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Understanding Search Engine Options

by Pauline Pageau

Even before determining which option(s) you may want to consider with choosing search engines, the first thing you must do is optimize your website.

Optimization enables your web site to gain a better chance at appearing at the top of search engine queries for your keywords and key phrases. Being listed at the top means a higher chance of attracting a targeted customer who will click on your site to get the information or product you’re offering. Here’s what’s involved in website optimization:

  • Choose the right keywords and key phrases... THE most crucial factor in the process. In order to attract a customer to your site you need the right keywords. In order to attract more of those targeted customers, you need the keywords that a majority of searchers are using to find your products or services. Also, let’s not forget those precious niche words that most certainly are true customers looking for your particular product or service.

  • Place those keywords strategically throughout your site. Customizing each page for particular keywords will broaden your chances of people reaching you in a wider variety of key phrases.

  • Review all the elements of your site such as titles, meta tags, text on graphics etc to help the search engines even more.

Now that you’re optimized, it’s time to submit.

Keyword Analysis

This is the first step in the optimization process. A lot of thought and study goes into choosing keywords that will work best for your business. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Define: your products, what they do and their benefits
                 your customers
                 your competition

  • Create a keyword list, getting it all down on paper, as much as you can find.

  • Analyze and research those keywords using state-of-the-art tools (such as Overture and Wordtracker) that tell you what people are searching for on the major search engines, in what volume and how strong the competition is. Determine how they are searching. Are they using plural more often or singular versions? Think of niche words no one might have though of. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

  • Hone down the list. Purge and study until you come up with a list of key phrases work for you.

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Submissions

Today, it’s unnecessary to submit websites to major search engines, especially Google. Most will pick up your site naturally. You do however want to submit to smaller directories, search engines and industry-related sites. Once you gain links to your site, the engines will start to notice you a lot quicker.

Directories

A significant issue in search engine marketing is how human-reviewed directories play an important role on a website’s visibility. You can recognize directory listings like Yahoo, Looksmart and Open Directory by noticing the term "Web Site" results rather than "Web Page" results.

Both Yahoo and Looksmart charge for the privilege of getting listing with them. Once you get listed in a directory, it’s almost impossible to change unless you pay them a fee. This means it’s doubly important to submit it right the first time.

If you have the budget, paid submission programs are a very effective way to get good listings, get lots of traffic and even help with your ranking because it’s a valuable link.

Search Engines

If you’ve ever been tempted to use those automated services that promise to get your site listed in 2,500 search engines, don’t do it. Many of these submission services are blocked by some search engines, and you’ll end up with a lot of unsolicited email from sites that sell your email called FreeForAlls or FFA’s.

The most effective way is to hand submit or let the search engines find you on their own. In fact, get a link from a listed site and you’ll get picked up by the search engine that it’s listed in.

Paid Listings Service

An important part of an online promotion plan is to develop an enhanced directory listing. Yahoo, Looksmart and Open Directory are the 3 most important directories to get listed in. Once you’re listed in any one of these, it’s practically impossible to change how your description is worded. Submitting your site right the first time can mean a great deal to the amount of potential traffic coming to your site.

Research the category your site should be listed in, do a keyword analysis to determine which keywords you should use in your description and more importantly, how well your site is constructed prior to submitting to a directory. It’s also important to ensure your site has no bad links since this may prevent you from getting listed.

Paid Directory Listings

The fees below are the fees if the individual directories and inclusion services.

Yahoo

The most valuable of all directory listings. Yahoo charges a one time fee which is non-refundable. If your site gets refused, they will give you a reason why and you have a second chance to fix the problem and submit again within a certain period of time. One appeal to request category or description change is allowed.

Yahoo Fees: US $299

Looksmart

Getting listed in Looksmart means you also get listed in AltaVista Excite, iWon and many other affiliates. Looksmart is great if you have a budget and your site is new. However, whether or not to pay the fee for Looksmart is an important strategy. Looksmart offers "cost-per-click" services today.

Looksmart Fees: * Listing Set up Fee: US $49
*All click-through fees are set at .15 per click. Budget can be adjusted to your specifications with options to add relevant keywords and edit descriptions at an additional cost.

Paid Inclusion Service

Inktomi and SiteMatch are services that get your site crawled or "visited by a spider" every 48 hours. Many search engines use the Inktomi database to pull results for their site. You can submit for free but this method will take much longer and you may not ever get listed at all.

Yahoo Fee: US $299 yearly.

Inktomi Fees: US $39 for the first URL and $25 for each URL after that.

SiteMatch: First URL US $39, next 2-10 URLS $25, 11th URL and beyond $10 each. You then pay .15 or .30 per click fees depending on the category of your site.

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Keyword Bidding or Pay-Per-Click

A highly effective way to attract targeted traffic to your site is through a pay per click search engine. This service enables you to list your site at the top of the search engine results. How it works is you bid on specific keyword terms and phrases pertaining to your products or services. You pay only when a searcher clicks on your listing and connects to your site.

How does it work?

You simply put down an initial deposit via credit card into the search engine’s account and then bid on the specific keyword terms and phrases that you are interested in. When a user clicks on a link to your web site that has been generated from the keyword phrase that you bid on, you are charged whatever that bid was.
And many times it is just .10 cents.

This method of promotion is highly effective because it reaches highly targeted potential buyers.

About Overture

Overture (formerly called GoTo) is the most effective site offering this service. It can draw the most traffic because of its growing popularity and the alliances it has developed over the years.

If you show up in Overture's top three bids you'll also show up on MSN, Netscape, AltaVista, DirectHit, iWon, AOL Search, Canada.com, DogPile.com Excite.com, Excite.ca, HotBot, and the list goes on.

Minimum US$50 dollars to open an account and minimum .10 cents per bid. Has minimum US$20 monthly spending requirement.

Here's the process of signing up:

1. Choose effective keywords.
2. Compose descriptions and attach this to appropriate link from the site.
3. Start up Overture Account by depositing $50 (preferably with IF Visa number).
4. Wait 3-4 days for Overture to approve the terms.
5. Once it's up and online, bidding adjustments are done. You can usually start at the lowest bid at $.10 then adjust this when it's live.
6. Monitor and manage bids. Managing bids is crucial to maintaining a high return on investment. Overspending is easy if you're not watching this account every week. Also, if there are "gaps" in the bids this should be monitored so you don't pay more than you have to for a bid.

About Google AdWords Select

Google displays small sponsored ads to the right of search listings. Every time someone does a search that includes your keywords, they see your ad. You pay only when a customer clicks on your ad regardless of how many times it's shown. Google allows great flexibility on advertising worldwide or nationally or locally.

Monthly Maintenance

It’s important to monitor the ranking for your listings for several reasons:

1. Maintains the flow of traffic.
2. Your site can get dropped from an engine anytime.
3. Tweaking a site’s keywords is a key strategy in improving ranks. After several months of monitoring you can clearly see which keywords are doing well and which aren’t.
4. After optimizing a site, it’s crucial to monitor the results to ensure increased traffic to your site, and that you’re continually getting targeted traffic.


This article was written by Pauline Pageau of SearchWerx. Launched in 1998, SearchWerx has been providing search engine marketing services, including website optimization, keyword bidding and link building, for all types of businesses, small, medium and large. For more information, email us at info@searchwerx.com or call 604.589.3040.

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