Search Warrant

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So, you've just paid £300 - £10,000 for a new web site to be designed 'registered your URL' and now it's sitting on the World Wide Web. All your new stationery and Business Cards give the Web Site address quite clearly. The designer assures you that it has been 'submitted' to all the 'Search Engines' and, when you type in the address, there it is.

You've told your customers all about it and they visit it occasionally ... No-one else seems to find it. No new enquiries and the visitor counter is moving slowly nowhere. Sound familiar?

What could have gone wrong? Was it all a waste of valuable marketing resources? Is the Web a wasteland and has the 'dot.com' bubble really burst?

The simple answer is that nothing has gone wrong, all that remains to be done is to 'market your site' effectively and the enquiries should come flooding in.

So let's go back to good, old fashioned, Sales and Marketing basics - AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

Unless you get the customers attention they won't even know your Web Site exists and, if they don't know it exists, how can they find it among the 2.6 billion other Sites on the Web!!

Entrusting the 'selling' of your site to a Web Page designer is a little like expecting a printer to distribute your brochures to your prospective customers and waiting for the orders. The responsibility, therefore, is yours and you, or a member of your marketing team, have to grit your teeth and get on with it.

Interest, Desire and Action should emanate from the design and content of your Web Page, however the first step, Getting Attention, has to be done successfully before any of this can take place. This article focuses on this vital first step

How to get Attention on the Net

To get attention on the World Wide Web you have to get your site listed on the major search engines, and that means within the top 20 places, otherwise your prospective customers will find a similar product, or service, long before they reach you.

Imagine the Internet is like a giant Yellow Pages, with no index, wherever it falls open is where your prospective customer starts to look. It is therefore essential that your site is right at the top of the first page they see.

80% of all traffic to a Web Site is through the major search engines and 'off-line' marketing activity currently accounts for only 2% of 'hits'. This will probably continue into the future, so no amount of advertising will bring the response that a search engine 'listing' will bring, particularly if you are using the Internet to reach the International Market.

To achieve a high listing you, or someone in your team, have to understand how search engines work and then adapt the web site to get their attention. Alternatively you could pay a consultancy to achieve the same results - however no-one will understand your customers the way you do therefore the time and effort invested in developing net skills in house would be worth it. In addition it would be more beneficial if the person selected were from a Sales and Marketing background, who knows the products, with a smattering of IT know how, than a 'techie' - After all, this is marketing.

However, a mistake often arises from a simple misconception. The customer you are targeting with the web site is not the end user - your product, or service, and the design of the site, once they get there is supposed to do this.

The customer for the web site itself is the search engine and its 'buyers'

The 'buyers' fall into 2 categories Search Engine 'spiders' or 'robots' who are totally logical, electronic and not very clever and Human reviewers who are not so logical, know what they do, and don't, like and may be influenced by a snappy description. Let's take each in turn

Search Engine Spiders

Spiders are computer programs that roam the World Wide Web ceaselessly, travelling from page to page of every web site they visit remembering every word on every page. They like pages that change and ignore pages that haven't changed since the last time they were there.

They can only reach a Web site by one of two methods

1 By being told about it - this you can do by registering your site with the search Engine and, eventually, it will send a spider out to visit it.

2 By visiting a Web Site from a link that has been established from another Web Site that it knows about and regularly visits.

The First Rule, therefore, is to register your Web Site with all the major search engines and to begin to develop reciprocal links with other complimentary web sites. The more links you have coming in to your site the more important it must be in the eyes of the spider!

What do the Spiders look for when they visit a site?

Contrary to popular belief, they do not all look for 'keywords' - for instance the Excite, Lycos and Google spiders ignore keywords almost altogether - no amount of conjuring with keywords will get your site to the top 20 in these search engines. What will get your site higher in the ratings is the <TITLE> of the site and the <BODY> of the site. You can check out what the <TITLE> and <BODY> of the site are by selecting View, Source in the menu bar of your Web Browser - this shows you what the spider, not the visitor, sees.

