In the beginning, the Web was
thought to be a great new medium that would provide a way to
sell nationally and internationally without all the
marketing infrastructure that other mediums require. However
it's turned out to require the same amount of marketing,
promotion and distribution in order to be a profitable
This article will
focus on findability and search engine ranking, two elements
of a total search engine marketing strategy. Theoretically,
everyone in the world can view your Web site and respond the
way you intend, but only if they can find it and are
stimulated to act on your offers.
The twin goals of your Web site strategy for search engine
findability and search engine ranking are getting
customers/clients to your site and then encouraging them to
respond. Accomplishing these goals is 25% art and 75%
The art we all understand: attractive, engaging,
interesting, and professional in appearance. But what is the
science of a successful site?
It begins with
strategic planning. A sure way to fail is to put less time
on promotion than on actual production. One mantra to
consider is Plan-Create-Promote-Evaluate.
I start with planning. Creation
should not proceed without a detailed plan established.
Certainly things will evolve throughout development and the
ongoing life of the site, but having a detailed plan helps
for integration of new elements and the elimination of
following analogy. Real estate agents usually don't list a
new construction home until it is built or well along in
construction. A contractor cannot build until the architect
designs the home, a design developed to meet certain
criteria or specifications. Rooms can be added on later
during construction or decades later if the initial design
was clear and flexible.
Now, who should be in charge of the Web site strategy? The
marketing and sales department is the logical choice for
overseeing the work of the Web promotion specialists. The
production team should defer at this stage to the needs of
the Web site strategic goals as established by the marketing
Second is clear navigation:
getting clients and customers around the site so they are
always oriented to the information or products that make the
site profitable. A site that navigates easily and informs
the guest clearly where they are at all times and what you
have to offer will get them around to the information and
leave them pleased not frustrated.
Let's look at just two pieces of
the overall strategy, find ability and search engine
FINDABILITY SEARCH ENGINE
Web site find
ability and search engine ranking begins with being indexed
by the major spider search engines:
Lycos, These search
engines vie for dominance for use and continually make new
liaisons and arrangements to gain that dominance. Each SE
spiders your site to index it by traveling through your
site, locating information that will be stored in their
Next, each SE evaluates
differently for inclusion in their database according to
different criteria. There is no way to create your site to
be found in the top 10 search results in all of the engines.
Before beginning a site for Sterling Road Jewelry, we
searched 9 SE's using the keyword "custom jewelry" to see
who ranked high. Evaluating the top 10 results on each of
the 9 SE's, we only found 4 sites that were in more than one
of the top 10 results. That means that out of 70+ sites,
only 4 were in more than one SE's top 10 results!
To be search
engine friendly and get ranking for your keyword phrases, it
starts with good organic structure of the pages and of your
domain. Later, there can be optimizing strategies set up to
fill in the gaps for traffic generation, but the following
are the major criteria determining search engine findability
and ranking that should be built in from the beginning.
- First, it's
the text and its structure. Your text should reflect the
keyword phrases that users would likely use in searching
for you and these keyword phrases should be placed
strategically throughout. Pages of around 300-400 words
work well and 3% of the total words should be your
keyword phrases. That's called keyword weight or
- The use of
keywords in the <title>. These words are not viewed on
the actual site, but they are seen at the top of your
Browser screen. After text, the <title> is the first
place most SE's evaluate. The Online Web Training
site is a good example of a high findability title,
description and keyword tag:
<title>Search engine marketing training programs by the
Web site optimization experts!</title>
Note that the company name does not appear. There isn't
high recognition so few would search for their name. A
high recognition company name might be included.
possible, a short descriptive sentence should be at the
top of your page. This descriptive sentence should have
your keyword phrase in a simple sentence. Use only those
words that searchers might use and eliminate as many
adjectives and other descriptive words that are not
keywords. This should also be a Header tag <H1> not a
font tag <FONT SIZE="4">.
<h4>Online Web Training offers search engine placement
online training workshops to improve search engine
ranking and website findability leading to a success
- Meta Tags
are used by some SE's, but not all. Meta tags should be
just a magnifying glass trained on the keyword phrases
of your text.
<meta name="description" content="search engine
marketing training programs will solve your search
engine optimization woes by helping you learn how to
drive traffic to your web site.">
<meta name="keywords" content="search engine marketing
training, search engine optimization training, web site
Different Meta Tags should be used on subsequent pages,
whatever keywords you are targeting for each page.
