Editor’s note: Daryl Toor, who has worked in marketing and public relations for more than 20 years, is founder of Atlanta-based “Attention.” He writes a regular column on Mondays about trends in marketing and communication.According to an August 2001 study by CyberAtlas, 80 percent of American companies take care of search engine optimization “in-house”, even though optimization has become so complex that many in-house experts make serious mistakes. That 80 percent statistic may be even worse for the biggest companies.

According to a September 2001 study by iProspect, 97 percent of Fortune 100 company Web sites are difficult to be found by search engines — and 45 percent don’t even use meta tags, which are the most basic form of optimization.

These figures indicate most companies are doing an astonishingly bad job at search engine optimization. Why does this matter? The vast majority of Internet users — some 85 percent — use search engines to find company sites. If your site isn’t optimized properly, your chances of getting visited by them plummet.

What’s stopping companies from hiring an expert to get their site optimized so they can get more traffic? We’ve discovered five big myths and realities —

Myth No.1: We can handle optimization “in-house”

Do you have an in-house expert — perhaps your Webmaster — who has told you they’ll take care of optimization? The problem is they may be far less good at it than they think. Optimization and positioning used to be fairly easy; but not anymore. Some tactics that were ok (such as submitting your site to search engines repeatedly on a regular basis) will now get you in trouble as a “spammer” and could cost you your rankings.

To learn just the basics of what works, you’d have to memorize about 500 pages of instructions. To keep up with changes, you’ll need to read another 50 pages a month and get in lots of hands-on experience along the way. Chances are your in-house expert
already has a full-time job, so he or she isn’t doing a good enough job of handling this as well.

  • You probably need outsourced expertise if any of the following are true:

  • You use your site for sales lead generation

  • You have multiple products (or content articles)

  • Your site features lots of Flash, graphics or frames

  • You sell in more than one country

  • You fear your in-house person may have ‘spammed’ search engines by mistake
  • Myth No. 2 We Bought Some Software That Does it for Us

    It’s a pipe dream to believe you can buy a low-cost program and have your optimization all taken care of. Have you seen ads for software programs that claim they’ll” submit your site to hundreds of engines”? Many of these programs are worthless, and could get you labeled as a spammer. Other programs on the marketplace create “junk” doorway pages that could also get you labeled as a spammer.

    Fact is, if optimization and positioning were so straightforward that an inexpensive program could handle them, and then hundreds of experts would be out of a job. Plus the message boards and discussion groups experts hang out in wouldn’t be buzzing with constant questions about new nuances.

    Myth No. 3 Optimization Experts Are Too Expensive

    Optimization is generally far cheaper by CPM than any other marketing campaign you can conduct online or offline. It costs less than direct mail, renting broadcast email lists, banner ads, print ads, booths at trade booths, etc. Confusion may arise because pricing is all over the map in this profession. Some experts have six figure price tags; some have cost just a few hundred dollars. However, most cost a reasonable amount — a few thousand dollars can cover the cost of an entire site getting optimized for and positioned in the top 10 search engines which are responsible for more than 80 percent of Web traffic

    That means a fairly small investment could raise your site traffic by as much as 75 percent — which is a lot more almost any other marketing campaign can do.

    Myth No. 4 You Can’t Predict the ROI of Optimization

    Wrong again. Optimization and positioning are fairly easy to budget for once you have three key figures:

  • How many people search for words, terms or phrases that relate to your products or services each month?

  • Once a visitor enters your site (or special landing page for a search term), what’s your conversion rate to turning them into a sale (or sales lead)?

  • How much is your average sale?
  • Myth No. 5 Search Engine Traffic Isn’t as Good as Visitors from Other Sources

    Companies spend thousands on direct mail, email and online advertising campaigns to drive targeted traffic to their Web sites — but according to CyberAtlas, 46 percent of marketers spend less than .5percent of their budget on optimization. Could it be because they think traffic from more expensive marketing campaigns is better?

    Fact is, the companies that have optimized have told us repeatedly that both the sales leads and direct sales they get from search engine visitors are equal or better than what they get from more expensive marketing campaigns.

    So, before you invest in your next marketing outreach campaign, why not grab the low-hanging fruit first? Optimize to get the Internet users who are online right now actively looking for a product or service like yours.

    Attention: www.attentiongroup.com