Web Promotion Guide - Optimizing listings
In this issue I will focus on search engine listings and their optimization. It covers the following topics:
1.0 Analyzing Results
2.0 Designing Listing
3.0 Optimizing Listings
4.0 Paid Inclusion Resellers
5.0 Trusted Feeds
6.0 Optimizing Trusted Feeds
7.0 Submitting Trusted Feeds
1.0 Analyzing Search Engine Results
Many people invest a great deal of time and effort to ensure that their pages are highly optimized. The aim is to get their pages in the 10 search results. Such listings get the most search engine traffic, so this does makes sense BUT ....
... what many people do not realize, is that optimization does not stop when you get to the #1 position. Even at #1, you are always competing with at least 10 other listings for each visitor. This means that what the engine actually displays to the user will determine what percentage of the available click throughs you will get. This is very important, because even a #3 position can do much better with a description that looks better, feel betters and appears to be the most relevant to what the user is actually searching for.
The simplest thing you can do, is try a search and have a close look at what comes up in the results. If you are more tempted to click on a different listing to your own, then you have a problem. You will probably not be the most objective in your analysis, so ask friends, family or your customers to try the same exercise. You can get a lot of valuable information in this way.
2.0 Designing your Listing
Even with organic listings you can, to a certain degree, control what a search engine will display in the search results for any given search query. This means that you can tailor each page to attract as many available visitors as possible.
The Page Title
The first place to start is the page title. Not many people will even notice the titles of your pages once they get to your site, but they will notice them in the search results. There the title will usually be in bold and it is the first thing that will attract a user's attention. This is how you should start thinking about all of your page titles.
For example: If a user is looking for a Hotel in London, a title like "Welcome to our Home page" is not going to grab their attention. A more appropriate title would be "London Hotels - Online Hotel Booking".
Design each title to match a given search query. If in addition to Hotel Bookings you also offer Car Hire, create a separate page for this service. The rule is: Try not to optimize the same page for different products or services.
After you have optimized your title, work on the extract. The extract is displayed below the title and is like a summary, or a description of your page. Many engines like google use snippets to create the extract, where a snippet usually includes the text before and after the desired search term.
Hint: Keep this in mind when you are writing the content for your page.
The trick is to try and surround the keywords you are optimizing for with the information you want the user to see in the results. This can include your sales pitch, benefits of your services and other information which will make YOUR listing appear to be the most relevant to what the user is actually searching for.
Start by having a close look at your listings. Look at what text is included in the extract and start thinking up ways how you could re-word or re-design your page text to improve the quality of your listing.
3.0 Optimizing your Listings
Listing optimization is a quite a time consuming process and the problem is that as soon as you make a change to your page, you have to wait weeks for some engines to refresh their index to include your changes. Paid Inclusion is one option to overcome this problem. The paid inclusion service guarantees that your URL is listed on each engine, BUT we are more interested in the re-indexing which is included as part of the service. This means that you can make optimization changes to your title, content, etc., and see what impact these changes have on your position and click through rates within the next day or two. It is a great way to test what works and to get a feel for what real users respond to. A well optimized listing can effectively double your search engine traffic without a change in position.
The problem with paid inclusion is the cost. To get every page listed through paid inclusion can be expensive and not everyone can afford to do this. If you do not have the budget, you can still take advantage of these services to at least optimize your web site. The trick I use is quite simple:
1. Submit one URL from your website through paid inclusion to each of the major engines. Call this page say "entry.htm". This will cost you around $30 per engine on average and you only need to do the 3-4 major engines.
2. Take advantage of the re-indexing service to optimize the page title and listing. Do this by making a change to your page, wait for the change to be indexed and check the ranking and click-throughs stats for the results. In this way you will be able to see what users respond to and what generates the most clicks.
3. Once you are happy with the final results, rename the page, copy another page from your site over "entry.htm" (the page submitted via paid inclusion) and repeat the optimization process.
In this way you can take advantage of the 48 hour re-indexing to optimize multiple pages from your web site. If you spend one week on each page, you can optimize 50 pages using a single paid inclusion subscription.
4.0 Paid Inclusion Resellers
The easiest way to take advantage of paid inclusion services, is to use one of the official resellers. The benefit there is that you can usually manage all your paid inclusion from the same account. This saves a lot of time, because you do not need to create or maintain separate accounts with each engine.
We also offer a paid inclusion service which can be found: http://www.globalpromote.com/orderpi.htm, but if you want to submit more than one URL, it would probably be cheaper for you to use someone like PrioritySubmit.com.
