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Trap More Web Visitors With Smarter Spiders

by Alf Nucifora

With marketing and advertising budgets now falling victim to recessionary pressures, there is a clear and obvious need to squeeze every ounce of effectiveness out of what were once considered marketing luxuries, primarily new technologies and methodologies, many of them online related. With most businesses, small and large, now committed in varying degrees to a Web presence, and consumers now addicted in a big way to the information-bearing benefit that it provides, the smart players are searching for every sliver of advantage that they can gain in the online marketing game.

Introducing Search Engine Marketing

Research shows that more than 80% of Internet consumers use search engines and directories to look for products, services and information (internetstats.com/June 2001). A recent NPD Group study further revealed that "search listings are better than banner ads at creating effective brands." The study notes that "twice as many people gave a more favorable opinion of companies in the top three search positions than those featured in ads and 55% of online purchases were made on sites found through search listings, while a mere 9% were on sites found through banner ads."

Given the high degree of consumer use and acceptance of search engine results, search engine optimization and registration can be the most cost efficient and rewarding means of generating qualified site traffic and activity. In affect, the process ensures that your company's name, description and link appear when Internet users search for keywords that directly relate to your business. It also helps position the site among the top listings in its categories ahead of competitors. Atlanta-based 360i.com, a digital marketing agency specializing in search engine optimization, performs such work for a roster of clients including Alamo Rent A Car, Disney Vacations, Sheraton Grand Resorts and BellSouth. According to co-president and media director, David Williams, " the ultimate goal of optimization is to help potential customers or visitors find the websites that are most relevant to the keyword, phrase or search term of interest."

Typically, a search engine works by sending out a search "spider" to find as many documents as possible that match the search enquiry. Another program, called an indexer, then reads the selected documents and creates an index based on the words contained in the document. Each search engine uses its own proprietary algorithm to create its indices so that, ideally, only meaningful results are returned for each query. (Note. A "spider" or "webcrawler" is a program that visits websites and indexes the pages present in those sites.)

360i.com, unlike off-the-rack optimizing spammers, utilizes complex techniques that demand a customized approach and an in-depth understanding of the client website's information and communication thrust. These include design and/or layout changes, new text for title tags, metatags and headings and changes to the first 200-250 words of the main text.

Since more than two thirds of all Internet traffic comes from the largest search engines and directories, 360i.com concentrates its customization efforts to ensure that it's clients' web sites receive favorable treatment from the 20+ major engines and directories including AltaVista, Lycos, MSN, GoTo, Excite, Hot Bot, Yahoo, Google, AOL and Netscape.

Rank Counts

Research shows that most active search engine users will not generally look past the first two or three pages of results returned by a search engine. As such, a site must have rich and timely content that people want to visit repeatedly. Notes Williams, "we provide detailed online reports that summarize keyword/phrase performance and search engine positioning. If we observe a downward trend in the rankings, we will re-optimize and resubmit to maintain positioning over time."

The More You Pay, The Higher You Rank

The latest innovation in search engine marketing is the Pay-Per-Click (PPC) search engine that allows you to bid against competing advertisers for higher rankings. The more you pay per click, the higher up on the list your site appears. Major players in the field include GoTO.com, Spinks and FindWhat. What are the benefits of PPC? According to Williams, who sees significant potential in this new addition to the search engine-marketing field, PPC programs offer increased value to advertisers and consumers. Advertisers benefit by paying only for qualified leads on a per click basis and gain increased control over advertising exposure and expenditure. Consumers benefit from the ability to quickly find the product, service or information that they are actively seeking.

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