Online Search Engine Marketing

Search Engines
Search engines are often regarded as semi-evil in the eyes of Web site developers and owners, simply because getting your site to appear top of the rankings is an arduous and never-ending task. Although you might be lucky and get yours near the top for a while, the dynamic nature of the Web means that people continually submit their competing sites, pushing yours down the stack. Keeping the topmost listing on some search engines is virtually a full time job.

How important search engines are to you depends a lot on your kind of business. If you’re competing in a high visibility space, like books or CDs, being in a search engine isn’t going to help you much.

Most people will use merchant aggregators or shopping portals like AltaVista, MSN, and Excite where you have to buy what are effectively “sponsorship slots”. So, if you sold CDs, you’d have the option of buying a premium listing in their shopping directory under “Music & Video”. If you’re in a niche market, you may well get more benefit from being in search engines.

The Sites
As you’re probably aware, there are a number of popular sites that are most likely the first in your potential customers’ minds for their searching needs.

Here are some popular sites. Please note, this section is not intended to be complete listing of all the possible engines out there, we’re just trying to illustrate the different techniques search engines use.

Yahoo Search Engines:
Yahoo is arguably the best-known search engine out there, and the best-known site, period! Perhaps because of its popularity, Yahoo is also the trickiest site to get listed in.

Unlike most search engines, Yahoo works by using a categorized tree of subjects, similar to the way we structured departments on make money. (This technically makes Yahoo an index.) Submitting your site to Yahoo and being listed effectively is one of the biggest black-art trick/techniques that you can pull off online. There are a number of great articles out there on sites like Search Engine Watch that can help you do this effectively. Most of the automated submission services, like the ones we’ll be discussing later in the section, will not try to submit your site to Yahoo automatically because it’s so tricky to get right. Yahoo is very particular about the kinds of links they allow into their directory. Two basic rules are “wait until your site is finished, looking good and is fast to load” and “do not continually submit your site”. Continual submissions to Yahoo will result in your site being blacklisted and you’ll never achieve a listing. Human beings examine each submission and elect whether you deserve a listing in their index.

An interesting site to watch in the Yahoo-like index space is Netscape Open Directory. Originally, this site was called Newhoo and it was snapped up by Netscape as soon as it looked like it was going to be a success. From the users’ perspective, it works in a similar fashion whereby it has a hierarchical category structure into which sites are placed. However, whereas Yahoo has 150 or so editors employed by Yahoo, inc. adding pages, Newhoo “hires” average Jo’s and Joe’s to help add the links to the catalog. Its new name comes from the Open Source Movement where people give up their time contributing to projects just to have the kudos of being involved with it.

Excite is one of many, many different search engines that work on the premise of trawling through your site indexing the text. They do this by setting a spider loose on your site that harvests all of the pages and pulls out relevant content and keywords.

Others in this category include InfoSeek, Lycos, AltaVista, and Google. Google deserves special mention because it’s a “new kid on the block” and is actually backed by researchers at Stanford University who are basically thinking of neat new ways to search the Internet.

To submit your site to Excite and similar sites, all you have to do is prepare your site by placing keywords and descriptions in “hidden” areas of the site that the engines use to find out what the site is all about. We’ll see how to add these keywords later in the category.

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