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The Evolution of Search Engine Marketing
. . . what's really important when working
with the search engines?

by Robin Nobles

For those fortunate enough to have attended the Search Engine Strategies 2001 Conference in San Francisco, the evolution of search engine marketing couldn't be clearer.

Whereas a few years ago, when participants would have been drilled on the "all important" META tags and keyword density requirements, participants at the latest conference learned strategies for writing search engine friendly content, researching search terms, and building link popularity.

The importance of directories and pay engines was also stressed, as well as advanced search engine optimization strategies such as cloaking and tracking the conversion to sales.

So, to answer the question of what's important today when working on your sites, keep these points in mind.

1. Don't forget the basics! Though META tags alone won't carry you to a top 10 ranking, it's still crucial to create effective title, description, keyword, and other tags as well as remembering the importance of keyword prominence in your tags and body text. Tip: To help you remember what's important on your pages, use handy Search Engine Optimizer (SEO) software, which will make your search engine optimization work much easier.

2. Don't spend countless hours trying to arrive at the "perfect" keyword weight. If you'll search for top ranking sites at any of the engines for your most important keyword phrase, you'll more than likely find keyword weights that range from virtually nonexistent to rather high, even 8%. For general optimization purposes, aim for a good average of between 3-5% for the body text, and be prepared to raise or lower it as needed.

3. Research your search terms! Don't assume that you know how your customers will search. Instead, use a service like WordTracker and find out how people are really searching.

4. Good, solid content is definitely the way to go with your pages. Create your pages as if you're writing a focused article about one particular keyword phrase. Keep your word count in the neighborhood of 200 to 600 words in the body text, and use your keyword phrase prominently on the page.

5. Keep it simple! Remember that the engines like simplicity, and so do Web users. Don't use technology that makes it difficult for either the engines or users. Stay away from frames, Flash, heavy graphics and image maps, and lengthy JavaScript.

6. Work hard on building link popularity with other related sites. Remember that it's not sheer numbers that are important here. Rather, it's having links pointing to and from your site from other related and important sites.

7. Monitor your search engine rankings carefully, and be prepared to do further tweaking if those rankings slip. A really sharp new Web-based ranking service was introduced at the conference, and I'm in the process of trying it out myself as a beta tester. It's called WebRank, and rather than running a hefty software program and using my own resources, WebRank checks my rankings for me, then notifies me by e-mail of those rankings and when the rankings slip, etc. While they're in the pre-launch mode, membership is still free, so now's the time to try out this brand new service at

8. Track your traffic and pay attention to the conversion of traffic to sales. Another new service that was announced at the conference was WebPosition Gold's new Traffic Analyzer service that's included in version 1.60. The service is available for a free 30-day trial at Gold customers, however, get an additional 90 days of free service as well as substantially discounted pricing over regular customers.

9. Don't forget the importance of the major directories like Yahoo!, the Open Directory Project, and LookSmart, and be sure to submit your site to them. Also, look for other "vertical" directories in your focus area by visiting a site like Beaucoup, which lists over 2,000 search engines and directories.

10. If you want visibility fast, consider the pay engines like Overture and FindWhat. With so many of the major engines now using the top results from the pay engines, if you're having a difficult time achieving top rankings using standard optimization efforts, paying for keywords will get you where you want to be much faster.

In Conclusion . . .

The search engine industry continues to evolve at an alarming rate, and if you aren't willing to keep up, you'll be left behind.

How can you keep up?

Planet Ocean Communications publishes an excellent monthly newsletter. You can also sign up for a couple of free monthly newsletters, such as or

Subscribe to Beyond-SEO, which offers excellent information for those who want to reach beyond standard search engine optimization strategies.

Finally, consider attending the next Search Engine Strategies Conference yourself, and learn the latest happenings in this dynamic industry.

Robin Nobles teaches 2-, 3-, and 5-day hands-on search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe ( as well as online SEO training courses ( They have recently launched localized SEO training centers through, and they have expanded their workshops to Europe with Search Engine Workshops UK. They have also opened the first networking community for SEOs, the Workshop Resource Center (WRC).

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