Continued from page 1
Links From Other Sites. In good old days (a year or two ago), it was sufficient to add keywords in a few places on your web pages, submit them to search engines and voila, top listings. However, with explosive growth of World Wide Web in recent years, search engines have become much more smarter in figuring out which search results would best satisfy a particular query. One criterion that is currently very important is number of other websites that have links to yours. From perspective of a search engine, lots of links coming into your site make your site more important, and therefore more likely to provide information needed by searcher. Why would another website want to link to yours? The best reason is that your website content is so outstanding that other sites will link to yours as a service to their visitors. But, this is not as easy as it sounds, since there are so many sites out there, many with dozens (sometimes hundreds) of pages of useful information.
A commonly used method of increasing links to your site is to offer to swap links with another site. This is known as a "link exchange." It takes a bit of work, but is generally quickest route to improved search engine listings.
Search Engine Submission. After all above has been completed, it is time to for your web pages to be submitted to search engines. Although there are numerous submission firms that claim to be able to submit your site to "thousands" of search engines, there are only a few engines that actually matter, such as Yahoo, Google, MSN Search and AOL (not an exhaustive list). After working hard to get your website designed, built and optimized...now you wait. It generally takes 6 - 10 weeks after submission for results to start to be seen. And it is vital to understand that your position in search engine listings is dynamic. There are other websites also using these techniques to improve their position, and there is absolutely no way to guarantee a particular position in listings, or how long your site will stay at that position. Even so, difference these steps can make for your site's visibility makes it a worthwhile investment.
If you want immediate placement on search engines, plus a better measure of control over your listing's position, you should consider pay-per-click, or sponsored, listings. If you do a search on any major search engine you will see listings at top or along side of page that have notation "sponsored listing." They may also be set apart with a colored background, which is case on Google.
These listings are really paid advertisements. The way they work is a bidding system. You, advertiser, bid on search terms for which you want your listings to be displayed. The amount of your bid indicates how much you're willing to pay for a click on your link. You only pay when your listing is displayed for a particular keyword and searcher clicks on your listing to visit your site. The highest bidder gets first listing on results page, second highest bidder gets next highest listing, and so on. Bids can be as low as 10 cents, and go as high as 10 dollars or more for a really hot keyword, such as "mortgage." Quite often you can bid on very effective keywords for 25 to 50 cents.
There are advantages to pay-per-click system. The most obvious is that in just a day or two your website can be displayed at top of search engine listings. If you've invested a lot in getting your site up and running you may not want to wait 2 months for your customers to be able to find you. Also, sponsored listings are targeted to those who are really searching for information available on your site, unlike "banner ads," which you have no doubt seen on many sites. (A banner ad is more like a billboard. The advertiser pays to have it displayed regardless of whether viewers actually click on it.)
The big downside to pay-per-click listings is that you may have lots of idle visitors who are just surfing around Net and don't intend to buy. If they click on your listing, you pay, regardless of whether or not they become your customer. The business owner (you) must decide what you are willing to spend for customer acquisition.
I hope that this discussion has been helpful to you. If you are investing in a website or search engine positioning, you need to understand at least basics of game, and that is what I have hoped to achieve. It's not as complicated as it sounds ...although unfamiliar terminology in field of computers and Internet often make it seem so. Never be concerned about seeming ignorant to your web designer or other Internet service providers. Before meeting you they probably had even less understanding of your field!
Debra Bellmaine is President of Bellmaine Associates (http://www.bellmaineassociates.com), a web design & development firm providing website solutions for small and medium-size businesses. She is a software professional with broad experience creating custom business applications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, as well as various certifications, including Sun Certified Developer for the Java 2 Platform.