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Descriptive Meta Tag Can Drive Search Engine Users to Site

April 12, 2001|CHRISTINE FREY | clfrey@aol.com

Depending upon the subject of your Web site, it could compete with dozens--or even hundreds--of similar sites on the Internet. To be successful, yours must be easily found.

Unless your Web site has a catchy domain name, most users will discover it through a search engine, such as http://www.google.com. Search engines categorize information on the Internet, enabling users to submit a specific query and receive a listing of Web sites that match the subject. A search on Google for "Los Angeles," for example, returns links to sites such as the city's official home page (http://www.ci.la.ca.us) and UCLA (http://www.ucla.edu).

Although each search engine compiles its information differently, most categorize Web sites by indexing the words on each of their pages. Though your site probably will include many keywords pertinent to its subject, you can specify keywords the search engines should index by including meta tags within your HTML code.

Meta tags, which appear within the header tags, contain two attributes: name and content. They do not have end tags.

In the following example, which might be included in a site about Los Angeles, the content attribute specifies the site's keywords: . Users who submit any of those keywords in a search probably will come across the site.

Meta tags also can include a short description of the site. This description, along with the site's title, usually appears when a search engine lists it as a query result. Oftentimes, Web surfers use it to determine whether they should visit a site. The more interesting and specific the description, the more likely surfers are to check it out.

The following tag includes a (boring) description for a Web site about Los Angeles:

Some Web sites monitor the most popular keywords that users submit to search engines. Exploring them could give you some ideas for keywords to include in your own meta tags. Keyword Live (http://www.analogx.com/contents /download/network/keyword.htm), for example, tracks the top 100 keywords for several search engines in real time.

Because most search engines do not automatically index new Web sites, you must let them know you're out there. You can visit each of the most popular search engines individually and submit your URL (try http://www.google.com/addurl.html, for example). Some Internet services will send your information to several search sites at once.

Conditions vary by service: Some submit your URL for free; others require that you place a link or advertisement for them on your site, and a few charge a service fee. To find one that suits your needs, run a search on http://www.yahoo.com for "submission services" and explore the dozens of results.

Once you are listed with some search engines, visit each of them and look up your site. Search for both your name and the keywords included in your meta tags. If your site does not appear in the search results, contact the submission service.

To determine how competitive your site is, you can usually check your ranking with your service. Sites such as ScoreCheck (http://www.scorecheck.com) will also submit your URL to several search engines and find out how you rank with each one.

You might also want to contact the owners of sites similar to yours and request that they include a link to your site--and offer to do the same for them. The more you publicize your site, the more likely you are to attract visitors.

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Christine Frey is a freelance writer.

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Building Your Own Web Page, a 10-part series:

1. Picking the right provider

2. Understanding HTML

3. More HTML

4. Adding links, photos and graphics

5. Creating forms

6. Using tables

7. Navigating with frames

Today: Getting yourself found

9. Making money on a personal site

10. Working with browser compatibility

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Read installments online at www.latimes.com

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