“81 percent of internet users find the web sites they're looking for through search engines. And 54 percent of experienced online shoppers primarily rely on a search engine when trying to find a product to purchase online.” - Jupiter Communications: Consumer Survey Data
”Search engines have created more awareness for websites than all other advertising combined including banners, newspapers, television, and radio.” -IMT Strategies
”Over 80% of search engine users find what they are looking for within the first three pages. Sales leads made from keyword and phrase searches are the most qualified and have the highest purchase probability.” - Forrester Reports
An effective online marketing campaign begins with solid search engine marketing. For driving new sales to your website nothing else is as effective. Search engines have a number of advantages.
National and International audience You have people visit your site from all over the country and all over the world. There is no other method for targeting such a diverse group.
Inexpensive Cost per visitor and cost per sales it a fraction of offline print ads and lower than any other online alternative including banner ads and email.
Highly Targeted In order to find you through a search engine a searcher must enter a keyword that’s on website’s pages. They can enter your site directly to product pages. This is as targeted as you can get.
3 types of Search Engines
Spiders The search engine sends out a ‘spider’ or ‘robot’ that records all the text on your website. That text is then indexed in a database, categorized by keyword, and given a relevancy ranking. A higher relevancy ranking makes your pages appear higher when the search engine returns results to a visitor.
Main Engines – Google, Yahoo, MSN
Benefits – These are the Big Three and they cover 95% of all search engine traffic. Concentrate your efforts here and forget about the little guys.
Directories Directories have websites submitted to them for review. The best directories are reviewed by hand and disallow affiliate sites or sites with little or no content. Most directories get very little traffic but, since the included websites are reviewed for quality, the Big Three consider them a good source to find new websites. Getting listed in directories is the most common way to build link popularity.
Main Engines – Business.com, DMOZ.org, GoGuides.com, JoeAnt.com, Gimpsy.org
Benefits – While these engines don’t get a lot of traffic other search engines use their results. Spider engines like Google consider directories to have high quality content and often index the directory’s additions.
PPC – Pay-per-click search engines sell ranking by keyword in an auction format. If you want to have a high ranking you simply bid more for that particular word. These results appear at the top or side of the regular listings.
Main Engines – Yahoo Search Solutions and Google Adwords. Shopping PPCs or price comparison engines, include Shopping.com, Nextag.com, and Pricegrabber.com.
Benefits – Getting listed in a Directory or Spider engine can take weeks or months and getting a good ranking can take up to a year of trial and error. With a PPC listing you’re up and running in under a week and you can get exactly the keyword and ranking you want.
What is SEO?
SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of altering a page’s text and HTML coding to be relevant for specific, targeted keyword phrases. A keyword phrase must be present on the page in various places for that page to rank in the search engine for that particular keyword. A page may be ranked for several different keywords.
A keywords search in a search engine may product 30,000 results, but visitors rarely go beyond the first two result pages. It’s very important that you rank high enough to appear in the top 20 results. Search engines use a formula to decide which pages best fit for a particular search and therefore where your pages will rank.
Search engines look at both on-site and off-site factors when determining your page rank. SEO deals with improving the on-site factors. Building a search engine friendly site begins by choosing the right keywords to incorporate into the website. Second, you need to structure your HTML to make it inviting to the search engines so they can find your keywords. Third, create keyword rich content for the search engines to index.
SEO is an ongoing process. It may take 3-6 months to get ranked for certain keywords and then even longer to get a top 20 listing. You may have to experiment with different combinations of keywords to get the rankings your want. Also, search engines often change their relevancy formulas and you may need to adjust your website just to maintain your current rankings.
Marketers are constantly trying to fool the search engines into giving them a better ranking. Search engines constantly change their ranking formula to increase relevancy and eliminate marketers looking for shortcuts. Some of these techniques will work for a time, but rarely long term. If search engines catch you using these methods they can lower your rankings, drop your pages from their index, and in extreme cases, ban your website. Here are some of the techniques that you’ll see advertised.
Cloaking – Each search engine sends out a robot to spider your website. A cloaker records the IP address of the robot and then feeds the robot a different page than what a regular viewer sees.
Doorway pages –Also known as gateway, doorway, frame pages, or poor man’s cloaking. You create a page with very specific keyword density and submit it with a redirect to your regular site. These pages are generally very ugly and would never pass human scrutiny.
Resubmit your site every month – Once a site has been listed you do not need or want to resubmit. Repeated submissions can be considered spam and actually reduce your rankings.
