June 24, 2002-- Newsletter #186

By Joe Burns



Goodies to Go (tm)
June 24, 2002--Newsletter #186

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.
http://www.internet.com
 


 
Goodies Thoughts - Working with Search Engines

In last week's issue we took a look at search engines and how they catalog their wealth of information. This week we'll see what we as web developers can do to get noticed by those ever elusive search engines.

 

So, what is that search engines are looking for?

 

Well, each search engine looks for basically the same things. They usually examine page titles, descriptions, keywords, content and links. Of course, each search engine has its own unique way of cataloging and prioritizing the information it takes in.

 

In order to get your sites cataloged correctly and to have any chance at a high ranking, you will want to take advantage of each element that search engines examine. Let's take a look at them:

 

Page Titles - Page titles are often overlooked by web developers. Not only are page titles helpful to your viewer by providing them with a brief description of the page, they are also a very useful element to the search engine. In fact, some search engines give the title more weight in the rankings than any other element. Personally, I don't think giving titles such weight is a good idea but I don't write the search engines. Be careful not to make your titles too long, though. Many search engines have a cap on the number of characters or words they will read in a title.

 

Content - Content is what you would logically think to be the most important component in cataloging a site since it constitutes the bulk of the the information on the site. Most search engines use the content as a basis for cataloging a site by eliminating all common words like "an" and "the" and indexing the rest of the content. Some will even add a ranking weight to words in the content based on the number of times the word is used. The logic is that the more times a word is used in the content the more likely that word will be relevant to a web surfer searching for that particular word. Be careful, though, most engines are clever enough to spot ranking tricks like hiding a repeating word at the bottom of a page. This trick used to be implemented by adding an entire paragraph of a single word to the bottom of a web page and setting the color of the font equal to the color of the background. Since the web crawlers read the actual HTML, they would see the words and rank accordingly while the person viewing the page only noticed a bit of unused space at the bottom of the page.

 

Hyperlinks - Search engines will also catalog and index your hyperlinks. The cataloged hyperlinks are usually used in a few different ways. First, they are used as a "road map" for the web crawlers so they know where to search for new pages. Second, they are used in the ranking system by giving more weight to pages and sites that have the most links to them. Again, be wary of trying a similar trick to the one described above. Most engines will sniff out "cheaters" that add a bunch of hidden links to boost their rankings. In most cases, "cheaters" will not be cataloged or indexed at all and are simply ignored. Obviously, you don't have much control over how many other sites reference yours, but it gives you an idea of what is important to search engines.

 

The next few items are in the form of meta data. Basically, meta data is the information about a page that is purposely hidden from the viewer. Meta data is intended to be used by search engines and browsers do not display it.

 

Description - This is exactly what is says, a description of your web page. This is primarily used to describe your page when it pops up on a search engine. If you do a search on most any search engine you will notice that each page listed has a description underneath the link. That description is taken from the meta data description on the page. You also might notice that the descriptions are often cut short. Most search engines will only dedicate a few lines to the description. This doesn't mean you should only write a short description but rather quite the opposite. Your page descriptions should be as long as necessary to be complete. Though they may not be completely displayed on a search engine, their content is used for both indexing and cataloging. The two best rules for writing a description are:

  1. Be thorough. Write a complete summary description of the page.

  2. Make your lead sentence a short easy-to-read summary of the page. Since you only get a short space for a description on most search engines, make good use of that first sentence. It may be the only one that viewers see. You have the rest of your description to go into more detail.

Keywords - Keywords are a very important meta data component. They allow you to specifically define words that apply to your web page rather than relying on the search engine to figure it out. Here are some good basic rules for determining your keywords:

  1. Come up with a complete list that describes your web page and then prioritize it. List first the keywords that you would like to have the highest rankings and then work your way down to the least important. This doesn't necessarily mean that you will be ranked high under the first keyword that you list but it does mean that the search engine will definitely catalog and index it. Also, many search engines put a cap on keywords. Since we don't know for sure what the cap is with each search engine, prioritizing your keywords is a must.

