January 12, 2004
After being blind-sided by the Google Florida update, many webmasters and SEO's were reeling from the results. The message is clear: you can't rely on just one search engine for all of your traffic. You must use all your wits to emerge victorious from the search engine wars. Google is important, but it is not everything. Keep your eyes and ears open to new opportunities and old standbys: other search engines and directories, paid placement and pay-per-click, newsletters, and even more traditional channels.
So were you an innocent bystander caught in the onslaught of sites dumped in the Google Florida update? Many people lost their hard-earned ranking, even though they did nothing "wrong". Many websites that follow Google's rules for optimization to the letter were still caught up in the carnage. Unfortunately, many businesses were devastated by these changes, especially heading into the holiday months.
What to do? As difficult as it may have been to make sense of Google's changes, for many, the simplest course of action was to simply do nothing. While perhaps contrary to a normal "it's broken so I need to fix it" approach, for many webmasters "do nothing" has proven to be the correct course of action. Since the update, many sites that were exiled to search engine Siberia have returned to nearly their former ranking, shaken but intact. From all appearances, Google simply changed their algorithm and may not have gotten it quite right. Additional "tweaks" subsequent to the Florida update seem to have brought some sanity back to their results.
You never know who will become the leader in search engines. It was only a few years ago that directories were the major force--until the upstart search engine Google came along. Google got its start about five years ago and hasn't looked back. As long as Google provides good results for its users, it is in a good position to stay on top. However, with MSN working on the creation of its own search engine and Yahoo's acquisition of Overture (which includes AllTheWeb and AltaVista), things could get interesting in 2004. Microsoft is always a force to be reckoned with, and Yahoo certainly has the tools to become a major competitor to Google.
Inktomi may play an important role in this growth since it is now owned by Yahoo. Keep an eye on this engine: it provides secondary results for MSN and will probably replace Google in supplying primary results in Yahoo. Inktomi's importance may also increase in MSN once the Microsoft property stops using LookSmart for its primary results.
To see which pages you have listed in Inktomi, use the Inktomi Pure Search function from Positiontech (http://search.positiontech.com/InktomiSearch/PositionTechSearch.jsp). Inktomi often adds a few free pages to its databases. Check first to see which pages you may already have in their database for free before using Paid Inclusion for your most important pages.
Keep your eye on search engine news. Google was an up and coming engine a few years ago, you never know what will happen in the industry so stay on your toes. Continue to promote your website through links in topical directory listings. Search for websites that contain topics related to yours. Link when it "makes sense". Don't forget traditional means of marketing your website: print ads, brochures, magazine articles and more may help to make a difference. One of the best ways to promote yourself online and increase your link popularity is to write articles on your subject. Find websites that accept free content and submit your ezine, articles or newsletters to those websites to build your link popularity. Newsletters, forums, FAQ's, blogs and tips on your subject are all viable means to inform your visitors and bring in new traffic to your website. Don't forget to archive your newsletters and articles on your website, which works to build your site size and increase link popularity through your authoritative knowledge of your subject. You aren't a writer? Consider working with a copywriter to help build your good content.
If you haven't ventured into using Paid Inclusion or PPC services, consider using them to help balance the changes in your traffic. Use a Paid Inclusion subscription for your most important pages, or submit dynamically generated pages that aren't being picked up by the search engine robots so they will appear regularly in the search engine database. You can start your PPC bidding in small doses. Look for some of the secondary smaller terms that don't cost as much but will still bring in traffic your competitors may miss. Take a look at some of the smaller PPC engines available out there, a little traffic from a lot of places can add up.
For more information on choosing keyword phrases, read our article Finding Targeted Keyword Phrases Your Competitors Miss (http://www.sonic.net/~goetsch/si.com/keyword-phrases-competitors.asp).
The biggest mistake I see webmasters make is creating a website with little content. Don't rely on a few paragraphs of text with optimization to convince search engine robots to stick around. A skeleton website does not make a good impression on anyone. Build the content of your website. Google's new algorithm may be a sign of search engine robots getting a little smarter when it comes to understanding what your website content is about. Build information that will keep your visitors at your website. Become an authority on your subject so other websites will naturally link to you because your information is invaluable. Remember, Google is interested in serving those who use its search capabilities, just as you should be interested in serving your visitors. Give as much real content information as able to your visitors, they will thank you with return visits.
In the end, the information you give is often equal to the response you receive. Make the effort to become an authority site on your subject. Building the groundwork of your website with quality information and broadening your methods of marketing will help sustain you during the search engine wars upcoming.
Daria Goetsch is the founder and Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing, a Search Engine Optimization company serving small businesses. She has specialized in Search Engine Promotion since 1998, including three years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly Media, Inc., a technical book publishing company.
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