By using different keywords in the title and Meta tags
on subsequent pages, you can weight different pages for
findability for different keyword phrases. If you use
too many keywords on your home page, the most important
keywords related to the total number you use is reduced
and your relevance is reduced. Be aware also that SE's
will bump you if they find that you are spamming by
repeatedly using the same keywords to get a high
ranking. So do not insert "search engine
marketing, search engine marketing, search engine
- Have links
to all your other pages on the Home page and on every
other page of your site if possible. This ensures that
the SE robot gets to all the other pages and considers
what you have provided for them to determine your
- Popularity has become an
essential element to good ranking. Popularity has to do
with quality links pointing to your site from other
sites. These links indicate to the SE that others
consider you important enough to link to, so the SE may
consider you an important site for the content area they
are indexing. This means that you should have as many
links to your site as possible that are part of the
theme of your page and of your site. SE's also note the
popularity and the theme appropriateness of the pages
that are linking to you.
The above are important
variables, but there are other things that can be included
in the structure of the site to push up your search engine
rankings. The average Web developer or talented
graphics/production team in your company will usually not
have the training and marketing expertise to do this crucial
first-level strategic planning. Make sure you use a Web
development company who will strategize from the beginning
with you on your findability and ranking . Or, hire a Web
marketing/promotion specialist to work with you and your
Now, what about the submission
process? Search engine findability and ranking requires some
initial submissions of the site to the search engines.
Some SE's will
index your whole site from your Home Page (index.html),
while others need you to submit every page you want them to
index. This process can be done by automatic submissions
programs like Web Position Gold. But, some SE's don't
recognize these automatic programs. We have found that
submissions have a better guarantee of being accepted if you
take the time to submit individually to each search engine.
Or by using Position
Technologies. They have a spam free process and are
respected by the search engines.
Another strategy that is
becoming more necessary is to pay for Inclusion at Inktomi,
AltaVista, AskJeeves, and AllTheWeb. For a per page fee, per
year, you can insure that your pages are indexed and kept
indexed. This has nothing to do with ranking, but it will
ensure that the search engine has at least indexed your
Apart for Inclusion, can you
submit once and then be finished with the process?
Definitely not! An ongoing evaluation of the site's
placement is essential. Even if you don't make changes to
your site, sites are being submitted by the thousands every
day, and many will be your competitors. You may be found
very high, even the top 10, on any given week and find
yourself #25 a week later. Not only will new sites be coming
out that push you down, but other Web marketing teams will
study your site and copy how you got such a high rating.
They will then try to do you even one better.
If you are serious about using
the Web to increase revenue for your company or get the
information out, you must consider doing this process
quarterly at a minimum, preferably monthly. Do the research
on your location, look at your competitors, and follow up
with modification of your site to raise placement. There are
many modifications that can be made to help your chosen
search engines recognize you as the one who fits the keyword
used in their search.
DIRECTORIES, LINKAGES AND
As important as
SE's are to findability, you must also submit the major
directories in order to have a successful site.
Look Smart are
necessary for two reasons. First, because they are
directories, many people use for finding information.
Second, a significant number of SE's use the information and
the status of your listings with these directories.
Linkages with other sites takes
time, but is a great broadcast medium for your site. Linking
strategies include: intra-site linking, linking within your
site to your other pages; inter-site linking, linking to
other sites chosen according to a predetermined criteria of
usefulness; reciprocal linking, trading links with other
sites on an equal basis; and banner linking, your banner is
found on another Web site and links to yours.
Web news releases sites,
sponsorship or banner advertising on high-traffic sites,
email marketing, and the use of newsgroups are other ways of
getting your information out.
An ongoing evaluation of your Web site's
position was mentioned earlier as another essential tool. A
good statistical package that shows where users came from
and where they went within your site is useful.
Web Trends, for
example, is a program that uses your Internet Service
Provider's server log to evaluate your site and provide an
HTML document to use on your browser.
Finally, update your site
regularly with current information or new products and
submit new pages to the search engines on a monthly basis.
Once you have been found by a user, make sure you keep them
by having something there for them to use regularly!
Lastly, don't forget to market
your site on your business cards, brochures, stationary,
voice mail, newspaper advertising, professional or trade
journals, and any other printed communication, advertising
Now, what about
the allocation of funds to finance a profitable site, if it
is truly 25% art and 75% science? For every $2.50 dollars
you spend on development and updating, spend $7.50 dollars
on findability and ongoing promotion and marketing.