Government Web Sites and Search Engine Optimization

The most popular way for finding any information online is through search engines. The search for government information is no different than the search for any other type of information – search engines are the most popular means of finding information. Thus, government agencies should consider optimizing their web sites for search engines. In fact, search engine optimization would ensure that the heavy investment in usability and accessibility improvements of government web sites have not gone to waste.
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Web Analytics Debates

RedEye, a British e-metrics consultancy, released a report comparing the two most commonly used methods of web analytics — IP based and cookie based. Currently, I have been evaluating two web analytics tools. One, ClickTracks, is a wonderful IP-based log analysis tool, which generates very insightful reports for path and navigation analysis. The other, WebCEO, is very impressive search engine optimization tool, which also happens to bundle a hosted, cookie-based log analysis tool.

With such versatile tools readily available nowadays, small businesses have no excuse about not looking into what happens behind their web server curtains. Investments into building or redesigning a new web site would be lost unless paired with a thorough analysis of user behavior as reflected by the server log files.

The debate on which method of web analytics is better will not be resolved soon. Its timeliness should send a message, through, that the days of the early adopters in web analytics are gone. Today is the day when any business, small and large, should not postpone benefiting from web analytics.

Nobody’s Perfect But Anyone Can Improve

While most surveys focus on big business websites, small companies can benefit from the persistent warning about the importance of web analytics, usability testing, and web site optimization.

Jupiter Research reports that one in seven consumer-facing web sites has an error on their home page severe enough to cause visitor defection. Jakob Nielsen reports in his article “Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines” that about two-thirds of corporate sites violate the usable design principles they are familiar with. This is both good and bad news for small businesses’ websites. More importantly, this is a free lesson for anyone with striving for professional web presence!
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Paid or Not, Search Engine Marketing Matters!

According to a survey conducted by WebAdvantage.net, “85 percent of the respondents claim to click on sponsored links less than 40% of all searches, but nearly half of the audience (49 percent) does not seem to know the difference between paid and unpaid listings. Unlike the consumer audience which has been found to not drill down past the first page of search results, 92 percent of WebAdvantage.net survey respondents say they continue past the first pages of search results with 36 percent asserting they drill beyond the fourth page of search results.”

Interestingly, the same number, 85%, is quoted in a heavily disputed claim by the MarketingSherpa’s Buyers’ Guide to Search Engine Optimization Firms: New 3rd Edition: “85% of search engine users ignore paid ads. Instead, they prefer to click on the “organic” (non-paid) search results. So, optimizing your site to get high rankings for as many related search terms as possible is now mission-critical.”

Whether these surveys are valid only in the B2C market or not, the message is clear — search engine marketing matters! How you compose your mix of organic search engine marketing optimization and paid search results sponsorship would depend on your business, your target audience, the depth of your pockets, and your ability to endure through series of unpredictable changes in the search engines’ algorhithms.
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Search Engine Optimization and Bee Hives

Peter Small of UK has contacted me about including WebSage into a demo of a stigmetric system he is building for search engine optimization based on the way insects collaborate in hunting for food. It is an intriguing idea, particularly for me, since my dad is a beekeeper. My dad and I have often discussed the fascinating kingdom of bees with their detailed hierarchies, job roles, inter-relationships, etc. While I am not a biology expert, here are some preliminary arguments, based upon my limited knowledge of bees and bee hives, explaining why I am not as enthusiastic as Peter Small about the role of software agents replacing human experts and in particular about the system he proposes…
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Web site building for small businesses to grow

According to research firm IDC Web site building should continue to grow. Apparently, there are nearly 8 million small businesses in the U.S. with under 100 employees and most of them have yet to build a Web site. Are you one of them?

Convinced that Amazon.com and eBay are not the only companies that will profit in the months ahead from helping small businesses sell products online, venture capitalists have resumed pouring money into companies serving the small business web development market.