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Just how difficult is it to develop and promote a domain that will rank on page one or two of all majors?
Well...like anything, that depends upon many factors.
You can buy your way to top, of course, with pay-per-click SEs. That can get very expensive, and may well be beyond a person's budget. At moment, however, there aren't too many pay-per-click SEs. (You can expect that technique, just quietly, to grow and get more expensive.)
You can get what's called a "sponsored" listing to appear at top (or side) of page one when certain search terms are entered. That can cost, too.
A lot of sites, I'm told, resort to cloaking techniques i.e. presenting a certain page to each SE and then redirecting prospect to real page. SEs don't like that, I'm also told, and rightly so. When, f'instance, was last time you looked in your Yellow pages for a certain business, called it on 'phone and then found out that you were connected to something entirely different?
You wouldn't stand for that, nor would I. Nor would anybody. Ditto SEs regarding cloaking (although, just quietly again, I understand that there are inherent problems in exposing those who cloak).
On other hand, appropriate advertising is good - good for you and me, good for business. Too much, from same source however, is tiresome. It batters senses, sometimes to stupefaction, almost. Many sites seem to revel in that, with hundreds of doorway pages in areas you would not suspect, yet which lead you to same old stuff.
Spammers delight in that tactic, so I understand, but SEs are developing techniques to root them out. And so say all of us, right?
So, let's put aside cloaking and zillions of cloned pages...bandwidths shouldn't be burdened with bandits, right? ;-)
So...getting back to question: just how can any regular Joe or Jane develop a website that will rank high, without resorting to trick or treat tactics (or sponsored / pay-per-click payments)?
Actually, it's easier than you think - provided certain limitations are recognized and accepted:
1. Whatever you're selling, sell one product per domain name. 2. Have a domain name, if possible, that describes your product explicitly. 3. Have a TITLE for your main page that enhances and specializes your product even further. 4. Have a "killer" headline, as first sentence in BODY, that talks only to your targeted group of prospects. That headline is also META Description you must use. 5. From BODY of your sales copy, extract most significant and repeated words or phrases as Keyword META tags to use in HEAD.