  2. Allow for misspellings. If you want your site to appear consistently for a keyword, be sure to include any common misspellings of words. Consider possible typos as well.

  3. You don't need to really worry about plural words, like listing computer and computers. Most search engines will ignore the plural when both searching and indexing anyway.

  4. No need to duplicate words. For example, if you have three phrases that best describe your site and the all contain the word "computer", you don't need to spend time entering "computer" into each phrase. Most search engines break up keywords by the word and not the phrase anyway which means that duplicating a word in a phrase won't do anything for you except take up unnecessary space.

That's all there is to it. Here's an example of where to put your meta data:

 

<HEAD>
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="This s a description of my web page. You should come visit sometime!">
<META NAME="Keywords" CONTENT="computer,web,home,personal,John,Doe">
<TITLE>Welcome to my personal web page!</TITLE>
</HEAD>

 

Using the elements outlined above will help you get noticed by most search engines. Spending time to prepare your pages well before registering them with search engines will go a long way towards getting and holding those high rankings.

 

What about those services that promise high rankings?

 

While some of those services are well worth the money, many are not. If your site's success hinges on a high search engine ranking, then a search engine optimization service is probably going to be just what you need. Just be wary that the service you are paying for is not a "take-your-money-and-run" scam. The internet is full of them.

 

If a high ranking is not that important to you then optimizing your pages yourself and waiting for the web crawlers to come your way will probably be good enough. You might also try registering your site with the just the major search engines. That will often get the ball rolling and get you listed on the more minor search engines.

 

Should I take the time to prepare each page for search engines?

 

That depends on your situation. Many sites want all visitors to funnel through their home page and will therefore only optimize that one page. If your site is one that has multiple semi-independent sections you might want to optimize other pages within your site. Optimizing every single page of a site is usually unnecessary, though.

 

Thanks for reading!

 


Quiz Goodies

Let's say you wanted to place some kind of media viewer on your web page like QuickTime or RealMedia. How would you do it?

 

Read answer below.



Q & A Goodies

Questions are taken from submissions to our Community Mentors. You can ask a Mentor a question by going to http://www.htmlgoodies.com/mentors/.

 

 

Q. I have a question about backgrounds. I think it's a fairly unique one and I scoured the site for an answer to it first. First of all I think the use of CSS to make a background image stop repeating itself is great. Here is the code I'm talking about. I copied this from "CSS and Backgrounds, Huh?" :

 

<STYLE TYPE="text/css">

 

BODY {background-image: url(background.gif);
background-repeat: attribute; }

 

<!--attribute would be "no" for my purposes>

 

</STYLE>

Now the actual question: I would like to use that kind of effect in a table. That's the tricky part for me, if it can be done.

 

A. You can use the same style declarations and attributes for the table tag. If you want the same styles for all your tables, then just change the BODY definition to TABLE:

<STYLE TYPE="text/css">
TABLE {
background-image: url(background.gif);
background-repeat: no-repeat; }
</STYLE>

If you just want to use those styles for one specific table, then set up a class, and use that instead.

<STYLE TYPE="text/css">
.tableBgImg {
background-image: url(background.gif);
background-repeat: no-repeat; }
</STYLE>

Then just add the class to the table you want:
<TABLE CLASS="tableBgImg">
<TR><TD>Here's the table!</TD></TR>
</TABLE>

You can also set up the style class and apply it to any HTML element that can handle background images: BODY, TABLE, TR TD, etc.

 

*** This question was submitted to our Mentor Community. The answer was provided by Andrea Piernock, one of our CSS Mentors.

 

 

Q. There are sites on he internet that have their site like this:

http://word.domainname.com

But their domain name is really like this:

http://www.domainname.com

How do they get the word in front of their domain name?

Is it a new domain name or is it within the original domain name?

 

A. The word that you refer to is known as a sub-domain. While domain name.com is their "parent" or registered domain, they can make any number of sub-domains that they wish to. If you were looking to get sub-domains in your domain, you will have to talk to your hosting service.

 

*** This question was submitted to our Mentor Community. The answer was provided by C.L. Smith, one of our JavaScript Mentors.
 

