THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
August 17, 2000 - Number 83
By Danny Sullivan
Editor, Search Engine Watch
Copyright (c) 2000 internet.com corporation
About The Update
The Search Engine Update is a twice-monthly update of search engine news. It is available only to those people who have subscribed to Search Engine Watch, http://searchenginewatch.com/. Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Cut and paste, should this occur.
In This Issue
+ Site and Conference News
+ Search Engine Roundup
+ What You're Asking
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)
Site and Conference News
I've just returned from a trip to California, where I visited most of the major search engines based in the Bay Area and moderated the latest Search Engine Strategies conference. It was especially a pleasure to talk to those readers who came to the event.
I'll be providing links in the next newsletter to the coverage of the conference, once stories appear. Plus, I'm finishing up a page that covers my presentation about link analysis and link building. However, the haze of jet lag still looms heavily around my head, now that I've just returned to the United Kingdom. So for this issue, I've included just a few important highlights in the Search Engine Roundup section. I've also done another issue of "What You're Asking," which proved popular when I last ran the feature a few newsletters ago.
With San Francisco behind us, Search Engine Strategies is next heading to Dallas, Texas. The tentative date is November 9. In addition to the usual panels and presentations on search engine marketing issues, we may also have some concurrent sessions on other search engine issues, such as adding a search engine to your web site. I'll be working up an agenda shortly, and feel free to pass along ideas to me.
A conference web site isn't yet ready, but you can request an update using the email form on the page below. This is also a new page that lists other conferences related to search engines.
Search Engine Conferences
Search Engine Roundup
+ Yahoo has opened its paid Business Express service throughout the directory. Previously, Business Express was restricted to relatively few categories. In addition, that loud cheer you hear is from those with businesses based in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. They can now use the service for the first time. Previously, only US-based businesses could use it. I expect to take a longer look at the changes shortly. Meanwhile, more details can be found at Yahoo's Business Express help page, http://help.yahoo.com/help/bizex/.
+ Yahoo has also begun making use of clickthrough measurements as part of its relevancy ranking system. Perform a search, and you'll notice that the URLs no longer lead directly to web sites. Instead, they are redirected so that Yahoo can measure what people are selecting from the search results.
+ The Open Directory announced on Monday that it now lists over 2 million sites, making it the largest human-powered directory of web sites. However, LookSmart is also claiming to have 2 million sites listed.
+ AltaVista's Raging Search has rolled out cool new customization features that let you control the colors used on the site, number of results, information displayed and much more. An explanation can be found at http://ragingsearch.altavista.com/cgi-bin/query?pg=acc&v=splash.
+ AltaVista has also rolled out a new WAP search engine, which can be found at http://wml.raging.com/.
What You're Asking
Q. I am about to change my web hosting company. Will this effect my search engine rankings?
The transition should be seamless to search engines and produce no problems. However, you might have trouble if you move to a hosting provider that has problems with bandwidth or server load. The search engines might drop your pages, if they have difficulty reaching them. Solution? Be sure to go with a reputable provider. There are lots to choose from. See The List, http://www.thelist.com, or HostIndex.com, http://www.hostindex.com/. This Cnet article on web hosting might also be helpful, http://www.builder.com/Servers/WebHosting/.
Q. Does it matter how long the title tag is? I would think that the longer the title the better. I am correct in assuming this?
I advise that each page in your site have a title that makes use of the top two or three phrases that you would like the page to be found for. The titles should be relatively short and attractive. Think of newspaper headlines. With a few words, they make you want to read a story. Similarly, your page titles are like headlines for your pages. They appear in search engine listings, and a short, attractive title may help make users click through to your site.
Q. If I buy another domain name and make another site with exactly the same content, will I get banned from any of the search engines?
While there are some legitimate reasons to have "mirror" sites, which are identical sites found under different domain names, operating such sites simply to increase your search engine traffic is generally considered spamming. Indeed, Excite even terms this to be "domain spam." If the search engines detect you doing this, they will probably remove one or both of the sites.
Q. Often my log files tell me 'no refer' for how someone came to my site. Is there any way to tell how these people found my site? Are there really that many people out there just typing in my address into their browsers?
