We said last week that page optimization and registration are the first two steps of a positioning campaign. But the third and most complex step is an option for those who are really serious about positioning: the use of doorway ads. Before getting into the details, I should sketch out the role of environmental variables in search engine positioning.
There are several dozen variables that the various search engines consider when ranking a page. To make things even more complicated, most of the engines have engineered somewhat different variables to distinguish their results as “better than our competitors’.” These have been dubbed “environmental variables” by the analysts and technicians who study search engine dynamics closely. The environmental variables set by the engines, in theory, allow analysts and technicians to uncover algorithms or rules defining how a web page is ranked by the various engines.
So you’d think discovering these rules would give us a formula we can use to get high page rankings all the time. Fact is, it’s more an art than a science. If it were science, it’d be simple: Do the math and get listed as number one on page one on all engines all the time.
What follows is a lesson in the art, not the science of positioning. It can’t be overemphasized that the prerequisite to positioning is thorough HTML optimization and registration of the web site. And don’t forget patience.
A doorway ad is a web page designed with the basic elements of HTML. The page should be clear, informative, focused and concise. The use of a doorway ad can have a favorable influence on ranking, so it is important that it be put together with great care.
Knowing what content works best comes from experience in monitoring the results of registration and making adjustments day after day over a period of time. The nature of this process can be uncertain because you must evaluate the past to make changes for the future in a dynamically changing environment.
It takes considerable effort to write, submit, track, re-write, re-submit, and constantly monitor these pages. Depending on the market pressure being placed on your keywords and the mood of the engines, it’s not uncommon for a team of experienced search engine technicians to devote several hundred hours to putting together just one, two or three pages.
What justifies such an expenditure of time, attention and expertise? The fact that doorway ads can be used to help search engines find relevant information.
Search engines are machines lacking intuition when they search for documents. A machine will look through several million documents for a series of letters (symbols) without the capacity to distinguish meaning.
Therefore, a search for the term “corporate” will consider all documents with the symbols “ate,” whether these three letters appear as part of “corporate” or in such text as “Johnny ate his dinner.” Granted, this is the simplest of examples, but it illustrates the basis on which all search engines operate. For this reason, some engines have started to use human editors in addition to robotic indexing. (Which brings up the issue of censoring documents within search engine databases, a topic for another day.)
In any event, most popular engines welcome web pages that are clear, concise, relevant and attractive. Therefore, doorway ads have become an excellent technique for helping search engines find relevant information.
The Keyword Audit and Competitive Analysis
The process of developing good doorway ads starts with what I call the keyword audit. You may want to seek the help of your interactive agency, PR firm, ISP, host, or web designer with this process as it requires specific expertise.
The first step in your keyword audit is to determine your preferred key phrases. Most businesses have several key phrases relevant to their offering or web site; however, some key phrases are more important than others. It is important to study all your key phrases, and once you have a complete list, you must prioritize them.
Next, perform a keyword position report for your most important keywords. This will provide you with a benchmark, and it displays your web site page or pages and their location on each engine relative to your key phrase searched. You can use TopDog software to run keyword position reports.
When you see your keyword positions, you will also see competitor links above and below your listings. This will display your competitors’ titles, descriptions, and positions. A good competitive analysis will help you further refine your preferred key phrases while simultaneously identifying your industry competitors.
A competitive analysis is the best tool I’ve found to help determine your most important key phrases. Your keyword audit becomes the cornerstone of your positioning campaign.
So far, we’ve discussed the three steps of a positioning campaign page optimization, registration, and doorway ads in general terms. Every Wednesday at ClickZ.com we will delve ever more deeply into the finer details of each process. Next week, I’ll cover understanding what to submit to the engines, and the following week, where to submit. Over time, you’ll develop professional habits for generating search engine traffic.
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