E-Business Opps: Searching for an Answer

No matter what kind of e-business you run, there must be a good answer to the question, "How do I drive traffic to my Web site?" There are tens of millions of Web sites already on the Net, and the statistical odds of anyone stumbling upon your place of e-business gets slimmer every day. You must invest in various e-business site promotion techniques to get the traffic to come your way.

Internet site promotion comes in many forms, not all of which are under the direct control of the e-business. The prime example of this is search engines, which provide a path to your site's content assuming the search engine indexes your site. Getting search engines to index your site is not necessarily automatic or timely, and the indexing approaches of various search engines widely differ. There is also the issue of your link's position in the search order to consider. You would like to have your site as close to the top of the list as possible for relevant search terms. If your placement in the list is too low, beyond the first 10 results, statistics show that there is very little likelihood that your link will ever be seen.

Suppose you put up a new Web site this month. Typically it takes at least eight weeks for search engines to index your site, and even then your position in the search order for popular search terms will likely be far down the list. Worse yet, it may take much longer than eight weeks for indexing if you do not manually submit your site to the search engines to get on their indexing queues. It is very important to submit your site to all of the search engines on a regular basis until your site traffic builds enough that the search engines seek it out as a popular destination. It's important to design your Web pages to highlight appropriate search keywords that get your URLs into the Top Ten search order positions for the most widely-used search engines.

A Closer Look

Let's illustrate this problem with an example. Suppose your e-business had a new product that was used to do clickstream log file analysis. A good home page keyword for the search engines would seem to be "clickstream." You can test this keyword to see how often it was used as a search term in the prior month at the GoTo.com search engine site using the following GoTo "Suggestion Tool:" http://inventory.go2.com/inventory/Search_Suggestion.jhtml.

At the time of this writing, entering the keyword "clickstream" produced 260 references for all indexed search term phrases containing at least that keyword. Of these, there were 108 search queries on the term "clickstream" to the GoTo.com search engine. But, before we get too excited, let's test the name of the most popular commercial clickstream log file analysis tool, WebTrends, as a search term. The term "WebTrends" was searched 1,470 times by real users during the same time period, more than an order of magnitude above more general terms like "clickstream" and "clickstream analysis."

In the cruel world of Internet search engines, this means that if your homepage mentioned the name of your primary competitor, WebTrends, at a sufficient level to get a good search position on that term, at least 10 times more potential customers might see and act on your URL. You see, it doesn't matter what keywords you'd like users to search upon, they choose the terms, not you. But, almost no e-business employee I know would even consider mentioning the name of their primary competitor with enough frequency to rise to a top search position, unless they change their thinking to fit the unusual environment of the Internet. And, as this example demonstrates, without such new thinking, your revenue potential could be cut by a factor of 10 or more.

There are quite a few software tools that can help you deal with search engines. Some of the standouts include Trellian's Submit Wolf (www.trellian.com), which automatically submits your site's homepage URL to 1,500 search engines and Web directories for indexing. 1st Place Software's WebPosition Gold (www.webpositiononline.com) also submits your site to the search engines, but, in addition, it tests the search result rank of any site page/search term combination against all the popular search engines, and it makes suggestions on how to alter page content to get a better search ranking on a per search engine basis before you submit it for indexing.

Since maintaining a good search ranking for the desired set of search terms is a constant battle against competitors trying to do the same thing, many sites opt to subscribe to a service that does this never-ending task for them. These services typically hand-edit page content and meta tags to guarantee a search rank level for a fixed set of keywords.

I should also mention that it is possible to buy your way to the top search position of one major search engine, GoTo.com. While this site eventually indexes all content without any specific payment requirement, the position of a link in the search order is determined by a continuous auction for the top position.