Not all browsers pass on referrer information, and that's why you may see many of your entries shown as having no referrer data. Unfortunately, there's no way to extract the missing information.
Q. With meta refresh tags, how fast is too fast? I need to redirect two pages, but I don't want to attract a penalty for doing so.
There are no published times as to how fast is too fast, when using a meta refresh command. I would say that at least 10 seconds, if not longer, would be best. However, using a meta refresh tag set to any time period might get your pages rejected by some search engines. A safer option is to use server side redirection. You can learn more about this at the end of the Super FAQ page, http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/more/superfaq.html.
Q. I think I may have been blacklisted by the search engines. How do I know for certain if this has happened?
If all your pages have disappeared from a search engine, you may have been "banned" or "blacklisted" for spamming. The first thing to do is resubmit. If all is well, your pages generally should appear within a month or so. If you still don't show up, there might be some technical problems with your server. Perhaps you have a robots.txt file up that's denying search engines access. A change to using frames or pages light in HTML copy (in other words, pages that are all images) could also be a problem. If none of these are the culprit, you can and should also get in contact with the search engines. Just tell them that your pages aren't showing up -- don't say, "Am I blacklisted?" If you haven't done anything wrong, they'll hopefully look into the problem and help you correct it. If you have been blacklisted, they may tell you so and perhaps give you another chance, depending on how serious the abuse was considered.
Q. Does the meta revisit tag really control how often a search engine comes to my site.
No. No, no, no. No. The meta revisit tag is not recognized by the major search engines, and there is no method of telling them how often to automatically return. Submitting may cause some of them to revisit a bit more quickly than possible, but that's about all you can do.
Q. I'm on Tripod, and I can't get listed on the search engines. HELP!
I'd get your own site, under your own domain, rather than doing it within Tripod.com or any place offering "free" home pages. Sites offering free home pages are often looked upon with suspicion by search engines, because search engine spammers also make use of them. It's like sharing a house with bad roommates. Move out, get your own house, and you'll probably do better with search engines.
Q. What the final word on plural vs. singular keywords? Should I use both variations in my titles, body copy, meta tags, etc?
If you want to be found by people searching in both the singular and plural, you'll need to use both forms. Some search engines may automatically look for plurals if a singular is used, and vice versa, but you'll still likely do better by using both forms.
Q. We use hyphens in our keywords, such as "high-tech training." Should we leave these out, in case people search without using hyphens?
To be absolutely safe, if you think most people search without hyphens, you might leave them out. However, it really shouldn't make a difference. My understanding from most search engines is that they ignore punctuation. So "high-tech training" would be seen as "high tech training." The hyphens are basically seen the same as having spaces between the letters. Keeping them in shouldn't hurt.
Q. Does using header tags (H1, H2 etc.) improve ranking, however slightly?
In the past, it was sometimes helpful to have your keywords or page headlines in an H1 tag. It won't hurt to do it, and maybe it might help a bit, but it is now generally less of a boosting factor.
Q. Do you know if the search engines consider font size 1 to be a tiny size and liable to exclude my pages because of it? Or is it only 2? Or something else all together?
I've tended to recommend against having pages that are predominately in a font size other than the default size. So a page all in font size 2 would be bad. I've seen examples where pages like that were ignored, then accepted when reset to the default size. This doesn't mean using small text is absolutely bad. It's just best to avoid having the page be almost entirely in a small font size.
Q. If a website uses frames, should the meta tags be in each frame and are there other considerations for registering or promoting framed sites with the various search engines?
To paraphrase Grandmaster Flash, "Frames -- don't do it!" If you must, each framed page that you'd like search engines to list should have its own unique meta tags. But to get those pages listed, you also need to make sure search engines can find them in the first place (see http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/frames.html for more about this). As for other considerations, the main issue is that frames make it difficult for search engines to crawl your site, or for human editors to bookmark particular sections of your site. Both factors decrease your ability to get listed, so you should avoid using frames altogether, if possible.
Q. If we buy a domain name, then forward anyone coming to that name to another domain name, which name will the search engines use for our listings?
Search engines will ultimately index the page under whatever address they are forwarded to. In other words, go to the page and watch what happens to your browser's address area. If the address there changes because of how you've configured your server, then whatever address is ultimately left in the address box will be the one that the search engines will index.
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