Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum


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Search Engine Secrets

General Advice: An incredibly effective and economical website can result from the following combination: donated compelling content to get started; Macintosh iBook with Dreamweaver & Epson 4870 scanner to build the site; volunteers to create and maintain the website; reliable web hosting company such as Valueweb.net; as explained below, once the on-line content is world-class, solicit links from all the other great related websites to gain visibility, traffic, and search engine ranking; recruiting content contributions from visitors to grow the website.

Noticed that your site is posted on most major search engines.  I am trying to post [my website] to the search engines with little luck.  Could you tell me your secret?

Thanks for your question, but we have no search engines secrets, and don't believe that there are any.  The following strategy may prove successful:

Put your website on an amazingly inexpensive, fast, and reliable UNIX professional server [we use ValueWeb, but many other providers are readily available], which supplies redundant high speed internet connections and web hosting with lots of room for a large website.  Don't try to host your website on a home computer — neither your computer nor your internet connection are sufficiently reliable.  Test your website and make sure that your site is available because if the site is not functioning correctly, it will not be indexed.   Don't use an amateurish web address such as <http://www.yourISP.net/~yourname> that will change in the future.  Instead, have your web hosting service register your own "yourname.com" and/or "yourname.org" domain names which won't change in the future.   Don't think that you can't afford all this to do it right — following the advice in this paragraph need cost no more than $23 per month, and the rest of the steps below are all free!

Make sure that the search terms that people will use to find your site are included in your title, description, and keyword meta-tags, as well as in the text of your pages (making sure to do this for all of your site's most significant pages, but most importantly on the page that you submit to the search engines to have indexed).

Using a hit counter service, such as Sitemeter, that shows you referring URLs lets you monitor the search terms that people are successfully using to find your site, because they are included in search engine referring URLs.
Submit your site to the major search engines and directories by using a free service such as AddMe, realizing that it sometimes takes many weeks for various search engines and directories to process add requests.  After a suitable interval of time, visit all the important search engines and directories and search for your own site to verify that you are actually listed, and if not, submit a request directly to each of them to include your URL (a blue table toward the bottom of our links page called "Search for Central Pacific Railroad" has links to the major search engines).

Have compelling content, including links to all related sites, and then e-mail all related websites (that don't already link to your site) to let them know about your website and to request a link (people and search engines may find your site in part by following links to your site, but more importantly (because 80% of people get to your site using a search engine), better search engines such as Google use linkage patterns as a criterion for determining the order in which they display results).
[People are delighted to receive a personal note telling them about a terrific new website exactly matching their interests, but don't send spam — limit your e-mails to people who indicate their interest.]

How to find related websites:
a)  Use Metacrawler and Google, to locate many related websites by searching the web using keywords that people would be expected to use to find the site (for example, "central pacific railroad"; "transcontinental railroad"),
b)  find more related sites by looking at links pages at the related sites already found,
c)  then do reverse searches to find all sites linking to the most important related sites found (see "Websites linking to CPRR.org" on our links page to see how to do reverse searches), and finally,
d)  perform periodic searches to discover new websites as they appear.
[Don't forget to include all categories of related websites — for example, in our case, transcontinental railroad, railroads, model railroading, overland trails, wild west, photography, stereographs, 19th century american history, Chinese railroad workers, education, museums, antiques/collectibles, railroadiana, maps, postcards, stamps, stocks & bonds, transcontinental telegraph, historical landmarks and parks, genealogy, California, Nevada, Utah.]

Then, keep repeating these steps over a period of many months, and on an ongoing basis.

Following all the steps in the procedure outlined above is fairly daunting, but we don't know any shortcuts.  The Web is all about linking sites to one another — fortunately, these same steps that help people to find your website, also increase its value to them once they arrive.

Best of luck with your website.

Museum Bookshop

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