All About Search Engines and Driving Traffic to Your Site

Web Sites are just one part of your multi-pronged marketing strategy to sell your products and services.

A common question people have once they have a web site: "How do I get (more) hits?" (i.e., how do we get more people to visit your web site?); or "How do I get listed on search engines?"

First a bit of logistics. Your site has a domain name which serves as its URL (web address). People can get to your web site in serveral ways:

  • Typing in your domain name into the address bar (field) of a web browser (the domain name perhaps as seen in printed or broadcast media, and then manually typed in)

  • Typing in your domain name or business name as a keyword search into a search engine. You may be surprised that many people do this unknowingly, and as the only way they know to "get to a web site"

    Note that many people do not understand the difference between (or the existance of) a "web address" URL in the web browser vs. typing a search phrase for a search engine to look up matching results.

            An analogy might be in the (really) olden days of human phone operators:
            "Operator, please connect me with Joe's Florist"
            as opposed to knowing and dialing a specific phone number.

    In addition, many browsers (and ISPs, such as AOL, who provide modified/bundled web browsers) show only a search engine entry field and one has to work hard to change the browser's default display to provide the more standard web address URL field at the top of the browser.  Recent browser versions allow either a URL or a search phrase to be entered.
    The danger for having a browser (and/or an ISP or search engine company) do a search especially when the user is unaware that this is happening is that the search results can be prioritized according to that company's paying advertisers and perhaps steer the viewers away from logical/obvious web site results. This is analogus to the early days of phone operators where operators would knowingly steer calls to competitor businesses and if challenged would just say it was a mistake.  This is what led Almon Strowger to invent the dial telephone which involved no operator.

  • Clicking on links provided in emails, other web sites, blogs, newsletters, forums, social network content (FaceBook, LinkedIn), or internet-based advertising links.
  • Clicking on links provided by Search Engines resulting from a viewer's search for a keyword phrase, such as "Florists in New York City", or "Chinese Restaurants in Boston".
    It is this last concept that this information below addresses. You would want to have an overall marketing plan to have ALL of the above resources to be contributing to steering traffic to your web site. Search Engines are just one piece of the puzzle.

A first step in planning your marketing goals is to decide the goals of your web site (is it informational/reference, sales, just have a web presence, etc., or a combination of those), and whom you want to drive to visit your site-- what are their demographics, how do they use the internet, what jargon/keywords would they be likely to use. This helps create a strategy for marketing your web site. This strategy can be implemented by us entirely, or share some of the tasks with you the client to help save labor costs. It can be as minimal as do nothing (or a half hour of the minimal cost/most effective), or a detailed and extensive plan of action.

Note that whatever the strategy, little can be guaranteed on the web with respect to "hits" and search engines. Some of the paid-for search engine listings are quite reliable (however, i find it ludicrous that one costing several hundred dollars will only consider listing your site!), and some of the "free submissions" may or may not eventually get listed. Sometimes it may take several months to get listed because of the backlog of the search engine's requests. But overall it's fairly easy & effective to follow the steps in the strategy I suggest below.

In the bigger picture, search-engine-based traffic is only one contributor to your business success: sometimes people become obsessed with top-rankings and forget other important aspects such as:

  • other ways people get to your web site (links from organizations, directories, etc.)
  • having useful information other than just sales pitch on your site
  • having a blog, newsgroup, or other discussion/article-like text pages to point to your site
  • having an easy flow for conversion once someone lands at your site: is it interesting and easy to get to your items or services for sale or your contact form (and does it all work?!)
  • do aspects of your site turn people off? Is it too stale/lame/tacky or otherwise unprofessional for today's demographics of the browsing public who have high expectations from web sites.



A critical part of any successful website is how successful it is in attracting visitors from Google or other searches.

There are many solutions available that can cost hundreds (even thousands) of dollars each month. At Sherwood Hosting, we realize that small businesses are very careful about how money is spent. Therefore, we recommend a step-by-step approach to search engine optimization.

Here are the phases that we recommend for your site in order to achieve the best visibility for the least expenditures:

  1. Include a Basic Optimization in your initial site design.
    • Focus on 4-5 key phrases
    • Optimize the homepage to focus on those phrases
    • Submit the site to major search engines

  2. Contact Sherwood Hosting for an analysis three months after site release. We will:
    • Look at your site statistics (included with your hosting package) to determine how well keyphrases are performing
    • Discuss how the site is performing from a business perspective (Are people finding you online?)
    • Propose further steps

  3. Next steps may include:
    • Full search performance analysis with recommendations
    • Further, more detailed optimization of the site, including additional keyphrases, focus on detail pages within the site
    • Additional online advertising strategies

We have found that this approach, when combined with a balanced overall marketing strategy, produces positive measurable results and increased site visibility (site success!).

Please be in touch if you have any questions, especially before deciding to invest considerable monthly charges in an SEO program! (Unless you're a national-brand vendor, we don't think it's worth it)



There are several techniques to go about driving traffic to your site, and then statistics to be able to view recent and historic web site visitation activity. Web hosting and design services from Sterling Arts/ can provide these services efficiently and cost-effectively, while taking some of the mystery and myth out of web browsing, search engines, and "hits."   We try to keep up with the latest trends in what search engines emphasize in their cataloguing algorithms so that we can steer your site's details in this respect for the highest likelihood of "being found" by a search engine.

