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SEO Not Enough

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-10-25

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Many marketers are obsessed with optimizing their web sites for "free rankings" in search engines.

However, one search engine expert advises marketers to protect their businesses by not investing in an optimization-only strategy.

"The search engine landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years," says Catherine Seda, author of "Search Engine Advertising, Buying Your Way to the Top to Increase Sales" (New Riders Publishing 2004). "Today, many search engines no longer provide free search results. Companies must pay to be listed there. If they don't pay up, they're missing the opportunity to reach a lot of consumers."

Seda cites another problem with optimization -- the constant battle against search engines and competitors for high rankings. Algorithm-based engines constantly change how they rank web pages. And competitors continuously modify their sites to achieve or maintain rankings. Many companies are now outsourcing optimization to search engine marketing firms, or training an in-house team.

"It's now expert against expert for 'top ten' rankings, in a very tight playing space," says Seda. "Optimization is a vital part of a successful search engine marketing strategy, but a lot of companies are relying on it. That's like walking on a high wire without a net."

For companies that want instant traffic from search engines, Seda recommends pay-for-placement advertising. Even once solid rankings are achieved through site optimization, advertising is a complementary campaign.

"It's a balancing game for the champions of this sport," comments Seda. "When keywords are too pricey to bid on, marketers can lower or drop their bids while they've scored free rankings. And for the keyword rankings they can't get through optimization, or if they need a traffic jolt, they can pay for placement."

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