Help Site Visitors Find What
by Reid Goldsborough
Helping visitors to your site
find information quickly is a key to making their experience there positive.
When designing or redesigning a
site, or working with a Web designer, think about how you access Web sites
When you’re pressed for time (and
everyone is), you want to know immediately whether you should stick around a
site you’ve accessed—what’s in it for you. So with your own site, instead of
relying strictly on fancy graphics and animations, which often just slow
visitors down, you should use meaningful headlines, subheads, and links to
communicate what it is you’re offering.
If your site consists of more than
a few pages, it’s thoughtful to provide a site map that displays all the
interior links for those who want to get their bearings from the outset.
For larger sites, one of the best
tools you can provide is an internal search engine, which lets visitors home in
on just what they want from the get-go. Instead of drilling down from one link
to the next, they can simply type in their search criteria.
Regardless of which internal
search tool you use, you should use <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>metatags to clearly indicate the content
of a page and to help searchers find specific content you offer when they use
ixquick, Ask.com, Google, and other external search sites.
Every Web page should have a title
tag. This is not the same thing as the headline at the top of the browser
window. The title shows up on the bar at the top of the screen next to the
browser logo, and it receives the highest weighting from search tools.
Create a title tag in the<HEAD> section of each Web page. The best title tags consist of two or
three keyword phrases, each of which consists, in turn, of one to three words,
separated by a hyphen, that say clearly what the page is all about. Ideally,
your keyword phrases will be the ones searchers are most likely to type in.
The title tag looks like this:
<TITLE>keyword phrase one –
keyword phrase two</TITLE>
In addition to the title tag, you
should use a meta description tag, which describes a page in a sentence that
you place within quotation marks. That’s what searchers will see after the
title in a list of results. If you don’t use a meta description tag, what they’ll
see instead will be the text around the first occurrences of the searched-for
term, which may not give them enough information.
The meta description tag should be
placed after the title tag, and it looks like this:
CONTENT=“This is a sentence that describes the content on this page.”>
On-site Search Options
You have lots of choices for
internal search engines. The Web design software you use may have a built-in
search tool, and your Internet service provider or Web host may also provide
such a tool. Since the quality of these tools varies widely, it can make sense
to try a few. The internal search tool provided by Microsoft FrontPage, for
instance, is clunkier than most.
One highly recommended,
well-reviewed external search service is PicoSearch (<span
It offers four different plans—a free plan for sites of up to 250 pages that
involves displaying PicoSearch sponsors as part of the search results, and paid
plans for sites of up to 3,000 pages, up to 6,000 pages, and millions of pages.
Even the free plan lets visitors
search by specifying any word, all words, an exact phrase, or Boolean
expressions such as “apples and oranges and not bananas.”
When You’re the Visitor
If you happen to be looking for
something at a site that doesn’t have an internal search engine, all’s not
lost. You can use Google to search through it.
At Google’s opening page, click on
“Advanced Search,” to the right. Go down to the line that begins with “Domain.”
Type in the part of the Web address of the site you’re at after <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www if the
address begins this way. The domain you type in will end with <span
something similar. Go back to the top of the page and after “Find results,”
type in your search criteria.
Seek and ye shall find.
Reid Goldsborough is a
syndicated columnist and author of the book <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or members.home.net/reidgold.