Search engine listings can generate a lot of high-quality traffic. As an important part of your marketing campaign, search engine optimization is relatively cost-effective and can improve your bottom line. But a lot of marketers don’t know how to run a good search engine traffic campaign.
The first thing you need to know is that it takes a little time and patience. Someone said it many years ago, and it remains true today: Patience is a virtue. And good things happen to those who wait.
Search engine traffic returns well on the investment. Small businesses leverage their ad dollars with good bang for the buck. Larger corporate dot-coms have dominated their product lines by including search engine optimization in their advertising budgets. Many have realized it’s a three-way win to be found for specific keyword searches across the Big Ten: It’s a win for the search engine, the user, and the web site owner. (The Big Ten are listed at the end of this article.) All this has generated a feverish interest in search engine optimization.
However, there are some cold realities: A latent period of waiting to be registered, an unregulated industry without standardization or licensing, and no protection for consumers. This can set you up for a time-consuming research project on all companies big and small. The following information can assist you in making educated decisions regarding your search engine traffic campaign.
First, let me preface this by saying that in the good old days of 1995, there were rumors of 20 million web pages. Those of us involved in Internet advertising back then were stunned: “Wow 20 million pages!” Search engines responded to web site submissions the day of the submission, or within a week or two, and positioning your links was not a huge concern.
Today, in March 2000, there are over 2 billion web pages, and those of us involved in Internet advertising continue to be stunned from seeing online ad spending hit $4 billion in 1999. Search engine submission response time is now taking two months and sometimes six or even eight months before submissions get into the Big Ten databases.
Currently, the largest of search engines can maintain only between 50 and 150 million web pages in its database. Search engines are randomly dumping and filtering submission requests continually, and some companies have hired human editors in an attempt to review documents prior to listing pages in their databases. Some search engines receive over 10,000 submission requests per day.
Doing it yourself is an option, although it takes a bit of time and requires a significant learning curve. Your best resource is Danny Sullivan’s SearchEngineWatch. You might also join the I-Search Discussion List to learn more about current issues.
On the other hand, submitting a request for proposal (RFP) to a professional interactive ad agency is proactive and sets you up for the best level of successful search engine optimization. A search engine premium placement campaign is quite involved, and there are many issues for consideration. The following is a template you can use or modify to create your RFP specifications.
Express your wish that the following be done for your campaign on the Big Ten search engines:
- Research on the client’s category and a recommendation for the top keywords the client’s web site should be optimized for.
- A determination of the number of keywords needed, and the creation of gateway (doorway ad) pages for search engine submission.
- Analysis and optimization of the current home page and key secondary pages prior to submission.
- Monthly tracking and reporting on keyword positioning and click-through.
In addition to the above priority services, you may need assistance with the following:
- Submitting the primary URL to industry-specific search engines.
- Tracking competitive key word performance.
- Hosting gateway pages with separate IP addresses when necessary.
- Logging file analyses to determine traffic patterns.
You also need information on proficiency standards, vendor experience, costs, time frames, and in-house relationships. Consider asking your ad agency to clear a few questions with the search engine traffic agency, such as:
- What is your company’s proficiency in this area?
- How many years of experience do you have?
- How much do you charge for these services?
- Can you break down the costs for set-up/analysis, page optimization, maintenance, etc.?
- What clients have you provided these services to?
- What results were achieved?
- Do you have references we can contact?
- How much time does it take to accomplish the services described above?
- How often do you provide reporting?
- What search engines do you work with?
With a proposal including all of the above information, you should be in good shape to make an informed decision regarding your search engine traffic campaign.
Next week: third-party search engine analyses and ratings from Media Metrix, NetRatings, and StatMarket, and online resources for your search engine premium placement campaign.
The Big Ten Search Engines
Rated by Media Metrix for “audience reach,” the current top ten search engines are: Yahoo, MSN, Netscape, Go (Infoseek), Lycos, Excite, Alta Vista, Snap, HotBot, and LookSmart.