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It pays to study the Search Engines

By John Saxon
Posted Friday, October 22, 2004

Here we were, very complacent at the significant progress our site was making in the search engine placement stakes.

Number 3 on Excite, with a number of hits coming in, number 7 on Northern Light, no hits from there, and so on. We were starting to get a number of hits from Google and Fast and then ... we appeared on Lycos, out of the blue at Number 1, but only on one key phrase 'barnsley accountants' and when I tried 'barnsley accountant' we fell out of site (no pun intended).

What was wrong, why couldn't Lycos recognise that accountant is in the word accountants? Why was 'Business Start Up' getting nowhere on Lycos?

In order to solve the problem it was back to basics. What was it reading, what were the words highlighted in the listing? How did Lycos work. After all it is one of the major Search Engines and if they are investing all that money advertising on TV (by the way only 1% of web site hits come from 'off-line' promotion) I should piggy back this campaign and make sure we are well up on the Lycos listing.

I know, from bitter experience, that Google works on and the first paragraph or so of the , AltaVista looks at s and little else, but Lycos is a different beast. The secret lies in becoming a student of search engines - looking at them for hour after hour and trying to 'optimise' your site to reach them all without alienating any of the major ones.

Lycos seems to work on the title, however the rest of it is driven by the description that is contained in the s that we write for every page (don't we?).

I had omitted to write descriptions for most of the 603 pages on the site because I assumed that they were only for human reviewers and I wasn't too interested in them at this stage of development of our web site.

So I wrote descriptions for each page, making sure that I wrote singular 'accountant' solicitor' and plural 'accountants' and solicitors' in all the meta tags, in a particular section of the web site and submitted them to Lycos - long wait - then, there we were Barnsley Accountants, Sheffield Accountants, Doncaster Solicitors, Rotherham Marketing Services, South Yorkshire Premises ... every time our site was number one.

Admittedly we are operating on a limited search but oh, think of it! The implication is that whatever business related phrase or keyword that is typed into Lycos can be anticipated (think like the searcher thinks - not like you think) and we will be at the top of the list.

Imagine you had a yellow pages and everytime you opened it there you were - at the top of the left hand page - bold and proud - how would that affect your web site traffic.

There are 2.3 billion web sites out there right now competing for your customers and ... well you may love your site, you may be certain that you have something of significant value to offer your visitors but ... unless you study the search engines and understand them all you will have is your heart and soul in the middle of a mass of mediocrity that everyone has to plough through before they get to you.

Two other quick tips

Make your and great because some of the engines, Excite for example, will move you up the listings based on 'click throughs' in other words if you are number 5 and searchers keep clicking on your site as opposed to number 4 your site will move up, and they will move down, that's why we're at number 3 on Excite for 'Business Start Up'.

Check your spelling. the UK's number one producer of car valeting products is at number 35 on Google because their web designer can't spell 'valeting' he, or she, spells it 'veleting' - easily done but it's so common it's almost laughable - look up Barnaly, instead of Barnsley and see what I mean.

About the Author
John Saxon is a grandfather of 3 and Technical Director of Fastlink Solutions Limited. He is a Companion of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management and has 25 years experience in helping new and growth businesses develop and profit
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