Search Engine Basics

You've completed that great looking website and published it to a web server and now you're waiting for traffic. Many site owners mistakenly assume that a website rich in design is enough to get visitors to their site to make sales. Having a great looking website that is easy to navigate is important, but unless people can find you on the internet, it's pretty much useless. You need to drive your advertising dollars toward promoting your website.

The most effective methods of driving traffic to your website are search engine optimization and marketing. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of spending money toward paying for high ranking results. Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your sites content, meta data, and keywords to make it more search engine relevant and friendly. You may have noticed sponsored listings on your searches for many of the popular keywords and phrases. This is where companies have paid mega bucks to have their website on the top or side of the results page. There are several advantages to this, but also several disadvantages. The advantages of search engine marketing (SEM) are immediate results whereas search optimization takes time to start ranking your site. Search engine marketing will drop off immediately when you decide to cancel your expensive campaign where as search engine optimization will last several months or years, if not forever.

To see SEO and SEM in action, go to Google and type in "Flowers". The first few listings are probably going to be businesses like 1-800-Flowers, Pro Flowers and so on. These companies paid mega bucks to be on Google's top ranking for such a generic term. This is the SEM. The listings right below the sponsored listings is the SEO results. These sites are heavily optimized both inside the site code and content and outside. Read the article, "Breaking out of the online crowd" for techniques on how to do this for your site.

Registering your site and telling the search engines which pages to crawl is the next important step. You want to do this after you complete the SEO, otherwise be required to do search engine clean up. You can submit your sites using services such Webmaster Tools (Google and Bing) or Site Explorer (Yahoo). Once the sites have been crawled, these webmaster tools will begin to show site crawl errors, HTML suggestions, hits and more. You can also install Google Analytics to track even more data about your site's traffic including location of your visitors, keywords used to find your site, and how long visitors stay on each page. After your site has been submitted it can take several months before it is eventually indexed. This is part of a process called "The Sandbox Effect".