Thursday, January 13, 2005

Know Your Website by Steve Plunkett

M/C/C Technique - Search Engine Optimization - Steve Plunkett

When you search online for your company name or your trademarked products, are you at the top of the search engines? On the first page? On the second page?

Are those $0.50 per click visitors to your site looking to purchase or just looking?

Is having the top listing for a particular keyword on Pay Per Click Advertising the best thing you can do for your website?

Internet marketing involves more than just building a website. It requires building a great website using qualified keywords and phrases as part of your website copy. It also means using elements within your website to boost your rankings in search results without using unethical strategies or techniques such as cloaking, hidden keywords or multiple pages with no unique content.

Making changes to your website to alter your search result placement is known as organic search engine optimization (SEO). However, making changes to your website without the proper research is a time-consuming activity and some changes even may be detrimental to your ranking or listing.

A comprehensive study of your website's history – what has and has not been done – should dictate the direction of your Internet marketing efforts. If you were lucky, that history includes your website’s submission to Yahoo! back in 1996. That means you have seniority, and you also avoided the $299 fee to have your site listed. Regardless, you need to find out if the current description of your website in Yahoo! accurately portrays what your company does today. In addition, you’ll want to consider professionally submitting your website to the major search engines, and you’ll need to know if there is something that isn’t “search engine friendly” in the actual HTML of your website.

It’s also important to understand how competitive your business channel is. Are you one of only 13 vendors that supply a really neat device, or are there 1,500 suppliers that could be viewed as competition by a potential customer that has not yet learned the difference? Trying to drive prospects to your website with Pay Per Click (PPC) could be cost-prohibitive for these types of situations – especially when you consider that 80 percent of Internet users skip over PPC advertising unless they recognize the brand and the web address.

Organic SEO, on the other hand, might be very effective. If you and six other companies, out of the 1,500, are using organic SEO on your websites, that would narrow your search engine placement from among 1,500 to just seven, which improves your chances of driving potential customers to your site.

To make organic SEO effective, you should conduct research on what your potential customers are looking for when they go searching. You need to know the common words or phrases used in describing your product(s), and you need to think about whether or not your product/service is transparent enough to have only one search engine result. You also should be sure that when someone types in your particular company name, technology trademark or service mark, they find you. By analyzing your current website traffic, you can determine how people are finding you now and, if necessary, change how they find you in the future.

Internet marketing is one of the best measurable forms of advertising. It can help you know what people searched for to find your website, what pages they clicked on and how they moved around on the website. You can know how long they stayed on each page and where they exited. Based on the referrals from the search engines and the exact time that they contacted you, it can also be determined which search engine and which keywords or key phrases led them to contact you. In addition, when you make changes to your website, traffic analysis can tell you what worked and what did not. Combined with e-mail marketing, traffic analysis can tell you how long it took them to read the e-mail you sent them, what time they clicked on the link and how long they stayed there.

All of these factors should be considered prior to the development of your Internet marketing plan. Ultimately, understanding your website’s history and the way potential customers search for your website can help you determine if PPC is right for your SEO plan or if you should just start with a few keyword changes in your HTML.