Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June 26, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
The Web Lives
Connotate Technologies is an Internet company. The New
Brunswick-based start-up creates software that lets people who are
not programmers tag Internet content (U.S. 1, March 21, 2001). Yet,
despite its ‘Net savvy, the company’s website was getting not more
than 100 hits a month, and it was generating no sales leads.
Larry Bailin, CEO of Brick-based Single Throw, a web marketing firm,
tells this story. Connotate turned to his company to up their website’s
volume last month. "We started three weeks ago," Bailin says.
As of June 18, a jubilant Connotate informed him via E-mail, its website
had received 1,000 hits and generated nine sales inquires. And the
month was little more than half over.
"It’s not smoke and mirrors," says Bailin. "There’s no
magic bullet." Upping the number of quality hits a website receives
requires extensive research and hard work. "Seventy-five percent
of our time is spent on research, twenty-five percent on execution,"
says the CEO of the two-year-old, 10-person company.
The rules of web marketing are in flux. Search engines are rolling
out a variety of pay-for-placement models, some with flat fees, some
with an auction model. Many web marketers are saying smart companies
will jump on these deals, snagging, for instance, the top pay-for-placement
spot on the left-hand side of a Google page.
Bailin is not enthusiastic. Yes, he says, for certain companies paying
for placement can make sense. But for most, there are better ways
to get the oh-so-vital attention that a prominent search engine can
deliver. He speaks on web marketing on Thursday, June 27, at a New
Jersey Technology Council eBusiness Multimedia Expo, which runs from
4 through 7 p.m. at the New Jersey Network, 25 South Stockton Street,
Trenton. Cost: $70. Call 856-787-9700.
In addition to the panel on which Bailin is speaking, there is a web
applications panel, and a number of Internet companies will be exhibiting
their technologies. Among the exhibitors are Alarity, Cognetics, Digital
Brand Expressions, Newton Interactive, u1.net, Visionet Systems, and
The above list demonstrates that the Internet is not dead, far from
it. Bailin quotes industry studies indicating that Internet usage,
while not "doubling every 100 days, like it used to" is still
on the rise, and that E-commerce is on track to generate $1 trillion
this year. What’s more, says Bailin, all of those 8 and 10 year-olds
who helped mom and dad assemble their first PCs a decade ago, are
coming of age knowing nothing of a pre-Internet era.
The Internet is here to stay, and smart companies are finding ways
to make it pay. In Single Throw’s case, that means attracting long-term
clients by setting specific goals, and guaranteeing success. There
is no way to fake it. "Everything is measurable on the Internet,"
says Bailin. "Everything is quantifiable."
Single Throw, in conjunction with a number of independent web developers,
creates websites, but only high-end websites. It also does some E-mail
direct marketing, but gingerly, and in tandem with a partner. It is
involved in translating websites, too, in collaboration with Berlitz.
But, by and large, the company’s business niche — an brand new,
and exceedingly small niche — is using sophisticated algorithms
to get its clients onto the first two pages that pop up after an Internet
user types a term into a search engine.
This is how, and why, the process works, and what it can do for a
phrase is typed into any search engine," says Bailin. There are
six or seven software packages that perform this task, and his company
licenses — and uses — all of them. Time was when a limousine
company would make sure it was optimizing use of the word "limousine"
and perhaps words indicating where it was based, or where it frequently
did business. That is no longer enough.
For a limousine company client, Single Throw has found that it is
vital to make sure the words "Newark airport parking" appear
within the website in optimum positions. That is so because its analysis
shows those are the words its potential limo customers type in. "Anyone
typing in `off site parking’ or `parking’ should know their shuttle
is better," explains Bailin.
The analysis, then, comes down not just to the obvious words, but
to an understanding of who potential customers are, and what they
are looking for — especially when they don’t know what they are
Travelers looking for information about parking at Newark Airport,
for example, soon stumble upon warnings about arriving early because
of the difficulty of finding same. If the limo website is right there,
on the same page where other websites are warning of parking problems,
it has its shot at persuading the airport bound to try their service
as an alternative.
crawling through the entire Internet every day to look for, and analyze,
websites. The size of the Internet no longer makes that possible,
but even though they can’t traverse the whole space on a daily basis,
the spiders are out there all the time, analyzing and re-analyzing
websites to slot them appropriately into their search results.
To come up where it wants to, a website must, of course, know what
words it wants found. Then it must create relevancy. There are four
main elements to relevance, says Bailin, prominence, proximity, density,
and frequency. "The spider says `what are you about?’ Then it
says `prove it.’" The way to prove it is through content. If you
want a top listing under limousines, there had better be a whole lot
of talk about limousines on your site.
Important words should appear close to one another. The engine likes
to see key words back to back, says Bailin. The word "limo,"
for instance, finishing one sentence, and starting the next, would
be a good thing. The word appearing twice in one sentence also would
be good. Beware, though, "if it’s used three times, that’s bad,"
says Bailin. Four or five or six times is even worse. The spider knows
that kind of repetition probably signals a scam.
The spider also looks at how many words are between each instance
of the key word. If it sees only one word separating the key word,
for instance, "limo and limo and limo and limo," it quickly
knows the site is not legitimate. Using mathematical formulas, the
spider uses density of words as an important criteria. The key word
generally needs to be about 5 to 10 percent of the website’s content,
used to be a game websites could win. No more. Bailin says penalties
for those who are caught are steep — not uncommonly, expulsion
for life. This can be serious. A website banned from Google, he says,
loses 24 percent of its customer base.
websites to appear high up on lists of search results — and, remember,
this means figuring out and playing to the algorithms of the biggest
search engines, all 15 of them.
"No one reads past the second page," Bailin says. Placement
on the first page is optimal, but he says it generally doesn’t much
matter where on the first page. "People read the descriptions,"
he says. If number three or six looks like it is right on target,
users have no trouble determining that and clicking on over.
There is a growing trend toward paying for placement. Bailin sees
two drawbacks. First, the paid listings often are set apart from the
"regular" listings. On Google, for instance, they are off
to the right hand side. Most surfers, he says, go straight to the
regular listings, ignoring the paid listings. Disadvantage number
two, to his mind, is that the listings can get awfully expensive.
"In October, the winning bidder for `American flags’ went through
paid $2,000 in three-and-a-half hours under a pay-per-click arrangement,"
Bailin reports. Prices paid to a search engine company for a a particular
term may be fixed or they may be flexible, and often based on an auction.
But while that $2,000 was pricey, Bailin says it may be the exception
that proves the rule. At that moment in history, there was so much
interest in purchasing flag-motif goods of all kinds that the website
got 900 hits in those three-and-a-half hours.
For most websites and most circumstances, the price is too high, especially
given that most surfers are still looking exclusively at regular,
unpaid listings. "It can be $3 or $4 a click," says Bailin.
a daVinci would have been hard-pressed to predict? Yet the phenomenon
is big business, and proof that there are still plenty of angles left
to search out in the Internet game.
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