Getting known on the ‘net

From Robin a contributor at

(Edited by for brevity)

Robin's site is:

It's a funny feeling when you first discover that the world doesn't automatically SEE your great site- you actually have to market your free content! My experience- I wrote a fan fiction, put it in an archive, got a great response from readers. I decided to put it up on its own site and trick it out a little. I didn't know what I was doing, but html isn't that hard to figure out. I design a pretty cool site, it has decent content, it has a story I already know folks like- should be popular- right? WRONG! I check some search engines- my site doesn't come up AT ALL- it's not listed! Hmm- that's bad.

So - what to do to get high traffic? Well, these are a few of the lessons I've learned.

Have good unique content - the more of it the better.

In the first place, why bother promoting a site that offers nothing really new? Heck- why bother even creating it? In the second place, the directories are looking for sites with content. If you want to get into the directories, give them a reason to put you in. Finally, it will help you with the 'theme' approach to search engines, which I think is a very effective way to approach the whole thing (I'll talk more about this later.)

So- you have a nice site, it's well designed, easy to navigate, offers plenty of content. What's the first step to high traffic? Submit it to the main directories. You can do this before you ever start to worry about the search engines (well- sort of). Directories are 'human powered'- they actually have people go look at you site, check the content, check the links, etc- and decide if it's worth adding.

What are the major directories? I'd suggest at least submitting to


DMOZ (The Open Directory Project)

Since your site is already nice, you can just submit it now- right? Um- wrong. I'd do the following before submitting:

Check the site in several browsers

Really stupid stuff you will never notice you did wrong (such as closing tags and tables) will jam Netscape. I thought my site was fine, so I didn't bother checking it in Netscape. I was VERY wrong! CHECK YOUR SITE- even if you're SURE it will work!

Add a page for links- if you don't already have them.

The links page will be important for several reasons- which I'll talk about later. I'd suggest that you put summaries with your links- tell your visitors a little about the sites you are suggesting. Pick the BEST sites, quality is more important than quantity. At this stage, you don't even need to add many links- you just want the links page so you can add it to your description when you submit to the directories.

Rethink your entry page.

The directories are only going to list your page once and will link to the main entry page/first page that you submit to them. (If you want, you can create separate 'doorway' pages that you submit to the search engines- and then design those to maximize your rankings for each engine. I didn't do this- I designed the main page to be search engine friendly and used it for all submissions- the choice is yours.) Anyway- I would suggest you keep graphics, animations, flash- etc. to a minimum on the first page. Many folks still work on slow connections and don't have plug-ins. You want the first page to be user friendly, aesthetically pleasing, short, and informative.

Tell the folks what you have to offer them- give the casual surfer a reason to go in.

Remember- you have a great site with lots of CONTENT- that's what the surfers are looking for- so be certain that the entry page conveys that! Also- at this point, I'd be sure you include text links- if you haven't already done so. Search engines may not spider graphic links (You know- all of those lovely button .gifs you created!) So- at the bottom of every page, it's a good idea to include text links if you didn't already. Be certain your entry page is key word dense (I'll talk more about this below).

Add metatags

Now- go ahead and add your metatags- at least to this first page. Be certain to use the 'title', 'description' and 'keyword' tags! Hmm- and we should probably start talking about keywords. What are they?

Keywords are the words you think people will type in to SE's when trying to find sites such as yours. I'd shoot for having a high ranking (meaning you show up on the first page of search results) for your main two word combination. Let's use me for an example.

My site's main purpose is to present my fanfic- so 'fan fiction' will be one key word. Now, I would love to rank high when a surfer looks for just ONE of those key words- so keep that in the back of your head when optimizing- but two words is much easier to achieve, so go for that for now! When creating your metatags- be sure your two key words are the FIRST ones in your keyword list, make sure they BOTH show up in your 'title', and make sure they both show up in your 'description'! In both 'title' and 'description', the closer to the beginning the words show up, the better. (Don't stop your metatags list of keywords with just the two- just make sure they are the FIRST two! You can add plenty of keywords- anything you think surfers might be searching for that relates to your site- including abbreviations and alternative spellings! Don't repeat your keywords in the 'keyword' metatag more than 3-4 times or it might be considered spam. Also- if your keywords are repeated, by sure you don't place them right next to each other!)

