03.16.05 NOTES: NEOSA's Search Engine Optimization Panel Discussion

Submitted by John Soellner on Wed, 03/16/2005 - 10:57.

"Searching for Success" - Leslie Carruthers of The Search Guru and moderator stresses the importance of application of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques being discussed. The topics included both pay per click and organic ranking of all major spidering search engines.

The panel first offered advice for those just starting out. Glen Fero Director of Marketing for Lubrizol, mentioned you must understand the business value. Start by finding what makes sense for stakeholders and prospects. Invacare, for example, has to make sure it doesn’t compete with end suppliers for keywords.

Jeff Rohrs President of Optiem, a North East Ohio eMarketing firm, points out organic search has certain drawbacks. Letting search engines discover your site on their schedule may not work for promotions with certain target dates. Jason Therrien of Cleveland Nights adds you have to invest the time in house to keep up on SEO. Others on the panel estimated the time spent to range around one hour a day to several hours when you’re just starting out. Even when you outsource, Fero advises, you will still spend time staying on top of outsource partners.

To stay current, the panel advises various sources of information. Check out sites like searchenginewatch.com and webmasterworld; keep track of inbound links; and work with content contributors on keyword targeting and density. All will take some of your time.

Rohrs spent some time explaining the shifting search engine landscape. Google has been a dominant player in the search engine race. Developments have brought both Yahoo and MSN, Microsoft’s effort, to the attention of those studying SEO. With the coming erosion of market share, what was once a simple Google centered strategy now makes your job more complex. MSN search may be a focus for retail, where Google still makes sense for science.

To monitor key statistics, Mr. Therrien suggests programs like Webtrends, Urchin, ClickTracks. The importance of analytics was underscored by Janet Nabring-Stager, eCommerce & Web Content Manager for Invacare. She recounts her own experience with senior management asking why the company wasn’t ranking number one for wheelchairs.

By monitoring who visits, for which search terms, you can begin to build a picture of how competitive your industry is for certain terms. Leslie Carruthers maintains statistics are available which make the case SEO should be a profit center. Mr Rohrs offered the technique of viewing Overture’s Advertisers’ Max Bids as one way of justifying your SEO work. By showing how much you save by ranking organically, you can show a cost savings over those who pay for rank.

How you write your content can make quite a difference. Panel members rattled off a list of specific page format techniques like using your title and description tags, and boosting your heading tags to H1 or H2. Find out who is linking to you and how, and concentrate on model or product specific key phrases, not general product headings.

Questions for the session touched on advise for new sites. This brought up the topic of the Google sandbox, a temporary holding pattern new sites are put in until the search engine deems them rankable. GEO targeting to local sites was discussed as a way for the smaller company to compete with larger competitors. A small firm might not rank well for a general service, but can target the key cities they serve as a way to snag those searching for local vendors.

The members seemed to make some things clear throughout the 90-minute event. Do what makes sense for your business. Create the kind of content which makes sense for the reader, not strictly search engines. Leslie Carruthers perhaps puts it best, "Search engines don’t have money."