How can I get my site listed with search engines?
It sounds like a simple enough question. But search engine submission can quickly become a complicated subject.
Have no fear. I’ll walk you through the essential, and relatively easy, steps to getting listed with search engines.
Before we begin, it’s important to make a distinction between search engine submission and SEO (define). These terms, along with others, are sometimes used synonymously to discuss different efforts to promote sites on search engines. In this column, they’re used to refer to very specific activities.
Search Engine Submission: Getting Listed
"Search engine submission" is the act of getting a Web site listed with search engines. Another term for this is "search engine registration."
Getting listed doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll rank well for particular terms. It simply means the search engine knows your pages exist.
Search engine submission is akin to purchasing a lottery ticket. Having a ticket doesn’t mean you’ll win, but you must have that ticket to have any chance at all in the game.
SEO: Improving the Odds
"SEO" is the process of altering to improve its chances of ranking well for particular search terms, especially with the crawler-based search engines.
Returning to the lottery analogy, assume you could increase the odds of winning by picking your lottery numbers carefully. SEO is akin to this. It’s making sure the numbers you select are more likely to win than a set of random numbers would.
Search Engine Placement and Positioning: Ranking Well
Terms such as "search engine placement," "search engine positioning," and "search engine ranking" refer to a site actually doing well for particular terms or a range of terms at search engines. This is the goal for many people -- to get a top 10 ranking for a particular keyword or search term.
Search Engine Marketing and Promotion: The Overall Process
Terms such as "search engine marketing" (SEM) or "search engine promotion" refer to the overall process of marketing a site on search engines. This includes submission, optimization, managing paid listings, and more.
These terms also highlight the fact that doing well with search engines is not just about submitting properly, optimizing well, or getting a good rank for a particular term. It’s about the overall job of improving how your site interacts with search engines so your target audience can find you.
On to Submission: Setting A Budget
Despite the rise in "paid participation" programs offered by search engines, free search engine submission is still possible. But using paid programs speeds up the listing process and almost certainly generate more search-engine-related traffic for your Web site.
Given this, I highly recommend site owner’s establish a search engine submission budget. This is true whether you’re running a commercial Web site, a "hobbyist" site, or a site for a nonprofit organization.
The Minimum Budget: Yahoo
How much to budget? At minimum, you may want to cover submission to Yahoo’s human-compiled directory for one year. This is because Yahoo’s flat $300 annual fee may help ensure major crawler-based search engines quickly pick up your home page.
Huh? Pay to be in human-compiled results in the hope of influencing crawlers? Crawlers analyze links from across the Web to decide which pages they should pick up and potentially rank well. A listing in Yahoo’s human-compiled directory is potentially one of the best links you can get to influence crawlers.
It may be that crawlers will find your page and perhaps even rank it well without the benefit of a Yahoo link. So if money is tight, wait two or three months after you launch your site and see how you do. If you aren’t doing well with crawlers by then, spending the money with Yahoo may help.
I Need to Be Listed Fast!
Often, those who launch new Web sites want to appear in search engines right away. A key way to do this is with paid-placement programs, as explained below.
The budget below will get you going for at least a month, in most cases. After that, it may be you’ll have some "natural" or "free" listings appearing. When this happens, you could stop advertising. A wiser course is to continue advertising as insurance against potential free-listing problems.
|Paid Listings Budget|
|Search Engine||Budget ($)|
Now let’s put it all together. Here’s the ideal amount you would budget, if you want to show up in the widest range of important search engines within a matter of days:
|Search Engine Submission Budget|
|Line Item||Budget ($)|
You can get listed without spending a penny, as I’ll outline in a future column. However, if your goal is to be seen right away in as many places as possible, you’ll set aside the amount shown above, in the combined budget.
Future columns will cover more basics of search engine submission. Soon: submitting to directories.
Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.
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Danny Sullivan left Search Engine Watch as of Dec. 1, 2006.
March 19, 2014