To Pay or Not to Pay

To Pay or Not to Pay

Subject Line: TWM Release – To Pay or Not to Pay

The Write Market Release
Vol 2. Issue 8
To Pay or Not to Pay

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CONTENTS IN THIS ISSUE

1. Editor’s Remarks
2. Getting Ranks in the Search Engines – Part VI
a) Making Sense of Search Engine Marketing by Sage Lewis
b) Pay to Play Models
c) To Pay or Not to Pay
3. What’s New at The Write Market
4. Get Your Ad in TWM’s Release!
5. Administrative Information

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EDITOR’S REMARKS

Hello everyone, welcome to another exciting issue of The Write Market Release.

This is our last issue in our series on search engines. This month, we start out with a great article on how to choose an SEO (Search Engine Optimizer – one who optimizes your web site for search engines). This article includes a solid list of questions to ask the company you are considering for hire.

Also, we’re revisiting several search engines because more and more are coming out with a “Pay to Play” model.

For the next six months we are going to give you a tutorial on “How to Write a Marketing Plan.” I’m very excited to start this new tutorial and have several plans to make it interesting.

Happy Holidays!

Write on,
Renee Kennedy
[email protected]

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MAKING SENSE OF SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING
By Sage Lewis

Finding a search engine marketing company to optimize your website can be a confusing experience. There are hundreds of different packages, prices, and guarantees. But regardless of all the different options, only one thing is really important – understanding exactly what you’re getting for your money. Here are some things to consider when shopping around.

Number of engines

There is a difference between being automatically submitted to hundreds or even thousands of websites, and hiring a placement company to do specialized work. More is not better with engines. If a company offers great placement in 40-100 engines, you had better beware. Chances are the top listing won’t be in engines anyone has ever heard about.

Key Phrases

More key phrases are not necessarily better. Optimizing a site for 40 phrases is not entirely realistic. Find out how many words a company likes to customize a site to include. Also find out the difference between a key word and a key phrase. Many companies will use the terms interchangeably while referring to the set of words a user types in for a search. Others might consider a key word to mean exactly one word, and if users type in a phrase, such as ‘deep discount books,’ that phrase would be considered three words. So ask for specifics.

Once it’s determined what a phrase consists of, be sure to specify the exact phrase to be optimized. Most companies will do a given phrase in all lowercase and plural, so that spiders won’t label it as case or singular sensitive. But initial caps, all caps, single phrasing, and key phrases in quotes can sometimes be recommended for more specific targeting. Ask if a company likes to customize for case sensitive wording, and clarify if those case sensitive phrasings are considered multiple key phrases in the contract’s key-phrase count. There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s what you want. But you might be paying more for those extra words, or might believe you are getting more words in a contract then you really are.

Guarantees

The bottom line is that there are no guarantees. No one can 100% guarantee a top 10 spot on any engine unless one of the chosen key phrases is the company name or web address. Search engine marketing is much like other types of advertising and marketing, it’s a trial and error system. And the search engines are ultimately in control. Not the companies customizing pages. A company can only guarantee that they’ll give you something back if they can’t achieve promised positions.

Pricing

There are several different pricing options to consider. You can pay per click through, which means that if a user clicks through to your site from a link, it can be tracked and then the search engine company will bill you for each click. That way you can be sure to only pay for actual traffic results, although there are no guarantees that the visitors are buying anything. The typical price is around 25 cents per click through, so if the company does their job (and they will) it can get expensive. But it’s also a great way to pay only for exactly what you get – namely traffic.

Another more popular pricing structure is the package deal. These companies can often be more affordable than pay-per-click and they usually provide search engine optimization and maintenance needs in one convenient package. It can sometimes be tricky to break down what a company is offering within a package, but a phone call should clear any confusion up. Be sure and ask if they are working to get you a specific quota of results, or if they are performing set customization tasks to be agreed upon beforehand. As with any contract, the trick is making sure you know exactly what comes with a package for the price. Find out how many phrases and engines. Discuss their plans for creating doorways and customizing sub-pages. If they offer it, be sure to find out what constitutes successful ‘maintenance,’ since a company can’t actually promise to maintain your exact rankings.

Another payment option is the pay per listing service. These search engine companies are working to meet a quota of listings and you pay a certain predetermined price for each ranking; say $100 for a top 10, $75 for a top 20 and $50 for a top 30. Ceilings are usually built in on these deals because the search engine company lets you choose a set contract price not to be exceeded regardless of results. Then it is their problem to make sure your site listings match the pre-determined contract price quota. If for some reason the company can’t deliver, they usually guarantee a refund. Customization on these types of contracts can often be more personalized because the SEO company will do research to determine how much customization will be needed to yield the results your contract price demands. Duration of these contracts, and all the contracts, is usually 2-3 months, which is the ideal time frame for good results.

