Before your website can rank in a search engine, your website pages have to be in the search engine’s index (database). So the question of how to submit to the search engines, is really, how do you get your website found, crawled and indexed by the search engines?
The search engines use robots to crawl the web and discover new web pages, they collect the information they find and put it in their database. These robots are often also referred to as spiders or crawlers. Each search engine has their own robot. The three major search engine robots are:
- Yahoo! Slurp
Search engine submission is free; there are two ways you can let the search engines know about your website.
1. Submit your Website to Webmaster Tools
Both Google and Bing have a free webmaster tools service (Bing now controls Yahoo so if you submit to Bing you will also be submitting to Yahoo). You will need a Google Account to submit to Google Webmaster Tools and a Bing account to submit to Bing Webmaster Tools.
To tell the search engines about all the pages on your website you’ll need to create a sitemap and put it on your hosting server. To create a sitemap you should list all your webpages in a txt file, or create an xml sitemap using a free service like xml-sitemaps.com. You can learn more about sitemaps via Google Webmaster Tools Help pages.
I always recommend also adding an html sitemap to your website, and linking to it from your footer navigation. This is helpful for human visitors and search engines.
Once you’ve set up and verified your website within webmaster tools, you tell them the file name of your sitemap txt or xml file, e.g. sitemap.xml. Googlebot, Bingbot and Yahoo! Slurp will then crawl your website and find all your website pages.
Congratulations, you have now submitted you website to the search engines.
2. Build Links to your Website
Search engine robots use links to get from one website to another and one web page to another. So another way you can submit your website to the search engines (get your website found and crawled) is by building links to your web pages from other websites. The more popular those websites are, the more often they are crawled, the more effective the link will be.
You might be able to get links to your website from businesses you work with, e.g. suppliers, distributors, or from your clients/customers. If you have business relationships in the real world, you can leverage those relationships online to maximize your online presence.
Another way of building links is by setting up online business listings at local search engines like Google Places and Yelp, or business directories like The Open Directory and Business Magnet. You can also find niche directories that specialize in listing businesses in your industry.
So there you have it, two ways to submit your website to the search engines. Both of these methods are free, they won’t cost you a penny if you do it yourself.
With regards to webmaster tools and sitemap submission, if it sounds a bit complicated you can hire someone who is experienced in website management to do it for you. If you already have search engine accounts, set up and implementation of webmaster tools at Google and Bing should only take about 30-60 mins, depending on the size and type of your website. Once webmaster tools is set up, verification of your site only takes a couple of minutes.
One final note, back in 1999 when I started in search engine optimization, it was necessary to resubmit your website to the search engines on a regular basis. Today, in 2012, that is no longer necessary, so don’t be fooled by companies who offer regular search engine submission as one of their services.
Once your website pages have been found, crawled and indexed, you are set. Your next step is to continue to work on linking building and update your site with fresh, valuable content on a regular basis to encourage the the search engines robots to keep coming back.