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Ah, the luxury of our own search engine

February 28th, 2008 by mdmcginnis

Have you ever wanted to tell Google to treat your Web site better? “Hey, put my page at the top of the list!” (As a former freelance search engine marketing consultant, I know I have). Well, that’s not always possible, though if your Web page actually talks about what it claims to talk about, you should be in pretty good shape. But now that our own Google Search Appliance is alive and running, we have much more control over what shows up when people search the A&M Web site. Basic instructions for using the new search engine on your Web pages can be found on the Web Services site, but the standard search form can be customized to display only the results from your own college or division, just like Google Custom Search. Except that now, we own the search server.

So… try us and see if it’s easy to find your Web pages in the new search engine. Search for keywords which ought to bring up your site near the top of the results. If you don’t see the results you want, here are some suggestions:

Use a clear page structure, with expressive headers and titles. What are the search terms that you expect people to use to find your Web site? Do those words appear in the headers and titles of your Web pages? In other words, do your pages tell people what they are about? If you search for text from your page, it should come up high in the search results.

Practice good link hygiene. Linking to outdated or unimportant pages can actually hurt the search results on our new Google Search Appliance. That poor little yellow box assumes that if a lot of pages are linking to the same page, it must be the best page. For example, suppose your Web site now contains the best, official explanation of “q-drop” policies (a pretty popular search term around here, by the way). But another webmaster is referring his or her visitors somewhere else, or nowhere else, to get that explanation. Why not dash off an email suggesting that their site should start linking to your new page?

Avoid blackholes. This advice is more for web developers than for designers. It’s oh so easy to write a script at www.yoursite.com/index.php?g=101 that creates a link to g=101&b=1 which creates links to g=101&&b=1 and g=101&&&b=1 and g=101&&&&b=1 and so on, forever. We’ve tried to add URLs like these to our Do Not Crawl list, so we don’t overwork your server or fill up our index with duplicate pages, but there may be other solutions.

I have some more suggestions on how our search engine can serve you better, which I’ll share next week.

Thursday, February 28th, 2008 Search
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