After a search so painful, and so long

Microelectronics International

ISSN: 1356-5362

Article publication date: 1 August 1999




Ellis, B. (1999), "After a search so painful, and so long", Microelectronics International, Vol. 16 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited

After a search so painful, and so long

After a search so painful, and so long

Keywords Internet, Keywords, Search engines

I would like to mention the use of meta tags. Useless to look this up in a dictionary (the Concise Oxford Electronic Dictionary offers it only as a prefix:


  1. 1.

    denoting change of position or condition (metabolism).

  2. 2.

    denoting position: a behind. b after or beyond (metaphysics; metacarpus). c of a higher or second order kind (metalanguage).

  3. 3.

    Chem. a relating to two carbon atoms separated by one other in a benzene ring. b relating to a compound formed by dehydration (metaphosphate).

[Greek meta, met meth from meta 'with, after']).

What then does it mean? A meta tag is some hidden information in the header of a Web page, used in HTML, the language used in Web site design. There are two meta tags which should be included in every home page. The first is the description (ideally, different in every page on a site). This takes the form:

<meta name = "description" content = "Joe Bloggs' gizmos for soldering microelectronics packages, using a combined infrared and laser technology">

I would recommend that this description be as complete as possible in, say, 20 or 30 words maximum.

The second, and more important one, is the keyword meta tag, written as follows:

<meta name = "keywords" content = "Joe Bloggs, Bloggs, manufacture, gizmo, widget, solder, soldering, electronics, microelectronics, electronic, package, packaging, infrared, laser, technology, Manchester, England, UK, GB, flux, reflow, cleaning, sealing (plus many others)">.

This should be as complete a list as possible, but only relevant to your business. Where words have alternative spellings, such as colour and color, put both in. Do not put in any words which are common such as market (unless you are a marketing specialist) or adjectives or adverbs, except within a descriptive phrase, where essential. Do not repeat the same keywords more than twice. It is unethical to put competitive names in your keyword list, although quite common. Optionally, you may add a second keyword list as:

<meta http-equiv = "keywords" content ="Joe Bloggs, Bloggs, manufacture, gizmo, widget, solder, soldering, electronics, microelectronics, electronic, package, packaging, infrared, laser, technology, Manchester, England, UK, GB, flux, reflow, cleaning, sealing (plus many others)">.

Have you ever wondered why, when interrogating a search engine, you put in a couple of keywords that describe your site, only to find it never appears in the list? You may have assiduously given your URL to every search engine under the sun but still obtain zero results. The chances are you have not put in the right meta tags. But, remember, your prospective clients may have tried the same keywords and have alighted only on your competitors' sites, never on yours. Why is this?

When you submit your URL to a search engine, a "spider" invades your Web at the dead of night a few days later. This is a system which automatically tries to find out what your site is all about. There are no two spiders which act in the same way. Some of them visit every page on your Web, searching for words which describe your pages, sometimes in the text itself. Others may visit only your home page and use just the Description meta tag to obtain information or the keyword list or only the text. Whatever, most spiders do examine your keyword list on the Home Page and will take the relevant words (some will ignore all words which are inordinately repeated). If Joe Bloggs puts the above tags into his home page header, anyone seeking "gizmo and soldering" on a search engine will have a good chance of finding his company high on the list.

If you add or modify meta tags, please do not forget to re-submit your URL to all the search engines: very few of them do a recheck automatically and those that do may take a year or so before they get round to your site again.

If you use frames, do not forget to add the meta tags to your frame-definer page and all the frames that come up as your home page, as well. You can never guess which frame will be looked at by a search engine spider.

The reason behind these remarks? Of the five sites reviewed below, I could find suitable meta tags on only two of them, and one of these just about had Webster's Dictionary as a source of keywords. Is it surprising therefore that the number of visits is fewer than the owners of these poorly defined sites would have expected?

For our site reviews, I shall not take a theme, as such. Instead, I'll take the first company under each of the letters A to E in the IMAPS corporate membership list. This is almost a random selection: certainly the subject-matter of each site is totally unpredictable.