The Second Rule, therefore, is not to call your site by the name of the company ( as most businesses do) unless your company name is so well known that everyone will search for it, or the name of your company says what you do quite clearly and unambiguously. No-one cares who you are, it's what you do for them, that counts. If this sounds a little like 'selling the benefits, not the features' it's meant to.

For example - imagine your company is called ABC Electronics and that you manufacture electric vehicles in the UK. Then the <TITLE> of your site could be 'Electric Cars and Vehicles UK, ABC Electronics'

Anyone searching for electric cars and vehicles would find your site at the top of the list, or very close. Whereas if the site were called 'ABC Electronics Limited' it would come much lower in the Search Engine listings, if at all, unless someone searched for 'ABC Electronics Limited' and, bear in mind, the intention of the Internet is to reach a wider audience - if they knew who you were, wouldn't they have already contacted you by other means?

Therefore the single most important part of marketing your site is getting the <TITLE> right. However the preceding sentence is written in invisible ink and most businesses will continue to ignore this simple fact.

The Third Rule is to beware of 'frames' within your web site, particularly the first page, since some of the spiders can only index what is inside the top frame and not the links you would like it to in the main frame.

If you need to use frames as a navigation tool then consider using a 'portal' , or 'doorway', page, or one without a frame, as the first, or entry, page of your site. This, at least, should be identified by all the relevant search engines. You would then link this page to the framed pages on your main site. This may result in some of the Search engines only listing one of the pages on your site, however that is a price you may have to pay.

The Fourth Rule is to ensure that the <BODY> of the site, in particular the first paragraph of text on the page, contains some of the keywords and / or phrases that your prospective customer will be searching for.

There are some technicalities to observe, such as repeating the keywords within the <BODY> between 3 and 7 times is optimum. Any more than that and the spiders will penalise you and possibly ignore your site altogether, any less than that and you are not taking full advantage of the spiders totally logical process.

Avoid having repetitive text the same colour as the background in the hope of fooling the spider - this is a myth and will result in the spider banning you from the search engine!

So, for the Electronics Company example above. If the <BODY> text was to the effect 'Formed in 1985 ABC Electronics is based in Andover, Hampshire, close to the M5, etc. etc.' the spider will not find the words Electric Cars and Vehicles in the <BODY> and therefore reduce your rating.

However if the <BODY> said

'Electric Cars and Vehicles (as a headline) - Formed in 1985 ABC Electronics is a world leader in the design and development of Electric Cars and Vehicles for the Armed Forces, Electric Vehicles for the Ambulance Service, etc., etc.' the spider would find a high 'density' of keywords in the <BODY> and improve your sites' rating.

The Fifth Rule is to understand and develop the sites <META> Tags.

<META>Tags are not as important, to some search engines, as the <TITLE> and keyword density of the <BODY>, but they do include a variety of different items that some search engines and all human reviewers may see which include <KEYWORDS>, <DESCRIPTION>, <ABSTRACT>, etc. If you employ a range of tactics it will increase your overall success.

This is now the place for <KEYWORDS> on the site - these would be the words that your prospective customers would search for through the search engine. In doing this try to think the way the customer would think - in other words sell benefits, solve problems, anticipate the questions they would be asking. AltaVista and Mirago operate almost exclusively on <KEYWORDS> and tend to ignore <TITLE>.

List all your keywords on a word processing page then prioritise them. What do you think will be the order that people will type in keywords to search for your service or product? Remember, try to think like your customers think, so, for instance, if you produce massage oil is it possible that they will type in sports injury (or injuries)? What does your product do, or solve, not just what is it.

The next step is to pluralise your key words, as in the example above if someone typed in sports injury and your keyword was injuries they would miss you. If you make orange, oranges then searching on either word will find you.

Consider putting in mis-spelt keywords if those words are commonly mis-spelt or mistyped for instance 'servcie'. This is to ensure that people who mis spell or mis type can also find you.

