The first part of this series in April explained the value of search engine optimization, or SEO, and why companies can't afford to be without it. Part II in May outlined the four basic steps in the SEO process (analysis, optimization, submission, and monitoring). This month it's time to discuss the engines and directories that count, and to comment on in-house efforts, submission software and SEO pricing models.

There have been significant changes made by the major engines and directories recently, which means it is important to be up to date in reevaluating which engines are most important to work with. But first, some observations about the industry.

SEO Versus SEP

Many people are accustomed to seeing the industry acronym, SEO, for search engine optimization. Today, this is being morphed into SEP for search engine positioning. The goal of SEO is to position your site in the engines, and because all the efforts of an SEO company are essentially on positioning, I'll be using the SEP acronym a lot more from now on.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is a method for identifying strengths and weaknesses, then looking at the opportunities and threats when contemplating changes for improvement.

It is useful to employ SWOT principles when conducting Web site layout and design before optimization, defining specific areas for improvement prior to an SEP campaign launch. Corporate decision making and analysis tools mesh well with online SEP strategies and can give offline corporate environments something they're familiar with.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter: An online analysis of the competition performed for all top search engines and directories is a very important part of the SEP process. Currently, I see the following as the most important engines and directories to concentrate on:

Search Engines:

Alta Vista
AskJeeves/Direct Hit
GoTo (additional fees required)
Inktomi (additional fees required)


Yahoo! (additional fees required)
Open Directory Project Look Smart (additional fees required)

In-house SEP Operations

In my opinion, in-house SEP efforts present a challenge. They require, at a minimum, a staff of two or three dedicated full-time people to achieve the results you expect. The cost of staffing, technology and equipment, along with incorporating the continuing search engine changes into the SEP process, have brought many in-house SEO people to their knees.

More tools, more time, more effort, more research and development are always required to stay abreast of all the changes SEO technicians have to deal with to be effective.

Those of you considering an in-house SEP crew, should be prepared, in my opinion, to allocate a minimum $250K annual budget (including equipment) for the ongoing process.

Submission Software

Currently, the only open market SEP software solution falls short of dealing with SEP and "doorway" issues. I won't mention the product by name for a variety of reasons.

The features offered in most software solutions can't accommodate the dynamic nature of search engine algorithm changes, thus are not effective as they should be and do not allow for hand submissions.

So while the software may result in some listings, it may not list your site in all the engines you would like. If there were a viable off-the-shelf software SEP solution, I would be the first to integrate it into my own operations. But for the moment, none exist.

If you are considering a software solution for your SEP needs, be prepared to spend the time and money it takes to redesign many of the features to meet your specific needs.

SEP Pricing Models

I consider the pay-per-click pricing models to be more of a media buy than an SEP campaign. When you can buy traffic, it becomes a media buy. When you are building traffic to your Web site through long-term SEP strategies and tactics, you are not buying traffic; you are buying services with long-term benefits. The resulting visibility, site awareness, linking, and any traffic generated from a professional SEP campaign, is far more valuable than purchasing click-throughs.

There are several differences between customized and standard SEP campaigns. In a nutshell, you’re either dealing with customized SEP client-side server modifications or standard SEP hosted pages. A customized, professional SEP campaign can range from $150K and up, whereas a standard SEP campaign will generally run $500 to $5,000 per month.

Customized campaigns will address the long-term linking aspects of the media property, its domain name, and its sub-pages on the client-side. The SEP intellectual property, techniques and modifications will reside on the client-server and generally require an annual contract (minimum). Customized campaigns also include additional contractor-hosted pages, paid directory submissions, monitoring, and maintenance.

Standard plans will position the media property in directories and engines with less emphasis on the client-side server and more effort focused on hosting the SEP contractor pages. The SEP intellectual property, techniques and modifications reside on the SEP contractor's server and generally require a month-to-month contract (minimum). Standard plans also include optimized home pages, paid directory submissions, monitoring, and maintenance.

Other methods for pricing SEP services include:

Separate fees for each page-one, page-two, or page-three listing by the week or month.

Monthly or start-up fee up front, plus pay-per-click.

Fees of $35 CPM for text links on page-one.
June 4, 2001

Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.

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Search Engine Guide > Paul Bruemmer > The Art and Science of Search Engine Positioning