Are You Losing The Search Engine Game?
by Bob McElwain
Many wannabe and newbie webmasters tend to view search
engines as their salvation. While certainly important, they can
not generate the traffic some hope for. Other marketing methods
must be employed as well.
One problem that wasn't as much a factor a year or two ago
lies in the move of offline businesses to the Web. Many come
aboard with ample resources. They are prepared to spend dollars
in significant chunks. Many hire professionals to obtain good
search engine rankings.
Can You Beat The Pros?
Face it. You are maintaining a site and growing a business.
You need to devote ninety percent of your day to marketing. This
doesn't leave much time for mastering the intricacies of search
engine positioning. It's likely the pros are going to beat you
With each passing day it is more difficult to obtain top
positions with a given keyword. Competition continues to
increase for any phrase selected. And more and more
professionals continue to climb on board with no end in sight.
That Elusive #1 Position
The dream of being #1 is only that: A dream.
Suppose you do get a page to #1 with a given keyword on a
particular search engine. How long will it remain there? Not
long, if the keyword is of interest to others.
Why? Because lots of people are looking for the top spot,
including the pros. Your page will be analyzed in detail until
a way is found to beat it. At some point, other submissions
will out rank yours, and you will begin to lose ground.
Forget it. There are far more important things to do than
worry about getting or maintaining a #1 position.
So I Should Forget Search Engines?
No. Just forget about being #1, or even in the top ten.
There are not enough hours in the day to make search engine
positioning a high priority. The better plan is to devote what
time is available to building pages designed to rank well.
Submit them. Then move on to more important things.
To put this another way, be content with any page that ranks
in the top 20 on a couple of search engines. And realize that no
page will rank as well on all of them. Further, accept the fact
that many pages will not rank anywhere near the top.
You can win the search engine game, but only if you accept
the above or a similar view as victory.
So How Do I Do That?
First, write your pages for your visitors, not the search
engines. Only when content is ready for your visitors, should
you even consider search engines.
Then consider each relative to your keyword list. You may
find a couple that will rank pretty well with a given keyword
just as written. Fine. Edit the title, description and keyword
tags to emphasize this keyword. Maybe try to work it into the
copy a couple more times. But do nothing that disturbs the flow
of the message to your visitor.
What If That's Not Enough?
Build entry pages, often called gateway or doorway pages.
While there are many approaches to this task, I prefer the
following because it leads to pages that can be freely submitted
without risk of them being labeled spam. It goes like this.
Look at your keyword list and select one you can use
repeatedly while covering a topic of interest to your visitors.
The idea is to build great content, so repeated use of the word
must not detract. Be guided (but not driven) by the following.
> The content of the Title tag is likely to be the title used
in a search engine listing. Thus it is mandatory that it be a
headline that draws readers into your description. While holding
firmly to this objective, use the keyword as close to the
beginning of the title as possible.
> The content of the Description tag is likely to be what the
search engines will use in the listing. Here the objective is to
assure the searcher clicks to your site. This is pure
advertising copy: it must compel the searcher to click the link.
Again, while holding firmly to the goal, use the keyword as close
to the beginning of the statement as possible. Use it a second
time only if it makes sense to do so.
> Include the keyword and variations in the Keyword tag as
a suggestion to the spiders of what to expect on the page.
> In the body of the page, use the keyword in an H1 tag at
the top of the page, and in subheadings as possible. Again,
position the keyword as close as possible to the beginning of
each statement. But remember your visitors will read this
content. Avoid awkward statements created in hopes of making
> Within the content, use the keyword as often as you can
without detracting from readability. Again, as close to the
beginning of paragraphs as possible. And in the last line on
the page. Recommendations vary, but I get good results when
the keyword is 2% to 3% of the copy. Some recommend as high
as 10%, but I find that at this density, the value to visitors
So Now What?
Submit the page and get on with business. If it places well,
great. If it does not, and you can spare the time, create
At some point, however, let it be. Get on with other
marketing efforts. In the end, tools such as advertising will
provide far more targeted traffic than the search engines can
Web marketing and consulting since 1993
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