Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Tips on Creating and Maintaining an Educational Web Site

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Tip 8: Spend Time Promoting Your Site

If your web site is strictly for use in a class, then there is no need to worry about listing it with search engines or having other sites link to it. If your work is designed for a wider audience, however, then the only way to build traffic is to spend time letting others know about the site. For example, you might develop a brief announcement and e-mail it to colleagues and students, inviting them to visit the site and encouraging them to pass along your announcement to others who might be interested. Or you might submit bulletins to professional newsletters, listservs, or electronic newsgroups that accept such information. If you feel your site is of potential interest to other web developers, you might also e-mail webmasters at related sites and request that they consider adding a link to one or more of your pages.

Another way to increase traffic is by submitting your pages to search engines in the hope that people who are searching the web will be directed to your site. To submit your site to search engines, you can either (a) visit individual search engines and follow their instructions for submitting web pages, (b) visit a registration web site that will, without charge, submit your pages to multiple search engines simultaneously, or (c) pay for your site to be professionally promoted. There is even search position software available for tracking the extent to which your pages have been indexed by major search engines.

Regardless of the registration method you choose, there are several things you can do to increase your ranking in the output of search engines. First, be sure that all your pages have a descriptive title in the <HEAD> section of the HTML file. For example, instead of using an HTML title statement like:

<TITLE>Other Links</TITLE>

create a more detailed title such as:

<TITLE>Links to Other Social Psychology Web Pages</TITLE>

Titles not only appear in the title bar at the top of the screen when a web page is visited, they are also displayed in the results of most major search engines. Without an informative title, the search engine may simply list your page as "No Title" or may use the URL as a substitute title, which is unlikely to draw visitors to your site (Note: Do not confuse title statements with the headings or titles you display on the web page itself; HTML title statements require the use of <TITLE> tags). In addition to creating an informative title, be sure that the first few sentences of your page adequately describe its contents, because some search engines use these lines to assess the relevance of your page to a search term, and some even reproduce these opening lines in the output of a search (to give a sense of what is on your page). A key point to understand here is that even if your page is indexed by a search engine and appears in its output, few people will visit the page unless your title and opening lines are sufficiently descriptive.

Another useful strategy is to place META tags in the <HEAD> section of each HTML file (META tags contain information that is not displayed on the web page itself). Some search engines will use a META tag "description" statement as your site's description in the output of a search, and many search engines will use a META tag "keywords" statement to index according to keywords you provide. The format of these statements can be seen in the <HEAD> section of the affirmative action page mentioned earlier:


<TITLE>Ten Myths About Affirmative Action</TITLE>

<META NAME="description" CONTENT="A concise essay in support of affirmative action.">

<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="affirmative action, minority, female, equal opportunity, employment, jobs, hiring, quotas, civil rights, prejudice">


The main advantage of META tag descriptions is that they usually yield more traffic than a straight reproduction of the opening lines of text on your page (in fact, many webmasters write them as an advertisement for their site). And the main advantage of a META tag keyword statement is that you can provide an ordered list of likely search terms for your page, including terms that do not appear in the text on your page. META tags are especially important for web pages that use frames or begin with advanced features such as imagemaps and JavaScript programs -- without META tags, these sites may be difficult for search engines to index.

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