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Search Engine FAQs - SEO

There has been a lot of press and information lately about search engine marketing. Most of these sources have ranged from "Yellow Pages" vendors, phone companies, television stations and newspapers. These advertising mediums have a huge stake in the general advertising market and have seen increased pressure on their bottom lines as people have shifted from print marketing to integrated marketing and now to an emphasis on the web. "Yellow Pages" revenues have shrunk by as much as 50% over the past 7 years while Internet marketing and search marketing (SEM) companies like Google have seen their revenues skyrocket.

Q. Can you help clear up the confusion about all of the different terms used for search engine work?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs). According to the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, SEM methods include: search engine optimization (or SEO), paid placement, and paid inclusion. Other sources, including the New York Times, define SEM as the practice of buying paid search listings.

Search Engine Positioning relates to the ranking a particular site earns through meeting various criteria set by the various search engines like Google, Yahoo and Ask. The criteria include technical aspects of site construction like the use of metadata or meta tags, page construction and accessibility, and traffic. See Search Engine Optimization below.

Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results for targeted keywords. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results or the higher it "ranks", the more searchers will visit that site. SEO can also target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines. Key elements of search engine optimization include creating effective content that is tied to meta keywords and the embedded site description, improving the frequency a site is "crawled", external linking and maintaining a clear structure free of gimmicks, excessive use of Flash, Javascript and other non-indexed content.

Paid Search Advertising or paid placement is a source of revenue for search engines that presents ads or links in a way that they are separated from the non-paid search results. Paid search advertising fees are based on everything from impressions, clicks, keywords and positioning depending on the search engine or search engine placement service.

Q. How do businesses benefit from search engine marketing?

When I hear this question, I have questions that need to be answered before a coherent response is available. Based on the assumptions a business has a website, that the website actually reflects the nature of the business, and the business is interested in establishing or maintaining their "brand". A search engine marketing program will provide opportunities for the business to reach a larger, targeted market; reinforce or establish their company name or brand as equal to any available, multiply the effectiveness of any other marketing tools they are using, allowing the business to grow while establishing a platform for other Internet marketing tools like targeted email and banner ad marketing.

Q. How can businesses make an impact with search engine marketing for their local geography?

The most effective ways to get listed within a geography is to get links to your site from a local, high traffic site that is ranked for the search terms or keywords that describe the locale you want to be "seen" in. As an example, if you want to be indexed highly for a specific city, the sites you want to have pointing to your site would be highly ranked for the name of the city. Once you have a link like that your rankings will rise in comparison to the ranking of the site that is pointing to you. You will never over take their ranking but can fall. We call this approach a "relationship ranking".

Q. What if the sites in my local geography are newspapers, television stations and other paid media sites?

There are still ways to leverage local media to enhance your site's rankings that are both free and effective. A basic advertising concept is that "free media is the best media", and local media outlets have both an obligation and need to provide local news and events for free to those you make the effort to submit items for calendars and for news. Initial Point's WebAdmin suite provides the tools to add news and events to your site easily and it is easy to submit ads and news to local media. If you have a marketing plan that includes print and broadcast media, you can typically leverage your contract to get editorial coverage of events, news and information about your business through the local media web outlets as well.

Q. How do customers benefit from search engine marketing?

First and foremost is the fact that search engines are replacing the "yellow pages" as the most referenced source of contact information. Secondly, the top use of the Internet is research. Unless you are "marketing" through search engines and achieving rankings that reflect your business "keywords" and "search terms" you won't have the visibility of your competitors. Unless you have a minimal program you won't get ranked enough to provide contact information and open the door to competitors who are ranked above you even for the name of your own business!

Q. What are some smart search engine marketing strategies that small-business owners should utilize?

There are three basic things that must be included in an effective search engine marketing plan - traffic, exposure and indexing.

1) The first thing I always recommend is to make your website's home page YOUR browser's home page so whenever you start your Internet browser your home page comes up instead of your news, chat or other personal favorites. Why give them the first visit of the day?

2) Secondly, always add content to your site and link back to it from your emails instead of putting everything in your email. This not only increases click-throughs to your site (traffic), it also provides you with a way to monitor the effectiveness of your emails through your web stats program.

3) Leverage the free tools at Google. Have your web support person setup a Google Webmaster account, add a map and anything else you can to your site listing. The better your listing is, the better it is "appreciated" when it is indexed or crawled.

Tying your email campaigns to your website, ensuring that all print materials include your web address and getting everyone you know to come to your site as often as possible only helps.

Q. Are there some simple actionable steps you recommend to get started?

1) The first step is to keep your site refreshed. This doesn't mean updated, it means refreshed in terms of at least changing something on the home page from time to time to avoid having your site defined as a "dead site". Sites that are not maintained for a period of 3 to 6 months are sometimes considered by search engines to be out of date and therefore "dead".

2) Make sure your site is correctly listed in the Google and DMOZ directories.

Q. What would you say to small-business owners who think they donít need search engine marketing?

Being "seen" levels the playing field with all of your competitors who understand the fact that more people use the web than any other form of media including newspapers, television and radio for their research, connections and basic information about local business.

Q. And what about small-business owners who say they donít need outside help in developing and integrated online marketing strategy?

That's always an option. The key is to have a consistent set of practices that you are comfortable putting into play over the long haul and the ability to monitor changes in how search engines work. The caveat to the idea of doing it yourself is that you cannot skip any of the elements - email marketing, search engine submissions, reciprocal linking, and site refresh must all happen to have any of it work at a reasonable level.

Q. How do I bring all of this together into a coherent media and marketing plan for my business or organization?

The answer is a blended media strategy from Readywebgo and Initial Point Consulting that encompasses all of the various media forms available to you for leveraging your brand. Search Marketing is one of the fundmentals of an effective plan that includes social networking, print and web among many others.
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Tags: seo  sem  search engine  knowledge 

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