Search Engine Strategies

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1 Search Engine Strategies Fundamental Steps to Ensure Success Advertising... Web Development... Lead Management... Sales Support...

2 Search Engine Strategies Overview of the Search Engine Environment Search engine placement and optimization has been one of the most rapidly changing landscapes on the internet over time. Search engines attempt to catalog the whole web and find ways to help people sift through all of that content and find good information. Over time these efforts have evolved from some very simplistic and well understood methods to very sophisticated, constantly changing and secret techniques. The evolution has in some measure been a war between two competing groups. The search engines themselves are intent on finding the best possible way to provide content that is the most relevant to a person s search. In the meantime, each and every company and web masters out there is intent on getting themselves listed at the top of every search that is even remotely related to what they do. The reason for this is simple search engines generate traffic, and traffic generates business. Over time the conflict of goals between these two groups has resulted in a cycle of web masters adapting to find the best ways to get listed at the top while the search engines struggle to identify and avoid that type of manipulation of their results. Early on, search engines were very straightforward. They did things like count the number of times that a particular keyword appeared in a page. Those with the highest counts won. This simplicity led to a period where web masters looked for ways to spam key words into their sites to get ranked higher while search engines looked for ways to identify pages that were spamming key words and demoted their rank, de-listed them, or black balled them permanently. Common old-style techniques were based around finding places to stuff key words that would improve your ranking, but not make the page look terrible to the visitors. People began cramming key words into: 1. Title tags 2. Meta tags for keywords 3. Meta tags for the page descriptions 4. Comment tags 5. Image alt tags 6. Color on color text (white text on a white background for example) 7. Fine print text (point sizes almost too small for a person to read) The search engines became aware of these techniques, and began doing things like: 1. Demoting pages for excessive repetition of the same key words 2. Ignoring the contents of comment tags 3. Black balling pages for color on color or fine print text 4. Ignoring meta tags 5. Ignoring multiple pages with similar content Page 2

3 6. De-listing sites that constantly re-submitted themselves while searching for the perfect page content to capture the #1 spot 7. Enhancing their ranking techniques and algorithms to take into account a. How often a page is clicked on by someone doing a search b. How many other sites around the web link to site being ranked c. Key word density spread evenly throughout the page and only at a density that reasonably represents real content rather than keyword spammed content d. Lending different emphasis to text formatted like headings and/or linked versus normal text All of this developed as the result of the conflict between the need for the search engines to provide only the most relevant content at the top of their searches and the desire of the web masters to get their site listed at the top regardless of whether someone else had more relevant content. Search engines live and die by their ability to provide the most relevant content possible. The more their techniques can provide the most relevant content, the more popular they become. The easier it is for web masters to manipulate where their site ranks in the search engine, the less likely it is that the searches will turn up the most relevant content. Over time the search engine of choice for the majority has changed several times. Yahoo, Lycos, Alta Vista, Google each of these has had varying degrees of popularity based on how well they have kept up with cataloging the web and on how relevant their search results have been. This clear shift in popularity is the best demonstration of how important it is to the search engines to produce relevant results. And it illustrates the lengths to which search engines will go in order to produce relevant search results and reduce the ability of individual web sites to manipulate their content to gain relevance through optimization techniques rather than through legitimately providing content. As all of these changes have occurred various consultants have appeared who have made it their business to follow these trends in order to provide the most current advice on manipulating the search engines. There were even many who offered to guarantee you top-10 or top-20 placement. Millions of web pages can show up for any given search. Out of those millions, many are legitimate companies that are willing to pay for top ranking. If 700 companies all sign up with consultants who will guarantee them a top- 10 spot, not everyone will get into the top-10. What Still Works Today, the search engine algorithms and techniques have progressed to the point where they re very hard to fool and the exact nature of how they work is unknown to anyone outside the search engines. People make guesses all of the time, but basically they don t know with any certainty how it all works. Most if not all of the companies that guaranteed placement are out of business, and the old techniques for optimizing pages don t work at best and can actually hurt your listings. Page 3

4 Search engine placement isn t hopeless, though. There are things you can do to increase your appeal to search engines. The big thing to remember, though, is this: There are no silver bullets. The days of exploiting the search engines and controlling how they list you are gone. Even if you could discover some new way to exploit their methods, it wouldn t be long before they found out what was happening, changed the system, and possibly black listed the offending sites. The best long-term paradigm for search engine placement involves understanding what the search engines are after, and evolving your site to fulfill their needs. The closer you can align your site with what they re looking for the more likely you are to rise to the top and the less likely it is that the rug will get pulled out from under you on whatever new exploit you used. Search engines are looking for pages that: 1. Have information filled content 2. Relate directly to the search being done 3. Will best fulfill the needs of the people searching 4. Is a popular link destination from other related sites 5. Gets clicked on often in the searches it turns up under The following steps can be taken to reach the above goals: 1. Research the best key words by search frequency and applicability 2. Get your key words into your content early prominently and reasonably often (but not artificially often) 3. Specifically submit heavy content sub-pages in the site 4. Where possible, create some simplified pages that focus more on text than navigation 5. Develop and aggressively pursue a link exchange program 6. Consider sponsored links on the search engines 7. Evolve and grow your site on a continual basis to add content that is highly relevant to searches that you re targeting for high placement Research the best key words by search frequency and applicability In order to target the best and most effective keywords you need to do two things: 1. Find key words that are searched often 2. Only select key words that are specific enough that you re sure that the majority of people searching on these words are looking for a site like yours Often the wrong key words get focused on and forces your site to compete far more sites than is necessary. Not only that, but you end up competing for people who may be searching for something completely different than your service. This is poor targeting. As an example, let s say you re a company who makes OEM electric motors of a very specific sort, but you decide you d like to be listed under motors when people search. Page 4

