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 Indexing Specialties: Web Sites

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Hedden Information Management

Indexing Services

Services, Subjects, and Rates
Titles Indexed
Sample Indexes
Website Indexing

Web Site Indexing

What it is
How they are created
Training Texts
Further Reading

What is a Web Site Index

A web site alphabetical index, sometimes called an A-Z index to differentiate it from other “indexes,” enables site visitors to quickly locate precise information within medium-sized web sites and intranets, just as an index at the back of the book does.

While automated search engines are perhaps more practical on very large sites with constantly changing information, the results are often unsatisfactory. The search engines usually pick up pages with the mere inclusion of the searched word in it, even if that is not what the page is about. The exact searched word must be found in the text, not a synonym that the user might type in. Finally, the search engine often returns a tremendous number of matches, and there is no way to limit the results.

Human-created alphabetical indexes, on the other hand, index for concepts and main ideas, not word matches. All possible synonyms or variant phrases are entries in the index, so that multiple ways of wording a concept all point to the same result. To keep the index from becoming too long, cross-references may also be used. Finally, the index has at least two levels of entries, and each entry points to just one place in the web site, so there are no multiple results to sort through.

Site maps, hierarchical outlines of a web site, are very useful for navigating a web site. However, the site map entries typically point to entire pages, and not information within a page as indexes do. Site maps also, like search engines, only permit one name for each page, whereas an index allows for any wording that a user might think up. Just as a site map is like a table of contents or an outline for a manual or book, the web site index is like the index at the back of the book. And, like good back-of-the-book indexes, good web site indexes are written by professionally trained indexers, not any web writers and are not automatically generated.

Learn more about web site indexes on the site of the Web Indexing SIG of the American Society for Indexing.

How Web Site Indexes Are Created

If contracting out, an offsite indexer can take a web site's files submitted on a CD or use a software tool to download an entire web site, retaining its hierarchical structure. The indexer uses another tool, HTML Indexer, that aids in the indexing process by automatically remembering the URL of each page or the URL plus named anchor within a page.

Unlike book indexing, web site indexing can be more precise in its locators by enabling the index entries to point not just to pages, but to named anchors within pages. Web indexing takes advantage of any anchors already in a web page. If none exist, the web site indexer may either create additional anchors or recommend that the webmaster create specified additional anchors. This possible addition of anchors is the only modification required to the existing web pages.

The indexer submits the index as a single HTML page to be added to your site. For formatting the index, there is choice of obtaining an additional style sheet, or merely adding a series of non-breaking spaces to indent the sub-entries. Any additional styles, formatting, headers, and navigation elements to the page can then be added so that it conforms with the rest of your site.

For directory web sites, an index can also be produced of external URL links.

Fees are usually based on a per index entry (including subentries) rate, such as $0.75 - $0.90 per index entry. While book indexing tends to charge a per-page rate, ranging anywhere from $2.00 to $10.00 per page, the varied length and amount of content within web pages, makes a page rate impractical. A long-term contract for keeping the index updated can also be arranged. Alternatively, the indexer can prepare customized guidelines for maintaining the index yourself.

Owners of small, non-profit organization sites may inquire about pro bono
site indexes created by students of Heather Hedden.

Sample Web Site Indexes

Heather Hedden created the following web site indexes. Although she currently is no longer offering contract web indexing services, referrals can be made.

Gleason Public Library web site index
Gleason Public Library

Boston-IA web site index

You have done a tremendous job here! I can’t thank you enough. I have posted both from the main page. I think I can maintain both indexes (thank you for the instructions). I will keep you informed of any feedback I receive. Thank you again – this is great!”
--C.M., client


Training Texts on Web Site Indexing

For a number of years, Hedden Information Management offered group and individualized, self-paced online training sessions in web site indexing. Some of the lessons were also part of an online course previously taught through Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, but other lessons supplemented and went beyond that course. While no longer offered as instructor-led courses, the course files are available for purchase (at a discount of 55-60% off the original prices), and those purchasing the texts are welcome to email the instructor-author, Heather Hedden, with quick questions (although trouble-shooting and work feedback is not included).

Lesson files from previously taught online courses in Website Indexing


Further Reading on Web Site Indexing

Article: A-Z Web Site Indexes Explained

Article: A-Z Indexes to Enhance Site Searching

External web site: Web Indexing SIG of the American Society for Indexing