How Poor Searchability Affects Your Business?

The Web provides an arena where all companies can communicate with their customers across a global network at any time. Online content can originate from many sources:

  1. press releases
  2. print
  3. catalogs
  4. data fact sheets, or
  5. internal databases.

While a lot of this content will be ‘re-purposed’ in new ways for the Web, many organizations often have large backlogs of legacy documents. Return on Investment (ROI) is defined by an organization’s ability to maximize their collective accumulated database of knowledge and legacy work.

The Full Document

search-and-ye-shall-find

The rush to get information online often prevents any consideration to making the information searchable once it’s published. Web teams under pressure to publish legacy documents may not give much thought to this during the initial publishing process. Afterwards, the onerous task of making the
content searchable becomes insurmountable. Business intelligence information falls into many categories:

  1. organizational
  2. financial
  3. products
  4. pricing
  5. alliances
  6. customers
  7. technology
  8. customers
  9. regulations
  10. market
  11. customer surveys
  12. marketing toolkits
  13. suppliers.

When organizations begin to consider the sheer volume of information they use to run their businesses, the argument for making this information searchable, and therefore findable, becomes clear. With the competition a click away, searchability is vital for ecommerce sites and can be a significant source of competitive advantage.
There are many challenges to improving search engine ranking, including:

=> COST — Repairing the searchability on a 20,000 page website will typically cost over $500,000, depending on what technology and processes are already in place

=> WASTED TIME ON THE PART OF USERS — How do users feel about the avalanche of data at their fingertips? Stressed out. Consider these statistics from Roper Starch Worldwide7, a global research firm: 36 percent of Internet users report that they spend more than two hours a week searching the Web for accurate information. 71 percent get frustrated searching the Internet for accurate information. On average, it takes about 12 minutes
before a user gets frustrated when searching the Internet.

=> LEGACY DOCUMENTS — Many organizations have a wealth of information housed in legacy documents of all different file types (MS Office, PDFs, etc.) The resources, time, and planning to make these documents searchable can seem insurmountable.

=> LOST SALES — According to the NPD Group, 55 percent of purchases made by Internet users in the US originated from websites found through search engines.

=> PEOPLE DON’T COME BACK 60 percent of consumers who shop for travel deals online report that if they can’t find what they are looking for, they’ll just leave for a competitor

=> IT’S DIFFICULT TO MANAGE LARGE, COMPLEX WEBSITES Managing consistency across multiple teams in terms of applying meaningful search elements can be difficult, if not impossible, without an automated solution to monitor the situation.

“Search engines create more awareness about websites than all advertising combined, including banners, newspapers, TV, and radio.”10 Optimizing your site for search engines presents three main hurdles: getting found (search engine spidering); getting ranked; and getting clicked (search results presentation). The challenge to organizations is to ensure that their site is consistently ranked highly with the major external search engines. Site ranking involves getting your website properly spidered by
a search engine, properly placed in its index, and appearing among the top results delivered to the end user by the search engine. Internet search engines have individual algorithms or ‘recipes’ for determining a site’s rank. Each uses a variety of elements including: page title, metadata, body text, link popularity, ALT text, and URL name, and assigns various weights to each element. To optimize site ranking, you must maximize your use of these search elements on your site content.

“Search result presentation” describes the manner in which your website is delivered to a user’s search query. When a user searches for a topic, they receive listings giving them information to help them decide if the listed site is relevant to their needs. This listing is critical, as it is often the one
chance you have to entice a user to click on the result to visit the Web page. Even organizations that have succeeded in making their website “search engine friendly”, and have received a high ranking will fail if their site is not properly presented to the user. For example, if the search results do not have
compelling titles and/or descriptions about what the site has to offer, the search engine does its best to guess the description from the main text. It’s all about control: do you want it, or will you relinquish it to the search engines?

How to Improve Search Engine Ranking

Improving search engine optimization

There are three major steps you should take to help optimize your site for search engine ranking:

1. Brainstorm keywords. Determine how your company wants to be interpreted in the public eye. Gather together company stakeholders, customers, and partners. Check out what your competitors and complementary technology companies are using for their keywords. Examine your web logs, traffic analysis data, and search engine logs to see where your visitors are coming from, and what search keywords they used to find you.

