Search Engine / Online Marketing F.A.Q.
Search engines are the Internet-user's best friend. If you know
how to use them, and which ones to use, you can turn what could be an
infinite hunt for something you are looking for into an efficient,
targeted hunt. If you own or run a website that you want to drive
visitors to, search engines can be an even bigger friend, but you need to
know how to make them happy. This article is intended to help
clarify how search engines work in general, and how you can make them work
for you as a traffic-building online marketing tool.
Contents of this article:
The Purpose of Search Engines
How Search Engines Work (Behind The Scenes)
Getting Your Web Pages Indexed by Search Engines
Increasing Your Search Engine Ranking Naturally Increasing Your Search Engine Ranking Artificially
In plain view, search engines are generally designed to allow a user to
enter keywords into the search text box, click on a button, and then
return relevant "results" which consist of links to web pages
containing information pertaining to the keywords you entered.
We have seen some search engine users enter a URL (say "www.ezsolutions.net") into a search engine, only in effort to find what is already found. This is typically not the intended use of a search engine's power. This is because there is usually not a need to enter a domain name into a search engine because one can visit the site directly by typing "www.ezsolutions.net" directly into the browser's address/location text box. Entering a URL into a search engine to find a URL is a bit like looking up a phone number that you already know.
Summary: Use a search engine to find web pages containing the keywords (not domain names) you enter into said search engine.
The developers of a search engine build a database of web pages that can be returned to the user upon searching on keywords, search engines first "index" web pages. Indexing is the term used to describe the act of evaluating a web page, and if appropriate, subsequently listing the web page in the search engine's database. Considering the sheer magnitude of the number of web pages in existence, it is understandable that this task is usually handled by computers (called "robots"), not humans. When a page is listed in the database, the keywords that the robots find in and on the page are listed along with it. When someone comes along and does a search, the search engine user's keywords are used to find matches in the database and results are returned.
Search engines re-index sites from time to time to keep their databases current. The frequency depends on the search engine. Some do this weekly or monthly, others, much less often.
Summary: Until a web page is indexed by a search engine, it will not appear in the search engine results.
Search engines, of which there are thousands of (even though most users are understandably only familiar with the 10-20 major ones), are run by companies that typically have no connection with your domain name registrar, web site designer and/or web site hosting company. Just because you set up a web site does not mean that the search engines know it exists. While search engine firms have a vested interest in making their search engine better than the next firm's, which thoroughly indexing the entire Internet in an efficient manner will help them achieve, they are not clairvoyant.
Most search engines include online forms one can fill out to request indexing of a site, some will not accept indexing requests at all and will only index your site if they find a link to your site on a site the engine has already indexed, and some answer only to cash. There are hybrids too.
Be patient, due to the scale of the Internet, and many other factors, indexing does not happen right away. In some cases it can take months. You are a the whim of the search engines' schedules.
We offer a very affordable submission service to help you request (not guarantee) indexing by thousands of search engines. Please contact us if you are interested. Please keep in mind that our search engine promotion/submission services do not guarantee you an indexing, ranking nor a position on any search engine as the detailed operation of any third-party search engine is outside of our control.
Summary: Let search engines know your web site exists, and be patient. Let us help you get your site indexed using our low-cost submission service (not guaranteed to produce results).
So now your web pages have been indexed. What more could you want? Higher ranking of course! This can be achieved "naturally" through research, hard work, and ethical practices, or it can be achieved "artificially" using money. We prefer the former.
Keep in mind that all search engines work differently and ranking/optimization can be a balancing act. A website that ranks high on one search engine may not rank high on other search engines.
In our experience the following items are the most critical factors to consider when optimizing web pages to achieve "naturally" higher ranking, in order of importance:
- Determine your keywords. These are the words and/or phrases that you would like to rank highly on. You cannot rank highly on every word in the dictionary so it is important to set reasonable goals. Your keywords will typically be words and/or phrases that your target audience would potentially use to find your website.
