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THE SCIENCE OF e-Marketing
By Cliff Smith

THE SEARCH ENGINE MYSTIQUE

Hello again all.  As it has been a little while since our last communication, and after some pondering, I thought it best to start with search engines, a hot topic to say the least.  Many companies both small and large seem to be captivated by the overwhelming value or perceived value of a high search engine placement.  To help with this I have researched a number of other experts and reviewed their material regarding this topic.  What follow are excerpts from several different sources as you will see with helpful links included to help you along the way.  Any of the sources listed can help lead you down the right path but keep in mind none of them should be considered an end all solution as search engine rules and placement techniques change almost daily.

The savvy Internet marketer knows that she must go beyond the search engine to produce good quality traffic. Search engines do help but they are not a cure-all -- they're simply a lazy way to do so with results that can often be mediocre at best. Unquestionably, obtaining favorable, highly visible search engine positioning is both an art AND a science.

Our resident search engine guru, will probably add that it's also a full-time job. With his replies to countless questions he receives from our clients each week. Ranging from the curious to the frustrated, such queries demonstrate emphatically that not only working with search engines but also understanding them can be tedious.

Unfortunately, the Internet is replete with marketers who rely on search engines alone for building their traffic or, worse yet, on search engine tactics that amount to meager results.

Successful web marketing is not a single process -- or a simple one, for that matter. It is a combination of multiple concepts and tactics that are, either directly or indirectly, focused on three essential elements: 1) Building traffic, 2) building trust and 3) building sales. Every single marketing activity you perform, including the use of search engines, must revert to, result in or improve upon any if not all of those three.

So top positioning may bring you a lot of traffic. But the question to ask is: Will that traffic be good, targeted and of high quality? The answer really depends under which words or expressions your site was ranked highly and, subsequently, discovered. And therein lies the key: Should your website be ranked higher based on a general keyword or phrase? While it may bring you a lot of traffic, the answer is "No." Why? Because it does not reflect all of the three essential elements mentioned earlier. Remember this rule:  The more generic the keyword, the more generic the visitor.

You should keep that rule in mind as you're analyzing the results of any of your search engine marketing efforts and especially when you're about to perform one. This may sound like an overly simplistic guideline but you would be amazed to know how many people have tried to rank higher on the search engines using single, generic keywords in order to produce an abundant quantity of traffic, which in the end will never be qualified for, or genuinely interested in, what is offered.

I'm far from being a search engine expert. But I'd like to give you some of my own ideas; tips and tricks that could benefit your overall search engine strategy, or in the very least enlighten you and hopefully dispel some of the myths.

First, proponents argue that search engines statistically drive up to 75% of all web traffic. While it is a realistic number, it is still quite misleading. The web is populated with over 30 million websites (at last count, Google reported to have indexed over 560 million URLs). Therefore, it equals to very little quality traffic when you distribute the total search engine traffic, while keeping in mind that only a small handful of results is relevant and that, on top of all that, an even smaller number enjoys the majority of this traffic.

But this statistic indicates that search engines are important nonetheless: When used effectively and combined with other marketing activities, they can be quite powerful. So to begin, let's take a look at search engines in general and how they work. There are four different types (while a generic term, realize that not all "search engines" are search engines):

   1) Search Engine:

This type of directory uses an application-powered retrieval and indexing system (called "spider," since it "crawls" entire sites to index each page it finds). But the word "engine" signifies that the search-and-retrieval process is automated.  Inktomi at http://www.inktomi.com ) once used to be the web's largest -- powering Hotbot, Yahoo and Canada.com -- but is now overshadowed by the web's newest Goliath: Google (for more, see www.searchenginewatch.com/reports/sizes.html ). In fact, Yahoo, which used to use the Inktomi engine as its backbone, has recently converted to Google (see www.pcworld.com/pcwtoday/article/0,1510,17444,00.html For a comprehensive listing of general and country-specific search engines, visit www.searchengines.com

   2) Directory Engine:

All search engines are directories. But not all directories are search engines. What is often referred to as a "directory" is one reviewed and catalogued by human editors (like Yahoo, Snap, LookSmart and dmoz.org). Human-compiled directories are often mistakenly confused with the traditional search engine. Dmoz.org, the largest (in terms of number of editors), fuels Netscape, Lycos and HotBot. But many other, less well-known engines use Open Directory data, like www.beguide.com, www.webpath.net and www.metadog.com.  (For a listing of search engines and directories, including specialized ones, see www.searchengineguide.com .)

   3) Portal Engine:

The word "portal" (which is not used here in the sense of the traditional portal) implies a search engine that combines other types of applications for more sophisticated uses, such as discussion boards like www.delphi.com, shopping and comparison tools like www.amazon.com, advanced search tools like www.ask.com, or ranking tools like www.goto.com . (Because of Goto's success, many new pay-for-ranking engines are popularizing the web, like www.findwhat.com, www.7search.com, www.simplesearch.com and www.rocketlinks.com.) (For a complete listing of all the pay-per-click search engines, visit www.payperclicksearchengines.com .)

