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How to Get to the Top Of Search-Engine Results

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

Greetings,

Did you know there are some simple steps to take that can 
improve the relevance of your Web site for search engines? 
In today's issue you will learn of some methods to get to 
the top of search engine results. 

Also, be sure to check out our new SoHo News Forum by click-
ing on the link below!

Best,
Mandi

P.S. You can discuss this issue or any other topic in the 
new SoHo News & Tips forum. Check it out here...

SoHo News & Tips Forum

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How to Get to the Top Of Search-Engine Results 
By ALAN S. HOROWITZ 

A television commercial was once the biggest 
marketing coup for a small business. Today, getting 
your company listed in the first page of a search 
on Yahoo or Google can transform an also-ran into 
a front-runner.

For Baldwin/Welsh & Parker Insurance Agency in 
Wayland, Mass., the Web has become the firm's best 
source of sales leads, outside of direct referrals, 
because a high listing in search results attracts 
quality prospects.

"There's not a big downside if we're not listed 
high, but there's a big upside if we are," says 
the firm's principal, Dave D'Orlando. 

Businesses can take some simple steps to improve 
the relevance of a Web site for search engines -- 
and traffic and hopefully business -- without 
spending lots of money on search-engine optimiza-
tion. 

Search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN send out 
spiders (also called bots or crawlers) to scour 
the Web and retrieve certain information from 
sites that is then analyzed using complex 
algorithms. 

The spiders look for keywords that searchers tend 
to use, as well as how often they appear on a Web 
page. That is called word density, and generally 
you want 3% to 5% of the words (or phrases) on a 
page related to words people use for searching, 
recommends Dave Knight, manager and co-owner of 
dMedia LLC, a search-engine optimization and Web 
development agency in Park City, Utah. 

If a page has 300 words, the keywords or phrases 
searchers would likely use should appear nine to 
15 times on that page. For example, an auto-repair 
shop in Phoenix would add the keywords "auto," 
"cheap repairs," "24/7" and "Phoenix" to its home 
page to draw potential customers looking for low 
prices or late-night service.

Mr. D'Orlando focuses on selling home insurance in 
the town where his agency is located, so the phrase
"Wayland, Massachusetts" appears in the title bar 
(the very top of Web browser), under the company's 
logo, and in the text of the firm's home page. The 
word "Wayland" also mentioned one more time. 

"If you are looking for home insurance in Wayland, 
Massachusetts we would rank pretty high," says Mr.
D'Orlando. The firm's site comes up second in 
Google's results for that search. However, those 
looking for home insurance who just type in 
"Massachusetts," will not likely find Mr. 
D'Orlando's site among the top results. That suits 
Mr. D'Orlando's strategy of specifically looking 
for home owners in the Wayland area.

The quantity of keywords counts as well. 

"The most important thing is to make sure you have 
plenty of relevant content on your site," says Lynn 
Pilewski, owner of 1 Stop Sites, Taylors, S.C., a 
Web site and graphic design agency which created 
Mr. D'Orlando's Web site. "Be as in-depth in 
content as you can." 

It's best to place the text in HTML code, which 
search-engine spiders can read, and not as Web 
graphics, which spiders can't read and won't boost 
the relevancy. 

"The more pages the better, as long the content is 
relevant. Search engines love content," says Eric 
V. Melin, president of president of SpiderSplat 
Consulting, a search-engine marketing firm in 
Boston.

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Get Results

Quick tips to improve your site's ranking in 
search-engine results:

• Add keywords

• Use metatags

• Get other sites to link to your page

• Be an authority

• Be patient


Also use metatags, which are hidden data written 
into a site's HTML that provide information about 
a page, such as its title and description. Spiders 
often rely on these metatags to index pages, notes 
Russell Klein, director of emerging technology 
research at Aberdeen Group, Boston. 

A Web site's authority is determined by how many 
other sites link to it. 

"The number one factor in most algorithms is how 
important or authoritative you appear to others," 
says Mr. Melin. "If you sell books online, you 
want to get as many people as possible to link to 
you."

The more prestigious the site linking to yours, 
the better. "If Amazon is linking to Joe's book-
store, Joe becomes more prominent," notes Mr. 
Melin. There is reflected glory when you are 
linked to from a well known site, and your site's 
importance to search engines goes up, he says.

How do you get other sites to link to yours? 
Respond to postings on popular blogs so they 
mention your Web page, recommends Aberdeen's Mr. 
Klein. Google, in particular, searches blogs for 
references to other sites, he says. 

Contact Web masters of relevant sites and ask for 
a link-up. SpiderSplat's Mr. Melin says you should 
go to vendors, partners, clients, customers -- 
anyone you can think who has a site relevant to 
yours -- and arrange reciprocal links.

IFREC Real Estate Schools, Orlando, Fla. has 
reciprocal arrangements with about 50 real-estate 
brokers. Robin Shumate, vice president of business 
affairs, says the brokers' Web sites refer 
potential students to IFREC and, in return, IFREC 
refers students to the brokers so they know who is 
hiring. The school's site also is linked to from 
RealtyU, a national network of real-estate schools. 
Ms. Shumate says these links help boost IFREC to 
the top, or near the top, of search rankings.

She says hits on IFREC's Web site increased 37% in 
2004, 39% in 2005 and are expected to increase 35% 
to 39% this year. While she can't quantify exactly 
how much of this is a result of search-engine 
optimization, she believes much of it is. 

Another way to increase your credibility to search
engines is to get mentioned in articles or have 
press releases related to your business distributed 
by news services. 

"Any way that you can get as many possible Web 
sites in the world pointing to yours increases your 
chances of ranking highly," says Mr. Klein.

Higher rankings do not come immediately, no matter 
what you do. There may be weeks between visits by 
spiders to your Web site. Also, the algorithms 
used by the search engines are constantly changing, 
and that may call for some tweaking to a Web site. 
Experts say it may take as long as six to nine 
months to move near the top of a search.

Beware the search-engine consultant that promises 
to boost search rankings quickly. "If a company 
promises that you will be at a certain ranking 
within a certain amount of time, run from them. 
It's not possible," warns Ms. Pilewski. Of course, 
if you have a bizarre search term -- Part Number 
2438, for example -- you may quickly move to the 
top. But, generally, it takes time and work to 
get to the first page of rankings.


DID YOU KNOW?

The overhead associated with an internal sales force is 
substantially higher than with distributors. Those overhead 
costs eat into your profits every month, whether the sales 
are there to support that overhead or not.

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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