Submit to 30,000 search engines for $29.99 a month – 10 search engines account for 99% of all search traffic, where are all these other engines? You’ll be listed on foreign engines, specialty engines, FFA lists, vortals, and most likely your email address will be sold to email spammers. Don’t waste your money.
Link Farms/ FFA (free-for-all) links – Every since link popularity became a factor people have tried to inflate their link numbers. What people don’t realize is that the quality of the link counts more than the quantity. Sites were set up to trade links between sites and the search engines very quickly penalized sites participating in this activity.
Your rankings in the search engines are determined by both ‘on-page’ and ‘off-page’ factors. Search engines perceive website with lots of incoming links to be ‘popular’ and deserving of higher rankings. They believe that if a lot of people have chosen to link to you then you must have a good website that other people will want to find.
Link Popularity is described by Search Engine Google like this:
“Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important."
“Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don't match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search.” Link Popularity is described by Search Engine Teoma like this:
“Instead of ranking results based upon the sites with the most links leading to them, Teoma analyzes the Web as it is organically organized—in naturally occurring communities that are about or related to the same subject—to determine which sites are most relevant. To determine the authority—and thus the overall quality and relevance—of a site's content, Teoma uses Subject-Specific PopularitySM ranks a site based on the number of same-subject pages that reference it, not just general popularity.
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Good Link Popularity
Links are judged by their theme, page rank, and popularity. That means that you want links from website within your industry, that rank well themselves, and are considered popular for your industry.
Industry Websites/Associations/Magazines – Find out if any organizations or business groups that you belong to offers links to its members. This is an excellent source of links within your theme.
Vendors – Ask all you vendors to link to your website. They may already have a page that let’s people find resellers in their area.
Directories – Human reviewed directories are often spidered by other search engines as a source of high quality links. Paid directories like Business.com, JoeAnt.com, and Gimpsy.org are often indexed by Google and others. Costs range anywhere from $20 -$100 per submission. This has become standard practice for all link building programs.
Press Releases – If you plan on doing offline press releases, plan on using online as well. Beyond their branding and advertising value, sites that pick up the release will provide a link back to your website. Be sure to use the name and URL of the website somewhere in the article to insure a link. Press release links are generally temporary, but these sites do get re-indexed almost daily by the search engines to keep content up-to-date.
Online Articles – There are thousands of websites that offer newsletters and articles to there visitors. They are always looking for new writers to provide content. By submitting articles you are setting yourself up as an expert, providing good information, and creating a link that search engines and people will follow. All the articles will have a small bio at the end with a link to your website.
Content link – The best links are from other websites who feel that your content is worth sharing with other people. If you have good information about your topic then people will link to you as a reference. Not only will you increase link popularity but you’ll have a good chance of attracting people interested in your products.
Reciprocal Links – Reciprocal links used to be the best way to build up link popularity. Recently however, they have been demoted due to reciprocal link campaigns that involved hundreds of websites, but none of which were relevant to each other. It’s much harder to get links to quality websites because webmasters have been inundated with requests.
With that said, if you have relationships with other website owners you should definitely set up links to each other. Not only are you building link popularity but you may pass visitors on to people who deserve the business.
Link Popularity Programs generally focus on quality or quantity, but not both. Quality link building can be a time consuming process. Why would someone want to link to your website? It’s probably a small pool of people that already know you and realize your value. Large quantities of low-value links are easier to come by. There are two popular methods.
Free Directories – There are hundreds of free directories that let anyone add their URL to their website. Software allows anyone to create their own directory or dozens of directories for a specific industry. Links are then put on those directories pointing to the client’s website. Many of these directories are created by the marketers themselves so they fit the clients ‘theme’.
Links from unknown websites – Marketers will ‘crawl’ the internet looking for email addresses. They then send out offers of reciprocal links. They often offer 10 incoming links for 1 outbound. The incoming links will come from the marketer’s link farms and will do them little good.
You’ll need to create a link page on your website where you can put other people’s links as well as provide information for other people to link to your website. You’ll want to provide them with a variety of graphic and text links that they can put on their website. It’s best to supply them with HTML code that they can simply cut-and-paste.
Pay-Per-Click (also known as Pay-Per-Placement or Pay-Per-Performance) search engines sell ranking by keyword in an auction format. If you want to have a high ranking you simply bid more for that particular word. These results appear as Sponsored Listings at the top or side of the regular listings. Whenever someone clicks on your link you get charged.
The advantage is you can get the exact ranking you want for the exact keyword you want all in about 24 hours. Traditional SEO can take months to take effect and even then can not guarantee specific keywords. PPC ensures you are found for your most important keywords and helps to deliver a steady stream of traffic to your website.