The important thing here is to think like your target audience, perhaps this includes lay-people who would use different words than you would to find your product(s), service(s), etc. Words like "[Your City]" and "[Your State]" might be relevant as people tend to search by locale to find local services and entities. Variants such as synonyms and pluralized versions of your keywords, along with phrases that combine multiple keywords together, like "Phoenix Arizona" may also be appropriate.
IMPORTANT NOTE #1: The only way to "force" a search engine to rank your website highly on specific keywords is to pay the search engine for this privilege (this option is discussed later in this document). Search engines decide how to rank your website using complex algorithms that are not revealed to the public, and each major search engine uses a different algorithm.
IMPORTANT NOTE #2: The more common the keyword (e.g. the more often it appears in text on the Internet) the more difficult it will be to rank highly on.
IMPORTANT NOTE #3: Your domain name or names is/are not typically "keywords" because someone who already knows your domain name can visit your website by simply typing your domain name into the URL address box of their web browser.
- Keyword density in page content. The text on your web pages should be as high in keyword density as possible. For example, let's say that your organization only produces yellow widgets. Your textual content should read "our yellow widget producing organization has been in business for 100 years" instead of "our organization has been in business for 100 years." The more keywords you pack in the better, and the earlier the keyword(s) appear in the content the better (don't wait until the end of a the conent/page to use your keyword(s)). The correct balance of keywords in your content will not annoy the reader and has the potential to improve your search engine ranking immensely. Dilute the keywords as little as is possible.
Proper spelling, grammar, and style is thought to help ranking, so content should be well thought out, and carefully edited.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Search engines are automated and index only machine-readable text. Text within image files and Flash® animations is typically not machine-readable. Pages with high graphical content and low machine-readable word counts may not rank well on search engines. In the past tricks like adding machine-readable text that was the same color as the page background were used by web page owner's as a way to add irrelevant content to pages (the text was not visible to humans). The better search engines are not fooled by this or other tricks, employing such tricks could in theory hurt ranking.
- Keyword density in page titles. Keep titles very succint, avoid diluting keywords in page titles with superfluous words.
- Inlinks (Getting other websites to link to your web pages). Links to your web pages, especially from web pages that contain similar content/keywords, can increase your site's relevancy in the eyes of search engines that use this form of advanced logic in their ranking algorithms.
- Creating and maintaining social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Social media is not only a great way to market yourself online, it can also help your website ranking in direct and indirect ways.
- Other factors. Feel free to contact us for a consultation.
Naturally generated high search engine ranking, use of free online banner exchanges and other free ethical marketing tools can in theory be more effective than dumping large sums of money into an online marketing campaign.
Summary: We recommend starting off using "natural" search engine ranking optimization. Our clients who take the time to optimize the textual content of their websites enjoy some of the highest ranking possible, without needing to pay the search engines for the luxury.
Search engines typically operate in the interest of generating revenue. They do this by selling the high ranking result positions for particular search keywords and ads to web site owners. Google AdWords is a popular choice for many web site owners entering into the paid keyword/ad market.
Beware of salespeople selling very expensive ($250-$2000 or more per year annually): 1) guaranteed search engine positioning/ranking; or, 2 ) links to your website to be placed on industry portal sites. For example, a doctor is approached by a salesperson who is selling the "opportunity" to be listed on a cosmetic surgery website. The cosmetic surgery website has plans to advertise on radio and TV across the nation. If the cosmetic surgery website is successful (in other words it sells a large number of spots on its site to other doctors, many doctors in the same region perhaps) each doctor added to the site will dilute each doctors marketing efforts in a very bad way. Worse even is that many companies of this type are "here-today-gone-tomorrow," they file for bankruptcy and their customers are left with nothing but a smaller bank account for their investment. These types of "luxury" online marketing strategies are typically a waste of money (of course exceptions do exist) -- money that can be allocated in a much wiser fashion.
Summary: Paid keywords/ad marketing can be very effective but also expensive, be sure to optimize your website naturally as well. Beware of high-cost online ranking/marketing schemes.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.