Successful web site promotion for Small Business - 3
The second major category in your 'web site promotion for small business' toolbox is the search engines. Let's take a look at the tremendous help they can be...
2. Search Engines
These are divided into two types...
1. Search engines that list sites free
2. Search engines that charge for inclusion
To make this as complicated as possible, the major search engines that provide free listings also have some kind of paid inclusion option. For example 'Google' (which has shot up in popularity in recent years and is now the most popular search engine), provides free listing and 'Sponsored Links' in a column at the right of the page.
These 'Sponsored Links' are to sites that have used their 'Google AdWords' service for a fee, on a cost-per-click basis, to get these prominent positions on the 'Google' search results pages.
Adding to this complexity is the fact that search engines and some directories (e.g. 'Yahoo!') include the results from other search engines if their own service doesn't provide enough results to their customers.
The relationship between the different engines and directories is in a state of constant flux so if, for example, 'Google' provides additional search results to 'Yahoo!' (as is the case at the time of writing), this may all change in the future.
In fact 'Yahoo!' recently acquired one of the other search engines ('Inktomi'), so a change in who they use to supplement their own listings is perhaps one of the more predictable developments for the future.
Let's take a more detailed look at the free option first...
1. Search engines that list sites free
A tremendous amount of visitors to your site can still be generated by the search engines that include free listings for web sites, so it obviously makes good sense to maximise your web site's potential from these search engines.
The big question is, "How do you do that?".
There are many specialist 'Search Engine Optimisation' companies that claim to get your pages listed in the top 'x' positions in the search engines, for a fee. It is generally accepted amongst internet marketing experts that if your pages aren't listed in the top 30 search results in a search engine, you're far less likely to generate any significant amount of traffic (visitors). So at least a 'top 30' listing has to be your target.
Obviously the higher in the listings you appear (#1 is always good!), the higher the proportion of that search engine's traffic for that particular search term you are likely to get (all other things being equal).
You are probably starting to realise, if you didn't know already, that this is a vast subject in its own right. The large number of companies providing search engine optimisation services (also now referred to as 'search engine marketing'), and the numerous books and articles written about search engines would not exist if it wasn't a subject that web businesses were having major problems with.
Our first web site currently has 99 pages in top 30 positions on the major search engines, so, despite all the so-called 'experts' that abound on this subject, I feel qualified to make some useful observations on this situation and to give you some no-frills advice.
As a starting point for any 'web site promotion for small business' that involves deriving any benefit from free search engine inclusion, there are things you need to know and do, such as...
1. What search terms are your most targeted potential customers going to be using to find your product or service?
This may sound blindingly obvious but I can assure you it's not! I'll tell you why, from my own bitter experience...
When we were developing our first web site that sells oil paintings from photographs and 'Old Master' reproductions, we had a family discussion (...because it's a family company ;-) to determine what our customers would be most likely to enter into their favourite search engine if they were looking for our product.
We decided on 'paintings from photographs' for the first product group and 'Old Master reproductions' for the second. Sounds reasonable, right?
It was a complete waste of time!
It wasn't until I discovered a service to find the actual words people are using, rather than what we thought they'd be using, that I found out that, out of the 30 million search terms that were in this company's database at that time (they've now got >330 million!), 'paintings from photographs' had been searched for exactly...zero times!
I wasn't happy! I'd spent countless hours learning about search engines and trying to 'optimise' the key pages of our web site for the search term 'paintings from photographs'...and no-one was using this term anyway!
I'm very glad to be able to prevent you from making the same mistake!
OK, here's the solution to this... Get a few people from your company together and 'brainstorm' some words or phrases that your targeted customers are likely to use as search terms for your product or service - the more the merrier! In search engine parlance, these are called your 'keywords'.
Then, before you do anything else, go to a web site called 'Wordtracker'. Take their free trial to enter the words that are in your list.
'Wordtracker' then tells you how many times each word or phrase has been searched for from their database, how many web sites are 'competing' with you for this search term and, most importantly, a 'Keyword Efficiency Index' ('KEI'). It then ranks all the search terms that you have selected by their KEI, so the best words to optimise your pages for are at the top.
It doesn't get any easier than this to determine the best search terms for your web site!
to go to Wordtracker. Their free trial is great and their pricing plan for their full service is unique. If you want, you can have access to it for anything from 1 day to unlimited access for a year. You choose...
2. If you do decide to enlist the services of a search engine optimisation company, the information you have just learnt about your 'keywords' (the term used to describe the search terms that you use to optimise your web pages for) is absolutely vital.
Why? Because some of the less scrupulous companies will 'guarantee' you a top 30 ranking on a specific search engine and then use keywords that no-one uses and/or have virtually no 'competing' web sites. The result? You've paid to get a top 30 listing, but it doesn't bring you any visitors. Not very useful...
3. The tool we used (and still use) to get our 99 pages in 'top 30' positions for our keywords is called 'WebPosition Gold' ('WPG', ranked #5,056 on the internet). Quite simply, we couldn't have done it without it! WPG is software that you download and use on your own PC, but every time you load it and go online, you can set it to update itself automatically.
The beauty of this is that you don't have to keep track of the constant changes in the allegiances between the different search engines, as WPG does it all automatically.
There are three parts to WPG that I've found invaluable, and you will too...
1. The 'Page Critic' - this analyses any page on your web site for any keywords you decide, for a search engine you select, and tells you what you need to change to give it the best chance of ranking highly. It does this in about 3 seconds! New updated files are downloaded to your software about once a month, so it's always up-to-date with any changes to the search engines' preferences and algorithms.
I'm going to be totally honest here - WPG takes a bit of time to learn, which I guess is logical, as search engine optimisation is such a vast subject. But I think it is the best tool there is and the one most of the legitimate search engine optimisation companies use themselves.
2. The 'Reporter' - this automatically runs a 'mission' on the internet to determine the ranking positions of all of your keywords in all of the major search engines. If you have a lot of keywords, this could take you many hours of 'surfing' to achieve. I normally run it once a week, go to lunch, and when I come back the results are all there waiting for me.
3. The 'Submitter' - this can automatically schedule your web pages for submission to the major search engines and it does it in a way that replicates manual submission. A lot of the automated mass-submission tools and services are frowned upon by the search engines, so this is very important.
It is useless to submit your web site to the search engines and hope you'll get a high ranking. Unless your business is unique, with virtually no competing web sites, it's not going to happen! As with everything that's worthwhile, this needs work to succeed. There are no short cuts!
Having said that, particularly once you've given your web site an edge by arming yourself with the best keywords from 'Wordtracker', there's nothing to stop you achieving the same success with WPG that many hundreds of businesses have already enjoyed, including ourselves.
to check 'WebPosition Gold' out for yourself. They have a 30-day free trial, so you've nothing to lose and everything to gain.
4. Don't be fooled by some search engine submission tools or companies that claim to submit your web site to hundreds (or even thousands) of search engines. All you'll get is loads of 'spam' email and very little additional traffic.
95% of search engine traffic is generated by each country's most popular search engines. For example, WPG includes 94 search engines in their software, and this includes the more popular individual country variations of the 'global' search engines (e.g. 'Google' has a global version and country variations for France, Germany and the UK, which you can optimise for separately).
2. Search engines that charge for inclusion
There are two kinds of paid inclusion operated by individual search engines...
Let's start with reviewing the pay-per-click type...
2. Pay per URL included
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