Search Engine Marketing....What Does It Take To Rank These Days?

Search engine marketing has changed so drastically over the past few years, that one wonders where it may be heading next. Currently, Google, Yahoo, and MSN search engine host 92% of all searches done online, and there doesn't seem to be any signs of serious changes. But what can we do to rank highly in them consistently?
One-way links
It seems that inter-site linking is all the rage, and most know that just exchanging links with random websites will not get you the rankings you want, and they are right. The days of exchanging links with any and every website out there are over, and have been over for sometime.
One is better off identifying their niche, and focusing on obtaining one-way links from websites and directories. This can be done in a variety of ways such as: 
-Writing articles and submitting them to directories
-Submitting your website to top directories
-Giving away free information with the stipulation the user link to where they got the material, which is you
-Actively participating in forums that match your products, and niche
-Start a blog and keep it updated

When first starting out, Its best to start with smaller key phrases then move in to larger ones. This will get you traffic, and keep you afloat, while you go for the bigger ones. Not only that, it gives you sense of accomplishment, and keeps you moving forward. This is very important, as many people get stuck in a rut after about 3-4 months with no rankings, and give up. It's important to start small. Not only to pay bills, but to keep you going in the right direction. 
Meta Tags
Fortunately, there are head tags that still work over all search engines, and do help with rankings. The title tag, and the description tag. The Meta "keyword" tag is no longer useful in Google and Yahoos search engines, though they are still weighted by Msn. Msn actually still likes this tag quite a bit, so I would recommend using your key phrases in this head tag.
Link Exchanges
Yes, link exchanges still work. Believe it. Though there are quality standards these days. 
-Only exchange link with websites that are in your general niche market. For example, if had a fishing related website, I would not want to exchange links with a cleaning service website. 
-Do not exchange links with a website that has a single page link directory, with 200 links on it. First off, Google only crawls the first 100 links on each page, and secondly, these types of sites are starting to be punished by Google, yahoo.
-Only exchange with a website that has a clearly defined link directory, that is broken down into categories, and is linked from the websites homepage.
-Do not exchange with websites that have a gray bar, when using the Google toolbar. This indicates they have been punished by Google, and for linking to them, you could in turn be punished. 
Keep at it
This could quite possibly be the key to ranking for competitive phrases. You have to stay positive, and keep working steady, everyday. This of course, comes with the stipulation that you have identified the best key phrases for your site, and are confident of your ability.
Rankings do not happen overnight, and for more competitive phrases, might not happen within the year. This is the harsh truth, but, with the right knowledge, and strict work ethics, you can certainly achieve the success you expect online.
This article was written by Anthony Sulecki, the writer of the WPS Search Engine Marketing Solutions book. He is always open for questions, and email.

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