February 27, 2003, 12:00 AM

The steps to identifying and choosing the right search engine optimization expert

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Some programmers practice a variation of this theme by creating what are known as “doorway” pages. These programmers look at which sites are coming up high in search results, then copy the code from the those sites and repeat it numerous times on pages they create as a way to get those pages high in search results. Then when users click on the link in the results, the page re-directs them to the site for which the programmer is working. These programmers are not search engine optimization specialists. And search engines will quickly drop such pages from their databases. In fact, to search engines they are a form of spam. “FAST considers spam to be pages created deliberately to trick the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant, or poor-quality search results,” Tim Mayer, vice president of web search for FAST, says.

Search engines also often will not direct users to sites whose content is hidden from spiders. Some sites like to cloak their content because someone has told them that anyone can grab their content then figure out their marketing strategies. This is not true. You cannot determine a site’s online marketing strategy just by looking at a site’s meta tags. You cannot determine the most frequently visited pages, the pages that generate the highest sales conversions, least frequently visited pages, top pathways through the site, etc. Online marketing is a series of processes, not just placing words inside of a meta tag.

Displaying the content for search engines to find is the best way to get to the top of search lists. Hiding it from view and using a round-about software program to get into search results will only keep you out of the search engines’ databases. “There are often legitimate ways that a technique such as cloaking can be used but the vast majority of content providers that use these techniques are aiming to artificially increase the rank of their sites in search engine results,” Mayer says. “Content creators should be wary of using these techniques, as their content will draw extra examination by search engine software and personnel.”

5. Understand b2b and b2c differences

Another question to ask search engine optimization specialists is how much experience they have with b2c and b2b sites. The approaches that work with one are very different from the approaches that work with the other. With a b2b site, where a product or service can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, the user will probably do considerable research, then talk to a company representative before making a purchase.

With a b2c site, however, encouraging site visitors to make a purchase right away is paramount, especially during Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. To ensure a quick turnaround time for the holiday seasons, a search engine optimization specialist should have experience with the different types of pay-per-click and paid inclusion programs at the major search engines.

And they should be familiar with the data feed programs, usually used by b2b sites. “For retailers with dynamic (database-generated) sites, a good option is to work with one of the XML data feed programs, “ says Stephen Baker, vice president of FAST. “These programs enable retailers to provide product catalogs, for example, directly to the search engines for indexing and can be updated every couple of days. If optimization is required, the major search engines can recommend companies that they are partnered with.”

Teoma, Inktomi, and AltaVista offer trusted feed programs. Google offers the Froogle product for merchants. Search engine optimization experts can optimize data feeds to the search engines.

6. Give your audience
what it wants

To get the best long-term results, a web site should be constructed with quality content and a navigation scheme that search engines can easily spider. Make your pages easy to read. Give search engines and end users a navigation scheme that they can easily follow. Learn to write content using words and phrases your target audience will type into a search query. By giving your audience exactly what they are searching for via a search engine query, you are not only helping boost your sales, you are also adding value to the search engines.


Shari Thurow is marketing director at Grantastic Designs, a full-service search engine marketing, web and graphic design firm. This is excerpted from her book, Search Engine Visibility, published in January 2003 by New Riders Publishing Co. She can be reached at shari@grantasticdesigns.com.


5 secrets of search engine marketing

After a retailer has chosen a search engine optimization expert, the retailer needs to focus on search engine results. Here are five areas that Stuart Larkins, vice president of partner services at Performics Inc., urges retailers to pay attention to:

1. Uncovering numbers improves conversion rates

Don’t focus on traffic numbers alone; identify visitors. One retailer realized that much of its traffic was coming from overseas locations outside of its target market. To remedy the situation, the marketer lowered keyword bid prices in the evening to incur fewer click-throughs from overseas users; conversion rates climbed thereafter.

2. If marketers don’t manage their brand, affiliates will

Above all else, own brand-related keywords; do not allow affiliate partners to become unnecessary intermediaries that outbid on crucial terms to create commissions for themselves.

3. Managing keywords is like parenting

Some blossom into productive marketing vehicles; others simply do not reach their potential. They sometimes react strongly to their surroundings; a keyword that delivers on Google might lose its edge when implemented at another engine, much like an outgoing student who becomes a wallflower at a new school. Search engines cater to demographically diverse user groups, which leads to different searches and different reactions to search results.

4. Cohesiveness drives sales

Customize copy for each keyword. Ranking will get you noticed, but appropriate copy will earn you more visitors and sales.

5. Smooth landings increase buys

One retailer sent visitors who searched the term “khaki pants” to a page on its site that offered women’s and men’s khakis. Because conversion rates were too low and the vast majority of khakis sold were men’s, the landing page was redirected to men’s khaki pants and conversion rates climbed dramatically.

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