PrioritySubmit.com is a fairly good service and because they are an "official" reseller for all the major engines (that is important), they do not charge a service fee. This means that you do not end up paying any more than if you submitted thorough the engines directly.
If you prefer to use a different service, watch out for multiple URLs discounts. Many submission services will always charge you the FULL price per URL and will not pass on multiple URL discounts. Remember that many engines charge a lower rate for submitting more than 1 URL and the second URL price can be 20-50% cheaper.
Which engines should you target?
Yahoo! Search is very important. It is important because it provide search results to many other portal sites such as AltaVista, AllTheWeb, MSN, etc.. To a lesser degree TEOMA and Ask Jeeves. Ask Jeeves is however a very important traffic source for UK users.
Google is the largest and probably the most important, but unfortunately google does not currently offer a priority listing or indexing service. There are still a few tricks you can use with google, but I will cover these in a future issue.
5.0 Trusted Feeds
I have touched upon trusted feeds in the past, but when it comes to optimizing your listings there is simply no better way to do this.
The bad news for most people is that to be able to participate in most of the trusted feed programs, you usually need at least 200 pages or more.
Basically a trusted feed enables you to submit a large number of URLs with no up-front cost. Instead of an annual per URL fee, you will be charged per click. What is of greater interest from an optimization perspective, is the fact that a trusted feed enables you to specify exactly what title and extract is to appear in the results. This means that you no longer have to optimize the page itself. Instead you optimize the data feed that you submit to the engine. This gives you a great deal of freedom and flexibility. You can also change your listing without having to change your web site, and that is a great advantage.
The only down side is the fee, which is on average in the $0.15 to $0.25 per click range. This means that optimization become critical.
6.0 Optimizing Trusted Feeds
Optimizing trusted feeds is quite different to optimizing organic listings. With organic listings it is to your advantage to get as much traffic from each engine as you can. Because organic listings do not cost you anything, every click has a branding value even if it does not convert to a sale. With Trusted feeds you are paying per click, so you only want to pay for qualified leads.
If we re-visit our Hotel in London example, if you are paying $0.25 per click, you want to target very specific keywords and you also want to be much more specific in the information you include in your listing.
First of all, choose your keywords carefully and as always keep a close eye on your ROI (return on investment) for each term. Stay away from general key terms like "Hotel". This will give you a lot of clicks, but with a poor conversion rate. "Hotel in London" will result in smaller number of clicks, but with a much better ROI.
Also be very specific on what you have to offer. If your room rates start at $400 per night, you should mention that in your listings. If you do not, you will get backpackers looking for a $25 hostel clicking on your link. Such visitors will not convert to paying customers and will only cost you money.
The rule is: The more specific you are in your description of the services you offer, the higher the conversion rate and the lower the advertising cost will be.
7.0 Submitting a Trusted Feeds
If you have a large number of ULRs and a large promotional budget, you may be able to deal with the engines directly. If you are able to do this, you will be in a good position to negotiate better rates, however you need to be prepared to spend at least $50000 per month. If this does not fit your profile, you will need to go through one of the trusted feed resellers. Good resellers are: PrioritySubmit.com, Marketleap, Position Tech and Trellian. Each service has its strong points, PrioritySubmit.com for example supports the largest number of engines, includes support for Google Adwords (which I like) as well as data feeds into PPC engines like Overture and Kanoodle etc.
When dealing with Trusted Feed management companies BEWARE of over optimization. SEO companies get paid on commission, so it is in their interest to generate as many clicks as possible. As a result, you may get a lot of traffic that will NOT convert to sales. Your aim is to maximize your ROI and that means spending as little money as possible for the highest return. This obviously creates a conflict of interest. One solution is to work very closely with your SEO and keep a close eye on what keywords your SEO is targeting and what your ROI is. A second options is to create your own feeds in-house. This will give you the maximum control over the feed and over the choice of keywords.
Note: I have a program which I use to generate Trusted feeds, so if anyone is interested in doing these in-house, email me and I will send you a copy.
To keep the boss happy, this is probably a good time to mention that we at GlobalPromote.com also specialize in Trusted feed management and optimization. If you are interested in any trusted feed services, let me know and I will email you more information and a quote. We guarantee a high quality, honest service.
Next time I will tell you how to get traffic from sources you may not have thought of before.
Ren Warmuz is a SEO consultant for globalpromote.com
Copyright © 2004 Ren Warmuz & GlobalPromote.com
Permission is granted to reproduce this article if left without modification and in it's entirety.
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