A couple of years ago, registering yourself with a few search engines and Web directories was 90% of the work of online promotion. There was no problem to appear soon in a category next to three or four other similar sites, and you could relax and sit back while the traffic flowed in.

With the vast expansion of the Web since then, your site is now most likely to show up alongside dozens or even hundreds of listings in a directory, and among thousands or even millions of results in a search engine query. And today’s Web surfers are simply overwhelmed by the sheer size of information on cyberspace, estimated to contain 50 billion or many more documents. This makes finding the ideal reference a bold venture.
No one can deny that times have changed and that it’s harder to make yourself seen and heard as compared to a few years ago.

Nonetheless, many if not most surfers will begin their forays into cyberspace with search engines and directories. As a result, search engines generally rank among the top-trafficked sites and biggest ad revenue earners on the Web. They are growing more powerful and show no sign of going away anytime soon. So, as a site promoter, you have little choice but to learn to love them, or at least understand them. New technologies set the tone, pace, and direction, and companies have to adapt to keep up with the trends of the time.
And although budgets are generally scarce you cannot afford to save on advertisements or be successful without them. In Asia especially, “the all free mentality” is a big obstacle. The question “How can I get a lot of traffic on my Web site by spending only a few bucks - or nothing at all?” is omnipresent. But be warned: Millions have entered the Internet with the expectation of paying little or nothing at all, and at the same time expect to make big money. But as this doesn’t really work in real life, why do you expect it to succeed in cyberspace? It is true that one can sway a lot with only small financial stakes - at least as long as there is a willingness to invest a lot of time.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Nowadays, pure registration with search engines is almost worthless. You have to ensure your website position is very high up if you want to achieve significant numbers of visitors through search engines. If you have time - and that is a large  “if “- you can use software like for example the Internet Business Promoter (http://www.axandra-web-site-promotion-software-tool.com/web-site-optimization-features.htm), SEO Toolkit (http://www.trellian.com/seotoolkit/), Web CEO (http://www.webceo.com/?source=Partners), WebPosition Gold (http://www.webpositiongoldpro.com/) or ApexPacific (http://www.apexpacific.com/index.html), to name a few, in order to work on the improvement of your website’s rankings.
Search engines can bring, if you do not count your spent time, interested visitors “free of charge” to your Website. You can also consider outsourcing this task to specialized companies.

In Internet marketing and search engine marketing (SEM) respectively, a set of marketing methods can increase the visibility of a website in search engine’s result pages.
The three main methods of SEM are:

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO) which tries to improve rankings for relevant keywords in search results by improving a web site's structure and content. SEO aims to index and improve rankings for the Web pages which are most relevant to the keywords searched for according to the algorithm of each search engine. The relevant pages are returned in search engine results pages (SERPS). It is important to remember that honest search engine optimizers are basically marketers who keep their target market in mind, which means the search engine user. In order to further fine tune the pages and keep them user and search engine friendly, the architecture of the website, including its internal link structure, navigation etc., are also suitably modified for human beings and search spiders to navigate through whole website pages. Search spiders then can scan all necessary data about the whole site and store it in the search engines' data base. Search engine optimization takes considerable time and, as such, many sites make use of Pay-per-Click (PPC) to market their website without having to wait for the results of organic search results.
  2. Pay per click (PPC) advertising, also called search engine advertising, uses sponsored search engine listings to drive traffic to a web site. The advertiser bids for search terms, and the search engine ranks ads based on a competitive auction as well as other factors.
    The most popular programs are offered by Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. Some offer PPC, also known as Cost Per Click (CPC), where the advertiser is only charged when a user clicks on the ad. Others use a Cost Per Impression (measured often as Cost Per Mile - CPM) model where advertisers are charged for impressions. Ads can take many forms, including text, banner ads, video ads, map ads, and even audio ads.
    Advertising based on a keyword search could take place through a search engine such as google.com, or a search engine partner site, such as shopping.com. For example, Google offers a service called AdWords, which allows companies, for a small fee, to have a link to their website featured when a user searches a specific keyword which the company specified.
    Another way is advertising based on content context. Many search engines (e.g. Google, Ask.com, Yahoo! Search) have partner websites with specific content. The websites agree to let the search engines place content-specific advertising on their website, in return for a fee. The search engine then finds companies interested in advertising on websites with their desired content.
    Both of these advertising formats allow advertisers to target specific users with certain interests. Generally these advertisements are paid for based on either a pay per click campaign or an impression based campaign.
  3. Paid inclusion can provide a guarantee that the website is included in the search engine's natural listings due to the fact that search engines use computer programs called spiders, robots or web crawlers to automatically discover websites and catalog their content. As this process can take some time and requires a website to be linked from another website (to allow the crawler to find it), most search engines, except for Google, provide another channel to be included in search rankings via paying. This is different from pay per click advertising because the inclusion is guaranteed but do note, not a placement.

Further, I would like to give you the following advice:

Link exchange

Even if it costs much time, the exchange of links combined with Web offers can be useful in two respects: both the number of visitors and “link popularity” rises and as well, which improves the ranking with some search engines.

eMail Newsletter

If you can persuade your visitors to subscribe to your company’s newsletter, you conserve in this way a part of your site traffic. Each time you dispatch an issue, you can make this proof-measured interested reader additional offers.

Press releases

If there is something remarkable to report on your company, press releases can be spread further over free services. One of the symptoms of “the all free mentality” is the delirium and I am talking here about people who are firmly convinced of the fact that free advertising opportunities are more inexpensive than paid advertisement. But believe me - well done paid advertisements can take your marketing message to places and ensure they are more noticed, which free of charge options hardly reach.

As you see, marketing strategies have to adapt continuously as old formulas for success lose their effectiveness due to new technology, innovations, and the explosion of web sites over the past few years. A study of Cyveillance comes to the conclusion that the Internet grows daily by seven million web pages. Already in 2000, the billion-border was exceeded and therefore it’s no surprise that no search engine can keep up with its pace of growth. A large number of web pages aren’t even indicated at all. Although I am convinced of the necessity for search engine optimization – as it’s fundamental that a page is found at all – it is in my opinion not sufficient for the success of many offers.

Keep in mind that it’s said: “lasting growth requires additional effort”. Times have changed. And if you do what you have always done you will most likely only barely hold the fort as today, company growth is much more difficult to obtain than a few years ago.

Growing companies know that efficient, continuous advertising will in the end pay itself off.
The key to success is the “right quantity” of paid advertisements that work. There was a time when actual conversions of dotcoms remained far behind expectations, but today's e-business survivors create stable e-businesses which have successfully existed in the normal on and off business life. In addition, the “right measure” in marketing is needed - not too much, but also not too little.
Start-ups spend perhaps around 50 percent or more on marketing in the first year. More established enterprises play around with 20 percent of the conversions in the correct league. That is a rule of thumb from the old economy, which can be useful for the new economy too.
The whole 20 per cent should not be spent alone on paid advertisements, but in the marketing mix, these kinds of advertisements are a very important component.
Neither the economy nor the markets are static. Your company will become either stronger or weaker, depending on which marketing strategy you choose.
The attempt to be successful without paid advertisements is an unhealthy and unrealistic management style. You should take your time to develop your individual model, as it is necessary to try out many variants, as well as numerous Web sites as well as different media vehicles and newsletters. Only then can you evaluate what leads to the best response rates. Do not let yourself get confused by self-appointed gurus who promise a hundred percent success rate and a money back warranty. These programs cannot live up to your specific company peculiarities. Instead, make use of proven principles, but not “dead sure programs”.

By Daniela La Marca