article

E-Channel – Turn Your Web Storefront from Lost to Found

Posted: 12/2001

E-Channel

Turn Your Web Storefront from Lost to Found
By Fredrick Marckini



Fredrick Marckini

We all look for information on the Internet, but have you ever tried to find your own company’s web site using a search engine?

Give it a try.

Conduct a query using a term or phrase specifically related to your business. Did your company appear within the first three pages of results? Are your competitors listed before you?

This may not seem like a big issue for telecom companies that generally do not make sales on the web. Web sites are an invaluable resource for people who want to find a telecom company. The web sites contain useful information, including investor relations, service offerings, company news and contacts.

However, if potential customers cannot find your site in the major search properties, it goes without saying your competition will pick up some new business.

Why Are Search

Engines So Important?

A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology revealed that 85 percent of people begin their online research at a search engine.

IMT Strategies Inc. found search engines create more awareness about web sites than all advertising media combined, including banners, newspapers, television and radio.

Therefore, companies that want to succeed online need web sites that are accessible or “findable” in search engines. An easy-to-find web site will generate more leads and sales, and it will increase brand loyalty among visitors.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. A typical search engine database contains approximately 500 million catalogued web pages, so it has become increasingly difficult to position a web site that can be found within the major search properties.

Companies spend significant time and money to build an online presence. Unfortunately, making the web site easy to find amongst the clutter of cyberspace is the one part of the process that often is overlooked. Enter search engine positioning.

Search engine positioning is the science of increasing a web site’s visibility in the major search engines and directories across a strategically defined universe of keywords and phrases.

Effective search engine positioning requires thorough keyword research and selection based on the behavior of a site’s target audience, technical modifications for web site optimization, strategic search engine and directory analysis and submissions.

It also involves continual refinements to the campaign as the company’s web site, industry and the search engine landscape evolves.

The days of serendipitous surfers and “accidental traffic” stumbling onto a site are over. Today, the odds of finding the information you are looking for on the Internet are slim to none without the help of a search engine or directory to guide you in the right direction.

If your web site does not appear within the first 30 search results, or first three pages of listings, it’s invisible to the vast majority of customers and prospects who are utilizing search engines.

If a company does not leverage the major search engines to their full capacity, it is losing valuable business.

Those who design, plan and develop web sites, including those in the telecom industry, typically are told to make a site aesthetically pleasing rather than visible to search engines.

In fact, a recent iProspect study found that 97 percent of the Fortune 100 now use technologies, including Java Script and Flash, that make it difficult for search engines to index the sites. Nearly half of the Fortune 100 companies are not using keywords in their meta tags.

Meta What?

Meta data are information that describes other data located on a web page. Search engines use keywords located in meta tags, as well as terms located throughout a site’s body copy, to classify, index and rank web sites.

Without proper keywords specifically targeted to a company’s audience, product or service, a site has little chance of being found in search engines.

Some businesses rely on their company names to drive site traffic, but this is not necessarily helpful for research. Often, people search using keywords and phrases that relate to a product or service’s features, benefits or attributes — instead of a company or brand name.

People also search to solve problems, such keyword queries come across in a variety of language styles. Consequently, a web site that does not target keywords and phrases that match the linguistic behavior of its target audience stands to lose customers.

It is not useful to target a massive list of keywords that are irrelevant or too broad. Instead, choose terms and phrases that accurately reflect a company, its industry, products and services to drive qualified traffic to the web site.

For example, one integrated communications company targets “communicate,” “telephone” and “Internet.” A searcher querying these words might be looking for a range of goods and services other than telephony companies. Whereas, targeting the keyword phrase “business telephone services” will lead to a much more qualified visitor finding your site and, therefore, lead to a much better chance of getting a desired outcome.

Another point to keep in mind when choosing keywords is relevancy. One telecom provider includes “business products” and “buying guides” in their keyword meta tags. While one may argue that choosing a telecom provider is a business purchase, “business products” typically refer to office supplies, while “buying guides” is a specific phrase often used to describe consumer information sites.

So How Do You Solve The Problem?

Let’s go back to the science of search engine positioning. Unlike banner ads and paid listings, whose impact ends when payments stop, search engine positioning is an ongoing process whereby a search engine positioning practitioner continually reworks a site and makes adjustments to the campaign as a whole to keep up with messaging, product and business model changes occurring within an organization and industry.

One important point to note about search engine positioning is a site that has been optimized will look no different than any other, but its ability to attract qualified visitors will perform above and beyond

its competition.

Search engine positioning dramatically shortens a company’s sales cycle because people looking for information on the web are a step closer to making a purchase.

These potential customers have made the decision to search for information online. They have chosen a search term and conducted a keyword query in a search engine, and they have picked a web site from a list of results. This is the ultimate qualified visitor — exactly the one you want to attract.

This user is more likely to make a purchase, more likely to stay longer on your site, more likely to travel deep into your site’s internal architecture and more likely to identify himself to you by filling out a form or survey.

But this can happen only if a company’s site is indexed and positioned properly in the search engines and directories.

However, developing a universe of targeted keywords is a complex, research-intensive process. Companies must consider their products, services, customers and business goals in addition to industry changes and search engine developments when creating their universe of keywords.

Once a target list is developed, it most likely will have to be modified throughout the search engine positioning campaign as the company’s business and messaging changes and as the search engine landscape evolves.

A web site is a marketing initiative, and as such, attention must be paid to the objectives behind a company’s online presence. Companies need to think about the messages they are trying to convey online and to whom they are targeted — not unlike planning a direct mail piece or an advertisement.

It is no secret that companies are spending significant amounts of money on their web sites with the hope that they will lead to increased market share, better brand awareness and higher sales rates.

The best way to leverage these investments and to ensure prospective customers are connecting with your company is to include search engine positioning in the company’s online marketing efforts.

It is easy to get caught up in new Internet technologies, but they are only a means to an end — making a sale and signing the deal. But before there is a contract on the table, customers must be able to find the information needed to make that first call.

Fredrick Marckini is CEO and CTO of iProspect.com and author of the book, Search Engine Positioning. He can be reached at
ceo@iprospect.com.


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