Jun 9th 2007
Publicizing Your Company’s Website Using Basic Online Marketing and Search Engine Optimization Techniques
What is Search Engine Optimization? Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) is a method of marketing that attempts to generate more traffic for a particular site by increasing the rank of the site in various search engines, like Google or Yahoo. For example, when you search Google for "coconuts" the first hit, at the time this article is being written, is www.coconuts.com ( a music outlet ). Search Engine Optimization companies battle for that first hit on behalf of your site. The higher up a site appears in a search, the more currently interested potential customers will see what the company has to offer.
In the early days of the Internet, search engines based page rank on the metadata entered in the "head" portion of a Hypertext Markup Language ( HTML ) document. This information was not made visible to the website's visitors and contained a list of keywords( or meta tags ) with which the site was associated. Web designers began to take advantage of the metadata by entering large random lists of words that had nothing to do with the site's content, and before long search engines began to return unreliable and irrelevant results to frustrated searchers.
Search engines responded by designing protected algorithms that took the following elements into account when ranking pages:
- The page's title
- The website's domain name
- Subdirectories and file names
- Page headings and emphasized text elements
- How frequently the search term appears on the site itself
- If multiple search terms are entered, the proximity of those keywords to each other
- Search term appearance on site maps
These changes cut down on the ruinous effects of metadata abuse, but skilled web designers were still able to qualify their sites for unrelated searches. Search engines needed stronger algorithms to improve search result relevancy.
Google introduced a new method of returning search results called Page Rank. Page Rank analyzed websites according to how many other relevant sites linked to the site in question. Other off-page elements were incorporated into the algorithms, including probability analysis, which took into account how likely a web surfer was to land on the site by clicking through links from one site to the next. Further developments included linguistic and heuristic algorithms, and today's search engines incorporate hundreds of these various algorithms to generate relevant search results for their users. Naturally, the algorithms a particular search engine uses are often kept secret to discourage the kinds of abuse seen in the past.
What do SEO companies do to increase a website's page rank? SEO companies claim to understand the algorithms at work behind popular search engines, but the industry is highly competitive, so collaboration among companies is stifled. What most SEO companies publicly agree on are the following factors:
- The appearance of keywords in the page's title
- Keywords in the links pointing to the page from other sites
- Keywords in the text of the page itself
- The popularity of the site (in terms of other sites linking to it )
- Google's PageRank
- Keywords appearing in the H1, H2, and H3 tags on the page
- Links to inner pages on the site
- Punch Lines at the top of the page.
However, there is more to Search Engine Optimization than algorithmic analysis. Titles that grab a visitor's attention and features that encourage repeat visits to the site, like stimulating or useful content, raise a site's popularity and encourage other websites to link to it. Every company with an online presence must provide visitors with a good reason to visit the page. A site that does not provide adequate content or enticing features to its visitors will never be popular and could become an asset that returns less than it costs to maintain.
General online marketing tips and optimization techniques:
- Construction of a site must not discourage "spiders" from properly documenting the site. Spiders are documentation programs designed by search engines to automatically "crawl" the web and document websites in the search engine's database. Certain design elements on a page can block these spiders from getting to all the content. Incorporating search engine guidelines during construction ensures that spiders do not fail to fully document the entire content of a site.
- Submission of your company's website to as many search engines as possible is imperative to making sure that your site gets into their databases. If nothing else, you should submit the site to Google. If your site is new to the web and has not already been submitted to Google, submit it at www.google.com/intl/en/about.html. If you are linked to from another site in Google's database, a spider will eventually get to your site, but submission ensures that it gets documented as soon as possible.
- Banner ads have been decreasing in popularity among online advertisers. They usually appear along the top of a given page and might be Flash animated. An online company pays the site hosting it a fee to run the ad, but with the inundation of these distracting, many times annoying, ads, web surfers have begun to ignore or block them out entirely with specialized browser plug-ins. However, since banner ads are links to your site from other websites, not only will they advertise your company to that site's visitors, but they also increase the number of pages linking to your website which raises your page rank.
- Affiliate programs like Linkshare.com have celebrated growing popularity among many major Fortune 500 companies. Affiliate programs offer online businesses advertising packages on a cost-per-click, lead or sale basis. A business pays an affiliate program to run banner ads on related sites that are popular among a target demographic.
- If your company offers the cheapest rates for a given product or service, price comparison websites are another potential method of generating traffic among price-conscious leads. Price comparison sites charge a fee to list your company, but if you are not the cheapest in the industry it may not be worth the expense of listing your company's name if a cheaper alternative will appear simultaneously.
- AdWords is Google's largest revenue generator. AdWords offers a pay-per-click banner or text ad that appears when keywords you specify are searched by anyone. AdWords also has options to target ads regionally or nationally or worldwide. For more information visit http://adwords.blogspot.com/
Optimizing your site for search engines can easily become a time-consuming process, but there are a number of companies willing to optimize and submit your site to various search engines in exchange for a fee. Jason Rich, bestselling author of the Unofficial Guide to Starting a Business Online, recommends the following: