How Does One Compete in Today’s Search Engines?

Today’s search environment entails many different aspects that didn’t exist before. I have so many clients coming to me saying “I was always number one, why am I dropping so fast?” Well, the hard reality is that search has changed. You may be the first in your industry to put up a website, and you were on the top for ten years, but now you see that you are trying your hardest to stay on page one for the keywords you used to be so successful at dominating.

What is Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)?

The advancement in technology is one of the primary factors in search engine rankings today. Where are you at? Is your website on an old, legacy platform? Is it slow? Google introduced Latent Semantic Indexing in January 2010. If you don’t know what this is, click here. What this means in simple terms is that the search engine robots/spiders seek out the text in your pages and relate them to keywords searched for by the search engine users. This technology is so advanced that it even identifies similarities and synonyms related to a particular keyword/key phrase based on a mathematical formula.

It is critical that the business website owner understands the implications of LSI on an older domain. Once, the older domain meant authority, thousands of inbound links, and primary consideration in search. Now, it means old, outdated information – to the search engine. Sites that generate a great deal of frequently updated, keyword optimized information obtain higher rankings, regardless of the number of links inbound or outbound, and this NEW information fills first page rankings for dominant keywords. LSI is based primarily on the text on your website, and both factors: the amount of information and the amount of response (links) play a factor in rankings.

Millions of Dollars at Stake

For many web business owners, top rankings mean millions of dollars in the marketplace. Drops in this area have a significant impact on revenue. A drop from first page rankings to second page for competitive keywords can have detrimental effects on the stability of a business. Many business owners are finding that one week they will rank second page and the next they are ranking first page. This is very difficult to accept. I have clients who say “I don’t understand. My domain is the oldest, I’ve been following best practices, what is happening?” The answer is quite simple. Search engine technology has changed and you have to stay up to date with those changes. Search engine marketing must be more aggressive than ever and you must be a part of the social networking space. The bottom line is that you can’t let an old or a new website sit there hoping it will perform. You need to have a marketing strategy on the web just as you did in-house in the traditional sense. No company survived without a marketing budget and it doesn’t matter how many people told you to put up a website and you will make millions at no cost, you must have a long-term plan, just as you would with any other type of business marketing strategy. Outreach for quality inbound links and a well performing website that is frequently updated with information search engines can identify easily is key. It is all-encompassing – website development, content, marketing – and any lacking in any of these areas means a drop in search engine rankings and, therefore, revenue.

Getting Back on Top of the Search Engines

The key to getting back on top is clearly evaluating and analyzing what your top ranking competitors are doing in terms of SEO and search engine marketing. These days, staying on top is more than just having a great, SEO conforming website. It is having a strong, long-term search engine marketing program. The difference between an SEO program and a search engine marketing (SEM) program is that in SEM, you are reaching out to the communities on the web and you are reaching your target buyers through a variety of methods that feed your SEO program. Some of these methods include:

  • Social media marketing
  • Article marketing and distribution
  • Blog writing and commenting
  • High PR directory submissions
  • Blog review submissions
  • Updating on site content
  • Website anchor text interlinking
  • Social bookmarking
  • Press release distribution
  • PPC advertising
  • Landing page promotions

The truth is that I find many website owners not doing much of anything within this program, and if they are they are, they are not doing it with a combined SEO program. In today’s search environment, unfortunately, SEO and SEM work together to keep top rankings, and the results are driven by content and NATURAL link building methodologies. Even then, top rankings may not mean your revenues are increasing. A variety of factors lie in conversion (revenue), including: the economy, how well your sales team closes sales, the user experience inherent in your website, and the list goes on. But, SEM provides a driving factor other programs don’t: you are continually reaching out to your buyers (your target demographics) and increasing the chance of high quality visitors to your site, even if you are not ranking #1.

Starting a Valuable SEM Program

One of the best ways to create a strong SEM program is to outsource to a reliable firm with enough resources to handle long hours of work at affordable rates. The fact of the matter is that any business whether on the web or not requires funding for marketing, and your budget should include, if nothing else, a good, long-term SEM program led by a clear-cut strategy that is in line with your target market and business goals. If you have an in-house marketing team, get them trained on SEM best practices and pushing campaigns that bring in business AS WELL AS top rankings in the search engines. Likely, if you have both of these programs working together aggressively, your website will be the driving factor behind increased revenues for your business, even in a slumping economy. Here are the steps to take in starting a good SEM program:

  1. Have a market analysis and strategy created, evaluating where you are now with where you need to be in the future. This analysis should include competitor and industry information pertaining to the web only, a strategy for 12 months, and a pro forma outlining budgets, teams, an programs for the coming year.
  2. Website assessment evaluating on site SEO and technical elements that may need improvement.
  3. Keyword analysis and review of Analytics. You will need to know what the best keywords are for your industry so that you are targeting the right buyers.
  4. With 1-3 backing you up, now you need to get your marketing team in line, whether you need in-house training or outsourcing to specialists who can drive the program.
  5. Have your team or provider set up accurate tracking methods within Analytics or other programs to track the success of your SEM campaigns and programs.
  6. Review the program every six months to ensure the goals and ROI is being met on these programs and if adjustments will need to be made to ensure you meet your 12 month goals.

Make sure that your team or provider understands the pro forma and your goals and that they are reaching their goals throughout the program. Using a dedicated reporting system, such as Basecamp or an internal intranet just for Internet marketing will help keep information segregated from other marketing programs within your organization.

If you have recently started an SEM program, let us know how it is working and if you have any tips or tricks on success!