I am a little fuzzy on these tags, but I will pass along what I have heard about them over time.
There is information embedded in your home page (index.html) that describes the basic concepts and products of your web site that viewers don't see. (Some people say these tags should be on every web page you generate.) This information is what search engines look for. It is like a tag line in advertising. You know what the tag line "Don't leave home without it" refers to. Or perhaps the single word "Priceless" for Mastercard. Well, your site needs invisible tag lines of a sort.
Go to my home page NEWARTPOTTERY and view the SOURCE of my home page. Notice the "metatags" at the top of the page. I will copy and paste them below, but please take a look at them on that SOURCE page. These two metatags are how people find you using search engines (more on being "found" later).
Here are copies of the "metatags" on my home page:
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="New pots made in the art pottery tradition by Tim Eberhardt of St. Louis.">
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="Tim Eberhardt, Art Pottery, American Art Pottery, European Art Pottery, In the Art Pottery Tradition, ceramics, studio ceramics, porcelain, high fire ceramics, stoneware, arts and crafts, arts and crafts movement, vases, American Pottery, American studio pottery, studio pottery, craft, gallery, floral pottery, vases, landscape pottery, erotic pottery, painted pottery, faience, vellum, ceramic sculpture, Clewell, Ohr, George Ohr, Hampshire, Wheatley, Fulper, Grueby, Van Briggle, Merrimac, Marblehead, Roseville, Weller, Frogs, Walrath, Rookwood, Rookwood pottery, artist signed pottery, Newcomb College">
The META NAME tag "description" is supposed to be a brief sentence about the site content.
The META NAME tag "keywords" are words that are much more broadly used in the culture and somehow relate to what you are doing. Some search engines offer you a "keyword" search and this is what the search engine will be picking up on as it searches. I have heard that you should keep it to fifty words. These are words that somehow relate to what you do and it can be a very broad relationship between the keywords and what is on the site.
You can simply copy and paste the above tags onto the top of your home page just below the title tags. Delete all my content and keywords and write your information in between the quotes ("").
All of the information above is about what you can do in your HTML pages to get your web site in front of the viewer's eyes. There is something else you can do and it is much more important. This relates to what you can do to get the word out once you are uploaded to the web. (The next page after this one will deal with the mechanics of uploading and the like.)
Once you are uploaded onto your server (this info next page), you have to get people to find you. Of course, postal mailings and building an e-mail list of anyone you know is a first step. Give your web address to everyone you know who is interested in what you make. If you have done postal announcement mailings in the past, you may have to do one transitional postal mailing telling of your presence on the web. After that you can send only e-announcements, or perhaps a mix of postal and e-announcements. This is another HUGE advantage of being on the web. I used to send out postal announcements for my shows that would take me two days and cost me $700. Now, informative mailings that are more detailed and can have any number of images attached take 15 minutes and cost nothing! So much for your existing contacts. What about the rest of the world?
There are dozens of popular search engines that would like to have, know, identify and recommend your site to the public. Yahoo!, Google, MSN and the like are all directories that are looking for content to put before the public. They want your site. But before they recommend your site, they check it and make sure that it is properly designed and functioning. Once you are confident your site fits the bill and you are uploaded onto your server, go to each search engine's home page and look for the "Submit URL" or "Submit a Site" link somewhere on the home page. Click on it and fill out the form. Be prepared to have a concise 25 word description of what your site is about. Your site is assessed by somebody, somewhere, sometime and this is the first information they have about you. A very helpful tool is a site called "www.searchenginegarage.com." It will give you the names of all the major search engines and allows you to easily check to see if you have been picked up and listed. I recommend that you go to each individual search engine and submit your site directly to them. There are any number of services that will do this for a fee. However, I have been repeatedly told that search engines prefer personal submissions. If you do it yourself, it's free. Some search engines want you to pay to be listed. Yahoo! wants $200 up front. Not necessary. List yourself with all the free search engines and particularly the OPD- the "open directory project"- then sit back and wait. It may take three months, maybe six, then all of a sudden, you will find that the engines start listing you. Remember, they need content. That's what they are there for. They are looking for sites they will be proud to put before the public. Searchenginegarage will allow you to periodically see if you are being picked up. And it is free. Yahoo! will pick you up sooner or later. They didn't list me for nearly a year.
Keep in mind that search engines direct traffic according to volume. You ideally want to get your name on the web as often as possible. For example, this article will probably get my personal name on CLAY TIMES web site. If a pot of mine goes through an auction that is held or advertised online and my name is mentioned on the auction web site, the next time someone does a search for "Tim Eberhardt" two new links may appear for my name. One will be a link to the CLAYTIMES site and the other will be to the auction site. It's another form of building a resume. Do a search of my name on "Google" and you will understand what I am talking about.
There are also software animals called "webcrawlers" or "webspiders" that constantly search the web for content. These programmed spiders hunt day and night for new sites and will strive to bring you on line when they find you. Be patient. My experience was that after about six months, things started happening and I was being picked up. Now, if you type in "Tim Eberhardt," "New Art Pottery," or "Art Pottery" on most search engines, I'll come up. I went on line in January 2001 and my "hits" crept up from 3 to 5 to 7 to about 12 a day. By the way, you can put a free counter on your web site by going to "honesty.com."
If you design your site well, address the metatag issue, transition all current contacts to your web site, and notify all search engines, I guarantee you will be noticed.
The next page will deal with COMMUNICATION LINKS.