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Reader Q&A: December 2003

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Q. Why would anyone pay for inclusion of more than the home page for a crawler like Inktomi, AlltheWeb, Teoma and AltaVista? After paying for the home page, won't the crawlers spider follow the home page links and index other pages within the site?

A. No. If you pay to have your home page listed, that is the only page guaranteed to be listed by these services. They may pick up other pages and often do. However, this isn't guaranteed. Indeed, that's why some people do pay. They've found that some pages simply aren't getting included, and they believe that if the pages were picked up, they'd pay for themselves with traffic.

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Q. I have a question about XML feeds to search engines. How does the process actually work? I've also heard that there are only a handful of vendors that have authorization to send feeds to select engines. Do you know if this is true?

A. In an XML feed, you provide information almost spreadsheet-style to a search engine, showing URL, title, description, body content and so on for each page. A past article about paid inclusion at AltaVista provides a rough example of the system.

You can set up XML with those search engines offering paid inclusion directly through them or via their resellers. Unfortunately, some of the resellers themselves may have resellers. But anyone offering XML submission should be able to provide some type of documentation to show they've ultimately got a relationship in place to do this.

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Q. I have a site that is all Flash, and I am having the hardest time getting it listed in the engines. Is there anything I can do?

A. In short, get rid of the Flash. Search engines have a tough time reading content that's embedded in Flash -- and Flash even sometimes lacks any really good textual content. This article covers the topic in more depth, and more articles like this are also listed on the Search Engine Optimization Articles page.

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Q. Are programs that promise to submit your URL to all over 3,000 search engines too good to be true?

A. Being submitted is generally done to ensure you are listed with a search engine -- but it's very common that search engine submission programs don't guarantee that you'll actually get listed. And even if you do, there's still no guarantee that you'll rank well for a particular term.

Any low cost submission program is essentially saving you the time of filling out 3,000 add URL pages by hand. But it's also true that 2,990 or so of those search engines won't produce any significant traffic for you. Given this, you can safely pass on these type of multisubmit programs.

Instead, review the Essentials of Search Engine Submission section in Search Engine Watch to discover what you can do easily by hand for free and where it makes sense to pay.

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Q. I am wondering if search engines analyze the outgoing links that the site is pointing to. Say that my targeted keyword is "network marketing," should I point my site to pages related to network marketing?

A. Search engines have generally said they do not use outgoing links as a method of determining what a page is about or whether it should get a boost in rankings. That's because using such a system would make it easy for anyone to try and trick a search engine. A porn site could link to some popular web sites in hopes of being seen as popular on general subjects, for example.

Search engines may look at outgoing links to decide if perhaps a penalty is due. Link to a porn site, and you are suggesting to a search engine that perhaps you are related to that site and possibly need to be downgraded in relevancy.

The best thing you can do is find sites that are about network marketing and ask them to link to you. That will provide quality, topically-related links that may help you with search engines. For more on this, see the Link Analysis and Link Building page.

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Q. I have a competitor who just managed to spam Yahoo's directory. I want to tell Yahoo so they can fix it, but I can not find an email address.

A. Browsing through Yahoo's Help files, I think the Directory Support Department is your best bet. You'll find an address and instructions here.

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Q. I have a problem with sites cloning my content to boost their site's search presence. I have over 70,000 pages of unique content on my site. Here is a letter that I was thinking of sending to Google. Do you think this is wise? I do not want to risk my own listings.

A. I looked at the sites you listed, and they may violate Google's spam guidelines for duplicate content, because in a stretch, they are duplicating your own content. It certainly won't hurt to file a spam report with Google and report that they have taken content from your web site without permission. Just make sure you are perfectly clear about which site owns the content (yours) and the sites that have taken it.

Your letter made references to the problem needing to be fixed because your "business is heavily dependant on our presence in the Google search engine." Bad move. Google isn't going to respond to fix your problem. Instead, you need to explain why this is a Google problem. The answer is that Google's users, you'd argue, are being deceived by perhaps being directed to these other sites by mistake.

A far more effective action will probably be to file a DMCA complaint with Google. Google provides full instructions about this. In short, you are saying that these sites have taken content in violation of your copyright. Google interprets the DMCA to mean that they must pull the content down. The site may respond to dispute your claim. However, they have to agree to potentially go to court to back this up. As the particular sites you mention are overseas, they are unlikely to do this.


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