3/14/2007 4:08 PM
At least once a day in meetings, I am asked by a client how to get their search engine ranking to the top. I always have to take a deep internal breath and rely on an organized answer that explains the world of search engine optimization without getting too deep or too technical - yet is detailed enough to paint an accurate picture. The bottom line is as follows:
- As the web grows, so decreases the chances of consistently staying on top of the big search engines, Yahoo, Google, Ask, AllTheweb, etc. Each day thousands of websites are added to the directories and they all contain some kind of content. You can bet on any given day that someone out there has launched a web site with almost identical contet as your site and they are scammering to get to the top of the list.
- What exactly is an organic search engine ranking? This is where you fall in a search engine list after the paid and sponsor advertising placements. These listings are located below and to the left of the advertising links. The common misconception is that organic search engine rankings are free. This is not true at all. Getting a good organic search engine ranking takes time, patience and financial committment.
- How do I get a good organic search ranking? Let's look at this realistically. Company X sells widgets as does company Y. The are both in the same demographic region. They both hired a professional web developer to "META TAG" their site with good keywords and search terms and they have submitted their site to the major engine players. Lets take it a step farther and say that they have identical META TAGS and search engine optimization efforts provided by the same exact development company. The million dollar question is who shows up higher in the engine rankings? The answer is not black and white nor is the process. It is more art than science.
Organic search engine rankings in this ever growing web space is based on a formula of good search engine optimization on the part of your developer and a well blended, traditional advertising and marketing plan designed to drive traffic to your site. Traffic is the key. In the example above, the company with the most traffic to their well optimized site is going to move up quicker and achieve better results.
- How do I increase traffic to my site? In this "Catch 22" situation we explain the importance of using your website as a communication tool to existing clients as well as a marketing tool for potentially new clients. Interactive components like blogs, forums, e-newsletters, online chatboards, podcasting, video streaming, etc are all tools that will help to bring people in and keep them coming back. That increased traffic to a well optimized site is paramount is seeing those organic rankings increase.
- How do I optimize my site? The honest answer to this is to do your homework. Take a look at your competitors. Look at the source code of their sites and search for the terms, "Meta", "keywords", etc. Find out what they are putting into the code on their site to make it more search friendly. Combine that with your own due dilligence into what keywords and phrases are important to you. Have your developer enter those into the site code base or into your content management system and thus starts the process.
- What else can I do? Design is very important. Many people love drop down menus because it organizes their site. While that kind of navigation is nice, it does limit what site elements are viewable by end users, including the search siders that are sent out by the major engines. Work hard to have a good combination of the two. If you can stomach it, try top level and side level navigation on your site so that the highest number of visible pages are see when browsing.
- But I love Flash! Use Flash sparingly and only as it is relevant to your marketing elements. Flash embeds its code in no searchable elements. While new Flash parameters allow for some more searchable content, they are no substitute for good old fashioned text and graphics. Use Flash for interactive pieces and material that is not mission-critical.
- Patience! Remember always that a page ranking is not a reflection of how good you are at your service offering. It is a reflection of how optimized and how heavily visited a search engine believes it is. Knowing that allows you to have the patience for the long term impact of your overall marketing plan. Search engines rankings do not refresh on a daily basis, so it does take time to see the fruits of your labor.
- Be realistic! If your goal is that your site will appear higher than a certain other site when searched on a certain keyword then you are setting yourself and your site up for failure. It is not that black and white. Base your ROI on traffic increases, steady site engine ranking increase and statistical feedback about the keyword and phrase searches that are being conducted on your site - not simply the ranking.
- You get what you pay for! How often do we hear that. There is no clear cut way to buy your way to better rankings. Ad buys and sponsored links do increase your chances of getting keyword click throughs and hence will in the long run have an impact on your organic ranking. But dont put all of your eggs in that basket. A good mix of interactive ad buying and sponsored links coupled with offline marketing materials, e-newsletters, online surveys and coupon and savings offers, etc is the best approach for ultimate success.
- Don't take my word for it! Although we are technology professionals, it is important to do your own research into these topics. That said some take it too far and over educate. Some good links to look at are as follows: