IT intelligence: search engines

Sue Fidler provides an ABC of using search engines.

There are three steps to good search-engine placement: optimisation, registration and marketing.

Optimisation is the practice of making your website as user-friendly as possible so the search engine can find and index your web pages. It includes simple and free elements, such as adding 'meta-tag' information (copyright, title, keywords) to the HTML of your pages. Including a site map, static rather than drop-down menus and textual links instead of images also helps.

Registration is a simple process of registering your website with the search engines. Some still offer free registration for charities, but there is no guaranteed timeframe: if you have a specific event or want to make a big splash, you need to pay.

Prices for registration go up to £250 per search engine. You probably need to budget £1,000 for each website you want to register. There are companies that will do it for you and say it should be done daily, but few charities feel the need or can afford to do that. The process is simple: you need a URL, a title and a short description. You can visit www.searchenginewatch.com for tips on which search engines are worth registering with and how to do it.

Search-engine marketing involves paying to appear in the 'paid-for advertising' section of the search results page. The two main players are Google and Overture (part of Yahoo!), which offer a 'cost-per-click' system through which you bid for a keyword and pay a small fee (from 10p) for each click-through.

Major retail keywords are pricey, whereas off-beat searches are cheap.

You need to be in the top three to be guaranteed a placement on the first page. Everyclick, a search engine that gives half of its revenue to charity, has launched an alternative system, which allows you to buy a placement for three months.

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