Anthony Muller, President of Zenhits, specializes in search engine optimization for a handpicked group of clients. In Part I of our interview last week, he revealed the most common myths and blunders of optimization. (See the link at the end of this article for Part I.) This week, we ask Muller to give us an overview of what does work when it comes to optimizing.
Q: What are the most successful ways to get a site ranked high by search engines?
Muller: We use five basic tactics:
1) Meta tags -- A very small percentage of people out there actually have meta tags on their sites even though they can increase your rankings tenfold. They're not the only answer, but they make a difference. Bad meta tags are ones using vague terms like "business" or "cars." You need to be really specific with meta tags, this is your niche, your description. Also, make sure you put the most important keyword in front so if the engine clips the description short, the important words are still there.
2) Link popularity -- Some search engines rank you according to how many other domains link to your domain. You're not looking for humans to find you at the other site, the only thing you're looking for that page to do is have a search engine spider it. The engines give you points for link quality. For example, a free-for-all links page will give you one point whereas a link on CNN would give you like 100. A quality link is worth much more than lots of non-quality links. So, you need to find people who will trade links with you.
3) Hotboosting -- This is a tricky little tactic I only use on certain search engines where if you don't get any clicks you disappear. So you have to go to it yourself and click on it. You don't want to do it a million times because search engines know what you are doing and they know your IP address. But if you do it once and a while, it can help.
4) Link assassinations: If somebody is ranked above you in a search engine and they are using spam tactics to get there, we report them to the search engines so they disappear and you usually move up in rank.
5) Page mirroring -- You need informational pages targeting specific keywords. However, each one will work will on certain engines and not others. So, we'll create a very similar page targeting the same keyword but it's built in a way to appeal to a particular search engine. You only submit that page to that one search engine so the others won't frown on you for spamming.
Q: We've heard it can be hard to keep on top of optimization because the search engines are constantly changing their rules. How true is that?
Muller: A lot of people use that line to scare you so they can charge you high maintenance fees every month. Some engines change every six months or a year. For example, Altavista is adding a few new features right now and this is about their third generation since they launched. Other engines rarely change. For example, Excite hasn't ever made any immense overhauls. On the other hand HotBot was created by some great engineers, who knew how to keep throwing wrenches into the works and making changes, so people won't catch on and trick the engine.
Q: All of this sounds more complicated than many marketers have time for in their busy schedules. How much should a consultant cost if marketers decide to outsource this?
Muller: If optimizing was easy then everybody would be doing it themselves and I'd be out of a job!
There are some consultants out there who get $65-$100 an hour. You should ask them exactly what they'll give you for that and how much the total job will cost you. Our costs are fairly reasonable. Creating information pages and submitting them to sites will run you around $50-$60 per page created. Each page we create is specifically targeted towards 1-2 keywords. Then we'll charge you a little for ongoing maintenance, such as resubmitting to search engines that drop you, etc.
The average budget for a small commercial site would be about $1,500-$7,000. A larger commercial site would run anywhere from $7,000-$12,000.
Unless you have a million different things on your Web site, there really isn't a need to go nuts. The only way you get into massive fees is if you have massive pages. A hypothetical example would be a company like Dell that has a whole bunch of products they want to sell. Then, you're probably looking at $15,000-$20,000 a year, if you really go berserk.
Q: Ok, once I've hired a consultant how long should it take before I see real results?
Muller: The time it will take varies on different engines. As of right now Altavista will rank pages within two-four weeks - - and that's the fastest you'll see it done. Some other engines take three-to-six months, and some even longer. So there's no quick and easy fix unless you go to GoTo.com and buy a keyword.
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