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Search engines are one of the most, if not the most, cost-effective and measurable marketing channels used to drive qualified visitors to a Web site.

For example, a person searching for "widget polishing service" is most likely in the market to buy that service. This miracle of marketing technology can be deployed two different ways: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and organic search engine optimization (SEO).

Breaking down Pay-Per-Click Advertising

PPC search engines, such as Overture, LookSmart, and Google AdWords allow advertisers to bid on individual keywords and phrases. Consequently, the highest bidder ranks in the first position on both Overture and its partners' sites.

Overture's partners are Yahoo, MSN, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, and many other popular search sites.

And so you see...

Bidding high enough to secure a top listing on Overture also ensures traffic from its partners. And as you know, each visitor that clicks-through to your Web site is targeted, qualified, and ready to take action.

Now let's take a look at another miracle of marketing technology...

Breaking down organic Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is accomplished by "optimizing" a Web page for specific keywords and phrases. In layman's terms, this means strategically placing these phrases in areas of a Web page important to the search engine's ranking process. (Some refer to this ranking process as its ranking algorithm.)

"Crawler-based"" search engines, such as Google, Fast, Teoma, and Inktomi index Web pages in its database and rank them based on keyword frequency, density, and placement (read: optimization tactics), as well as its overall "Internet popularity" (or PageRank).

PageRank is an extremely complex animal to unravel, so let's look to Chris Ridings, UK-based author of "PageRank Explained" to break it down...

"One of the reasons that PageRank is so hard to explain and understand is because it is analogous to something we all do all the time without thinking about it. Consider I want to buy a new DVD player, I might ask a group of friends what the best DVD player to buy is. Now some of them are going to give me names of DVD players, but some of them are going to say "I don't know, Tim knows a lot about DVD players".

When I talk to Tim, I have a greater respect for his advice because everybody said he knows this stuff. Now if Tim says 'Ask Harry too, he knows a lot about DVD players', then despite the fact that nobody else has told me to ask Harry I can assume that Harry probably does know more than the rest (although probably not more than Tim).

PageRank is the same mechanism.

Instead of trying to find out who knows most about DVDs, it tries to find out what pages are the most important. It's hard to actually ask a page something, and talking to a computer monitor is not the best way to impress your colleagues, so they make a general assumption. That assumption is 'If a page links to another page then it thinks that page is important'."

To put the significance of PageRank in perspective, let's look at this scenario...

If Web page A competes with Web page B, and both are optimized the exact same way, the one with a higher page rank (or deemed more important by the search engine) will rank higher.

As you may have figured out, it's absolutely critical to have other Web pages link to yours -especially when those pages have high PageRankings. Equipped with a strong PageRank, you can monopolize any search term and reap the benefits of its traffic. Just be sure to convert all that new traffic into something of monetary value.

Getting started with search engines may seem complicated, but a solid understanding of the basics and proper follow-through will pay dividends (read: attract visitors with purchase intent) for years to come.

About The Author
This article was written by Rick Costello, The Web Site Profit Doctor.