Entrepreneur learns why it's best to optimize site before it launches

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John Mills launched in October 2002. The company, which provides online training to individuals and corporations, came up with a business plan but, like most companies, outsourced the development of its Web site. Mills said he hired a developer that had plenty of customers but, unbeknownst to him, no experience when it came to search engine marketing.

"The company didn't have any customers that showed up on search engines. Our own page was so far out of the top rankings it was sad," he said. "When we did show up, we were back five or six pages at least."

Mills realized he needed better placement on search engine results if he wanted to build his client base, so he signed up with Atlanta-based search engine optimization provider Medium Blue Search Engine Marketing. Mills paid a one-time set-up fee of $5,000 and agreed to a monthly service charge of $500.

Mills soon found out that the reason his site fared so poorly with search engines was that its architecture wasn't search-engine-friendly. It had many design elements that hid the very text that explained what his company does.

Keyword placement within the text was also problematic, he said. Although Mills knew which keywords were most popular with searchers, he didn't know how to include them in his site's copy so they would help boost his search ratings. In addition, most of the site was dynamically generated so at the time,'s spider couldn't index it very well, said Scott Buresh, Medium Blue's managing partner. "Since then, Google's spider has gotten much better at indexing dynamic content, but at the time it was a mess," he said.

And because the spiders couldn't find Mills' site, neither could customers.

The evidence: Last November, made a mere $6,000. This November, after completely redesigning and optimizing the site, revenue will top the $50,000 mark. Even better, it's on track to make more than $600,000 for 2004 and hit $1 million next year.

The results are impressive, but even more so when you look at marketing budget versus return on investment, Buresh said. "For every $1 [Mills] spends, he's getting $29 back," he said.

Mills will expand his company this spring when he launches a new business will help customers outsource customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning and supply chain functionality. This time, Mills said he consulted with his SEM company before building his site.

"You should always pay the search engine people first since they help you think about keywords and the type of content you have on your site-how it all links together," Mills said. 

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