Are competitors getting higher search-engine rankings?

alarminfamousInternet and Web Development

Nov 18, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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Dos and don'ts in your search-engine marketing
By Joanna L. Krotz

Not long ago, search-engine marketing was a limited if promising way to turn up a few sales or
leads. How times have changed.

In recent years, search-engine marketing has seen triple-digit
growth, gaining both more efficient opportunities for marketers as
well as serious steam from millions of users.
The online search industry is expected to reach nearly $7 billion in
worldwide revenues by 2007, according to Safa Rashtchy, senior
research analyst for U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. She sees "search as
the most efficient way to find products and information, and
simultaneously the rise of search as the best way for advertisers to
find and acquire customers."
Even so, getting results remains complicated, demanding close
monitoring and measuring. To make the most of marketing through
search engines, here are options to consider as well as five common
mistakes to avoid.
Search engine power
The idea, of course, is that you figure out which keywords your
customers use to search for the products or services you market
and then submit those keywords to search engines such as MSN
Search or Google. When customers input the keywords, your site is
prominently displayed in the results, leading to better sales or
exposure.
One step up from free or organic search-engine marketing is
search-engine optimization. That can include paying to influence the
outcome. The more you bid per keyword, the higher the engine
guarantees to place your site on the results page.
Typically, engines bill on a pay-per-click or cost-per-click basis.
You're charged only if and when a customer clicks on your link. Pricing varies, depending on
keywords and categories. "Paid search is an incredibly efficient way to bring in sales leads -- it's the
Yellow Pages, classifieds and direct mail rolled into a single just-in-time pitch," wrote John Battelle,
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Are competitors
getting higher
search-engine
rankings?

Your Web site may need a fine-
tuning to perform better. See how
Microsoft's Submit It! can help you
optimize your site for search
engines.
More

Go
a business journalism professor at the University of California at Berkeley, in Business 2.0
magazine.
But you must efficiently outbid your competitors, who also pay for ranking, or you're throwing away
money. The goal is to pull only customers who want what you sell.
Top of page

Targeting the results
A recent phenomenon in search-engine optimization is an innovation variously called relevant paid
search, or contextual advertising or content-targeted advertising. It moves the sponsored link off
the results page and onto sites themselves.
Instead of paying for placement on a results list, you pay engines to place your listing on pages of
content related to your products. For example, if a user is checking weather in Miami Beach, he
might also see a listing for Miami hotels or car rentals.
You can now target customers at the very moment they're interested in learning about the wares
and services you market.
Top of page

Judging success
A judicious combination of these search-engine marketing tactics can build business in a number of
ways. First, figure out what you're after.
Search-engine marketing can:
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Avoid engine trouble
Next, gear up your search-engine marketing campaign, but avoid these common mistakes.

Boost brand profile or gain industry exposure

Acquire new customers

Increase traffic, which builds advertising or affiliate revenue

Generate leads for follow-up calls

Advertise offers or sales

Generate publicity

Market offline products or events

Increase or launch online sales
1. Killing it with your keywords. "The worst mistake marketers make is slicing and dicing
their keywords too finely beginning on Day One," says Bob London, whose marketing
consultancy is based in the Washington, D.C., area.
For example, London's client Doug Zimmerman heads the mid-Atlantic franchise for Freedom
Boat & Yacht Club. The company sells time aboard boats. Founded in 1989, FBYC now has 10

locations, four franchises and 1,300 member s who each pay $15,000 a year for unlimited
access to boats any time they want one. The only additional cost is fuel.
Zimmerman budgeted $2,000 for a round of search-engine optimization tests. "Our keyword
program began with 'boats Maryland,' which is one of the states where Freedom Boat
operates," London says. "Once we determine whether those leads are qualified, we can drive
down the cost-per-click by segmenting, for example, 'boats Maryland rental." Adding the
word "rental," London says, is "a proxy for those looking for water recreation without
commitment." After spending only $200, London says they've targeted the right keywords. In
this case, with a regional and high-end niche business, the process was easier.
Mass-market products might take more testing. "Often, companies use industry buzzwords
that their target audience isn't using," says Stacey Williams of Prominent Placement, a

search-engine marketing consultant based in Atlanta. She suggests business owners
subscribe to Wordtracker.com, an affordable online tool that can keep you updated on
current keywords.
2. Managing it all yourself. "Managing rankings is a full-time job," says James Korenchen,
managing director for PR at McKee Wallwork Henderson, an interactive ad agency based in
Albuquerque, N.M. Staying on top of keywords, measuring results and conversions and
making sure search engines deliver on pay-per-click arrangements takes technical expertise
and a lot of time.
You're smart to have your search-engine marketing managed by an agency, a consultant or
an engine's software offerings. For less than $100 a year, for instance, Microsoft's Submit It!
can recommend keywords, submit to engines and track your progress.
3. Assuming one engine fits all. Relying only on the big, well-known engines limits your
placements. "The most common mistake is throwing too much money at one method, one
search engine or one message," says Aaron Keller, at Capsule, a brand development
company in Minneapolis. Instead, budget your money to develop a distinctive set of
messages and use a combination of search engines to successfully reach customers.
4. Giving up too soon. Make sure your expectations are realistic. Search engines may take up
to eight weeks before listing your site. Paid listings go up more quickly, but also take time.
You'll need to fine-tune the right package of keywords, engines and pay-per-click or paid
searches. Stay with it and you'll be rewarded.
5. Blinded by the site. If your pages aren't optimized for search engines, all the right
keywords in the world won't get you results. A frequent error is that the home-page floats,
say, because of a splash page or a recently redesigned page left unlinked to other pages. If
that's the case, the engine won't scan all the relevant pages.
On the flip side, owners sometimes try to cram too many keywords onto the home page
itself. But, says consultant Williams, "when a search engine reads hundreds of different
words or phrases on a page, it doesn't know what that page is really about, and the page
won't get ranked high for anything. It works much better to optimize all the key pages on a
site for one or two different search terms." Besides submitting keywords, for example,
Submit It! also analyzes your Web site to ensure that pages are optimized for submission.
Nowadays, every business must offer anywhere, anytime choices to customers. And when done
right, search-engine marketing absolutely gets you attention from the online visitors you want to
attract.

Joanna Krotz
Joanna L. Krotz writes about small-business marketing and management issues. She is
the co-author of the "Microsoft Small Business Kit
" and runs Muse2Muse Productions
, a
New York City-based custom publisher.


For customer support options, tailored business advice, and a single point of access for
Microsoft's small-business solutions, see the Microsoft Small Business Center home page
.
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