Secrets of Successful Search Engine Optimization

by Heather Lloyd-Martin, Guest Writer

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference in Dallas, Texas December 11th and 12th, 2002.

A longer, more detailed version of this article is
available to Search Engine Watch members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member

Despite persistent myths, there is no silver bullet: The best search engine optimization firms conquer client marketing challenges through research, education and plain ol' hard work.

Imagine this: You check your Google indexing and discover that some pages were dropped. Not just one or two. Over 9,000 of your pages, with a paltry few left in the index.

It happened to e-retailer plummeted from a high of 9,240 indexed pages in January 2002 to 28 pages in June 2002. That's when Derrick Wheeler from Marketleap started his search engine optimization (SEO) sleuthing.

Wheeler knew that was dealing with some SEO management issues. There were mirror site domains (which were other sites that had acquired), pop-ups and pages with invisible text. This "accidental spam," he theorized, may have angered the Googlebot, resulting in an indexing drop.

Immediately, Wheeler recommended the necessary anti-spam changes. reduced the pop-ups, deleted all invisible text and used a 301 redirect on the mirror pages, pointing them to the proper page.

Anxiously, Wheeler waited with what he calls "Googlebumps" - the feeling you get when you're waiting for Google to recrawl your site.'s indexing went up just one page, from 28 pages to 29 pages. And strangely, Google was still indexing old mirror domain pages.

With the Google indexing in flux, required search property visibility. Wheeler immediately engaged in "hardcore keyword research" and created specific titles and descriptions for each page. Next, implemented Inktomi's Index Connect, Google sponsorships and Overture ads. Every click-thru was tracked and measured.

Marketleap successfully drove new site traffic and unique visitors. After enrolling the site with Inktomi's Index Connect, it averaged 3,000 clicks a week (or 12,000 a month).

Efforts from Overture and Google sponsorship drove new traffic, resulting in positive campaign ROI. Even if Google wasn't crawling, was still reaching new customers.

As of the conference (December 2002), dropped to one page in Google. However, Wheeler feels confident that Google will completely finally smile upon and reindex their pages. In the meantime, he has some sage advice for marketers patiently waiting for Google indexing.

"Traffic from any search engine is valuable. Don't put ALL your eggs in Google's basket…no more than 9" he quips.

Staying Sharp with the search engines

Not putting all your eggs in Google's basket is especially important during site redesigns and domain name changes. Sharp Electronics survived the seesaw rankings game, thriving through two major issues - a domain name change and a site redesign.

When Sharp redesigned their site in September 2000, search referrals plummeted 49 percent.

"The rankings were decimated," says Fredrick Markini, CEO of SEP firm iProspect.

What's worse, the odds that people would "guess" Sharp's URL and type it into their browser window were practically nonexistent. The URL was, according to Markini, "lousy," and had no direct navigators (the domain name was

In essence, the Sharp site was almost invisible to new surfers.

During major Web site disturbances, having a sharp SEO strategy is highly crucial. Overhauls can slice top Google rankings - and positions take time to build.

For instance, Sharp's rankings hit their lowest point in December 2000 - three months after the site redesign.

Since SEO was (and still is) Sharp's only online marketing spend, regaining prime positions was paramount.

After aggressive paid inclusion and eventual Google reindexing, total rankings grew from 615 to 3,400 - a 457% increase. Search referrals have increased 226 percent and cost per click is six cents and dropping.

In fact, due to savvy planning, search referrals even increased after the domain name changed to in June 2002.

The result? SEO is still Sharp's only online spend and they maintain a strong visibility lead over their closest competitors. "Over 50 percent of the traffic is now search engine visitors," says Markini.

Revising keyword choices for maximum click-thru

So, you've conducted your keyphrase research and your campaigns are rolling right along. Although some people believe that keyphrase research ends after the initial SEO campaign, long-term research provides massive search intelligence.

Todd Tweedy, of The Tweedy Group LLC, emphasized that ongoing keyphrase strategy (or what Wheeler calls, "heavy-duty keyword research") is crucial.

"People focus on one, two and three keyword phrases, but they aren't capitalizing on other phrases. We found that 65% of clicks were from unique queries coming from esoteric long terms," says Wheeler.

Constant client communications drive SEM success

Explaining Googleglitches and conveying SEO benefits means that communication between the SEO and vendor is paramount.

Smart SEO communication skills are a mixture of client education, coding expertise and marketing savvy. Often, that means explaining the SEO process to both marketing and technical teams, helping them understand SEO goals and benefits.

"You have to speak their language," says Cheryle Pingel of Range Online Media.

Successful search marketing campaigns are an ongoing partnership between the vendor and client. Whether it's listening closely to a client's online marketing goals, streamlining a keyphrase campaign or solving a spidering issue, client communication and constant research is crucial.

"SEO is alive, and must be looked tweaked and managed," said Markini.

Heather Lloyd-Martin is the President of SuccessWorks. She is a regular speaker at the Search Engine Strategies conferences, offering expert tips on search engine optimization writing. Contact Heather at

A longer, more detailed version of this article is
available to Search Engine Watch members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

Online search engines news
Web search for cash brings results/.
ZDNet Mar 6 2003 11:41AM GMT
Online portals news
AOL blocks a billion spam emails in 24 hours/. Mar 6 2003 10:34AM GMT
Online search engines news
Google launches new advertising service/. Mar 6 2003 10:33AM GMT
Domain name news
A Boost for Cybersquatters?/.
AtNewYork Mar 6 2003 9:02AM GMT
Online content news
US court to rule on net porn/.
BBC Mar 6 2003 8:53AM GMT
XML and metadata news
Unearthing Dirt in Weblogs Still a Black Art/.
Online Journalism Review Mar 6 2003 5:01AM GMT
Online search engines news
Google expands with advertising links tied to Web content/. Mar 5 2003 2:49PM GMT
Monitoring Your Search Engine Positions - Five Tips/.
Search Engine Guide Mar 5 2003 12:11PM GMT
Will Search Engine Acquisitions Impede or Intensify Innovation?/.
Search Engine Guide Mar 5 2003 12:11PM GMT
Domain name news
Feds Nab Internet Domain Names in Raids/. Mar 5 2003 10:34AM GMT
Online search engines news
Kartoo Search Engine Launches New Version/.
High Search Engine Ranking Mar 5 2003 8:12AM GMT
Google: You Aint Seen Targeting Like This Before/. Mar 5 2003 6:21AM GMT
Online portals news
The birth of Netscape/.
digitalMASS Mar 5 2003 5:21AM GMT
powered by