To Compete Against 51 Million
Article by Rod Aries
My potential mortgage site client, Stephen, was breathing hard on the phone, slightly exasperated, slightly excited; He wanted to go right to the ‘bottom line.’ Even though he wouldn’t say it, this ‘net stuff’ was new to him and he had questions about how successful his web site could be in bringing new loan business.
I could almost hear Stephen pounding his fist on the desk, saying, "What is my return on investment (ROI) if I do this web site? What do I get back? I have a successful business now, do I really need to do this internet thing?"
I have heard it before from many clients... trying to apply real world thinking and analysis to the virtual world of the net -- it just doesn't always perfectly translate across the two worlds. My client was trying to know the final score of the game, before it even started. His return of investment (ROI) question was the easy part. We hadn't even got to the comment where Stephen would say his web site should be ranked in the top 10…
SEARCH ENGINES AND WEB PAGES
"Let me take a look at Infoseek and see how often your most desired word ‘home mortgages,’ is found," I said typing on my keyboard. "OK, for today, this 1st of July, 1999, for your phrase…" I said waiting for the cable modem to show the results, "Ahh, interesting, Infoseek shows only 51,735,822 web pages relevant to home mortgages."
I didn’t see it, but I could hear his jaw open in amazement.
"51 million pages?" Stephen said, with the words ‘51 million’ echoing on the phone line. "On the net? Is that all?"
"Yep, that is today’s count," I replied. And there was more. "Infoseek, Stephen," I went on to say, "has only one third of all known pages indexed, so the real number is probably closer to 150 million pages."
Stephen slowly said, "How do I compete against that?" I am sure he was thinking about how he had built up his New York mortgage company through hard work, networking, getting to know people and good service. But this was different; the net has its own set of rules to play.
I was getting ahead of myself, so I said. "Let's talk about real world examples and how the Internet can be your ‘best salesperson’ and possibly bring you hundreds of clients each month." I paused because I know he can be a two-edged sword, "Of course by failing to properly design and promote your web site, the net can be your foe, and your competitor can get those customers instead."
"How do I compete?" Stephen reiterated, and I was surprised he did. Here was a man who ran his company with an iron fist, knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it in the real world, and he was asking for a bit of help.
HOW TO COMPETE AGAINST 51 MILLION PAGES
"Well, by doing everything right." I quickly rattled off a checklist of basic factors. "Clean layout, easy to read, easy to navigate, fast loading images, pages that work in all browsers, and content that is valuable to your customer." I pause to catch my breath, "And there a few things you don’t want: pulsating – gyrating – exploding images that detract and distract from your site; links off your site that allow your hard earned customers to leave with a simple click, non-uniform layouts..."
Stephen cut me off, "I just wanted a web page."
"Well, there are just 51+ million web pages for your keyword in Infoseek. What you really want is a web site, that will get found, that works for your customers."
"Um, right." He replied. Stephen, was beginning to realize that it might take a different knowledge base to compete on the net. "OK, so I have to do all that?"
"Yep." I smiled and continued, "And those are just the human factors. In order to get humans to your site, you have to go through the search engines." I then listed additional search engine considerations. "Stephen, for the search engines you have to optimize your HTML source code: meta titles, meta keywords, meta descriptions, alt-tags, word counts, search engine submissions, web page ranking analysis…"
HOW SEARCH ENGINES WORK
I could tell by the silence that this techno list was not really reaching him, so I tried a different approach. "Let me explain it a different way. Here is how search engines work. Once you have created your site, you need a method to communicate what you do and where you are. This is where search engines come into play. They are like the giant ‘Yellow Pages’ of the net (there are 8-10 major engines and 100's of lesser engines). What makes search engines powerful is that Internet users can go to the search engine site, type in a few key words, and the search engine will produce a list of web pages that most closely match the keywords searched -- hopefully yours. (Latest statistics indicate that 86% of web page owners claim that search engines are the primary means that caused a viewer to find their site.)"
"The great news is that the search engines are FREE to list your web page and they are FREE for the Internet viewers to use. The bad news is that there are now 140,000+, oops, now 170,000, new internet domain names every month (that is up 40,000/month from January 1998). That is two and a half-new domains names every minute, every day, each with numerous web pages, competing against your site."
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