 

Q. I have a form that you input numbers and it will do a calculation. My calculation formula gets the numbers by using:


if(eval(f.expr.value)<=a number)


f.result..value=(the calculation)


However, before it does the calculation, I need to make sure that the input is in fact a value. If it is not a value, I really would like for it to just make the value 0. For example, if someone has put in a space or a letter for the expr box, I would like it to automatically change to a 0 for the calculation. If this does not get changed, my result shows as "NaN".

 

A. You could use isNaN (is-Not-a-Number) to check if the value is a number. It would go something like this:

if(isNaN(f.expr.value)) // if it is not a number

    {do something}

else

    {do something else}

If they enter anything else but 0 through 9 then this would catch it.

 

*** This question was submitted to our Mentor Community. The answer was provided by Jim Young, one of our JavaScript Mentors.



News Goodies

Been thinking about buying PhotoShop 7.0 or getting the upgrade? This review might help you decide.

Click here to read the article

 

Do you send out legitimate email newsletters and promotions to your clients? Are you worried about competing with blanket SPAMmers to get your message read? Here is some helpful insight.

Click here to read the article

 

Since we've been talking about search engines lately I thought you might be interested in how one of the biggest search engines, Ask Jeeves, keeps getting bigger.

Click here to read the article

 
 
Quiz Answer

Most media objects are placed on web pages using the OBJECT and EMBED tags. The OBJECT and EMBED tags are very simple. They tell your browser that you are going to use and object and to embed it here. The hard part is usually finding the particular parameters for using your chosen media object and plugging them in to your OBJECT and EMBED tags.

 

Here is an example of the OBJECT and EMBED tags in use for the QuickTime player:

 

<OBJECT

CLASSID="clsid:02BF25D5-8C17-4B23-BC80-D3488ABDDC6B"

WIDTH="320" HEIGHT="149"

CODEBASE="http://www.apple.com/qtactivex/qtplugin.cab">


<PARAM NAME="kioskmode" value="false">
<PARAM NAME="bgcolor" value="#000000">
<PARAM NAME="AUTOPLAY" value="TRUE">
<PARAM NAME="pluginspage"

value="http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/indext.html">
<PARAM NAME="src" value="http://www.myweb.com/mymovie.mov">
<PARAM NAME="controller" value="TRUE">
<PARAM NAME="target" value="myself">


<EMBED width="320" height="149" controller="TRUE" target="myself" src="http://www.myweb.com/mymovie.mov"

bgcolor="#000000" border="0"

pluginspage=

"http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/indext.html">

</EMBED>


</OBJECT>

 

Because of space limitations I had to break up this code a bit more than we would have liked but I think you'll get the idea. As you can see both the OBJECT and EMBED tags have many different parameters and attributes that must be set in order for your movie to play correctly.

 

Here are some of the highlights of the QuickTime player:

 

The first parameter that you see is the "classid" which contains the unique identification number of the type of player that you are using. Each player has its own unique identification number.

 

There are several parameters that involve how the player is displayed. There are the size specifications within the EMBED tag (height and width) and the mode and background color in the OBJECT tag ("kioskmode" and "bgcolor").

 

You can also determine how the player functions with parameters like "autoplay" and "controller".

 

You'll also notice that the "pluginspage" parameter is set equal to a URL. This is used to automatically direct users that do not have the appropriate plug-in (in this case QuickTime) to the page where they can download it.

 

Lastly, and most importantly is where to find the particular movie that you are wanting to show, which is set with the "src" parameter.

 

That's just a quick overview of the QuickTIme player. Each media player out there has its own special characteristics and functionality, so no two players are alike. Be sure to take a good look at the documentation and reference books to learn how to effectively use your media player of choice.

 

 

And Remember This . . .

Flying Saucer Sighted!

 

On this day in 1947 was the first recorded sighting of not just one flying saucer but nine of them. A man by the name of Kenneth Arnold reported sighting the saucer over Mount Rainier in Washington state. And thus began a series of sightings of alien craft, alien visitors, abductions and other phenomena that are still being reported to this day.


Thanks for reading Goodies to Go!

 

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