Rise above the crowd on the web

Making sure you are seen prominently on the internet and linking up with firms that can channel traffic to your website are two important elements of an online strategy, says Frank Eve

This week I’m focussing on search engine optimisation and affiliate marketing. Search engine optimisation is the art of gaining the top positions in the search engines. Research shows that 85% of internet consumers use search engines and directories to locate the products, services and information. When someone enters a phrase into a search engine the results generally show two types of listings, ones that have been paid for and ones selected as a good match for the consumer’s key word enquiry.

Relevance is determined by different factors by all the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN. They use the same two core factors to determine this relevancy – links and content. The on-page factor, the content of a website, allows search engines to deduce exactly what that page is talking about. By constructing your text correctly you can ensure the search engine sees your document as relevant for particular queries. The off-page factor, the links pointing to your page from other websites, will affect your ability to rank. By having high quality, multiple targeted links you can increase your search engine positioning.

Search engine optimisation is a complicated process as search engines often amend the methods they use for selecting and matching key words to relevant sites. In the early days of internet marketing, Meta tags were solely used to rank pages (HTML code containing keywords the search engines can see but not the users). Though Meta tags are still important, search engine technology has moved on. Each search engine has its own algorithm for ranking sites but the concept is the same. The software systems are known as crawlers, robots or spiders because they crawl the web.

Another way of generating web traffic is to have an affiliate marketing programme. Affiliate marketing is a vital part of online commerce. Affiliates are online companies that can channel traffic to a website for a fee per lead or per visitor. The broker’s website will need a system to monitor traffic flows from affiliates but some brokers already have commercial tools to manage affiliate programmes plus a network of affiliates. The software tracks online sales and enquiries, calculates the commission due and allocates it to the relevant affiliate account. Affiliates are invoiced monthly and each qualifying affiliate is paid monthly on a cost per lead basis. The broker will always be able to provide reports on the results of their programme to their affiliates.

The key is to understand the basics of any development and when necessary get professional assistance. Many companies offer marketing and optimisation services. A good starting point is to use major search engines to identify who comes top. Read the tutorials and find a company that has a service and price to fit the requirements. Companies such as Screen Business (www.screenbusiness.net) provide bespoke web solutions and marketing services. I will be profiling this company later this month.