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Three Myths on Boosting Search-Engine Rankings

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                   SoHo NEWS & TIPS
Helping You Make the Most of Your Small Office/Home Office
        SoHoTIPS.com
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Greetings,

How do you improve your search-engine rankings without 
making costly errors? Today's issue will help you avoid 
common myths and make your efforts to improve your search-
engine rankings more effective.

Best,
Mandi

Be sure to visit the SoHo News and Tips blog!
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Three Myths on Boosting Search-Engine Rankings 
By SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN 

Small online proprietors often spend lots of time 
and money trying to improve their search-engine 
rankings, getting only poor results for their 
effort. 

To avoid costly errors, make note of these common 
myths: 

Myth 1. You can be guaranteed consistently high 
rankings. 

Dori Hession says she learned an expensive lesson 
when launching her wedding-services business in 
2000. She paid $8,000 in total to two companies 
that she says promised to put her South Lake 
Tahoe, Calif., outfit at the top of search-engine 
listings for searches on popular phrases such as 
"California weddings" and keep them high. In each 
case, her site's ranking rose to the top at first, 
she says, "then all of a sudden it would be gone 
for a month or longer...When you fall off the 
search engines, you're gone. You're out of 
business.

Ms. Hession fell prey to a widespread mispercept-
ion that a Web site can be guaranteed rankings on 
search engines. The companies she hired special-
ized in search-engine optimization (SEO), the 
process of helping place a site high in search-
engine rankings when Web surfers look for inform-
ation related to the site. The firms claimed 
"they could fake out the search engines," she 
says, but she isn't sure exactly what the two 
companies did. She has since learned that only 
search engines have control over the way sites
are ranked in search results. 

In 2003, she hired another SEO company that 
promised only to improve her site's rankings and 
keep them high. The firm, Pole Position Marketing 
in Reno, Nev., achieved this by editing her site's 
copy to include keywords, writing more search-
engine-friendly Web coding, and arranging for 
related sites to link to hers, says Stoney G. 
deGeyter, president. In a recent Google search on 
"Lake Tahoe weddings," Ms. Hession's site, 
lakeoftheskyweddings.com, turned up as the No. 9 
listing.

SEO firms can't guarantee top search-engine rank-
ings because search engines are constantly 
changing the way they rank Web sites, explains 
Chris Sherman, editor of "SearchDay," a daily e-
newsletter from SearchEngineWatch.com in New York. 
"No SEO firm has inside access to those changes. 
The best they can do is study, analyze and adapt 
to their procedures as best they can," he says.

Before hiring an SEO company, ask for references 
from past clients to learn about their experiences, 
he advises. "Good firms explain what they do in 
very plain English, provide information on their 
background and clients and give away free tools 
for checking your rankings," he says. 

Myth 2. I need to submit my Web site to every
search engine out there.

When Ice.com launched in 1999, the New York-based 
online jewelry retailer hired a summer intern to 
submit the site's URL to as many search engines as 
possible. "That's what he did all day, and I can't 
say we saw any tangible results," says Pinny 
Gniwisch, Ice.com's founder and executive vice 
president of marketing. 

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Many new online sellers think they need to submit 
their site to every search engine on the Web, says 
Jamie Low, president of SearchEngineMarketing.com, 
a consulting company in Lotus, Calif. However, 
search engines find sites on their own from links 
on sites already in their databases, he explains. 
The more links a site receives, the higher up it 
will appear in search results, he adds. "Being 
linked to is probably the single most important 
thing outside of having good content for getting 
high search-engine rankings," he says.

Bear in mind that search engines look for links 
from complementary sites, says Mr. Low. "It's not 
just the quantity of links that matters; it's also 
the quality of the links," he explains. "You want 
to be linked to from sites that are relevant to 
yours."

You can generate links to your site by publishing 
a separate site as a company blog (short for Web 
log or journal) with entries that include links 
back to your site. Just make sure the content is 
relevant to your company and offers information 
of value to readers rather than serve only as a 
means for boosting your Web site's search-engine 
rankings, advises Mr. Low.

Since launching the first of four blogs in March, 
ice-cream company Denali Flavors Inc. in Wayland, 
Mich., has seen traffic to its Web site increase 
by about 20%, says John Nardini, executive vice 
president of marketing. The blogs, which also are 
meant to help with customer relations, offer news 
about a company-sponsored bicycling team, a 
behind-the-scenes look at how it makes ice cream 
and other information of interest to Denali 
customers. 

In 2003, Walter Pereira, president of Indoor Clean 
Aire, a duct-cleaning and mold-removal company in 
East Brunswick, N.J., asked the National Air Duct 
Cleaners Association to link to his firm's Web 
site. While he pays a membership fee to belong to 
the trade group, his site's URL was posted for 
free. "It's where we get 50% of our cold-turkey 
leads," Mr. Pereira says. In exchange, his home 
page links back to the association's Web site. He 
says he doesn't regularly track his site's rankings 
on search engines, but gets most of his business 
from people who say they found his company on the 
Internet. 

Myth 3. Repeating keywords will increase my site's 
rankings. 

While search engines are designed to look for the 
words that users choose, padding your site with 
popular terms can backfire on a Web-site owner. 

Unnecessary repetition of words can turn off 
customers, warns Allan Dick, general manager at 
Vintage Tub & Bath, an online retailer of clawfoot 
tubs and bathroom fixtures and accessories based 
in Hazleton, Pa. Mr. Dick says he tries to avoid 
overusing the search terms that potential 
customers might use to find his products, such as 
"clawfoot" and "pedestal." Riddling a site with 
excess keywords runs the risk of confusing 
customers and driving them away, he explains. He 
says he concentrates on producing copy that reads 
naturally because "if we just wrote for search 
engines, human beings couldn't possibly under-
stand it." 

"You have to optimize your site for your customers 
first and search engines second," he adds. 

Overusing keywords may even lower your rankings, 
says Mr. deGeyter. "Search engines have a way of 
analyzing natural language on a Web page, so when 
you stuff keywords in your site, it throws things 
out of natural balance," he explains. For example, 
some sites repeat keywords needlessly: "We offer 
carpet cleaning in Arizona, carpet cleaning in 
Utah, carpet cleaning in California and carpet 
cleaning in Nevada," he says. "If you say the 
same thing over and over, the search engines will 
catch on and they'll penalize your site." Penal-
ties vary among search-engine providers, but they 
typically will either bury your site in its rank-
ings or not list it at all, he adds. 

DID YOU KNOW?

What about using something like fridge magnets instead of 
the standard business card? What do people do with fridge 
magnets? Put them on their refrigerator in their kitchen - 
a place the family frequents, where they'll see your contact
information (and marketing message) countless times a day!

So what did you think about this issue? Drop me a line and let 
me know at mailto:mandi@gophercentral.com 

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