What’s on the first page

Now- look at your page- what shows up on the browser. The first thing on the screen should be the title of the site: 'Welcome to the Days of Our Lives Fan Fiction Site'. This should be TEXT- not a graphic- search engines don't read graphics! So- on my site, at the top of the page is a graphic version of the title- but right below the graphic, I repeat the title in text format. Also- in text below the 'title' text, I'd include a brief description (probably the one in your metatag description- and key word dense, just like that one should be). Try and avoid using frames on your entry page- they can throw of some search engines (not important if you are using doorway pages).

Now- you may be wondering why you are doing all of this 'Search Engine Optimization' just to submit to directories, where it's moot anyway! Good point. Well- one of the reasons for submitting to directories is because some important search engines use the directory listings! Lots of search engines use DMOZ data in some form- and it looks like LookSmart is going to be using the Zeal directory (which is why I suggest it! It costs 200 bucks to submit to LookSmart- get into Zeal for free and eventually you may work your way into LS!) SO- you want to be sure your title and description are optimized for the search engines when you submit them to the directories! (Also- the spiders may well find your site before you submit it to the SE's- so might as well try to make it friendly to them before you put it out there where they are likely to find it!)

Check your provider

OK- so now you're really ready to submit. Um- not quite. There's one more thing to really think hard about before submitting. Be CERTAIN you are on a provider that you want to stay with. If you're like me, you are on a free service provider. Decide if that's where you want to stay- because you really don't want to be moving your site once you've submitted it! I ran into a problem because I was on a free server that had no pop-ups or banners. I hate those things- they throw off the whole look of your site.

Unfortunately, they just added pop-ups! (I understand why they had to- but I so hate them! I would move, but now I'm already listed on some search engines!) Also- the way my service is set up, you can't access logs- which would be nice if I wanted to track traffic. Finally, some search engines give your ranking a boost if your keyword(s) appear in the URL. It's time to really debate if you want to stay on the same provider. I'd shop around a little, see what's out there and consider paying. It's pretty cheap- and it's also possible to upgrade to pay service later after your site is really up and running and showing in the search engines. Anyway- just make sure you are really happy where you are before you start submitting that address!

OK- you are now ready to submit to the directories! Go for it- and be certain you keep some basic records. I keep a file with the descriptions I submit, the directory submitted to, and the date submitted. Also- check that the URL you submit is the correct one and that it is the shortest possible and includes the / (if needed- which it probably is). I won't tell you about how I submitted the wrong URL the first time around because that would make me look stupid.

Are we done yet? Nope- just getting started! (But it does feel good to get that first step out of the way!) It will take a while to start seeing any results with the directories. I'd say a week or so for DMOZ and Zeal- Yahoo, I have no idea because I'm still not in! After 3-4 weeks, if you still aren't in, I'd submit again. But- while you're waiting, there's plenty to do. Start focusing on optimizing for search engines. I'd go read this thread- and really think about it (yes, it is what inspired me to write this!):

Using Links

While you're thinking and adding metatags to EVERY page- it's a good time to turn your focus to another big traffic generator- LINKS! (I told you there were several reasons for having a page of links- now we are going to talk about them!) The site you're working on is your baby- your 'hobby' site- I'll assume you know a lot about the topic and its web presence. Start adding to your links- put all of the major sites (high quality/high content/high traffic) on your page of links. As you add a link, go to the link and send them a nice request to include you on THEIR links! It's always nice to be able to say 'Your site is one of the best around and I include it in my own links page. I was hoping you would take a look at my site and add it to your links').

The 'Links' thing is important for 3 reasons:

  1. It will generate traffic, perhaps more traffic than the search engines! People will surf in from those big sites- trust me.

  2. The more links in to your site (especially from high ranked sites), the higher you will rank with some search engines (such as Google).

  3. This one is a bit odd- but remember when I discussed searching for my site and finding lots of listings for pages of 'Links'? Well- sadly, your 'Links' page is likely to rank higher in a lot of search engines than your main entry page will!!!! Be sure when you get around to submitting to search engines, you submit not only your entry page, but your 'links' page as well! Why does this happen? Because 'link' pages tend to be 'key word dense'. One thing important to ranking on SE's is the 'density' of your keywords. This sort of makes sense. Pretend you have a site on 'basketball'. If the site is really focused on 'basketball', you might expect the word 'basketball' to show up a lot! That's SE logic for you! So- the higher the frequency of the keyword, the higher the site will rank (within reason). 'Link' pages are almost by definition 'key word dense'- many of the site titles will contain the key words!!

Hope this was somewhat helpful to other newbies to this whole 'get traffic' hunt. This forum has been great, and even though I don't add much to it, I have learned a whole lot!

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