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Search Engine Positioning and Optimization

By Art Hardie
Posted Monday, September 20, 2004

After creating and publishing your Web site the real challenge begins…positioning your site and building awareness so your products and services are represented properly to targeted visitors. Creating your site and making sure people can find it are two completely different projects requiring different, professional skill sets.

Search engine positioning and search engine marketing is all about visibility and is an extremely valuable component to your site’s success. Don't overlook the most cost effective means of online marketing that can provide more than 75% of the total traffic to your Web site.

Search Engine Positioning and Search Engine Marketing
A basic Web positioning strategy consists of a comprehensive search marketing program combining the advantages of both search engine positioning and search engine marketing to drive new customers to your site.

One of the primary ways in which people find Web sites is through search engines. If a Web site can be easily found by search engines, the amount of qualified traffic it receives greatly increases, thereby maximizing sales and overall business opportunities. Just like advertising agencies, PR firms and marketing firms, you should only trust experienced industry experts with your search engine positioning.

The SEO person/firm you hire should act as your "Web marketing partner" and should be available and accountable. Also, the developed online marketing and positioning strategy should compliment your company’s overall marketing focus.

Link Popularity
Web site links are the buttons and underlined text on Web pages that take you to other pages when clicked. Your site's link popularity is defined by the number of Web pages that contain links to your Web site domain (address).

Link popularity is a factor that weighs heavily with a number of major search engines. For example, Google considers link popularity an important factor in their ranking algorithm. Off-page or external factors play a major role in determining such top search engine positions. Specifically, link popularity can make or break a site's search engine ranking. If you have two sites that have equal content and equal optimization, then the site with greater link popularity will rank higher.

Search engines look at your link popularity several ways:

1. The number of hyperlinks to your Web pages.
2. The reputation or popularity of the Web sites that link to your domain.
3. The relevance of the Web sites that link to your domain.
4. The number of click-throughs and duration of sessions.

For this reason, it is not wise to shotgun blast your Web site to 300,000 search engines, directories, Free For All Pages, etc. Most all the search engine traffic is produced by the top 12 search engines. The others are mostly little traveled and can drag your Web site's relevance down. Always, submit your Web site with relevance in mind.

Search Engine Marketing and Pay-Per-Click
Search Engine Marketing is very similar to straight advertising. The expensive strategy consists of finding opportunity keywords or phrases and paying to be listed in the results for those words. Tracking software is available to track results and manage the search listings. There isn't much Web site optimization involved so you build virtually no link popularity or depth advantages. Basically, you pay for search engine traffic and after you stop paying, the traffic stops coming.

A Pay-Per-Click search engine enables you to list your site at the top of the search engine results. They are also known as Pay-Per-Ranking, Pay-Per-Placement or Pay-Per-Position search engines. Since you bid for the keyword, you assure yourself a top position on major search engines. This is how some SEO firms guarantee top 10 listings.... they simply broker with Pay-Per-Click services and buy the listing for you.

With a Pay-Per-Click search engine, you pay only when a searcher clicks on your listing and connects to your Web site. You don’t pay to list, you only pay for click-throughs.

You list your Web site by selecting keywords that refer to your products or services. For each keyword, you determine how much you’re willing to spend. The higher you bid the higher your site will appear in the search results.

Overture is the king of Pay-Per-Click search engines. Overture has a robust and well organized membership area and tracking system. You can bid for rankings and also choose the description and title you want for as many pages as you like. You can control your bids at all times and adjust them as needed to optimize results. Overture also has a handy Search Term Suggestion Tool, which shows you how often people search for a particular word or phrase. After Overture, the Pay-Per-Click engines drop off. Thousands of them exist but few are recognized along with Overture.

The potential Web traffic available using Pay-Per-Click search engines is huge, but inefficient management of your bids could result in wasted marketing expense. Be sure to closely monitor any of your company’s Pay-Per-Click campaigns to manage costs and verify a productive return on investment.

Conclusions on Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing describes the positioning and optimization used to gain prominent placement on a search results page for a company's products and services. An ideal search engine placement would be in the top 10 on a search engine results listings page.

Comprehensive search engine positioning and optimization is much more than just search engine placement. A well planned and executed strategy develops a depth building process that increases link popularity. In time, this depth building machine creates a residual traffic base that can exceed the search engine traffic.

When it comes to search engine positioning and placement, there are no guarantees. The search engines don’t even guarantee your site will be listed, let alone placed in the top rankings. There is no ultimate control over the engines and the search engine optimization success relies on inside knowledge of search engine algorithms and ranking techniques, combined with thorough performance testing of new code prior to announcement.

It is critical to understand that the most ethical and correct way to obtain top search engine placement is to become a Good Search Engine Citizen. Don't allow your search engine marketing professionals to cheat or abuse the search engines and directories in any way. Instead, they should earn your top positioning by understanding what makes a top listed Web site and constructing an information-based Web property that creates an atmosphere for viral marketing.

Search engine marketing’s ultimate goal is to leverage search positioning efforts to create residual traffic. A Web site can achieve this by investing in long term search engine positioning, maintaining consistent link popularity enhancement, and creating fresh and relevant content. Residual traffic can shield a Web property from the sudden changes that occur with the search vehicles. After all, if 20,000 Web sites linked to your Web domain, you would have less dependency on search engine traffic.

You should choose a professional SEO, with proven results and an ethical approach to working with search engines and directories. Ask your provider to define services, pricing, contracts, and reporting methods. Verify the experience and proficiency by interviewing past customers.

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