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By Judith Kallos

All too often I find site owners are confused (or in denial) about how to achieve terrific rankings on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

Several times each day I get approached by site owners wanting to be in the top five, 10 "top page for organic (free)" listings. The organic results are those that display to the left and below “Sponsored Sites” or “Sponsored Results" at Google, MSN or Yahoo!. “Sponsored” advertisement boxes are part of pay-per-click programs in which site owners bid for positioning.

This piece will discuss free listings that are determined by how your site is ranked. The rankings are based on a formula, or algorithm, that takes into account the unique variables of each search site. To muddy things further, these rules evolve without notice.

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad." --Aldous Huxley

Let’s first set realistic expectations. When I started my consulting practice in the early 1990s, it was relatively easy to get found. The volume of sites and the level of competition were not even close to what they are today. Fast forward to 2005 and you have close to 12,000,000,000 (yes, billion) pages with about 10,000,000 added daily.

So how do you get visibility in the SERPs? Shuffling or adding keywords in your Meta tags won’t do it. Nor is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) the end-all-and-be-all. A well-rounded and smart long-term marketing plan that includes certain basics will enable you to rise in the organic rankings.

Issues for consideration to gain improved organic listings:

• Look at your Web marketing plan as a long-term effort. New sites are in Google’s sandbox for six months or more, and it will take time and effort to be viewed as more relevant than the sites that already occupy the free positions you seek.

• Part of putting your plan together are searches with your top keyword phrases on the various search engines. This will make you aware of the competition and the volume of sites successfully ranking for the terms you are targeting. The searches will give help you understand the competition.

• Understand that your Web site rank has nothing to do with how good you are at what you do. It has to do with how good your site is and how good outsiders, including the search engines, think your site is. That requires a long-term and realistic marketing plan to grow your site to be the best and most comprehensive resource on your product or service. It doesn't happen overnight or just because you want it to.

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Judith Kallos is the principal of The IStudio.
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