The following is a question check list for all search engine marketing companies:

– How many and which engines do you target?
– Does it cost more for directories like Yahoo and Open Directory?
– How many phrases come with the contract?
– What do you consider a key phrase? Do you work with case sensitive phrases?
– Do you research phrases?
– Exactly what phrases will the site be customized towards?
– Will you be customizing sub-pages and/or making doorways?
– Does your company have design experience?
– What are the specifics of the maintenance contract?
– Where will you store the pages you create? Can I keep them on my server?

Important: Ask a company about their policy on cloaking pages and creating doorway pages. Both services are falling under new suspicion by the engines, so you want to be sure the company understands the risks involved and the delicacy of using these techniques. A good company will be informed about the trends and will have a policy on these issues.

Just remember to do research when choosing a search engine marketing company. Most are reputable and many will work with you to provide exactly what you need and want for your site.

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Sage Lewis is the founder and president of the web promotion firm SageRock.com. He has been employed as an Internet Strategist and design/promotion consultant for 5 years. To subscribe to SageRock’s marketing newsletter, send a blank message to [email protected] or visit the company’s site at www.sagerock.com.

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PAY TO PLAY MODELS

INKTOMI is now charging for spider visitation.

Quick review of Inktomi:
Inktomi is a database of web sites. Inktomi’s spider is called “Slurp”. If Slurp visits your web site it will pick up your pages and place those pages into the Inktomi database. Then the various search engines who’ve partnered with Inktomi will take their listings from that database. (Hotbot, Canada, Iwon, MSN, and others.)

Inktomi is now charging for guaranteed spider visitation. They have partnered with Position Tech who will gladly charge you $20 a page to have Slurp visit your page every 48 hours. It’s worth checking out and for $20, it’s worth a little testing: http://www.positiontech.com/index2.htm

It is important to note that this does not guarantee ranks, it only guarantees that the spider will visit your page and stick the page in the database. It will still be up to the individual engines that use Inktomi data to determine your ranks. (Inktomi provides customized results based on what the particular search engine asks for.)

GOTO is a search engine that offers ranks based on your bidding of individual keywords. http://www.goto.com

GoTo will now be providing paid search results to the Lycos Network which includes both LYCOS and HOTBOT. People who conduct searches on Lycos and Hotbot will get results that include GoTo’s top 3 listings in a section called “Featured Listings.”

GoTo is also partnering with ALTAVISTA. According to GoTo, the top 5 GoTo results will appear in a section labeled “Sponsored Listings” on selected AltaVista search results pages.

YAHOO is now charging for submission of a commercial site. If you have a non commercial site, you can still submit for free. For a great heap of information on Yahoo see: http://www.thewritemaket.com/directories/yahoo.htm

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TO PAY OR NOT TO PAY
by Renee Kennedy

I have clients ask me all the time, “Should I pay to get my site into the search engines? Who should I pay? How much should I pay?”

My answer is different for every client. The answer depends on the purpose of your website and the money that you have available for this type of advertising.

However, here’s a little advice.

1. Pay for the Yahoo listing. $199
2. Pay for the Looksmart listing. minimum $79
3. Pay to have your home page spidered by Inktomi. $20
4. Consider GoTo ($25 to get started bidding on ranks.) This one takes a little work, you will have to track your sales and your hits from GoTo to find out if it is worth it.

Should you hire an SEO for the rest of the engines and directories? That answer will depend on your budget, your goals, and the time that you have available to work on this yourself.

If you have a big advertising budget then it’s no problem, hire an SEO and that’s that.

If you don’t have a big advertising budget, but your website is a supplement to offline advertising, then perhaps just writing good titles and meta tags (with about 200-300 words per page) and submitting to the majors, is all the SE promotion you’re going to need for the web.

If you are depending on the web to bring you sales and traffic, if the web site will be your mainstay, then LEARN how to promote in the engines. Even if you decide not to do it yourself, becoming familiar with the basics will help you choose a good SEO.

In other words, go in with some knowledge of how to optimize before you hire someone to do it. You wouldn’t go out and spend $800 on a Digital Camcorder without learning a little bit about each feature, would you? Same thing applies here.

Our tutorial is free, it’s located on the internet, read it to learn the basics of SEO:
http://www.thewritemarket.com/intro.shtml

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WHAT’S NEW AT THE WRITE MARKET

If you haven’t checked out MCNN in a while, now is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY we’ve added some new ezines: http://www.thewritemarket.com/newsletter.shtml

More Holiday graphics: http://www.thewritemarket.com/holidays.shtml

More new articles including a new section on Offline Promotion: http://www.thewritemarket.com/articles.shtml

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