Our first visit is to A-B Lasers Inc. in Massachusetts ( Their home page is rather heavy. The graphics and the frames make downloading times slightly on the long side. The background is too large, which compounds this problem, considering it has to be downloaded three times per page. Much of the creation has been done from Microsoft Word, which makes it slightly limitative. To be noted: the company has full details of its address and contact numbers on the home page ­ I do wish others would do the same. The page appearance throughout the site is consistent. Navigation is fairly easy, although the frame menu is not interactive. Some of the lower hierarchy pages are accessed through on-page menus. The company has four key product lines, each of which has a page. That for general-purpose laser marking systems is bookmarked into four sections but I think it would have been better to have a separate page for each one because the sheer length of it is daunting. Happily, the numerous photographs on it are thumbnailed and a click on them allows you to view them at full size. The other three product lines -- wafer marking systems, laser label markers and microwelders ­ are all on reasonably-sized pages. These four pages give only a summary of each product and this left me a little thirsty for more technical specifications. There is a comprehensive section for the applications to which the company's products may be put. A number of pages on laser technology provide a good background for the layman. Details of training courses are also offered. Perhaps one slightly weak point is that contact points for sales are offered only for the USA but there is a link to their parent company, Baasel Lasertech in Germany, for sales in other countries. As the two companies have an overlapping product line, this may leave the way open for some restrictions in the offer, depending on the group policy. On the whole, this is not a bad site but I would have liked more detail.

Crossing the North American continent to California takes us to B & G International ( . This company claims to be the leader in decapsulators, although it also offers X-ray systems and mechanical testers. I did not rave about the design of the home page. It consists of a small photograph of each of the products, hyperlinking to the page devoted to the product in question. This was rather heavy and tended to lengthy downloading, just on the limit of supportable for a 56kbs phone-line modem with a good connection, but decidedly out for anyone with a slow system. It would appear that this site has been written from scratch, using HTML, rather than with a WYSIWYG editor or, at least, manually edited to eliminate the superfluousness that many editors force upon the unsuspecting user. As with the last company, the site did offer the full company coordinates on the home page. Navigation is from five buttons which appear non-interactively on all pages. The typeface on the products pages is too small and requires one to either squint or, if the browser supports it, to replace it with a larger font. This may be slightly worse with a Netscape browser than with an MS Internet Explorer, for some reason. However, it may have been done deliberately as the text is limited in width to 600 pixels, presumably to offer consistent appearance when viewed at any resolution. For those with high-resolution screens, it means that all the text is on the left side of the screen and the right side is just white. However, there are reasonable quantities of data available for each product, certainly sufficient for a preliminary short-listing. What is slightly off-putting is that clicking on the menu button "Technical bulletins" produces a page listing about 30 bulletin numbers and a very terse title for each. Unfortunately, these are not hyperlinked to a page, so they must be ordered by e-mail and, presumably, delivered by snail mail. The problem is to know which ones to order. For example, can anyone know what Alphabet Soup offers? (Yes, honest, guv, this is a bulletin title!) The page appearance across the site is fairly consistent but there are minor differences in colour and layout. These are so small that I wondered whether they were deliberate or accidental, but they do catch the eye.

The third letter of the alphabet led me to C-Mac Industries Inc., over the border into Montreal ( The home page downloaded surprisingly fast, considering how heavy it is on graphics and a modest two frames. Without being too dogmatic, this may be due to its being generated on a Mac computer, using Adobe Page Mill, which may be less profligate in code than some of the Windows systems. Notwithstanding, it is still a little heavy in graphics. Unfortunately, the legibility is compromised by a background with "faded" photographs of assemblies, which are simply too obtrusive. If the company Webmaster should happen to see these lines, may I suggest he fades these photos down to one-third of their current density and makes them a little less fussy? Again, the company has put its address and phone numbers on the home page, bravo! It claims to be a "A global supplier of advanced electronic products and services". What do these noble words mean? In reality, they are essentially a super-scale jobbing shop, providing subcontracting facilities to their clientele, with plants in various countries. This offers more than this simple description, because they can offer all sorts of components, as well as the microcircuits, MCMs, COBs, PCBs, conventional assemblies or what have you? They also offer connectors, quartz crystals, mechanical components, right up to a finished "black box", as well as design services. In fact, their offer is so vast, one wonders what C-Mac cannot do. This wide range of services from tens of plants in several countries makes it very difficult to offer more than a brief outline of what the group can offer. In order to circumvent this problem, links to divisional Web sites are offered. For the purposes of this review, I did not follow these because my interest was in the headquarters company. I see this as the best solution to avoid a complex web, impossible to navigate. As it is, navigation is reasonably intuitive. Communications are good, with the coordinates and contact names of all the sales offices within the company easily accessible. However, if the company has selling points through third parties in other countries, it would be useful to add these.

