Although it isn't as important as it once was, search engine submission is still a SEO best practice. Search engines prefer finding your site and associated Web pages on their own. However, submitting your site to search engines doesn't hurt, as long as you're careful not to overdo it.
This two-part article will look at developing a healthy relationship with search engines so they can become aware of your site and then stay up to date as your site grows.
How Search Engines Work
Some people think that when you do a Google search, for instance, that Google searches the whole Internet and brings back the results. In reality, Google simply searches its own index, or database of information they've collected from their army of robots (sometimes called spiders or bots). The robots' mission in life is to constantly crawl the Internet and follow every link they find, take notes on content they come across, and then report back to Google and deposit their knowledge in Google's database.
This is important to know, because the idea behind site submission is to invite these robots to your new site or your new content for them to index. If the robot hasn't visited your site, then it won't show up at all in the SERP.
Once a robot has indexed your site, you generally don't need to submit your site again. This also goes for new pages of your site. As long as they're linked to pages that have already been indexed, the robot will find them.
Since these bots are designed to follow as many links they can find, it's a safe bet that they'll find you if there are links from other sites or directories to your site. This is another case for having an active link building campaign.
To see if you've been indexed, you can check your server log for Google's robot, Googlebot. You can also type in "site:yourdomain.com" at a search prompt to see if your site has been indexed by a search engine.
There are many online tools for submitting your site automatically to search engines. You've probably seen advertisements for tools that will submit your site to thousands of search engines. Use these tools with care or not at all, as search engines will punish excessive submissions.
Generally, manually submitting your site to the top search engines is a better practice. In certain cases, submission tools or software may save you some time, but carefully examine any submission tools you encounter to make sure you understand exactly what they're doing and what search engines they are submitting to.
Manual Submission URLs
As mentioned above, you should submit your site(s) manually to the major search engines. You generally only need to do this once, when the site is first launched, or on a major redesign or relaunch of the site. The following URLs will allow you to submit a URL to the major search engines:
- MSN Live Search
- Ask.com (more on this in Part 2 -- it requires XML sitemap submission)
- DMOZ Open Directory Project
The new best practice for submitting sites to search engines is to create and maintain an XML sitemap for your site and point the search engines to it. Part 2 will discuss this practice and provide you with the resources to get started with XML sitemaps. For a sneak peek, take a look at http://www.sitemaps.org/.