The main disadvantage is cost. Most search engines only display the top 3 or 4 positions, so those rankings are very competitive. Costs can range anywhere from $0.10 to $10 or more per keyword. Keyword choice and careful monitoring are very important to maintain a positive return-on-investment (ROI).
Just like picking keywords for SEO, you need to carefully select keywords for your PPC campaign. More generally keywords are more expensive and will result in higher clicks, but generally lower ROI. Niche keywords have a lower price and lower traffic but generally a higher ROI. It’s important to track your results and to find a balance.
Right now there are two main PPCs, Yahoo Search Solutions and Google Adwords. Many other search engines use their search results to augment their own listings. MSN currently uses Yahoo Search Solutions results for their paid listings but are expected to roll out their own PPC in the near future.
Shopping PPCs General PPC listings appear in the major search engines like Yahoo, Google, and MSN. Shopping PPCs or Price Comparison Engines have their own websites. People come to these websites to compare products and pricing. They collect data from websites about products through a datafeed which supplies photos, descriptions, and pricing. Visitors can then comparison shop before going to the individual websites. While these engines produce fewer clicks than regular PPCs, visitors from these sites are already pre-qualified themselves and generally result in more sales.
Shopping PPCs also buy ads from the regular PPCs. There product listing commonly appear in paid and regular search engine listings. Here are a few of the biggest.
Shopping.com / Dealtime.com
Shopzilla.com / Bizrate.com
More and more people are choosing the internet as their first choice to look for local businesses. Go to Yahoo Local and type in ‘pizza’ along with your address and you’ll have all the pizza restaurants within a 10 miles radius of your address. There isn’t an offline medium that offers that kind of power and convenience.
This is why in the past year, the search engines like Yahoo, MSN, and Google have spent large amounts of money to improve their search functions for local markets. All the major yellow pages are now online to capture visitors. Most will sell you a package of online features along with your offline ad. Online ads have a number of advantages
Generate highly qualified leads and sales from local customers.
Boost local offline sales - an increasing number of people search the web for products and services they buy in an offline store.
Low cost per lead compared to print Yellow Pages and Direct Mail.
Links directly to your company website. This allows the customer to immediately come to your website for more information on your products and services.
Local search engine marketing uses the same techniques as outlined above but targeted at a specific geographic region. You will include local keywords on your website by state, city, county or by region, like the Rocky Mountain, the Pacific Northwest or New England. PPC engines like Google actually let you select regions where your ads will appear. That way you don’t have people from Texas clicking on your ads for services only available in New York.
Targeted local search will save you money and effort. You won’t have to compete with national chains or people in other regions. You’ll have lower traffic but warmer leads as people self qualify by their location.
Internet Yellow Pages Advertising
Internet Yellow Page Directories are online versions of traditional printed yellow pages. They contain local business listings and advertising. Many yellow page listings are appearing near the top of the rankings within the organic search results at Yahoo and Google for local keyword searches. The major Internet yellow page directories provide a cost effective solution to businesses seeking to attract local customers via the Web.
Each market has its own directories but here are the major players with national coverage.
Blue Avenue Design can help you manage your online promotions. As an industry, internet marketing is less than 10 years old, and is very fluid. You need to understand and adapt your marketing as changes arise. A comprehensive online marketing campaign can drive a lot of qualified traffic to your website and determine whether the internet is a profitable marketing channel for you.
Visitor Tracking How many people are visiting your site? Which pages are they looking at? What keywords did they use to find you? These are the questions we can answer with visitor tracking. Most importantly, visitor tracking records the referring website so you know where your visitors came from and if your marketing dollars are producing results.
My web hosting packages include basic visitor reports based on server records. For low volume, non-commerce sites this is fine. For eCommerce sites I recommend that you use software based visitor tracking. Code inserted on every page of the website updates a cookie written to the visitor’s computer that allows us to track them as they move through the website. Software based tracking also allows us to follow visitors from ads. We can track a visitor from a paid ad, to the site, and all way through the shopping cart. You can then determine how much revenue each ad produced.
Website Updates & Maintenance
Your business isn't static and your website shouldn’t be either. You want to add new products, change descriptions, add features, and generally improve as time goes by. Monitoring, maintaining, improving your website is an ongoing process. After your website is complete, Blue Avenue Design can continue to maintain your website and manage your online promotions.
Every month I can provide you with an Executive Summary telling you how your website is doing. Are more people coming to the site? Is the new marketing effective? Are people finding the new products? I give you an easy-to-use ROI report that has all the relevant numbers as well as keep you up-to-date on search engine news that can affect you.