However, a word of warning, the market leader in a particular product range is very low in the ratings on most search engines because their designer mis-spelt a keyword in the design of the web site. If you're not sure whether or not this is true go to www.google.com and search for 'veleting' or the word Barnaley (for Barnsley) - It's amazing what some people do

Also, it may be useful to include a ridiculous <KEYWORDS> such as 'agriptanch', why? Because when you need to find out if your site is registered with a <KEYWORDS> based search engine you simply search on 'agriptanch' and if your site is registered up it comes. If not you may have to re-register it.

The next step is to take a calculated gamble and opt for one of the following methods of using the keywords:

Target vs. Blanket

This is deciding whether or not to use a series of keywords that will cover everything anyone could possibly type in when looking for your product or service, or taking the gamble and knowing what he or she will type in and just put that as a keyword or phrase.

So, for example, if you dealt with a specific subject such as Sea Fishing then you may use just that phrase knowing that the majority of people who were searching for you would type that in as their query.

Target will bring you higher on a search engine listing but you have to be certain that people will search for exactly that word, or phrase.

Blanket covers a larger list of key words you will therefore be listed in more categories but lower on the listings for each, since the density is lower.

You are allowed approximately 200 <KEYWORDS> per page, of course, if you choose to target the prospective customer you may only use 2 or 3 of these. Nevertheless the correct format for <KEYWORDS> is word, comma, space e.g. "cleaning, upholstery, upholstery cleaning, etc."

The Sixth rule is possibly the most misunderstood rule of all : Spiders cannot follow graphically embedded links. This means that when your web page designer has put all those buttons and GIFS and animations on the page, if there are no text links to other pages then the search engine will only see one page. This means that if you have a 100 page web site, as far as the search engines are concerned you have given them a book with all the pages stuck together, unless they are linked in a way that the spiders can follow. There are very simple bits of coding that can be placed in the source code of each page to ensure the spiders access all pages.

There are other, more sophisticated ways to attract the attention of the spiders, such as the development and publishing of separate 'portal' pages, each directed back to your index page. However, by adapting the information above and applying it to your companies web site you will start to see a rapid increase in visitors and a promotion to the upper echelons of the 'Spider' based Search engines.

Human Reviewers

These are people who are either employed by the search engine company or are volunteer editors. They control what appears where in the King of all search engines, Yahoo, and in the human edited directory known as Open Directory. In order to attract their attention you need to develop snappy, factual, compulsive sales copy for the <DESCRIPTION > and the <ABSTRACT> element of the web site.

Although these appear in the <META> tags and are therefore unseen by the normal viewer, they are also the words that are used when registering with the Human edited Search Engines. they are the words that will entice them to review and, hopefully, categorise your site.

Restrict the <DESCRIPTION> to 150 characters, including spaces, it does not require keywords, but make it appealing to a human being since they probably see hundreds of sites per day. avoid phrases like 'simply the best', 'the only web site to visit'. Just like the editor of a newspaper, or magazine they are looking for interesting, quality, information for their clients who are the end users, the people who are ceaselessly searching the Internet for exactly the type of service, or product, you provide.

Finally

Whatever you invest in web site development is wasted money unless you are willing to 'market the site' to the Internet 'buyers'. With 2.605 Billion Web Sites out there (yes it has increased by 5,000,000 since you started to read this article) it's a little like throwing a pin on the floor, in a house, in London, and expecting someone to find it - without giving them the address.

Go back to basics in sales and marketing - identify the buyer, study the buyer, understand buyer behaviour and then make it easy for them to buy. And remember, if you have a 10 page web site that's 10 opportunities they have to 'buy' since each can have it's own <TITLE>, <BODY>,<DESCRIPTION> and <KEYWORDS>.

Ensure that you get the Attention of the Search Engine Buyers, work with your marketing department on developing a Site that Interests the end user, builds their Desire to buy your service, or product, and deliver a compelling call to Action that produces e - success for your on-line business.


Publication Date: Wednesday 17th November, 2004
Author: John Saxon View profile

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