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The Eight Sins of Search Engine Marketing
If you're looking for the fast track to the top and the bragging rights to go with the the number one search result then you're time at the top may be limited. Likewise, if you ignore your audience and focus on technology, you'll shut the door to a great source of traffic.

However, by avoiding the eight sins of search engine marketing you'll be on your way to creating a successful flow of traffic for months or even years to come.

1) Use Flash, frames, graphics or excessive technology
Despite all the books, articles, and eight years of great examples of how not to develop a web site, companies and designers continue to ignore the vicious technology trap. Frames, excessive graphics, flash, and other gizmos are continuously used without any consideration for the audience at the other end.

If you want to make it difficult for search engines and your visitors to get at your content, then use plenty of flash, frames, and other gizmos. That's not to say that these tools can't be used to spread the message, but be prepared to look at their use on a case by case basis. The fact is, over-reliance on these methods may render your web site all but invisible to the major search engines.

Unfortunately, even the poor old image can cause headaches when used excessively (for example, a graphic only splash or intro page). The simple fact is that search engines such as Google require content, and more importantly, HTML text. Without it, they have little or no opportunity to appropriately value your web site.

So, if you want to enter search nirvana, use a balanced design and remember to keep your web site accessible. Avoid using technology because it's cool. Every decision should be based on the audience rather than what the boss likes. If you keep your audience at the top of your mind, you'll likely produce a web site that both they and search engines enjoy.

2) Sign up for automated submission
Looking for the fast rack to success then sign up for a low cost automated submission service by Goodman Systems. These guys will submit your web site to over 3000 search engines in only 48 hours. In fact, they'll even submit your site to search engines no longer in business, all for low price of only $89.95.

The old cliche if it sounds too good to be true it probably is wins out here. Not only will these guys get you banned, but they'll also have the honor of tarnishing your brand in the process.

So, regardless of how good it sounds, if you get an unsolicited email to submit your web site for a fee that sounds too good to be true, do yourself and your brand a favor and press the delete button. Most email supporting these ridiculous claims are just out there to depart you from your money.

On the other hand, if you're not shy of a little hard work, roll up your sleeves and plan to spend hours and months to do it right. Or if you have the budget, hire a professional to get the job done right. The results will be worth it and your brand won't suffer in the process.

3) To cloak or not to cloak
One ongoing debate in the search engine marketing realm is the cloaking debate. Cloaking is the process of serving up one page (a well scripted text only page) for search engines and an entirely different page (one with all the imagery and technology a person can handle) to us humans. Some proponents argue that cloaking is a fare way to break through the clutter while purists and more importantly search engines treat it as cheating.

Based on research, there's no question that cloaking works (I'm happy to say that this it's not based on my personal research though). It can produce great results and drive your web site to the top of the list in a matter of weeks. However, if you get caught you can kiss your results good-bye and the offending web site (as well as others) will be sent to the penalty box for an indefinite period.

So, if you want ongoing success, give them what they want, great content, and don't try to cheat the system.

4) Submit your web site as many times as you like
As a consultant, I've worked on 100s of web sites over the years. After countless hours on a long project there's nothing more I look forward to than announcing my new baby to the world.

If you're like me and tend to get a little carried away when you get excited then you'll want to sit down and take a few deep breaths before you start the submission process. Unfortunately, the last thing you want to do is get carried away in your moment of over zealous lust and submit too often. If you do, you may end up on the wrong side of the fence before the real fun begins.

In fact, you'll want to learn as much as possible about the submission process for each search engine / directory. Start with the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) at each site (they all have them) and learn how to do it right.

You may be surprised what you learn. Every search engine is different. In fact, some no longer accept free submissions (this is likely the future for most search engines).

For example, if you want inclusion in to Inktomi or AltaVista you have to pay for the privilege. Others will allow a page to be submitted every couple of days. And others like Google will find your web site even if you don't submit (as long as you have links from other web sites).

If your patient and occasionally submit new pages you'll be rewarded in kind with plenty of new traffic.

5) Create a link farm
One great way to build credibility online, and more importantly, a higher Page Rank at Google is to create as many links from other web sites to yours. To help you with your cause, there are companies that will even place your link on hundreds of web sites around the world including some that are banned as links farms.

The only way to build long lasting credibility is to seek out other friendly web site owners and ask for reciprocal links, or better yet, offer news or articles in return for a link back to your site. Done correctly, you'll see both your referral visits and search engine traffic soar.

6) Design in a vacuum
If I have any beefs (I know it sounds like I have at least eight), it's against those who design corporate and government web sites for the sole purpose of being cool, different, or even worse, winning awards. Often, it's explicitly clear that the web site was created in a vacuum with little or no attention paid to those who have to use the site.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against artistic design. There's plenty of room to be different. But if you're going to work in this medium and design web sites for commercial consumption, then you need to be aware of certain usability and technical limitations. If you ignore these differences, you'll likely do both your client and your audience a disfavor.

As online designers (I do dabble occasionally) it's your job to have a good understanding of the medium, regardless of whether it's your first web site or 100th. Often, what works great on paper doesn't always translate well to the web. In fact, in many cases it doesn't translate at all.

I've often found that if you create a design that works for your audience, you'll also end up with a web site that agrees with search engines. In fact, people and search engines are both alike. We both want great content. Keep this simple fact in mind and your web site and your bottom line will reap the rewards down the track.

7) Throw your old web site away
With almost eight years of history behind us now, I'm still amazed at how many companies continue to throw their old web sites away.

In many cases it takes months or even years to build up quality search engine traffic. However, many companies continue to throw away old pages, switch operating platforms, file extensions or make drastic changes to site architecture without considering their existing traffic.

Why the concern? Well if you happen to remove an old page or change file extensions without carefully transitioning the visitor to a new page, you'll likely loose that visitor forever. The chances are that if the first page they see is the dreaded 404 Error page they'll likely press the back button, and go to the next result.

The bottom line is that if you're redesigning an existing web site, you need to pay attention to all of these factors.

8) Have faith that your designer, agency, or web developer knows all there is to know about search engine marketing
To develop an affective web site that produces results you'll need access to the skills of a variety of people and organizations. These days, it's difficult for one person or even one agency to be experts in every aspect of web site development.

Before you start work on a new project, try to make sure the designer, agency, or developer is aware of the implications of web site development on search engines. The worst thing you could do is assume that they will have have all the necessary skills covered. In fact, based on my experience with many solo designers as well as full service agencies, search engine marketing is often an afterthought.

If they don't have the skills in-house, ask around for a search engine marketing expert who will work seamlessly with your agency or designer. While it may require a larger team and more money up front, it will also likely save you time, money and the headache from having to optimize the web site down the road.

The search engine market is constantly changing. In fact, in the last few months there has been more consolidation and improvements in search than the past three years alone. With a renewed interest in search, the evolution is likely to continue.

While we can't be positive what the future will hold, we can tell you that if you avoid these eight deadly sins, you'll be in a good position to benefit from the results.

Contact us to learn how to put search engine marketing to work for your web site today.