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Getting found on the Web

What good is a Web site if no one can find it? There are currently between one and two million sites on the web and the number is growing every day. If you create a site for your film, as most filmmakers do, how will it get found among the millions of other sites? Well, there are things you can do, or have the creator of your site do, to make your site more visible to the Web Search Engines and this article covers the most important.

The designers of HTML, the language used to create websites, have included features to make the process easy. As an example, I’ll use Greg Durbin’s film Boundaries.

The text between the <title> and </title> tags is displayed in the title bar at the top of the browser window. The title is also displayed on the bookmark list when the user adds your page to their list, so choose something descriptive, unique, and relatively short. A title is also used to identify your page for search engines (such as Google, Hotbot, Alta Vista, etc.). Generally you should limit your titles to 64 characters or fewer.

Since Greg’s film is a short, the following might be a good title:

<title>Boundaries, a short film by Greg Durbin – Main Page</title>

The <meta…> tag is used to allow Internet Search Engines like AltaVista or Google to index web pages effectively. An effectively indexed document can be found more easily by the people using search engines to find information, in this case, information about your film.

The 'keywords' and 'description' meta tags are the basic elements the Search Engines use to index information. The correct application of these tags can make the difference between your site being lost in the shuffle with the other millions of sites or being an effective tool for promoting your film.

For the "description" tag, repeat the same text in the <meta…> tag you used in the <title> tag as follows:

<meta name = "description" content = "Boundaries, a short film by Greg Durbin – Main Page">

then include another meta line as follows:

<meta name ="keywords" content = "boundaries, short film, independent short film, indie short, greg durbin, parallax films">

The words and phrases you select for the keywords that follow content = are really important and should be selected with great care. I entered "short films" in Google and it found 76,000 references to short films. In the case of the film Boundaries a better keyword than short film might be ‘short film about codependents’. When you are choosing keywords, try to imagine what a person would enter into a search engine to find your film. It’s not always the most obvious thing. There is no limit that I know of to the number of keywords you can include in the list; I have seen pages with as many as 20 lines.

If yours is a feature film, replace "short film" with "feature film" in all of the above. It’s also important to include the <title> and <meta…> lines on every page of your site. You can change the title and description slightly on each page, for example, change Main Page to Crew Page for a page that describes people who worked on the film.

An important point to understand is that all search engines work differently. Some look at only the <title> tag, some look only at the <meta…> tag and some only look at the text on the main page. This can be a problem for sites that use their film’s promo card as the only thing on the first page. Your page may not get found!

If you didn’t develop your own site, it’s easy to check your page for the <title> and <meta…> statements. In your brower, select View on the menu bar. Then select Source on the pull-down menu. These lines are usually at the top or the page. If these lines are not there, call your site designer and start screaming!

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