2. Ensure your content uses these keywords. Make sure your web content contains keywords in page titles, metatags, body text, ALT text, and URL name.

3. Submit your site to the most popular search engines and d directories. irectories. You’re not going to satisfy every search engine’s criteria, so pick the top engines and directories to submit to, such as Google, Alta Vista, MSN, and Yahoo!.

Most search engines use the following elements when they attempt to decipher page content. It is
important to ensure that you use repeated, consistent page keywords:

1. Page Title The page Title is the most important aspect of site ranking, and should be unique for every page. Search engines give words in your Title the highest relevancy. Choosing the right title is critical to search engine ranking. Robots consider the title of a page to be the most
telling description of the content of a page.

2. Metatags The text found in the Description tag will be displayed to the user in the search results for many engines. Therefore, a good description is
critical so a page not only ranks well, but so people will actually click on your link once they see it. The “Description” tag is especially important because
for some engines, such as Excite and Google, it’s the only metatag supported. A Description tag can boost your rankings on some engines, and some
engines use it as a site’s summary on the results’ pages to make sure its contents are enticing to the reader. Otherwise, a search engine has to
extrapolate, or guess what the description of the page should be, which means you are relinquishing important control of how your company is presented to end users. Keywords are used when ranking a page. They will help search engines when reinforcing what the page is about and when they attempt to determine a theme. A “Keyword tag” summarizes all the keywords under which you would like to be listed by the search engines.

3. Body Text Most engines will spider the actual page content to look for consistent use of keywords throughout the text. Typically they will only scan the first paragraph (100-150 words). These keywords should be consistent throughout your search elements: page title, metadata, and body text.

4. ALT text ALT text describes non-text elements (images, JavaScript, etc.) in words so automated devices such as search engine spiders can read the page. A site containing many images may look good, but it’s not optimized to score high with search engines. Since search engines don’t index images, they can’t index all the information that your website has in image format. ALT text solves this problem, and should always be added because it can positively influence keyword frequency and help achieve better rankings (not to mention making sites more accessible to individuals with disabilities using assistive devices).

5. URL name  The actual link name should include the same consistent keywords.

6. Link popularity — An increasing number of search engines use link popularity as part of their ranking algorithm, but it’s not the only factor. Sites that are good resources tend to get linked. The logic behind this is, if other sites think you are worthy of being linked to, your site must have strong content. Submit your sites to other complementary sites.

7. Search Search-engine Friendly Content  Search engine crawlers operate most effectively on static HTML pages. They have difficulty with Flash, frames, scripts, images, multimedia, etc. If your site uses these advanced technologies, you must consider ways to make sure the search
engines can find them.

Getting found

The most significant challenge for website owners is driving traffic to their site. Inclusion in search engine indexes can be a powerful method to drive targeted users to a website. Search engine submission refers to the act of getting your web site listed with search engines. Another term for this
is search engine registration. Getting listed does not mean you will necessarily rank well for particular terms, however. It simply means the search engine knows your pages exist. There are three ways of getting found once you’ve optimized your site content: robots that automatically “crawl” your site, submitting your URLs to search engines, or paying for them to be
included. Examples of paid inclusion programs are Yahoo!’s Express, LookSmart’s Express Submit, Inktomi’s Search Submit or Index Connect, AltaVista’s Trusted Feed, and FAST’s PartnerSite. The engines that don’t use paid inclusion are Google, Open Directory Project (ODP), and Northern Light,
although Google provides AdWords as paid placement. In the past, it has been a challenge for Web search databases to remain fresh, as they typically require one month (and often longer) to crawl the Web to find newly published pages. Website owners have expressed frustration in getting their content listed in search engines in an expedient manner. Often, once the content owners go through the effort of getting their content included in the search index, the listing does not reflect the site’s current content.

Getting ranked

Site Ranking indicates the location within a search engine’s database that will, in turn, determine where an individual web page will show up when a user queries a particular topic. This is critical to any organization, especially those in the B2C market selling commodity goods and services, as most web
users will not have the patience to go beyond the first results page, especially if they locate what they are looking for on the first page. Once a search engine has used a user’s search terms to gather “hits” from its database, it lists or “ranks” them in the results display by machine-predicted “relevance”.

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