HTML and CSS Reference
Not only do you want to make sure your site is included in the popular search engines,
but you also want to make sure that it shows up near the top of the results when people
are searching for topics that are related to your site. If you create a site about model rail-
roads, you want your site to appear as high as possible in the results for searches like
“model railroad” and “model train.”
Unfortunately, search engines don't publish instructions on how to make your site rank
near the top of their index. Before Google, search engines ranked sites mostly on the
basis of their content. The more prominently a term was placed on your website, the
higher it would be ranked for that term. So if your model trains page had “model trains”
in a page title, or in heading tags on the page, that page would be more highly ranked for
the terms “model train.” That's why you sometimes see pages with lots and lots of words
listed in the title—it's an attempt to improve search engine rankings for those words.
At one point, search engines enabled you to provide hints about your site by way of meta
tags. There was a tag that enabled you to specify a description for the page, and another
that enabled you to list keywords associated with each page. The content of the tags was
invisible; it was only used to help search engines with indexing. Unfortunately, people
who published websites immediately started abusing meta tags, putting in keywords that
were not related to the page content, or putting in far too many keywords to try to gain a
higher ranking. Now all the popular search engines disregard meta tags entirely.
Search engines now consider not only what's on your site but also who links to it in
determining the relevance of your pages, so the more sites that link to yours, the better
your placement will be in search engine results. A number of companies sell search
engine optimization services that attempt to exploit this method of improving search
rankings by paying popular sites to link to your site, or even creating fake sites and fill-
ing them with links to their clients. You should avoid these types of services and be wary
of search engine optimization services in general.
Instead of worrying too much about how to make your site more friendly to search
engines, you should worry about writing good HTML and making your site friendly for
users. As your site gains in popularity, your search engine ranking will come along. One
thing that can help is writing good, descriptive titles, and making sure to use heading
tags for headings rather than just using large fonts.