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Does your site rank in the top 10?

The alchemy of search-engine placement. Web site Advisor hed: Does your site rank in the top 10? dek: the alchemy of search-engine placement. by Cary Griffith

Centuries ago, alchemists searched in vain for a way to turn lead into gold. Up until the 16th century, it was believed the transmutation of a variety of metals was possible using a pure substance known as the philosophers’ stone.

Today, many believe that high placement in the Web’s top search engines is as good as gold, and with good reason. But anyone who tells you getting there is easy, quick, and cheap is trying to sell you a philosophers’ stone.

Search-engine placement involves the location at which a site appears in the results of a Web search. For example, if you wanted to locate Web sites selling butterfly supplies you might call up Yahoo!, enter the term butterfly, and review the results. The day we tried, there were 339 sites found, of which Yahoo! displayed listings for the first 10.

If you’re like most Web users, you begin looking through the first 10. Chances are, the first 10 sites listed will contain what you want. Most people don’t bother with sites 11 through 20, and practically no one visits number 339.

Understand the fickle nature of Web searchers and you begin to understand the importance of proper search-engine placement. If you’re selling a product or service on the Web, you want to register your site so that it appears near the top of the results of appropriate Web searches.

Many consultants and search-engine placement companies believe the top 15 or 20 search engines drive approximately 97 percent of Web traffic. Good search engine placement is neither easy nor cheap, but there are plenty of ways to get there.

Do-it-yourself alchemy

The cheapest (and sometimes best) method for registering your site with search engines is to do it yourself. Getting your site listed with the major engines is surprisingly easy. Log on to the site, find the site’s registration page, complete the online form, and before too long your site will probably be listed with that search engine. But it may not get you any higher than number 339.

The listing process is anything but instantaneous, however. Search engines that don’t categorize sites may list your site within one or two weeks of registration, while search engines that categorize will take anywhere from two to four months, providing you’ve completed the forms correctly.

One of the most painstaking aspects of do-it-yourself site registration is managing the process. Determining whether your site has finally been listed is only the first step of the process. Determining how it places in key searches, modifying your site so that it will place higher, and re-registering it so the new version is properly listed are just some of the ongoing, constant management tasks you’ll face.

We recommend registering your own site, because no one will take as much care or bring the same understanding to the process as you will. Keep in mind that no two search engines are alike, and all of them use different methods for indexing and listing sites. Finding the mercurial mix of metatags and homepage text that gets you listed in the top 10 of every search engine is a little like finding the philosophers’ stone. Be prepared to make some difficult choices.

Fortunately you’ll find plenty of assistance on the Web. The following sites should provide you with everything you need to know about the top Web search engines and how they work.

Search Engine Watch Links to You< Search Engine Forums

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