Search Engine Marketing – The Past, The Present and The Future
By: Carmen Jackson
1997 – 1999 were the early years of search engine era. Internet Marketing and more specifically search engine marketing mainly consisted of submitting your sites to the search engines. These "voices from the past" are still heard today when this or that Search Engine Optimization company and / or automatic submitting software will claim to do search engine promotion for you by submitting your site to hundreds and thousands engines and directories. The search engines' indexing programs, called "robots" or "spiders", looked through all of the HTML code of a page and used some page ranking algorithms that they kept in secret.
Those days were spammers' Heaven: it was rather easy to get your site ranked high. You could just use your keywords lots of times on the page, in the META tags, HTML comments etc. and hide it from the human visitors by making the text tiny or completely invisible with the help of HTML tricks. The search engines didn't have any sophisticated technique to recognize this kind of spam, and such sites usually got high rankings very easily. Today, you still can find some samples of this primitive optimization (however you will have to give it a hard try, because nowadays most of such Web projects have been banned by the search engines for excessive keyword usage).
The only exception was Yahoo which has always been indexed by humans who could in most cases identify and ban spamming pages.
Gradually, search engines started recognizing spam and applying corresponding penalties to Web pages using spam methods. However, search engine optimizers were always one step behind the search engines in finding new ways of cheating the indexing algorithms. Hence each search engine is committed to delivering only relevant results to its visitors, the engines needed to take control away from the spammers and auto-submitters. Many began to try different ways of indexing.
The Rise of Google
If someone is asked today about the first search engine to remember, the answer will be Google in 100% cases. Google has started its way to be the King of search engines in 2000 and in 2002 its right for this title has been firmly established, with around 70% of searches done on the Internet. While other search engines were focusing on transforming to universal portals, Google kept a simple and – which has become its distinctive feature – fast interface that solely targeted delivering relevant search results.
Google also developed advanced features such as indexing and searching PDF (portable document format) and SWF (shockwave flash) files. Additionally, Google's sophisticated techniques to use the "off-the-page" factors made it extremely spam-resistant. Google's dominance has become steady in 2000 with Yahoo having switched from Inktomi to Google as secondary search result provider. Now, Yahoo uses the combination of Overture's and own search software and index repository, thus being fully independent on Google, however, without any slightest impact on the dominance of the latter.
By 2001, the results of all major engines were produced from a number of mixed / hybrid sources. Yahoo search results combined Yahoo-directory listings, Overture (PPC) results, and Google results. MSN provided results from Overture (PPC), LookSmart , and Inktomi.
The years 2002 and 2003 brought major reshuffles among search engines: in this period, Google purchased Blogger.com, Yahoo bought Inktomi, and AltaVista and AllTheWeb became a part of Overture. Also, there were many shifts caused by emerging search engine partnerships. Further in this course we will give you a complete and actual chart of relationships between the contemporary search engines.
Search Engine Marketing Today
If you thought nowadays search engine marketing can still be done by acquiring (and using) an auto-submission software, drop this idea since now on. Search engine marketing requires an integrated approach to improving site content, quality and popularity. For a Web site to reach its top potential, it must incorporate target audience analysis, competitive analysis, cost per click optimization, and - last but not least - copywriting and copyediting. And, because things keep changing, search engine marketers need to devote a good deal of time staying on top of the SEO industry and its trends.
Today very few (and mostly inexperienced) optimizers / marketers would use spam methods to achieve high ranking. In many cases, spamming and the so-called "black-hat" SEO is recognized by automatic spiders, for these become more and more intelligent. Even though we describe major spamming methods in the end of this course, we do it only in the sake of your awareness. We do NOT recommend using them, as there's no guarantee at all they can help, whereas it's very possible that your Web visibility can be seriously damaged as a result.
The Future of Search Engine Marketing
Search engines have already developed into sophisticated systems, and no doubt they will continue to enhance their technical aspect, with improved capabilities to index pages that are located deeply within the site (many links away from the initial page). Also, their abilities to handle dynamically generated pages (e.g. shopping carts) can be expected to grow. Among other perspective trends are advanced non-HTML content indexing (such as PDF and graphics), improved ability to rapidly integrate new content such as news using XML feeds or other technology, organization of search results into logical categories (sometimes referred to as clustering), and other advanced features. For insights into the future of search, you could visit Google Labs ( http://labs.google.com). This is the beta area where Google showcases some of its upcoming technologies.
However, the traditional "highest-bidder" approach makes SEM feel more and more like traditional print advertising. The Integrated Approach to SEM anticipates that in future, best marketing efforts will aim to leverage the three components: paid advertising and analytics, all-sided site and content optimization and qualitative off-the-page factors enhancement. That is why we prefer to call the functions provided by Web CEO "Search Engine Marketing" rather than "Search Engine Optimization". When all is said and done, it is the traffic you get and the way this traffic converts that matters – not even your site rank on a search engine. You can rank worse than your competitor, yet the percentage of your visitors that turn into buyers will be so high that you actually outperform your competitor several times.
About the Author
Carmen is the VP Client Relations of Ms. SEO Inc., a Calgary based Search Engine Marketing & Internet Marketing Company. Ms. Seo Inc. works with their sister company Ms. Hype Inc., a Calgary Website Design Company, and their parent company Cre8 Hype Solutions Inc., a Calgary based Internet Marketing Company, to offer their clients a powerful online presence.
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