Communicating with Search Engines

 


Before long-tail keyword research, before keyword density analysis, before any on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tasks are undertaken, to achieve a high placement — in the colloquial, to get a high ranking — on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) it's a best practice to enable communication with the search engines.



 

There are five search engines that have a greater than 1.0% market share of all English language searches in the US. These are Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and AOL. The top three search engines (Google, Yahoo & Bing) account for almost 96%. Please be aware, within specific genres there are additional search engines that only index activity within their sector. Examples of three such sectors would be blogs, paid content (online ads), and academic papers.

 

In addition, it should be noted that DMOZ, the Open Directory Project (ODP), still plays a significant role in searches conducted in non–roman character languages.


In such searches, Google still crawls DMOZ and lists the results. Also, on the occasion when a web page lacks a Title element & Description meta tag and that web page has been indexed on DMOZ, many search engines will include the DMOZ results. It is, of course, a best practice to implement a unique Title element & Description meta tag on each web page.


Further, if the site is in a roman–character alphabet, and each page has a unique Title element & Description meta tag, it's recommended to block DMOZ from feeding the major search engines, esp. Yahoo & Bing.

 

Each search engine offers a slightly different array of services for registered webmasters. Given Google's market share, it's the most important and offers the most robust services, currently, 33 Webmaster Tools. Of these, nine are necessary for effective communication with Google. Bing and Yahoo each offer fewer tools. Nonetheless, the principle is the same.


Ten Steps to enable better communication between your Web Site and Search Engines.

Open a Webmaster account in each search engine and complete the registration/profile for each tool. Each search engine has a different registration policy. Set up an account for each domain name and/or each email address that is to be given access.


Once a website is public it must be verified. Verification can either be linked from an external text file or placed in a meta tag between the <head> and </head> elements in the code. 

Google requires verification to be placed on every page. Bing and Yahoo require verification to be placed on every root page.

(If a website only has a Top Level Domain (TLD) then this is the home page.

If a website has sub-domains, a verification must be placed on the root page of each sub-domain.)

Each and every page must have either a robot meta tag or a link to an external robot.txt file.


In its simplest form, a robot.txt tells a search engine whether (or not) to index a page and whether (or not) to follow the links (to the next pages).


For example: <meta name="robots" content="all, index, follow" /> . Primarily, this is to prevent the search engines from indexing admin pages. For instance not to index registration and e-commerce checkout pages -- i.e. any page where a user has entered private or financial information.


It is also a best practice to differentiate between the search engines; indicate specific directions for Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Google's bot is named Googlebot. Yahoo's is Slurp. Bing's is Bingbot.


Once a site is verified, submit the domain name to the webmaster account on each search engine. While there are public submissions available, it is far more effective to log in to the webmaster account and uses the submission form for webmasters. Doing so will minimize the interval before the search engine's bot indexes the site.


Google only requires the TLD be submitted — although it should be noted far more emphasis is placed on the submission of XML sitemap(s). (See next step.) In addition to submitting a TLD, if a site has sub-domains, Bing and Yahoo require the root file for each sub-domain be submitted.


Each site should have both a public and a non-public sitemap.
The public sitemap is in HTML and can be accessed through a site's menu (navigation).


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