Good practice is to check at least once a year whether you are listed on the main search engines, and that the information held is up to date. This could be the perfect task for a volunteer. It simply involves creating an Excel spreadsheet, listing the main search engines and then marking up whether your search appeared on the first page when you searched for the organisation name and other major search terms. Also check whether your entry appears 'above the fold' - is it visible without scrolling down? - and that the title, description and URL are correct.
The main search engines to check are Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask and AOL. A secondary set includes Altavista, Excite, Everyclick, Lycos and Alltheweb.
If your website appears on the first page, you are doing well. If it is above the fold, even better. If not, and if your title and descriptions are wrong, check and amend your meta tags and work on your site optimisation.
Check which sites link to you. You can do so by typing 'link:' followed by your URL into Google. For example, 'link:www.thirdsector.co.uk'. Check what they say - it could be positive or negative, supportive or antagonistic, or even defamatory.
The popularity of sites that link to you affects your site ranking. If a major organisation such as the BBC or a big corporate or charity has a link to your site, this will increase your ranking. So if you get a great bit of PR, make sure such organisations add your website to articles.
- Sue Fidler is an independent charity ICT and internet consultant.