   4) Meta Engine:

A "meta" search engine is one that has no individual engine powering it but uses others for displaying its results. Very often, these results come from a combination of engines in order to provide search results from multiple directories simultaneously. Also, beyond applications (or "spiders") that crawl several engines at once, some of these use additional applications to compare and rank results based on the level of relevancy given by the larger search engines. Some of the most notable are www.37.com , www.ezcrawl.com, www.metacrawl.com, www.metacrawler.com, www.megaspider.com and www.superseek.com .  (For a complete listing of all the meta search engines on the Internet, visit www.metasearchengines.com .) 

Search engines may be tools for creating traffic but they are the trickiest. For example, 85% of people using search engines leave after the first 2 search result pages given. Unless a site is located in the top 10 or 20 listings, search engines will never be helpful: Again, the more generic the keyword, the more competition (and hard work) you will have. Try this: Search for the word "music" on www.AltaVista.com  How many results did it offer? If you look at the bottom, in tiny text, you'll see that it's 48,986,443. That's nearly 50 million results!

So the secret to obtaining optimal search engine ranking is through better, more audience-targeted keywords ... No more, no less. (Note that I used the word "optimal" here and not "top." Always keep in mind that web page optimization is hard, persistent work -- there is no rock-solid way of doing it that works all the time. Search engines change sporadically and constantly, not only with regard to rankings but also in terms of ranking criteria, index methodology and maintenance.)

Again, the more generic you remain in your keywords, the more you will have to fight for those coveted top positions. (As my friend and colleague Jim Daniels once noted in one of his articles, his best rankings occurred when he abandoned his search engine efforts altogether -- a great example of the adage "a watched pot never boils.")

Am I stating here that you should abandon your search engine efforts completely? Not at all. In fact, if you read Jim's whole article at www.bizweb2000.com/confess.htm, he attributes his success to continually adding fresh, keyword-rich content to his site and meta tags, and to focusing more on his customers rather than on search engines. I agree since my experience is quite similar. Once http://SuccessDoctor.com/ has grown to the several hundred pages it is today, and without any additional effort, my rankings soared.)

But for now, realize that keyword-rich content, with better, more targeted keywords, will generate an abundant source of quality traffic to your site. In part two, I will discuss the issue of keywords in depth, along with citing many examples of how to incorporate them in your webpages including the use of "meta tags"). Meanwhile, for more information on search engines, see www.searchenginewatch.com.  An excellent article on search engine positioning, including "The Seven Habits of Effective Website Ranking," can be read at: www.infoworld.com/articles/mt/xml/00/06/12/000612mtsearch.xm

In conclusion, realize that the Pareto Principle applies to search engines too (also called the "80:20 Rule"). Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist and sociologist (circa 1848-1923) studied the distribution of wealth in a variety of countries. He discovered a common phenomenon: About 80% of the wealth in most countries was controlled by a predictable and consistent minority (about 20% of the people). Since then, his rule has been applied to other fields -- such as in management (i.e., 80% of the results are produced by 20% of the workforce). 

This rule can be applied to all things. In other words, the minority of input produces the majority of results. But in terms of search engines, it means that 20% of your efforts will yield 80% of your results. And it also means that 80% of your traffic will stem from only a minority of all search engines. Therefore, keep in mind that only a small handful of search engine tactics, as well as a small handful of search engines (10-25 of them), is worth your consideration.


About the Author:

Cliff Smith is a Fellow of the Business Forum Association.  He is the President of 1st Net Technologies, Inc.  Cliff is actively involved in gaining community and industry recognition for 1st Net Technologies. Under his initiative, 1st Net is a member of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and The San Diego and Imperial County Better Business Bureau. In 1997, Cliff teamed 1st Net with the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and Pacific Bell to create and develop a presentation titled the "Tour of Technology" for the San Diego Insights 1997 World Conference.

Cliff has represented 1st Net Technologies through public speaking engagements at the San Francisco Money Show where he made a presentation on investor relations marketing services for public companies on the Internet. He also conducted two investor relations marketing workshops at additional Money Shows in both San Francisco and Seattle. Mr. Smith was also a Speaker at the 1998 Regional Investment Banker's Association Conference in Washington, D.C. and in San Francisco where he presented an overview of 1st Net and the company's proprietary technologies regarding affinity- based browsers, content-based routing, email management software and IP telephony.

He appeared as a guest on “World Business Review” hosted by Casper Weinberger in June 1999 where he discussed two of the company‚Äôs proprietary technologies including the affinity based browsers and the 1st Net "Interactive Business Cards" used to efficiently and cost-effectively market any e-commerce web based business.

Cliff was the creator and conceptual designer of the company's latest marketing product called the 1st LookCD, effectively bridging the gap between the real world and the Internet, all while leveling the playing field for smaller technology companies to compete on a National level.


Previous articles by Cliff Smith:

The Dawning Industry of e-Marketing Technologies

Another article by Cliff Smith - Click Here


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