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How often should I submit my site to the search engines?

Search engine submission and link request tips

How often should I submit my site to the search engines? Every 3 months? Monthly? Annually?

Site submission to search engines and web directories is often done incorrectly. I cover this topic, in detail, in Part 4 of Search Engine Visibility. Below are some general guidelines to follow regarding search engine submission:

Spider-based submission vs. human-based submission

Treat spider-based search engine submissions and human-based submissions differently.

Most people still believe, incorrectly, that crawler-based search engines and human-based search engines are the same. A crawler-based search engine uses a program that searches documents (i.e. web pages, which are mostly HTML documents) for specified keywords and returns the list of documents. You do not have to submit your site to the spider-based search engines. They will generally find your site on their own.

A human-based search engine (such as Thomas Register, a manufacturing directory) depends on people/editors for listings. A directory editor will not list your web page if you do not register it with them. Directories are usually divided into categories and you must submit your URL under the most appropriate categories.

Directory or specialized companies sometimes have partnerships with search engine companies for various types of links. Likewise, you will see partnerships with social media companies and search engines, niche or specialized companies (such as local or video) and search engines. These partnerships change throughout time.

Because search engines, directories, and specialized/niche entities are so different, it is often best to have different submission strategies. For example, if your company has a local target audience (like a restaurant or medical facility), then your site should have local SEO strategies, implementation, and maintenance.


Crawler-based search engine submission

To get optimal listings in the crawler-based search engines, keywords and key concepts must be placed strategically throughout your web pages. To summarize, you need these words in phrases in:

  • Titles
  • Meta-tags (especially for video content)
  • Alt-attribute (for graphic images)
  • Headings/headlines
  • Main, visible body text
  • Anchor text

Other factors affect search engine rankings (architecture, layout, accessibility, design, validation, searcher goals, and so forth). A labeling system is important. So is keyword prominence and keyword placement.

Details about keyword placement are available in Part 2 of Search Engine Visibility.

Ideally, search engines should be able to locate and discover your web site's content on their own. You shouldn't have to submit anything. However, I know of two exceptions I'd make to this guideline: (1) a site migration, and (2) sites that change content very quickly.

When the search engines recrawl and reindex the site? The information on the XML sitemaps should be validated. In these specific situations, I usually submit an XML sitemap as a signal to a search engine that the site's content is updated. When the search engines recrawl and reindex the site? The information on the XML sitemaps should be validated. In otherwords, the information in the sitemap should match the information on the website.

Other than the two specific situations I just mentioned, I do not recommend that you submit the same web pages to the search engines within a short time period (even if you made changes on them). I still believe it is best for search engines to locate and discover your site updates without you, the web-site owner, having to make a formal submission.

The time between site submission and addition to the search engine index is called the lead time. You will not see results in your traffic logs or site analytics software until the lead time has passed.


Link development and social: human-based submission

Link development is a very different process because it is a human-based submission. Link development is essential to successful SEO. The main disadvantage is it takes time, whereas with paid search advertising and blog optimization, results are nearly instantaneous.

Link development's main advantage is dynamic, cumulative, and difficult to imitate. Many sites maintain search engine visibility and the resulting qualified traffic because of successful link development, not just based on the number of keywords on a page.

Some link development tactics we commonly use:

  • Choose quality over quantity. Link quality carries more weight than quantity. Spend time getting the highest quality links pointing to your site. One of search engine spammers' biggest sales pitches is, "Get millions of links to your site." Don't fall for that arcane, useless pitch.

  • Harness online publicity. How-to tips, helpful articles, even useful press releases often garner links from other web sites. Publicity is usually part of a company's overall marketing plan, so harnessing these resources for link development can be a simple task.

  • Use blogs and forums wisely. Blogs and forums can call attention to useful information on your own site.

  • Use search engines to research link development. Look at competitors' sites to determine their link development strategy. It can help you with your own. What news sites and media outlets do they use for online publicity? What reputable web sites link to your competitors' sites?

I personally have three favorite link development experts: Eric Ward (who has been doing link development since 1994 and has a library/information science background, like me); Garrett French (who used to be my Web Pro News editor); and Julie Joyce (who I think has an extraordinary, insightful approach to link building).

Let me put it to you this way: Eric, Garrett, and Julie get link building. No B.S. No hype.

As for social media, the two most brilliant people I know with realistic approaches are Eleanor Hong (who I have personally seen create Google Trends) and Veronica/Nikki Fielding.

Smart women, REALLY smart choices. No fluff, just really sound approaches to social media optimization (SMO).


Monitor results on site reporting software

We are firm believers in using quality web analytics software. In fact, we do believe that businesses should focus on web analytics data more than search engine submission data.

You will be able to see the results of your search engine optimization and link development strategies in your web analytics software. You can measure the keywords used, the URLs giving you the most referrals, the type of browsers used to view your site, the time of day your site is accessed, and so forth. All of this data will give you a clearer profile of your site's visitors.

Then, based on this data, you can tweak the HTML, graphics, and other content to best suit your customers -- helping them better complete their individual tasks and ultimate goals.


Submit and resubmit web pages only when necessary

An online business that uses search engine optimization as a marketing strategy will use this submission, monitoring, and tweaking practice. Site submission is a never-ending, ongoing process because both humans (searchers) and technology (search engines, browsers, and devices) evolve.

As I mentioned previously, I recommend that you resubmit a web page to a search engine only when there is a significant change to web page or if a page has dropped from the index. (Changing a meta-tag description does not constitute a significant change.) Search engines are not perfect. A page can be dropped for a reason as simple as a search engine "hiccup."

Site migration? Major redesign? In these situations, I would probably submit multiple XML sitemaps to ensure that search engines are able to access the new and updated content.


Shari Thurow - photoArticle by Search Engine Visibility author Shari Thurow, Founder and SEO Director at Omni Marketing Interactive, a full-service search engine optimization (SEO), web site usability, information architecture (IA) and web design firm. Shari is also the co-author of When Search Meets Web Usability.

If you would like permission to publish this article for your online newsletter, blog, or web site, please fill out our contact form or call us at 847-426-4256.

For more information about our search engine optimization, search usability training, and site design services, please fill out our contact form or call us at 847-426-4256.

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