Online advertising and marketing budgets have also soared. About these, the investment required for getting traffic through search engines is much lower. However, as search engines have millions of pages in their coverage, it is important to have a proper approach to using this channel.
The art and science of understanding how search engines identify pages that are relevant to a query made by a visitor and designing marketing strategies based on this is called search engine optimization. Search engines offer the most cost effective mechanism to acquire “real” and “live” business leads.
It is found in most cases search engine optimization delivers better ROI than other forms such as online advertisements, e-mail marketing and newsletters, affiliate and pay per click advertising, and digital campaigns and promotions.
Before you begin to develop your strategy and implementation plan to optimize your website for improved page ranking, you have to reflect on what is the major objective of this initiative. Is it your objective to attract more visitors to your site or convert more persons from being a visitor to a loyal stakeholder in your business? The dot-com mania period showed a marked change in evaluating a website’s success regarding a number of eyeballs that it could collect, without taking into perspective what these eyeballs or site visits meant to the organization. That has changed by now, and most companies realize that critical to a business unit’s success is sticky visitors, loyalty and ultimately the impact this has on its bottom line.
Valuing a website regarding what advertising it can attract and sustain is no longer the benchmark or performance indicator; what is undoubtedly more important is what the site does to acquire and retain new and existing customers.
As search engines have several million pages that are available on the world-wide web, it is necessary to use specialized techniques to match your web page with the algorithms and ranking criteria that such engines use, thereby improving the chance of catching the limited attention span of the visitor.
The first step that advertisers and marketing professionals need to take to apply optimization techniques to a website is to articulate the objective and characterize the visitor, the desired visitor experience, and outcome. The optimization plan should evolve out of this.
The word optimization is by itself suggestive that the plan should balance the initiative and the budget so as to get cost effective results. If the stakes are high, it may sustain higher advertisement and paid listing options. How much would you like to spend on this exercise? If the budget is limited, the expensive options of several announcements, linking programs, directory listings will have to be forsaken and attention given to getting the best results from limited but focused efforts. The key metrics to this program is to assess the ROI it delivers marketing dollars vis-a-vis measurable benefits to the organization.
Search Engines provide you an efficient vehicle for the promotion of your website. There are no doubt other channels available. ‘Directories’ is often included in the generic term ‘search engines’ although they are distinct in their characteristics and function. Advertisements through banner displays at popular and often visited sites and “portals,” reciprocal links, affiliate links and programs that direct visitors from one site to a targeted site (with a payment associated with such arrangements) and publicity through other media are other well-known avenues of promotion. Mass email campaigns, publishing and distributing internet newsletters, ‘permission marketing’ using list servers and web-based marketing promotions including coupons and sweepstakes are other forms of online advertising. The key determinant is what value the initiative offers you in return for the investment. Metrics are somewhat harder to establish for search engine optimization compared to other direct forms of advertisement.
You would be using search engines, so you know how they work from the user perspective. From your experience as a user, you also know that only those results that list at the top of the heap are most likely to attract you. It doesn’t amuse you to know that your search yielded 44316 results. Perhaps even number 50 on your list will not get your custom or even your attention. Thus you know that getting listed on the top or as near to the top is crucial. Since most of the search engine traffic is free, you’ll usually find it worth your time to learn a few tricks to maximize the results from your time and effort.
Most of the top-ranked search engines are crawler based search engines while some may be based on human-compiled directories. The people behind the search engines want the same thing every webmaster wants – traffic to their site. Since their content is mainly linked to other locations, the thing for them to do is to make their search engine bring up the most relevant sites to the search query and to display the best of these results first.
To accomplish this, they use a complex set of rules called algorithms. When a search query is submitted to a search engine, sites are determined to be relevant or not pertinent to the search query according to these algorithms, and then ranked in the order it calculates from these algorithms to be the best matches first.
Search engines keep their algorithms secret and change them often to prevent webmasters from manipulating their databases and dominating search results. They also want to provide new sites at the top of the search results on a regular basis rather than always having the same old sites show up month after month.
A significant difference to realize is that search engines and directories are not the same. Search engines use a spider to “crawl” the web and the web sites they find, as well as submitted sites. As they crawl the web, they gather the information that is used by their algorithms to rank your site.
Directories rely on submissions from webmasters, with live humans viewing your site to determine if it will be accepted. If accepted, directories often rank sites in alphanumeric order, with paid listings sometimes on top. Some search engines also place paid listings at the top, so it’s not always possible to get a ranking in the top three or more places unless you’re willing to pay for it.
A search engine robot’s action is called spidering, as it resembles the many-legged spiders. The spider’s job is to go to a web page, read the contents, connect to any other pages on that website through links, and bring back the information. From one page it will travel to several pages, and this proliferation follows several parallel and nested paths simultaneously. Spiders frequent the site at some interval, may be a month to a few months and re-index the pages. This way any changes that may have occurred in your pages could also be reflected in the index. The spiders automatically visit your web pages and create their listings. An important aspect is to study what factors promote “deep crawl” – the depth to which the spider will go to your website from the page it first visited. Listing (submitting or registering) with a search engine is a step that could accelerate and increase the chances of that engine “spidering” your pages.
The spider’s movement across web pages stores those pages in its memory, but the key action is in indexing. The index is a huge database containing all the information brought back by the spider.
The index is constantly being updated as the spider collects more information. The entire page is not indexed, and the searching and the page-ranking algorithm are applied only to the index that has been created. Most search engines claim that they index the full visible body text of a page. In a subsequent section, we explain the key considerations to ensure that.