First Published: Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology – June 22, 2007.
If you want a good search-marketing expert, you might want to recruit from the English department and give the computer-engineering department a miss.
Continuing updates to the search engines’ algorithms and a general refocus on the user experience has given more weight to the creative elements of search marketing. Just when you thought your meta tags and keywords put you in the driver’s seat, the rules changed on you. What we are being reminded of is that search marketing, or any web marketing for that matter, has no shortcuts.
I was recently asked if search marketing has become any easier. Of course it’s easier if you are willing to put in the hours. Unfortunately, no shortcut can take the place of experienced keyword and volume research. The creation of engaging original content takes patience and skill. This is the realm of the English major and the copywriter — not the programmer.
Among these creative requirements is the search engines’ never-quenched thirst for relevant incoming links. Manual link-building never ceases to be monotonous, albeit rewarding, in its ability to bring you both rankings and traffic. High-reward efforts like link-baiting are second only to chaos theory in terms of unpredictability and luck.
There are many creative ways referred to as link-baiting to get people to link to you without you even having to ask. The easiest way to sum that up is this: “engaging, original content.” And there it is again, that word. Content. According to one search guru, “To achieve this, use a combination of a blog, article directories, press releases, Squidoo, Wet Paint, Hubpages, paid links and online charity donations.”
If you are surprised about the last item on that shopping list, you’re not alone. But it’s true: The “.org” status of charity sites is highly regarded by Google — and thus gets an almost immediate indexing to the search pages.
As you write your next article or press release, heed the words of the experts and don’t get too greedy. There’s one important thing to remember: Take it easy on the outgoing links. Follow a rule of thumb that you need only to optimize for one phrase per press release, and never have more than two outgoing links. It is generally agreed that the more outgoing links a web page or a press release has, the more diluted the effect becomes. With the second generation of websites — notice I avoided using “Web 2.0” there — social media, like MySpace and Facebook, are only relevant or applicable to some businesses, and even then require startling creativity in order to make any difference. Choose your off-site content pages carefully. Not only could they be a misplaced marketing effort, but the cost of maintaining such a site with up-to-date and relevant content can be exhausting.
Another conversation that I’m hearing a lot is whether your entire budget should go toward getting on Google’s results pages. If you’re focusing 100 percent of your time on catering to Google’s royal highness, frankly, no one is really going to blame you. But as Google, Yahoo and MSN compete aggressively for search market share, they also strive to differentiate themselves from one another. One of the ways in which they do this is by having their algorithms interpret sites in alternative ways. So if you want a search-engine optimization (SEO) strategy that is going to be truly comprehensive, you should be aware of what the red-headed step-spiders are looking for when they visit your site too.
Of course, if you have a Google Page Rank of 7/10, then you are way above average. Although this doesn’t guarantee traffic, it tells us the site is well established, indexed frequently and that changes made to the site in the best interests of SEO will take effect quickly (think two weeks as opposed to two months). In terms of SEO, it is important to set realistic expectations for yourself or your clients. You can do everything right in terms of SEO, but it is still ultimately up to the extremely objective search engine algorithms to decide who gets ranked for what words.