A few years ago, search engine placement was arranged by your average Web designer and/or Webmaster. The Webmaster would simply submit a site to search engines manually or use rudimentary software that was widely available.
Keyword relevance was largely a matter of link popularity and the Webmaster assigning a simple keyword meta-tag to each page of your site. The system used to work reasonably well, or so it seemed. That is no longer the case.
Today, submission to the major search engines like Google is largely irrelevant, although there is a complex mix of PFI (pay for inclusion) and PFP (pay for performance, sponsored links, PPC ads) that require complex submission of details.
In today's Internet economy, sophisticated and complex programs - called spiders - surf the Web looking at the source code of Web pages. They sort through the complex web of formatting tags, programming script, multi-media, page titles, and content that the user may or may not see, to ascertain how to rank each page of your site for each and every word and word combination that it finds.
These spiders index the words of each page found and add it to the engine's database, making them available as keywords for search engine searchers. In this new environment, sophisticated software programs that analyze the various search engine algorithms and how they rank selected pages have moved to the forefront of search engine placement.
This has spawned a large industry of SEO (search engine optimisation and marketing) experts and specialist SEM firms.
What Does Keyword Based Marketing Offer?
If implemented correctly, SEO can offer a higher return on investment than nearly any other marketing strategy (online or offline). Placing high in the search engine ranking positions (SERPs) is a great way to attract first time visitors. Placement in the search engines can largely determine the "reach" of your online marketing strategy.
The stakes in this battle are being raised all the time as the number of users going online increases - which in the U.S. alone approaches 100 million - with over 60% of those users spending some 48 BILLION dollars per year for online shopping (Greenspan, 2002, cyberatlas.com).
With broadband prices in Australia falling rapidly and the rate of Internet takeup extraordinarily high, the Australian consumer is showing similar enthusiasm for online sales. Unfortunately, many potential buyers - some say as many as 70% - give up because they cannot find the good sites to shop at, because they are poorly keyword indexed or the actual site has poor navigation and design.
When any business is making plans to improve their Search Engine positions, they need to understand that optimisation of your site for the Search Engines is not a one-shot job. It requires ongoing monitoring and tweaking in order to keep ahead of both the competition AND the changes the Search Engines make to how they rank sites.
Any comprehensive Web marketing plan should:
(1) Promote your web site based on the (optimised) content of your site and knowledge of the relevant marketplace;
(2) Utilise data of how the average search engine user actually looks for information on your site - including alternative terms, synonyms, common phrasing, etc;
(3) Include internal and external link building with relevant sites and relevant keywords;
(4) Regular reporting of search engine positioning, general Internet visibility and actual visitor statistics/analytics and recommendation for improvements.
Every serious Web site owner should be on a Web marketing plan that is definitely more than just a submission or reporting service. Set a monthly budget and take action.
We've seen many of our clients benefit from the ongoing relationship we have developed with them through our web marketing plans. Plenty of page 1 rankings on Google, Yahoo, MSN are not uncommon over time, as we monitor and tweak their sites for the Search Engines.
However, in almost all cases, those clients would have never achieved and then maintained those high rankings if they had not had someone in the know keeping track of how their site is ranking, and making changes where ever needed.
It's like advertising in the Yellow Pages really. If you don't pay to have your ad included, you don't get an entry in the book, and eventually the calls to your business start to drop off as people update to the newest edition.
Search Engine Optimisation / Marketing is the same. The Internet is NOT static - it's always changing and evolving, and in order for your site to get and maintain good rankings around the keywords that are important to you, you have to keep someone on the job on a regular basis who knows how to react to the changes happening.
The Return On Investment (ROI) for good SEO/SEM services is very high, compared to traditional advertising and marketing. According to Google's statistics, Search advertising is up to 20 times CHEAPER per lead, compared to (for example) Direct Mail. For any company spending money on advertising, this statistic should be of EXTREME interest! After all, what company doesn't want to reduce their cost of customer acquisition?
That's what SEO/SEM companies are supposed to be about! Well, at least at our company, we are - I can't speak for our competitors. Before you hire an SEO/SEM company, ask what their plan is for the ongoing optimisation of your site. If they don't have a plan, run, don't walk, to the nearest exit and hang onto your money.
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Charles Ryder is the CEO of WCR Internet Marketing, a specialist Australian Search Engine Optimisation company. For a free site analysis, visit www.wcr-internet-marketing.com.au
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