Getting Ranked on the Search Engines

I just tried AltaVista to check my Web rating - top as usual ... and second, third, fourth and fifth of the 5 pages listed.

Hang on! That's too good to be true! Well, it isn't - because what I searched for was my company name: IT4IT. You may think that's cheating, but no matter how you massage your meta-tags and titles, add gateway or cloaking pages, there are 70 million people out there who won't tell you what they are going to search for. Almost every one of them will escape your net, no matter how fine the mesh. If you put "computers", then they'll search for "PC" (or "Mac"), if you sell cars, they'll search for "vehicle" or "hatch-back" - and if you include every synonym under the sun, the engines will penalise you in their ratings for having too many keywords!

Of course, there are businesses for whom the Web is the prime or only business channel. They certainly do need all that "jiggery pokery". But that isn't the case for most businesses. Usually, the Web is one of several channels used to communicate with present and potential customers. The special impact of the Web is that it can be bang up to date and that you have effectively unlimited space entirely under your own editorial control. (And despite these unique advantages it is extremely cheap!) I won't rehearse the truism that "content is king" again now. Instead, let's get back to that 5 out of 5 hits on AltaVista. Who is going to search for your company name? People who know it already and who know you're on the Web. So make sure that as many people as possible do know those 2 facts.

It is unlikely that any of your publicity or stationary fails to include your company name, but does it ALL say that you're on the Web? The quickest and easiest way to tell them is by quoting your URL. That may get forgotten, but that's no problem - they can use a search engine to find your company - and you'll get top billing. Now it's time to return to "content is king". If you feel that the scenario above could refer to your business, what does it mean for your Web site? It means that you won't be getting hits from idle browsers who miskeyed a keyword, but it will be the far fewer people who are sufficiently interested to look specifically for your business! But why are they using the Web? Why don't they call in; use the phone; read your press adverts?

Well, to answer the second question first, it may be 2 in the morning or perhaps they don't want to wait in a queue or get into the clutches of an over-enthusiatic salesman - and maybe the advert is days old, or doesn't include the information they want. In any of these cases, they are using the Web because they want to find out something now and they want to be in control. And now we can close the loop ... remember those 2 prime advantages: editorial control and current information. It is up to you to make sure that your site does include what they want to know ... NOW. Think of a new customer walking through your door.

What questions would they be likely to ask? What you've got in stock right now. What each item's features are. What the price is today. How to place an order now (and on the Web that may mean before they go to sleep at 4 am). How to find you when they come into town in the morning. Organise it all so that your readers can find what they want - and don't have to read what they don't. And make sure that you don't just publish yesterday's news or the answers to questions that no-one asks.

Article by Roger Beaumont