The Secret to Being Found on the Internet

Have you ever tried to find your company's Web site on the Internet without using the company name in your search? Give it a try. Could you find the site? If not, did your competitors show up instead? Could you find your company within the first three pages of results?

Trying to find a Web site on today's increasingly cluttered Internet is not unlike trying to find a needle in a haystack. These days, it is not enough for a site to be aesthetically pleasing; it also needs to be accessible. In the past, companies used banner ads to promote Web sites and increase site traffic. That has changed. Companies are paring their online advertising budgets, stretching their marketing dollars and making them go farther and last longer.

So how can a company increase its Web site's visibility without relying on advertising? The answer is simple: Optimize the site through search engine positioning services. Comprehensive search engine positioning outlasts online advertising campaigns, yielding a steady stream of qualified traffic for an extended time. Today, an online marketing campaign must include search engine positioning to reach the majority of a site's target audience.

For many companies looking to increase their online visibility, the first priority is a flashy, easy-to-navigate Web site. What is generally not considered during a site's development is its ability to be found by search engines. The goal of search engine positioning is twofold: to increase a Web site's visibility across all of the major search engines and directories; and to increase the number of qualified visitors to a Web site.

Why all the fuss about search engines? Studies show that search engines and directories garner more distinct visitors than any other type of Web site. Seven of the 10 most visited Web sites are search engines, according to Media Metrix. Furthermore, 85 percent of prospective Web customers use a search engine to find solutions and vendors, but only the top 30 search results generate significant traffic, according to the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The challenge is achieving one of those coveted top 30 spots. Users who search for “investment planning” on Google will find almost 2 million results, and those looking for “personal computer” on Excite will receive an overwhelming 21 million document matches. Any company or product ranking below the top 30 matches can hardly expect to be noticed except by the most persistent searchers.

What ties search engines to a company's Web site? Every successful search engine positioning campaign begins with a look at the terminology used to describe the Web site. Located within a site's body copy and source code, keywords link Web sites with search engine listings. Choosing the right keywords and phrases involves more than just coming up with a list. No one word describes an entire company, service or product offering. As a result, each Web site needs a distinct universe of keywords that reflect the company and its services. These keywords also must have a foundation rooted in the behavior and the language of a company's target audience. For example, someone looking to mend a rip in a leather chair may not search using the term “leather repair kit.” The searcher is looking to solve a problem and therefore may search using the phrase “fix damaged leather.”

Search engine positioning does not stop at keyword selection; it is an ongoing process, not a project. As the company and its industry evolve, so do the keywords associated with the site. These changes, in addition to developments in the search engine landscape, require constant monitoring and refinement of the site and search engine positioning campaign.

Search engine positioning is an integral component of any online marketing campaign. Web sites developed by interactive agencies working in conjunction with companies that specialize in search engine positioning stand a better chance of being found on the Internet because they were designed with the goal of being visible and not just functional. Interactive agencies and search engine positioning firms also can work together to design a site that search engines can easily understand and index. The goal is to produce a Web site that will generate the most qualified visitors to increase a company's online market reach and leverage its long-term Web site investment.

An optimized Web site will look no different from any other site on the Web, but its ability to attract qualified visitors will exceed that of its competitors. This is because search engine positioning is a long-term marketing solution versus an online advertising campaign, which is only a finite remedy contingent on the continual placement of ads.

Additionally, search engine positioning shortens a company's sales cycle because people looking for companies on the Web are one step closer to making a purchase. If they can easily find the Web site they are looking for, it increases the likelihood that a sale will take place. Lastly, because search engines play a vital role in directing people to the information they are trying to find, being found on the major search engines and directories is critical for success on the Web.

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