Search Engine Guide: Fortune 100: Third Time Isn't the Charm for SEO

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Oneupweb recently released its third study of how Fortune 100 companies use - or don't use - search engine optimization to increase search engine visibility and improve conversion rates. Again, we found that America's corporate elite are deaf to what's blowing in the wind: Search engine optimization sells.


These leaders fail to recognize overwhelming evidence that effective search engine optimization is directly tied to more sales. Another Oneupweb study, "Target Google's Top Ten to Sell Online," found that getting listed on Google's first page triples traffic in the first month alone. And a greater percentage of that traffic - 42 percent more - will convert to sales.


History is filled with leaders who fall because, high on their perch, they don't see what's coming. If the Fortune 100 fail to use search engine optimization to command a search engine presence worthy of their brand, then the only question is: Are there opportunities for other companies to gain market share using SEO?


The Numbers Are In


In this study, we found that only 13 of the Fortune 100 had well-optimized Web sites, up slightly from 2004's findings (nine) and 2002's (three). Companies with moderate levels of optimization numbered just 42. Finally, 45 companies had no optimization at all.


The study also found that many sites rely on pay-per-click advertising to increase search engine visibility. It questions why companies would spend big money for these short-term results while spending little, if any, for natural optimization and long-lasting results.


Market share is a zero sum game: One company gains, another loses. Smart direct marketers can begin to nudge out larger, better-known brands over time. Could companies usurp the Fortune 100 just by ensuring they are Google-friendly and have the proper keyword density?


Let's take a real-world example. At this writing, when you search for "long distance" on Google, the No. 1 result is not AT&T or Verizon but the startup broadband phone company Dialpad Communications. Even though Dialpad uses only small to moderate optimization for its Web site, it is easily beating the telecom giants.


As the study asks, "Does AT&T really want to ignore 18,000-plus people who search for 'long distance' every month?' " Dialpad and other startups hope so.


Mechanics of SEO Supremacy


Every direct marketing director's priorities include looking for ways to connect with more prospects. So how do you cash in on search engine optimization?


There's magic in keywords and phrases. A qualified SEO firm gets into the minds of prospects to discover how they will search for products and services. There are technical tasks as well: title tags; meta tags; indexable body text; and linking strategies.


It requires balance with a company's core objectives, a willingness to make a long-term commitment and the flexibility to adapt and try something new in an ever-changing industry.


Of course, it is folly to assume big companies will continue ignoring this growing opportunity. All evidence points to increased SEO budgets and resources among top-tier companies. As the Fortune 100 begin to leverage the marketing power of optimization, the window of opportunity will close.


For more articles from The Direct Marketer's Essential Guide to Search Engine Marketing, visit www.dmnews.com/search .


A PDF of the guide is available at: http://www.dmnews.com/pdffiles/semguide.pdf


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