Today I'm just going to blather on about a client's site I've been working on through my Search Creative company, as I think there is some good stuff to be learned from it. I intended to write about something more specific, but this is what came out as I was typing and I couldn't stop!

It's been a fun project so far, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to be using what I learn from it as a source for future articles and/or a case study. Most of the sites I've been working on for the past few years have been existing sites that were given solely SEO services. This particular site is brand-new so we're building it from scratch, which allows me to deal with some different issues than I regularly deal with. I learn things from every SEO campaign that I do, and this one will be no exception. So look for some new insights from me as we get deeper into this campaign.

Right now we've got the keyword research completed, the copywriting done, most of the editing done, the design templates just about finished, and most of the programming done. We're a week or so away from putting it all together on the real server and making it live.

There are a few things I've really enjoyed about this project so far. The first is that the concept this site is built around has never been done before in this particular industry. There are other sites that have a similar technology and functionality, but none of them do what this site can do. I'm not prepared to give out specifics at this time, but basically, they offer real-time live searches to their network of vendors across the US. You type a specific item into the search form, plus your location, and you're immediately shown all the places that have it in stock in your area. It's very, very cool.

The second thing I like about this project is that the woman running the show is smart as a whip and knows her business inside and out. She is a leader in her industry, and nobody knows more about it than she does. In other words, we won't be trying to place a site at the top that doesn't truly deserve to be there. This is a key point. If you want a site to show up at the top of the heap, it's truly got to be the best of the best. It can't be run by someone who noticed that the Internet seemed like a good place to make money, so they slapped up a site that does what 1,000 other sites already do.

For this particular site, it's not a wannabe, but one that will literally change how people shop for this particular type of product, run by people who understand their target audience and every facet of their business. Will it get high rankings right out of the gate? Probably not for its most competitive phrases, but it will eventually because it's the type of site that when you show it to someone who has a need for what it offers, they'll say, "Cool! That just saved me hours of research and made my day/week a whole lot easier!"

It's also the type of site that will eventually obtain those wonderful, natural links I always talk about. The kind of links that come to you just because you're that good and people want to share their find with others. That doesn't mean that we won't have to make an effort to get the word out, however. A big part of this campaign involves link building. This is partially to let people in the target market know it exists so they can be wowed by it, and partially to gain links for the traffic and rankings they'll bring.

We're also working on making sure that there's more than just the cool search functionality at the site. The owner believes that people will be interested only in searching for the products, and isn't too concerned about anything else relating to the site. However, she has learned enough about SEO to understand that the search engines won't realize what a time-saving, cool tool this is unless there's some decent content attached to it. She's willing to provide lots of great content, but has it in her head that it's only for the search engines.

I disagree, however, and we're definitely not designing the site with only the search engines in mind. I think she's going to be surprised how many people flock to the site for the content itself, and how many link to it for the content, without necessarily even caring about the live search. Now of course, those people aren't going to make her any money directly at first, but every site needs its cheerleaders. Plus, where do you think those cheerleaders will go when they are in need of the products the site offers?

I guess time will tell how people find, use and interact with this site, and we'll have to see whether it's able to create and sustain any type of buzz in the industry. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens, and we will certainly be adjusting our strategy according to what we see as time passes.

Now, I realize that not every site that you or I work on is a leader in its industry; however, if you want it to be a leader in the search engines, there has to be something unique about your business model. If you don't currently have a unique selling proposition, you need to create one right now. Think about what it is that you can do or offer that is just different enough to make you stand out from the crowd -- then promote the heck out of it! Once the rest of the world starts to agree that you do indeed offer something unlike anything else, and you've done your on-the-page optimization correctly, the search engines will start to take notice and place your site into its proper place in the results.

October 27, 2004

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ,, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Great Sites Beget Great Rankings (We Hope!)