Solution: Done properly, search engine optimization improves your Web site's placement in results generated by search engines such as Google. The higher your site's placement in a search engine, the more traffic typically generated to your site. Consider the following when choosing a provider.
Beware of guarantees. Search engines constantly change the algorithms used to determine their search results. These algorithms are beyond the control of search engine optimizers. Google warns (at www.google.com/ webmasters/seo.html): "Beware of [search engine optimizers] that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a `special relationship' with Google or advertise a `priority submit' to Google. There is no priority submit for Google."
Beware of "black hat" techniques, or unethical approaches to SEO. A formerly common black hat technique is coding tags in hidden text that can't be seen because it is the same color as the background color of the page.
These techniques may work temporarily; however, they may cause your site to be banned by search engines. Recently, Google removed the BMW Germany site (bmw.de) from its search results because the site was using a black hat technique-the Web site version that BMW showed to search engine crawlers differed from the version seen by actual site visitors.
Ask for results and references. A good SEO firm should be able to provide you with past examples of its success, as well as client references to back up those results.
Beware of "certifications." There are no official, industry-accepted SEO certifications. Several SEO providers have developed training programs, but there is no unified definition for certification.
Janet Driscoll Miller is president of Search Mojo (www.search-mojo.com), an SEO and pay-per-click advertising company.
Problem: Using your Web site to communicate with audiences in other countries.
Solution: Offering key information about your company and products in multiple languages on your corporate Web site is one of the most popular ways to support increased sales and awareness in global markets.
To achieve these goals, first identify which global markets are important to your strategy. Most U.S. organizations choose to first offer content in U.S. English, Spanish and French. To better understand which markets may be interested in your company, talk to your sales team and resellers that may have a more intimate understanding of a particular region. You can also check from which countries you are generating referral traffic using a Web analytics tool such as WebTrends.
Once you've selected which languages to add, use basic Web analytics to identify your most popular content-the content you need to translate first. Strategically choose the top six to 10 pages of your site for translation to each language. If you try to translate your entire site in one shot, the task will become too overwhelming. Instead, continue to add new content and more popular content once the site is launched.
Translate the entire site navigation. On a side note, most of our clients warn against using an automated translation solution and recommend using a native speaker to guide the process.
If you are using a Web content management solution, ensure that all newly added content is kicked off in a work flow to the translators of your chosen languages so they can offer the new content within a shorter time frame. If you have regional offices in your target countries, add team members there as contributors and owners of the regional content. This will begin your global/local Web strategy, and regional editors will be able to better manage any cultural or contextual content changes without altering the global branding of the site.
If you choose to offer content in languages such as Arabic and Farsi, you'll need to consider a lot more than just adding translated content. Content is read from right to left in these languages, and your site should be adjusted to reflect this in every aspect from content to navigation.
Elizabeth Torrie Zwaryczuk is director of communications for RedDot Solutions (www.reddot.com), a provider of Web content management software.
Problem: E-mail delivery rates are falling.
Solution: The world of e-mail delivery can be tricky if not properly addressed; each company and ISP has its own rules and regulations. Here are some best practices you can follow to improve delivery rates.
1) Ensure your company is not operating an open relay. A common misconfiguration of Sender Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) servers is that of an open relay. Malicious Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (UCE) senders will find the open relay and use it to spread UCE messages throughout the Internet. If you are currently operating an open relay, work with your network administrators to ensure that this is updated. Large e-mail service providers' SMTP servers are locked down rather tightly, but check with your account manager to make sure this is on their deliverability checklist.
2) Regularly monitor the most common real-time blacklists. Many businesses use blacklists as a way to help fight spam. A regularly scheduled check of the large blacklists, such as Spamhaus, MAPS and Spamcop, can help you avoid being blocked if you land on one of these. At a minimum, check these blacklists once a month. If you are sending out one campaign a week, then once a month is often enough; if you send out three to five campaigns per week, you should check these lists biweekly.
3) Remove spam trap addresses from all sources. Many times, spam trap e-mail addresses are added to recipient lists to track activity. Spam trap e-mail addresses are most often defined as one of two types: distribution list e-mail addresses or e-mail addresses that use the word "spam" in the address. A regular review of your recipient list for any of these types of e-mail addresses can save you from getting reported on a real-time blacklist.
Some experts may lead you to believe that improving e-mail delivery will cost your organization a bundle. But that is true only if you don't implement methods to address your delivery today.
Spencer Kollas is director of deliverability services for Premiere Global Services (www.premiereglobal.com), an outsource provider of business process solutions.