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Making Search Engines Work for You

You’ve heard the famous expression, “If you build it, they will come.” That might well apply to baseball diamonds but unfortunately it doesn’t apply to investment-attraction websites.

You have to entice your audiences; they won’t necessarily find you on their own. That’s why your department needs to understand search-engine marketing.

Most Web traffic is brokered by search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. To do well in business on the Web, you must also do well in the eyes of the search engines.

Since the 21st century began, search engine marketing has become a cyber-industry. It encompasses activities that increase the algorithm-based ranking of websites and thus their visibility in the results pages of search engines. Typically, the higher up a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive.

Search engine marketing techniques are varied and encompass some activities your department can do itself. There are others you might want to pay for by hiring search-engine marketing firms and consultants, website developers or advertising agencies.

As a simple first step, assess the content of your site with a view to raising its search-engine ranking in desired categories. Ask the question: When a person we want to attract to our site enters a search request, what keywords will that person probably use?

Spread those keywords liberally around your site, in your menus and topic headings, and in any other forms of communication generated from your site such as blogs. For example, if you want people to find your website when they type “tourism” into the search box, then you need to have a high density of the keyword “tourism” on your pages.

It is important to remember that search engines do not index a website. They index web pages. This means that all of your web pages should be optimized individually. You need to integrate keywords into high-quality content on each page that satisfies the needs of your target viewers.

Another factor in search-engine rankings is the number of links between your website and those of other relevant organizations. The more other websites link to your site the more important it will be in the eye of search engines.

In Ontario, the South Simcoe Economic Alliance, which supports strategic growth for four municipalities south of Lake Simcoe, has been ranked by Site Selection Magazine as one of the top Canadian economic development groups partly because its continual search- engine optimization and linking strategies have resulted in first-place Google rankings.

Some search engines operate paid subscription services that guarantee that a subscribing website will be included in search results. Advertising opportunities are also available. Google, for instance, offers a service called AdWords in which subscribers create ads and choose keywords so that when people search on Google using one of the keywords, the subscriber’s ad may appear next to the search results. Viewers can click on the ad to reach the advertiser’s site directly.

It is critical that your department understands the basics of search-engine marketing. The Web has become the number one tool for businesses and site selectors in their location searches. As almost 90% of site selection searches begin on the Web, drawing site selectors to your site by means of search engines absolutely should be one of the tactics of your economic development marketing strategy.

And, as a best practice, every marketing strategy should include ongoing website search engine optimization as a regularly scheduled tactic.

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