Search Engine Optimization: Beware of Pretenders
By Shari Worthington
A bit of confusion surrounds most new technologies when they first hit the
market. A recent visit to one of our favorite controls companies demonstrated
that search engine optimization, also known as SEO, is no exception.
It turns out that a number of fly-by-night web designers are claiming to provide
SEO services when in fact, what they're doing is simply spending your money
on lower response rate advertising (pay-per-click advertising).
So let's clear up the confusion, because there is a big difference in the credibility
and response rates of a top ranking in a search engine's search results versus
a paid spot on that same page.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
According to Webopedia,
the online dictionary of computer and technology terms, search engine optimization
is the process of increasing the amount of visitors to a Web site by ranking
high in the search results of a search engine. The higher a Web site ranks in
the results of a search, the greater the chance that the site will be visited
by a user. It is common practice for Internet users to not click through pages
and pages of search results, so where a site ranks in a search is essential
for directing more traffic toward the site. SEO helps to ensure that a site
is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will
be found by the search engine.
Pay per click advertising, on the other hand, is when a company buys
an advertisement on a search engine page, usually related to particular keyword
search. These ads can appear in a variety of locations, depending on the search
engine, but in all cases they are called out separately from the search engine's
main search results. In some cases, these ads are highlighted with a different
section heading (Yahoo), or they're placed in a separate location on the page
(Google), or they have a small note at the end of the listing that says, "paid
SEO vs Paid Advertising
The difference between SEO and paid placement is like night and day. Why?
Because one is clearly advertising (which many people will avoid at all costs)
and the other is the result of a search engine's honest search to find the best
sites that match your keywords. Both will yield click-throughs, but the yield
on a top 10 search listing will be far higher than anything that can be obtained
through paid advertising because of the inherent credibility (after all, if
Google says you've got the best site for ABC, then it must be worth looking
The other difference is, of course, the cost. The top 5 search engines carry
95% of all web site traffic. On these sites, the search results for a particular
keyword are free to the web site being searched. For instance, if I do a search
for "pocket pc database" on Google today, the top two search results
are for a software company called SYWARE (http://www.syware.com).
SYWARE is also running a paid ad on this page to ensure that their name comes
up for this phrase as it is critical to their business. But the most credible
and highest visibility positions are their free listings in the #1 and #2 spots
in the search results. These were obtained through Telesian's
Pay-per-click ads, on the other hand, cost you money when someone clicks on
them. The price can be as low as 10 cents per click or, in some cases, it can
be as high as $5.00 per click. It all depends on the popularity of the keyword
and how many competitors are bidding for the top spot. Response rates for pay-per-click
ads vary widely, but tend to average between 1-3% (if you're not getting at
least these kinds of results, better call us!).
The bottom line is that you want the most visible spot in the search results
of the top search engines for the best price. How do you achieve this?
You start with search engine optimization, a service that modifies your web
site in such a way that you rank at the highest levels. This involves a combination
of factors: site architecture, depth of content, and behind the scenes coding.
For example, basics like removing frames and product catalogs that are all PDF
files are the first things that are recommended. You will pay a monthly fee
for an SEO service, such as Telesian's SEO
service. It will get you across the board results for a large number of
phrases (we recommend starting with a top 20 list).
If you still can't get top rankings for particular keywords from an SEO service
(which would be unusual if the SEO company knows what it's doing), then you
add paid advertising to your marketing program. You'll end up paying for some
competitors or unrelated businesses to click through on your ad and you won't
get as high a response as the main search results, but it's a good compliment
to an SEO program.
So when you hire an SEO service, make sure you ask...are they really doing
SEO or are they just using your money to pay for lower response rate advertising?
Other search engine marketing pretenders can do more than waste your money.
They can actually get your site blacklisted from the major search engines by
their questionable techniques. Read Play Nice with