First, search for your site on AltaVista to make sure that it has been indexed. Indexing can happen in just a few days but may take significantly longer, particularly for AltaVista's mirror sites. If you can't find your site six weeks after you submit it, submit your site again. Your site should be indexed no later than the end of the second six-week period. Search by keywords and phrases that you would expect to bring up your site in the search engine listings. Check to see where in the listings your site appears.
Next, run a search for your competitors' sites. Do they rank higher than your site on the search engine results? If so, find out why by looking at the keywords or phrases that appear in their page titles, near the tops of their pages, and in their pages' metatags.
Finally, make the changes needed to ensure that your site ranks higher than those of your competitors. AltaVista claims it isn't necessary to resubmit your site because it automatically gets reindexed when changes are made. However, you may be able to expedite the process by resubmitting your gateway page. Just remember not to exceed the limit on oversubmission of the same URL. (AltaVista will accept only 10 URLs per domain in a 24-hour period; if you submit more than 50 URLs in a 24-hour period, your domain will be removed from the AltaVista database altogether.)