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Traffic is Good When it Comes to the Web

By: M.L. Hartman

M.L. Hartman is the Vice President of Creative and Communications at Interactive Marketing Group, www.imgusa.com, an integrated marketing and communications firm located at 50 Commerce Drive, Allendale, NJ. He can be reached via e-mail at ml.hartman@imgusa.com.

So you've got yourself a website. It's good looking and packed full of quality information-the kind of information your audience can really use. But when you checked how many hits your site had received, the numbers left you feeling a bit anxious. Bad anxious. And, to make things worse, when you searched for your website on your favorite search engine, it didn't even register. Anxious turned downright queasy and you weren't sure if you could stomach another search.

Unfortunately for you and countless other businesses out there, this isn't an uncommon scenario. It's a safe bet that your site isn't properly optimized, registered, or both, and with the exception of a few tumbleweeds here and there, traffic hasn't been heading your way.

Website design has made big strides in the past few years and, to keep up, search engines have had their hands full trying to improve service and provide for strong returns. As Web standards and expectations have adjusted to advances in technology and user functionality, so have the demands placed upon Web designers by search engines. Today's successful Web design-by definition, site design that strives to attract visitors, share information and encourage repeat visits-is more formulaic than ever before, with devout guidelines that leverage search engine functionality and relationships.

Getting Web designers and their benefactors to adhere to this winning recipe can be very difficult. Compromises between function and artistic merit are not easy to come by and very often not enough energy is focused on promoting visits or supporting a user's search for a site. Bombarded with marketing messages, your pool of potential visitors may only hang on to a few scraps of information that, when entered as search criteria, may lead them to your site. But if your website isn't designed to perform and take advantage of common search engine methodologies and make the most of those scraps, it may end up neglected to the point where its value becomes questionable.

Search engines need quality fuel. Websites aren't magic; you get out of them what you put into them. Building the perfect beast begins with understanding the basics of how search engines locate and classify websites, and then reversing the process to improve the likelihood of your site getting picked up during a search.

Search engines rely on automated indexing and/or human review for identifying and ranking websites. Applications commonly referred to as spiders or crawlers traverse the Internet looking for site elements that match specified criteria. Indexing focuses heavily on the use of meta tags and HTML text and evaluates the general consistency of a site. Meta tags include the HTML title, description and keywords tags that are found in the source code of your website, but are not visible when viewing the site in a browser. Indexing scans these, as well as HTML text, JavaScript, and any linked pages for relevance to the search criteria or key words entered into a search engine.

Your knowledge of how common indexing processes "read" websites should be the foundation for your site's overall design. If your site has value, human reviewers will see it and rank it accordingly, however, indexing has no emotion or ability to view artwork/images, and looks for just the facts. As for anyone thinking of trying to pull a fast one using "tiny text," "background text" or any of the other popular varieties of search engine deception, take note that indexing applications have become savvy enough to not only scan specifically for this type of activity, but to also flag and remove offending websites from future searches.

Money changes everything. With enough money, you can accomplish just about anything when it comes to securing a top-ten placement on your favorite or any slew of search engines. If you're willing to pay the registration fees-with enough options to make your head spin-you can pretty much guarantee stellar results. Just remember that all search engines are not created equal and your money can be more aptly spent on some rather than others. In fact, many search engines actually maintain powerful working relationships with each other that leverage individual strengths to compile and then draw from a common database. Examples of these relationships aren't hard to find, and understanding how search engines may or may not interact needs to be an important part of your Web strategy. After all, paying twice for inclusion into the same database doesn't make good business sense.

For those who lack the budget or refuse to opt for paid registrations, there are a number of free alternatives to choose from. While these free registrations don't promise anything, a well-designed site combined with the exposure and reach offered by the larger search engines may be the answer you're looking for and your ticket to increased traffic and profitability.

© Copyright 2005, M.L. Hartman

Other Articles by M.L. Hartman

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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