REALITY CHECK: Pay to be seen

REALITY CHECK: Pay to be seen


Slowly but very surely, companies that use the Internet as their primary source of business or rely on it to make a profit are finding ways to make their dot-com endeavours pay for themselves.

It appears companies are using search engines to do just that. Eighteen months ago, if you searched on a keyword, the most relevant matches would come up first. Today, companies are paying both for position and or even inclusion in the search results.

On most search-engine sites, the first three hits will be sponsored links. This was the case when I searched on the keyword “Sam-E”, a popular herbal pill that supposedly mellows you out. On Google, the first three were indeed labelled as “Sponsored Links”. On Lycos, it was the first six. On AltaVista and HotBot, it was the first four. Using MSN, the first four were “Featured Sites” — not sure what that means — and the next three “Sponsored”. Industry sources tell me that some such government agency requires the search engine company to label a hit as sponsored.

If this continues, you can only imagine how bad it might get. By bad, I mean unreliable results, with page after page of sponsored links before you get to the link you really need.

There’s no fighting it. But it appears there are ways to get your site, be it for profit or not, higher on the hit list. It’s all about keywords. And for this, I spoke to the guru of keyword research, CEO of US-based, Dennis Pushkin.

He tells me that engines offering for-pay inclusion guarantee that they will visit your site every 48 hours to reflect your changes. But if you are starting a new site tomorrow and you don’t pay for inclusion, it could take years before a search engine visits.

Pushkin’s company is a marketing company that performs keyword research as well as works with clients to make sure their sites are more crawlable. Pushkin offers three key pieces of advice to make your site more search-engine friendly.

Come up with narrow, specific keywords. “Mortgage” will not perform as well as “South Florida, mortgage.”

Address your specific keyword list appropriately in your metatags, bearing in mind that your title tag is most important. Don’t stuff keywords into metatags.

Write naturally descriptive metatags as well-written sentences that include your keywords.

Consider each page that you are optimising as a potential landing page for a visitor. “In today’s world of search-engine optimisation, under a best practices approach, you can’t direct a search just to the home page. Ideally each page should have its own set of keywords,” Pushkin said.

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