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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Big Oak SEO Newpaper Article

Well, I guess we are officially a real SEO company. Our local Richmond, Virginia paper The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote an article about us in the Sunday business section. Excerpts are below:

TECH NOTES: 'Optimizers' can raise profile of your Web site


Oct 9, 2005

To get a sense how fast the Internet is changing, have a quick chat with Shell Harris.

He and pal Chris Alexander started Big Oak Inc. as a Web development company almost two years ago, and now the company barely does any Web development.

The sites they made looked great, clients told Harris. But no one could find the pages, and some Big Oak customers would rarely get business.

As sites popped up all over the Web, Harris needed to find a way to get his client's sites seen.

He began reading up on search engine optimization, or, sans the jargon, the way to make a firm's Web site get listed higher when it's Googled (a term used these days to describe surfing on any search engine, Google or not.)

Nowadays, development accounts for just 30 percent of Big Oak's work, and most of that comes from design on the Discovery Channel Store site.

The rest of Big Oak's work is in tinkering with programming codes to help companies make their sites more visible. It is now promoted as a search-engine optimization company.

"We're far busier than we were when we were doing Web design and development," Harris says, "not from the standpoint of only doing the work, but keeping on top of all the different things you need to do. It's unbelievable."

He's in a changing trade that is becoming more competitive by the minute, constantly updating code and keywords within the text to rank client pages higher.

Unless a business has a strong local presence, firms are as good as dead without a Web site.

"You're cutting off a whole marketing arm if you're not using" the Web, Harris said, and search-engine optimizers such as Big Oak can help business owners make the most of their digital domains.

But be wary.

Big Oak's Harris fire off a few tips for choosing a search-engine optimization company:

# Earmark enough in the budget. Even the smallest clients will need to have at least $5,000 over the course of a year.

The price, Harris said, goes toward upkeep of the site and keeping competition at bay. "They have to see more money," he said. "They have to see more sales when you try to convince someone to spend $4,000 or $5,000 on Web design."

Rule of thumb: The larger the company and more competitive the industry, the higher the monthly bill.

# Be sure you can pull a return on investment from the site. "Or what's the point?" Harris quips.

# Make sure the site development is done on site at the marketing firm, or at least know where the work is being outsourced.

The search-engine optimizer will work with clients' intellectual property, Baldwin said, so you never know who is seeing it or if the Web work is shipped overseas.

"You can't really have a good relationship unless you're talking to the people doing the work," Harris said.

# Ask to see the client work that the search-engine marketer has done. It will let you know if the model works -- or if the company uses unethical practices.

Does the marketer practice keyword stuffing, where sites use misleading words that don't represent the advertiser well? Or do the sites use cloaking, a "bait and switch" technique where the pages trick search engines into getting a higher ranking, but the actual site's content will have nothing to do with the actual search?

# Check to see if the company has a way to track who is visiting your site and what they are buying.


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