Climbing the Google Ladder
- By Keith Ward
- April 09, 2007
Dr. Randall Bolar had a struggling medical practice. Struggling so much,
in fact, that he was nearing bankruptcy. Bolar does gastric bypass, a
surgical method to help morbidly obese people that want to lose weight.
Bolar had a Web site that was ineffective, bringing him about two to
four patients per week. Bolar then called an outside consultant to improve
his search engine rankings through search engine optimization.
To say the SEO was a success would be seriously understating the case.
Following his SEO efforts, Bolar started getting 50 to 70 new patients
per week through his Web site. He eventually did so well that he founded
the Bariatric Institute of Kentucky.
Behold the power of SEO.
Although it's tempting to say that the Bolar case is unique, the fact
is that it's not an uncommon story, especially for companies that currently
ignore SEO. The consultant that handled Bolar's case was Jill Whelan,
of the Web site HighRankings.com.
Whelan's an old-timer in the SEO field, having been involved in search
engine rankings since 1995, when Google was nothing but an obscure mathematical
term. She does SEO consulting, audit reports and full-service SEO for
larger companies. Whelan said Bolar told her, "He owes so much to optimization.
It just changed his whole business."
|Sponsor: Instant Employee Directory & Robust Search for Active Directory
For the uninitiated, SEO is about getting the public to your Web site.
It's the process of improving search engine rankings, so that if you make
oxygen tanks, for example, and someone looking for one types "oxygen tanks"
in Google, Yahoo!, MSN or other search engines, your Web site or product
will come up early in the rankings, greatly increasing the likelihood
of a visit to your site from that potential customer. It's an inexact
science and one that is constantly changing as search criteria changes,
but companies that don't devote sufficient time and resources to SEO do
so at their financial peril.
"SEO should never be your complete marketing plan," says Whelan, "but
it is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools companies can use.
If you can't be found in Google, you're probably leaving lots of potential
money on the table."
The numbers back her up. A recent study by the Internet marketing company
how people buy things on the Internet. In answer to the question, "Where
would be the first place you would go online to find out more about [a]
product or service?," about 64 percent listed a search engine as their
initial stop. The second-place answer was to 'a known manufacturer of
a product,' which came in at about 19 percent. That means that two out
of every three buyers turn to search engines first.
|Sponsor: Safety Net: Internet Filtering Isn't Enough
How to Top the List
Given that criticality, then, how can your company improve its search
engine rankings? For many companies without the means to hire a full-time
SEO staffer, the answer is to bring in an outside SEO expert, like Whelan,
and have an audit performed on its Web site.
Whelan says that when she audits a site, she sees many of the same problems
repeated over and over. "One of the biggest is not utilizing their title
tags correctly. That's given a ton of weight by search engines." Title
tags are what identifies the title of a Web page to search engines. Each
page should have a separate title, rather than "XYZ Corp." on every page
of your Web site. The titles should also be descriptive. Instead of "XYZ
Corp.," "XYZ Corp, Makers of Waffle Irons" will generate much better rankings
Another mistake Whelan often encounters is an over-reliance on graphics.
"A lot of words on the page are in a graphic instead of words on a page.
Search engines can search graphics, but don't typically bother."
A related problem, explains Whelan, is overuse of Flash technology. "Flash
sites that are all Flash are invisible to search engines."
One reason SEO mistakes are common is that there are many myths surrounding
the topic. Says Whelan, "Almost everything people think SEO is, it isn't."
She lists some of the top SEO urban legends:
If a site has clean code, or small file sizes, that will help its
rankings. "Completely untrue," says Whelan. It's certainly good practice
to have clean code and small file sizes, but in terms of rankings, it's
Keyword meta tags are important to search engine rankings. Meta
tags describe some of the content on a Web page, but have no real impact
on rankings. Although some people think it's a magic bullet, in reality
it's a blank.
Search engines can be tricked. "People think they have to stuff
keywords everywhere, or trick search engines into rankings," says Whelan.
"They think it's a trick rather than actually making your page the most
Search engines are very, very hard to fool nowadays, and doing things
like repeating keywords in white letters on a white background are more
likely to get your rankings lowered, or worse, removed from the search
|Sponsor: Free Resources for Solution Providers
The king of search engines remains Google, although Microsoft has made
a substantial effort to catch up and Yahoo is still in the game, as are
many other, smaller search engines. According to the Enquiro study, Google
captured about 83 percent of the market, with Yahoo and MSN a distant
second and third, miles behind. While there are some differences in the
different search engine algorithms, if you rank well on Google, you're
likely to rank well in all the others, so tweak your site with Google
Always Some Work To Do
Finally, remember that SEO is a slow and ongoing process. Some websites
claim overnight jumps in search engine rankings just by using their secret
formula, known only to themselves. Don't believe it. Rankings for just
about any page can be improved over time, but it takes real work and consistent
For More Information
Here are some good sites that offer lots of solid, and mostly free, information
on search engine optimization.