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Promoting your small business website in the search engines can be a daunting task. Use of free submissions and link popularity is a good starting point for your website promotion campaign.
Start with the basis of good search engine and directory listings. Make sure you read and follow each search engine and directory's rules for submissions. Before making submissions, always verify that all your website links and pages work, with no pages "under construction".
Search Engines and Directories
Begin with the Open Directory Project (ODP http://www.dmoz.org). ODP is free and provides secondary search results to many other search engines. (Secondary search results are search results that come up after the primary search results of a search engine are shown.) Google uses the ODP directory results in their search engine results.
It is preferable to secure a listing in ODP before submitting your website to Yahoo!, but it often takes time to become listed in ODP and may not be possible. If you can afford a yearly $299.00 subscription to submit to Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com), do so. If you are a non- commercial website, you may be able to submit your website for free. You will find the rules about free submissions when you click on the "suggest a site" link at the bottom of your chosen category page.
Google is the top search engine and one you want to be listed in. Google provides secondary search results to other search engines and directories.
If you do B2B (business-to-business) with other companies, Business.com (http://www.business.com) is a reasonable $99.00 subscription per year and gives you the opportunity to list not only your home page, but four other pages from your website. The Business.com search results are used by many other business sites for search results.
Inktomi is a good choice for a reasonably priced link (yearly fee of $39.00 for first page, $25.00 per page 2-1000 for additional pages) and will get you into secondary search results for the MSN search engine. Position Technologies has a good submission program available for Inktomi (http://www.positiontech.com/).
Zeal.com (http://www.zeal.com) listings are part of the LookSmart directory, which provides primary search listings for MSN. You must sign-up to become a Zeal editor and pass a test before being able to add your non-commercial submissions to Zeal. Articles and tutorials are good choices to use when submitting non-commercial information from your website to Zeal.com.
Many of the major search engines still include a free submission section for their listings. Paid Inclusion and PPC (pay-per-click) are always the faster choices, but if your budget is limited you may want to consider submitting and waiting the 6-8 weeks (or more) it often takes to see your listings show up.
Major search engines providing free submissions include: Google (http://www.google.com), AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com), and AlltheWeb (http://www.alltheweb.com).
Secondary search engines you can submit to for free include Gigablast (http://www.gigablast.com) and ScrubtheWeb (http://www.scrubtheweb.com). One smaller directory is JoeAnt (http://www.joeant.com).
Link Popularity Methods
If you are a small business, seek out business directories to submit to, especially those directly related to your business.
Looking in Yahoo! and ODP categories for business directories can be very helpful in getting a start on your search for links.
For link popularity, searching in Google is a quick way to find suitable websites to request links from or submit to.
Search for specialty search engines. If your business is in the medical field, search for medical search engines.
When looking for link partners, select sites that reflect your website's topic or subject. Links from sites that are not related to your site are not weighted as heavily by the search engines in deciding how to rank your site.
Visit your competition's websites. See how they are ranking in the search engines and find out which keywords they are found under.
Link popularity is a very time-consuming activity, be prepared to spend a minimum of 10-20 hours in order to start building your link popularity. This may be a daunting enough task you might want to consider working with a search engine marketing professional.
It is always a good idea to keep in mind that many tools are not "exact" and can vary due to the search engine algorithms changing (which can be often). I like to think of it as an "approximation" of the information I am seeking.
The Google Toolbar (http:/ oolbar.google.com) shows you the approximate link popularity of other websites (note the green bar that says "PageRank" after downloading the tool), as well as giving you choices such as checking backlinks (who is linking to the webpage), similar pages, a cached snapshot of the page and more when you right-click on the web page. Visit your competition's webpage, then use the toolbar to view who is linking to them.
The PageRank and backlink information is very helpful in regards to researching your competition. The backlinks you find via the toolbar may show you some quality websites to submit links to. Seek out websites with PageRank 4 and up to get the most out of your submitted or reciprocal link. Hovering your mouse over the Google Toolbar tells you the page rank of the website.
To learn about writing an email request for a reciprocal link and other linking strategies, visit Eric Ward's website (http://www.ericward.com/articles/index.html).
The Overture suggestion tool (http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion) is a free way to check how popular your keyword phrases are in comparison to the monthly results of Overture. This will not give you a complete picture since Overture is used on many but not all search engines. It will help you decide which keyword phrases are the best choice, as well as as variations on your keyword phrases.
MarketLeap (http://www.marketleap.com/) measures your link popularity, and that of three of your competitors. The report is free and gives you a benchmark showing where your popularity lies online vs your competitors.
Lastly, if you want to "do it yourself", the top places I've found to research and learn from are Search Engine Watch (http://www.searchenginewatch.com) and Webmaster World (http://www.webmasterworld.com). Search Engine Watch and Webmaster World's sister site, Search Engine World (http://www.searchengineworld.com) both have free newsletters full of information to help you promote your website.
Daria Goetsch is a Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search Innovation, a Search Engine Marketing company serving small businesses. Her background involves many years as a Search Engine Marketing Consultant, including three years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly & Associates. http://www.searchinnovation.com email@example.com