Internet in Business mentor Jakob Nielsen reponds to the following question from an inc.com user:
How can I effectively submit my Web site to search engines? There appears to be a lot of disagreement, even among professionals, about things like how often a site should be submitted, whether it's worth paying companies for higher listings, how the Yahoo submission fee works, among others.
Jakob Nielsen's response:
I recommend spending most of your time making the site better instead of submitting the same URL over and over again to the same search engines. But since search engines are often slow in coming around to revisit a site, you should submit the URLs whenever you add pages with new products, new services, or new articles.
The best way to get good placement in search engines is to have good content about targeted topics; preferably content that is so good that other sites will link to you and thus increase your rating. Most of the better search engines prioritize sites not based on coding tricks but based on how many *other* sites link to them. I recommend spending most of your budget on creating better content and fresh pages that can be link targets for other sites.
There are two exceptions to this advice. First, it is worth the fee to secure a listing in a few of the very biggest directories, especially Yahoo. Second, it can also be worth buying "featured placement" spots on search engines if you can think of very specific search terms that you want to be featured for. Given the cost, it only pays off to be featured for search terms that would be entered by people who are very hot leads. Don't bother buying generic search terms such as "cars" or "vacations" because the probability that the user will want your type of car or your type of vacation is remote.
Let me give a personal example: I was recently in the market for a long distance calling card because my previous provider, VoiceNet, had gone out of business. To find out the score about VoiceNet, I went to a major search engine and entered its name. Of course, I found VoiceNet's old website as well as several articles about their financial troubles. But I also saw three small boxes with featured links for three alternative calling card providers that had special plans for the stranded VoiceNet customers. Sure enough, I checked out all three sites and ended up buying service from one of them. The reason this purchase of a featured placement worked is that the search keyword would be entered by a lot of people who were urgently looking to buy the exact thing that was being advertised.
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