5 If you look at the statistics for searches involving the word motor, here are the top searches: ebay motor department of motor vehicle general motor ford motor company boat motor motor home california department of motor vehicle motor bike motor nissan motor motor trend ford motor credit motor scooter ford motor These people are not looking for OEM electric motors. The number of pages you must compete with is much higher with this term than it needs to be, and your site content is probably not anything like what it would need to be to come up high in the rankings on this term. It would be far better to target something specific like brushless DC motors : 932 brushless dc motor 338 brushless dc motor torque 162 brushless dc frameless manufacturer motor 83 brushless dc motor controller 43 brushless dc dc motor motor 42 brushless dc design motor 37 brushless dc motor control 33 brushless dc motor vibration 31 brushless dc field motor rotor 30 brushless dc generator motor 25 brushless dc motor theory Tools like this can help you determine which specific key word searches are done frequently but still apply specifically to your business. Put the key words in early, prominently and reasonably often Review your copy for the usage of the key words you identify as good targets. Often you ll find that the copy through out your site doesn t mention it very often. There s frequently room for improvement. Try to put the key word into page titles and first paragraphs and throughout the copy. Be careful not to spam the key word. The purpose of this review is to mention the key words frequently enough to establish the Page 5

6 relevance of your content. Spamming the key word into awkward places or onto pages that are not actually relevant to the word will only end up hurting your listings. Specifically submit heavy content sub-pages in the site Search engines will sometimes miss key pages on the interior of your site. Often there are pages a few clicks down into your site that provide the kind of relevant and interesting content that search engines want. Making sure these pages are in the search engine databases by submitting them separately can be a good move. You should not submit too many pages from your site all at once, or this will be considered spamming and may hurt your listing. Create some simplified pages that focus more on text than navigation Having the key words appear earlier in the page helps then achieve better relevance. Sometimes the highest listed pages are those with the simplest layouts and looks. This is a difficult fact to deal with because you have two competing issues. On the one hand, an extremely simple layout that doesn t use tons of graphics and tables will help boost the relevance rating of your content. However, it will at the same time make a pretty unattractive page, and that can hurt your credibility with site visitors. The better thing to do might be to find some excuses to create very stripped down pages that cover the content. This can sometimes be done with pop-up pages. This technique is hard to work in naturally and does not guarantee any specific result, but it may be worth trying. Develop and aggressively pursue a link exchange program Search engines now use the popularity of sites as a linked destination from other sites as a measure of the importance of the content of a site. Sites that are good enough to be referred to by many other sites are presumed to be more valuable content. Asking your reps, suppliers, distributors and anyone else with a related web site to link to your site can have positive effects. Evolve your site continually The best way to get listed as relevant content for searches is to make pages that ARE relevant. The richer in information your site becomes, the more relevant it will seem, the more people will link to it, the more searchers will click on your site and the higher your ranking will go. Providing what the searches and search engines are looking for good solid information on the topic will ultimately pay the best dividends. Consider sponsored links on the search engines One of the things about improving your search engine listings is that it s a slow process. Every change you make takes a while to permeate through the search engine databases and most changes provide incremental improvements rather than big win changes. Many of the things mentioned here, like evolving content and link exchange programs simply Page 6

7 take time to build up to effective levels. But there s often a demand for immediate results, and there is a way to get them. You get what you pay for. Almost every search engine out there now offers the ability to sponsor search-specific links. What this means is that usually on the top and bottom of each search results page, and sometimes on the sides sponsored links will appear that contain sites with content relevant to your search, but who have paid to show up right on the first page of your search results. They usually are labeled as sponsored links so you can tell what is a paid link and what links the search engine has determined are relevant. The fees for these programs are usually based on competitive bids for listings where you pay on a per-click-through basis. Thus if you and your competitor both wanted the top sponsored link slot, if your competitor was willing to pay $1 for every click through you would have to out bid them to take the top spot. Sponsored links only cost you when people click through, and they can be placed only on search result pages that seem likely to produce qualified prospects. Often no single key word will produce significant traffic. To handle this type of advertising effectively you need to develop a portfolio of key words and bids and seek to generate traffic from a combination of many search terms. In Conclusion Optimizing your web site and online presence for high placement in key search engines is more important than ever, and the process has never been fairer or better defined. To ensure search engine results over the long term, your site needs to align your interests with the interests of both the search engines and the people using them. Fundamental actions you can take with respect to content, layout, industry relevancy and submission is the best way to achieve high placement for the search terms most used for your products and business. Executing these activities on a regular basis is important, and is most beneficial when executed by a firm that is knowledgeable about your products/services, is experienced in effectively communicating your marketing message and has expertise in working with and understanding the intricacies of the internet and search engines. Page 7

8 About MarketSense MarketSense is an Advertising, Web Development, Lead Management and Sales Support services firm. Our experience in each area ensures integrated and cost-effective solutions uniquely targeted to your needs with each service strengthened by the perspective of the others. Capabilities include: Advertising Strategic Positioning and Brand Development Collateral and Sales Support Direct and Database Marketing Space Advertising Public Relations Trade Show Support Media Research and Planning Channel and Internal Communications Web Development Custom Application Development Interface Design & Information Architecture Software Implementation Security and Firewall Network Consulting Search Engine Optimization Project Management Lead Management Marketing Source Identification Data Capture Literature Fulfillment Lead Qualification Lead Assignment & Distribution Sales Follow-Up Tracking Sales & Marketing Management Reporting Prospect Database Building Sales Territory Maintenance Sales Support Database Consolidation/Cleanup/ Maintenance Telemarketing Bulk Literature & Product Fulfillment Letter lasering and lettershop 681 Commerce Street Burr Ridge, IL

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