Regardless of how great you website looks or works, if people do not see it, it’s nothing more than an expense with no return. In order for an online business to grow and prosper, it has to attract visitors. It’s like building a billboard on a lonely stretch of road, where the chances of people seeing the sign and leading them to your business will be minimal.

To draw people to your site requires different forms of marketing, including search engine optimization, paid placement on search engines, and text-based advertising. Affiliate marketing is another method often used, but its success is dependent on the visitors of another site being directed to your site. Search engine marketing is perhaps the most beneficial means of climbing up the rankings page on nearly every search engine.

The search engines and your website
The most popular search engines—Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and Yahoo!—crawl sites on a regular schedule and adjust the rankings according to their relevance to the search term entered. While each search engine may have different methodologies for ranking sites, they all have the same basic requirements. In the past, search engines based their ranking on meta tags. Inserted into the code of a website, the tags were the first thing search engine spiders crawling the web would see. A site containing the same meta tags as a user input into the search query would be matched quickly.

However, some website builders learned to spam keywords into the tags, and users were directed to sites that had absolutely nothing to do with the subject being sought. Search engine operators quickly discovered this trick and adjusted their search algorithms accordingly. Today’s search engines look for information that real users are searching for, instead of what website owners want them to see. In order for a site to be ready for search engine marketing, it usually has to be built with that goal in mind.

Good SEO takes time
Website owners need to know that search engine optimization is the key to success, but it is not going to affect rankings over night. Companies that already have a website and want to incorporate search engine marketing into the mix are better served by taking it slow. Rushing into it may actually hinder the efforts and stall any re-launch of the site. It will also take time for the search engines to scan your site and note any positive, as well as negative changes that have been made.

Search engines are looking for information that real people can use. In this regard, many sites are working with freelance writers to keep relevant content on their site fresh and original. If the owner does not have the skills or expertise to write their own content for their site, there are plenty of people who do and can help keep the site updated with fresh original content.

The biggest opportunity with search engine marketing is that the search operators have a tendency to change their algorithms without warning. A site that is optimized for search engines one day may find itself at the bottom of the rankings the next. Staying in tune with what search engines demand will help keep a website in the top one or two pages of the search results.