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Search Engine Promotion - Options Explained

Most people have limited knowledge when it comes to search engine ranking and the various types of services on offer. We all know that having top 10 positions on some of the leading engines can bring all the traffic we can handle, and then some. But how do we get those top 10 listings and what should we expect to pay to get them?

A simple way to approach this is to look at your competition. Do a quick search on one of the leading engines like Google or AltaVista, using a search phrase that people might use when looking for your products or services, and see what comes back.

As a basic 'rule of thumb' guide -
  • Between 100 and 5000 puts you in a 'low competition' category.
  • Between 5001 and 25000 puts you in a 'medium competition' category.
  • Between 25001 and 250,000 puts you in a 'high competition' category.
  • Over 250,000 puts you in a 'Extremely high competition' category.
Here are some examples we found on AltaVista:-

    "detroit real estate" - 2.7M
    "oriental foods" - 1.9M
    "curtain fixtures" - 817,000
    "auto parts" - 130,000
    "mortgage loans" - 84,000
    "scrapbooking" - 51,000
    "coin collecting" - 14,000
    "wedding accessories" - 9,000
    "florida vacations" - 5,000
    "model railways" - 5,000
    "camping accessories" - 4,000

Based on the above, determine the competitiveness of your category, then start to research the level of service necessary for your site.

Before we give you the options, remember that at some point, you or somebody you pay will have to submit your site to all the leading engines and directories. Most Ranking services will include submissions, but at the lower end of the pay scale they will almost certainly use 'automated submission software'.

We recommend that you avoid any automated submission services, submitting sites manually is far more effective in our experience (though obviously more time consuming). There are a plethora of so called 'submission' services around the Internet, be very careful with these services and understand fully what you are paying for. Many of them use 'hype' such as - "e;we submit your site to 2500 leading search engines" etc. This is often misleading. Most actually 'attempt' to submit your web address to around 100 search engines, the rest are FFA boards free classified boards. We say 'attempt' as in many cases the more important search engines are programmed to detect submissions from automated submission software and will filter the submission straight into the dumper.

Another very important issue to consider with submission services is 'Directories'. Automated submission services have no way of submitting your site to the most important sites of all - search 'Directories'. Directories require a manual submission process where you locate the most appropriate category for your listing then enter your web address, email, business address, phone number etc. This can only be done manually. These directories are extremely important. Yahoo!, for example, searches it's directory listings before turning to the 'search engine' for more results.

The 'Open Directory' makes it's results available to search engines like AOL Search, AltaVista, HotBot, Google, Lycos, Netscape Search etc. Making an accurate submission to the right category at Open Directory is critical. Understand the difference between automated and manual submission and try to seek out a service that offers manual submissions.

Once you have determined the level of competition for top positions in your business category, use the following as a basic guide:

1 - Low to medium competition with no previous 'search engine optimization' - Locate a good submission service who will give your home page a 'tune-up' then submit your site 'manually' to all the leading engines and directories. Expect to pay around $25 to $65 month and be suspicious of anyone that charges less, they probably use automated submission software.

2 - Medium to High competition on restricted budget - try to locate a service that will go beyond basic Meta Tag revisions. Very few search engines pay much attention to what's in your Meta tags, so look for someone who will make changes to the HTML on your key content pages to give them a boost. At the lower price service levels, the changes will be mostly hidden and will not change the outside appearance of your site. These services are less predictable than more expensive services, but in many cases can generate some very good page rankings. Again, whoever you chose should submit your site manually to all the leading engines and directories. Expect to pay around $55 to $95 per month. Make sure that you are getting more than revised Meta Tags at this price level.

3 - Sites with high or extremely high competition - you will come across various approaches at the higher service levels. Most common is to use Doorway pages and sometimes a separate Hallway domain. Think about Doorway/Hallway pages as pages that are designed to focus on a specific search phrase, each targeting a specific search engine. It is not uncommon to have sites with over 100 custom designed Doorway pages targeting multiple search phrases and multiple search engines. Be very careful who you select to create Doorway pages for your site. Software is available that can create high numbers of Doorway pages for multiple search phrases and all the leading search engines. This software generates 'template' or 'boiler plate' pages that are identical with the exception of strategically placed keywords.

Many search engines are now programmed to detect these pages and will penalize your site if you use them. Ask to see samples of Doorway pages and look for a service that adopts the 'theme' of your main site, and actually adds valuable content to the site. Costs are widely varying at this level of service. Some charge a basic setup fee then charge you for 'click-throughs'. Paying a fee each time someone visits your site is unpredictable and can get very costly.

Others charge setup fees then have a 'pay on results' system where you pay an agreed commission when one of your pages reaches a top 10 or 20 position on a targeted search engine. This approach is incentive driven and provides you with a 'maximum cost exposure' at the start of the job. Others charge based on an hourly rate and provide 'best endeavors' to achieve the rankings you require, without any guarantees.

Developing a better understanding of how it all works will help you decide the best approach for your web site, and will help you make an informed decision based on realistic expectations.

Carl Hruza operates a successful web promotion and search ranking business, and offers advice on all aspects of Internet Marketing and Promotion. Email Carl at mailto:carl@topwebpromotion or visit his site at

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