the Web Award pages is a good way to find oodles of these sites. Best of The Best links to the big guns, like Netscape's What's Cool, that get a lot of trafic. 

Banner exchange programs, like Link Exchange, claim to be good ways to attract web users at no cost. We don't recommend them, though, because there is a very steep hidden cost.  The catch is that you must provide more free banner advertisement for other sites than other sites provide for you; usually you must display 2 ads for every exposure of your ad on other sites.  That may not seem like too bad a deal, but think about it:  Other things being equal, two people are going to leave your site by clicking on one of the banners that you are hosting for every person who arrives at your site by clicking on your banner on someone else's site.  What's worse, the relatively few people who arrive at your site that way, the visitors who are your reward for participating in the program, are less likely to stick around and read something -- they are people who are in the habit of leaving Web sites by clicking on banners!

Trading banners with other sites seems more fair -- it's an even exchange: Your banner sits on their page and their banner sits on yours, and neither of you is keeping score.  Another advantage is that you can work with sites that you would be happy to  recommend.

If you're still interested in banner exchanges, though, you could check out the Banner Exchange page at TrafficWhiz, or Yahoo!'s list of banner exchanges (over 50!). A few programs will give you a better deal than 2 to 1.

Any banner, like any other image, will make your page load more slowly, so you certainly don't wan't to host too many of them.  Animated banners are even worse. Many people won't wait for a page that loads too slowly. 

A Webring is a system to manage a ring of pages on the Web. From any Webring site one can click on a "Next Site" button to reach the next page in the ring.  Often pages in a particular ring are related by content.  Joining one or more rings with topics appropriate for your site is one way to let people find your site. To find one (or a hundred) try Yahoo!'s List of Web rings and ring-related pages

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Off-Line Media
If appropriate, add your URL with a very brief description, such as a page title, to your business cards and letterhead

Submit press releases to magazines and newspapers. Submit articles which mention or even showcase your site. 

Include your URL in off-line advertising of all types, including ads in the Yellow Pages. 

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Keeping Score
How do you know if any of your efforts are working?  Here are several ways. 

Include an e-mail address for comments and suggestions on every page.  Even really stupid negative comments can be useful -- "This sucks!" tells you that someone managed to find your page. 

Check the searches for your own URL. Check searches and directories for the categories you want to be listed under.  This tells you not only how easy your pages are to find in these ways, but how they look to someone who finds them.  If your page title, description and keyword META tags aren't very informative, spend some time improving them. 

WebTracker offers free statistic tracking for your Web site, by simply including a few lines of HTML in your page. 

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More Information

How in the WWW will they Find me? from the Web Developer's Virtual Library : "If you have a web site ... how can you get potential clients or customers to visit it? These articles explain many ways to do that, and provide links to many resources that will help you on your way." 

How to Announce Your New Web Site is an excellent survey of various methods, including some that we haven't covered. 

Secrets Of The Search Engines tips from the experts on search engine ranking and relevancy. 

Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Watch search engine strategies. 

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Revised on January 1, 1998

Copyright © 1998 Dharma Haven
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