First, let me talk about the various aspects of the issue of your site's keywords (and how these are represented), search engines, and search engine users-- we have to help all three to work together in order to have the greatest possibility for success, and the only aspect we really have control over is your own site.

  • Your site's pages have several important places that search engines look when their robots are out scouting your site to collect keywords (your terminology). We address aligning these for optimal noticeability.
  • Search engines have two parts: the scouting robots and the user interface page where a user will search for a particular set of keywords. The robots continually scour the webscapes for billions of pages to catalogue the keywords found and place them in the search engine's database. Each search engine has its own special weighting of where it found the word (content, metakeywords, title) and rating for your web site.
  • Users of search engines are by far the loose cannon in this equation. Of course you don't have to think about keywords for all possible people in the world, but just those demographics you want to attract to your site. Here's where some careful lexicographical considerations can be a big win. You will want to think of as many synonyms and phrases people might ever use to describe your product or service-- even if they might misuse or misspell a term. Put them all in. For instance if you're a watercolor landscape artist, you might want to include terms somewhere of other mediums and other types of paintings, just to "cover the territory" -- look at each word in your own phrases and come up with synonmyms, maloprops, etc. For artist, include: painter, interpreter, artest [sic], etc.   You don't really care how accurately your potential viewer/customer communicates with a search engine, you just want them to find you!  (however they misspell the terms!)

This page provides information for web page owners who are individuals, small businesses, and non-profits regarding the following topics:

Links to your site

It's critical to have quality incoming links pointing to your site. By "quality" we mean links that appear on content-appropriate web pages and blogs/forums, and not on so-called link-farm pages. It's a lot of work, but you can do it to get your site URL listed in testimonials, forums, blogs, newsletters, etc. The more links the higher your page ranking is.

Getting listed with search engines

There are hundreds of search engines, indexes, and catalogs (I'll use the generic term search engines for all of these here) on the web; many come and go based on their success/popularity/mindshare and funding.  The best strategy is to decide who the viewers are you want to drive to your site, and what is their most likely browsing style, jargon, terminology.

It's quite common to receive Spam emails advertising web page submission services— I don't distrust that they would do what they say - it's easy for someone to buy a program that submits a site to the "100 most popular" search engines providing free submissions for getting listed. This is a swarm approach and although it doesn't necessarily focus your efforts, it will likely get you listed easily (albeit possibly slowly). However there's more to search engines than just free submissions to the 100 most popular. Search engine & indexes change their policies, prioritization algorithms, features, etc., frequently and a fairly recently updated understanding of all this is needed.

There's a cost range of free-to-expensive for search engine submissions. And a recommend compromise middle-ground, in my opinion.

  • Free submissions: are indeed free, but you take a chance on IF and WHEN you (might) get listed, and the LONGEVITY of your listing. These days, all of these submission services are not recommend, and could result in damage to your rankings.
  • Low-priced submissions: are the best value in my opinion, carefully chosen. Some have a yearly fee, some a once-only fee.
  • Premium-priced submission fee per search engine: These are in the range of $100-1000 and are a misuse of money unless you have a thriving, cutthroat internet sales business expecting thousands of visitors per day.
  • Pay-per-hit or Pay-per-click banner advertising: Although this is not technically a search engine submission, I'll include my comments here, that this is likely not for you.
  • Auctioned keywords in search engines: Although guaranteed by the search engine, this is a scheme for search engines to make money to let web site owners bid on highly sought-after desirable keywords, often porn-related, so they can effectively buy their way to the top of the search engine results listings/rankings, for a given keyword each month. Again, this is not for you.


I just received a spam email advertising a service that does an entire range of these efforts for $895 per year. Again, I trust that they do what they say, however, the difference between a 90% solution (for $200-300) and a 95% solution (with an unknown company) is questinoable— there's no perfect solution. And even to reach 99% thoroughness, you'd have to pay thousands of dollars and then what's the incremental return?

Once you've "made yourself known" in the internet world, then monitor your site to see how well you're doing...

Also consider listing yourself on alternate kinds of "search engines" such as and

Monitor statistics about your web site

Web hosting services through include complimentary "awstats" statistics set up. See my own statistics page excerpt for I particularly like this statistics software because it lists more information than you'd ever want to know about, but it's categorized and viewable easily. In this example, it shows what keywords people used to find my site. I have land for sale, photography exhibits, music/concert information/titles, and several businesses. Thus there's a smattering of the various endeavors that are in my web pages. For instance, I do not proactively list my land for sale anywhere, but thru judicious keyword usage, my page is visited by 25-50 people each month, from which I get 4-5 email inquiries. I'm in no hurry to sell, so this level is just right for me.

Note that AWSTATS also shows your viewers' ISP (IP address - contact us if you want the back-DNS translation to domain names) so you can tell how your viewers are connecting to the internet (i.e., where they are browsing from); which were your most popular pages visited; real visitor statistics (not just the trumped-up "hits" figure that most companies use which is often a factor of 100 or more greater than real one-person-one-visit meaningful numbers); etc.


Interesting Additional Information:

Most Searchers (one-third) use Two-Word Phrases when entering the search phrase.  According to OneStat, the following numbers of words are used in the search term phrases entered for search engine usage:

1. 2 word phrases 32.58%
2. 3 word phrase 25.61%
3. 1 word phrases 19.02%
4. 4 word phrases 12.83%
5. 5 word phrases 5.64%
6. 6 word phrases 2.32%
7. 7 word phrases 0.98%