If you want to know the address of Data2 Inc, do not look at their home page ( It is equally useless to look in the page "Introducing Data2". I did find it or rather, them, on the page describing their "Mission statement". Data2 is a company producing bar code labels for specialised applications as well as run-of-the-mill ones. The home page (Figure 1) is wonderfully fast-loading, totalling only about 12kb, no frames, no obtrusive or large graphics. The design may not please everybody, being rather stark, but it is effective. The other pages are similar in style, providing a good consistency. Navigation from the home page is by direct hyperlinks to the daughter pages. I was very intrigued by one entitled Bees 'n Barcodes (with a useful warning that there is a large image to download). This is a fascinating page, if outside the topic of this journal, describing how individual bees can be clocked in and out of the hive. I homed in on a sub-page entitled "Electronics", thinking this would be where I would find how barcodes are applied in our industry. Not a bit of it! The page contained just a host of testimonials. Much more useful was the page called "Harsh environment performers" which described the panoply of media to support, well, yes, harsh environments, be they temperature, humidity, chemicals or whatever. This will be of interest to anyone interested in something that you could stick on a bare board which is subsequently fluxed, wave soldered, cleaned in goodness knows what, dried, baked and so on. It will still be there and still be readable. More in the realm of microelectronics is a page with the laconic title "Small barcodes". Unfortunately, the only clue as to the size of how small they really are is in a photograph of one stuck on a 1998 one US cent piece. The code is square and the side length is about the same as a "9" in the date ­ my guess a tad over 1 × 1mm, certainly small enough to find a place on a hybrid circuit or a wafer. I do criticise this site on communications, though. Apart from an e-mail address and phone/fax numbers, there are few invitations to contact individuals on a technical or commercial basis. This is a simple site but with some room for improvement.

Figure 1Home page of Data2 Web site

EB Industries Inc., in NY State, on the other hand is the antithesis of the last one ( Quite frankly, it is a site which will drive the prospective customer away. Most of the text on the home page is a dark red on a black background, almost totally illegible. It also bears a 20 kilobyte photograph of the staff standing outside the factory. Does this really enhance the appearance of the page? All the other pages have a black background, as well, although some of the text is a somewhat more legible white, interspersed with the illegible red. When will Webmasters learn that it is impossible to print out such pages easily with some browsers? Some of the pages are over 100kb long, with consequently long downloading times. The use of thumbnail photographs would have improved this feature. In common with B & G International, the text is limited to a given width, in this case 580 pixels, with a font size which is too small for easy reading in many browsers, without manually adjusting it. This does not improve the already-poor legibility from an unfortunate colour choice. The site seems to be a modified Microsoft FrontPage design, happily without many of the special features of FrontPage: in fact, some of the usual FP add-ons have been removed. Navigation is straightforward with on-page menus. Communications are good with full address on the home page, the possibility of e-mailing and an enquiry form. I would have liked to see the names of individuals who could be asked for with regard to specific services. What services does this company offer? This can best be answered by a cut and paste quotation from their site:

EB Industries provides subcontract (job shop) Electron Beam and Laser Beam welding services. As a one stop shop, all necessary tool design and fabrication, inspection, non destructive testing can be provided by EBI.

Table I

Home Other
page pages Downloading
URL design design time Navigation Communications Information Legibility 6 6 6 7 8 6 8 4 6 5 8 9 8 6 5 5 6 7 9 6 5 7 7 10 6 4 5 10 1 1 4 6 7 8 1

From the technical standpoint, this site is reasonably complete for information that the prospect may require, especially for hermetic sealing and testing of assemblies. The engineering and quality control aspects are also well evoked.

Table I gives a subjective appreciation of the merits of each of the sites that I have reviewed, on a scale of 0 to 10.

Brian EllisMosfiloti, Cyprus

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