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Now that your website is at the top of the search engines, your competitors will want to knock you off.

Congratulations, your website is at the top of the search engines and your traffic is at record levels. Sales are up and your boss is grinning like a Cheshire cat. No doubt, as the person in charge of marketing your website, you have either spent hours researching great sites such as Search Engine Guide or SitePoint and have achieved the results yourself or, more than likely, you have employed the services of a search engine marketing company. Either way, you now proudly sit at the top of the search engine results for the golden keywords you wanted.

Don't Get Complacent

So now that you are at the top of the search engines, you can sit back, relax and enjoy months of great positioning, right? Wrong! The effort it took to get your website top positioning is nothing compared to the effort needed to keep it there. When your website was wallowing in the lowly positions of the search engines, none of your competitors worried who you were or what you were doing. With your rapid rise to the top of the search engine results, you've stirred the vipers' nest and you competitors are rattled!

Your Competition Wants Revenge

If your website has managed to obtain top position on the search engines, you can bet that you have dethroned one of your competitors to get there. Do you think they will sit back and be happy with their lower positioning and less traffic? Of course not. The very reason you wanted to move up from obscurity is the same reason that your competition is not going to be happy with their site dropping down the rankings. Consequently, they are likely to be hurting, both emotionally and financially. They are going to want their #1 position back and quickly. Therefore, you can bet your life that they are going to be coming at you with a vengeance. More than likely, they will curse themselves for becoming complacent and seek professional assistance to find out why they dropped down the rankings and how it can be fixed. Pretty quickly, they will have either hired their own search engine consultant or read every search engine resource they can find in an effort to get back their top search engine position. Either way, they are going to be working hard to ensure that the coveted #1 spot they once held is again in their possession.

The Checklist for Continued Success

Maintaining top positioning once your competitors know who you are is a very time consuming and difficult job. Sneaking ahead of the pack is comparatively easy, compared to ensuring that your site stays at the top of the search engine results. Maintaining that great level of exposure is going to take a lot of diligence on you part and constant monitoring. In fact, there are things that you will need to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to ensure that your site stays put. For any business that wishes to maintain their high search engine rankings, here is a checklist of what you need to do and how often:

Daily

" Make sure your website is up and running 24/7. Nothing would be worse than your website displaying a "404 error" just as Google decides to spider your website. If your site is not there, even for only a few hours, you may lose your top positioning. If you don't have time to monitor it yourself, InternetSeer offers a free site monitoring service that alerts you if your website goes down.
" Is your company using any of the Paid Inclusion services? If so, your website could be re-indexed as quickly as every 48 hours. With this in mind, any changes that you make to your site today, could affect your rankings tomorrow. Make sure that your website is consistent. I know of one company offering Japanese Hotels who removed the word "hotels" from all of their links and dropped from #5 positioning to #92!

" Review your site logs or statistics counter. If you don't already have a site statistics package on your web server, then head on over to WebTrends immediately and get their statistics package. If you are serious about your online business you need to be able to see who is visiting you, how long they are staying and which search engine is bringing them there. By checking this daily or every other day, you can see any trends that begin to form and capitalize on them.

" If you are using Pay-Per-Click (PPC) search engines, then make sure you keep an eye on your bids. In the blink of an eye, you could be paying to much for your click thrus or two little. In addition, learn to spot those fake click thrus. With your statistics package in place, you will be able to tell if you are receiving repeated clicks from the same IP address.

Weekly

" It is important to check your search engine rankings at least every week. Some of you may wish to check on a more frequent basis, while others can stretch it to every couple of weeks. The important thing is to check them. The most popular and reliable ranking report software is available with WebPosition Gold. Using this software, you can track your own website positioning as well as keeping an eye on your competitors. One word of advice, Google has publicly stated that they will penalize anyone that repeatedly use automated reporting software. So as to avoid problems, you can either check your Google rankings only when an update occurs (usually first week of the month) or check them manually as often as you want.

" Subscribe to the many weekly search engine newsletters that are out there. SitePoint Tribune and SearchDay are both great weekly resources with updates and news on search engine developments. Make sure you take time out to read them.

" Read the many articles and news available on respected search engine sites such as Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Guide and Promotion Base.

" Visit the websites of your biggest competitors and check for any dramatic changes they may have made to their content. View their source code from your browser and keep an eye on their Meta tags. A change in the content of their Meta tags is usually the first sign that your competitor is trying to out-position you.

Monthly

" Keep your website content up-to-date and fresh. Check all of your links and make sure the sites they point to are still there. Are your prices updated, did you remove that product that you no longer sell? Ensuring your content is current will ensure that your website is positioned for the most relevant search terms.
" Make sure that the new page you added last week has the correct Meta tags and has targeted keywords in the text. Many people are diligent when they first optimize their websites, but when it comes to adding new pages they forget that these too need to be optimized.

" Download the Google Toolbar. This great tool sits alongside your Internet browser and has some very useful features. For example, it will show you the PageRank of each site you visit. This is a rank, out of a maximum of ten and shows you how relevant Google thinks the page is. The higher the number, the better ranked the website is likely to be. Using this tool, you can quickly see which of your competitors are doing better than you and react accordingly.

" Check on the links that point to your website. As you know, the quality and quantity of links that point to your website can affect your search engine position. Using the Google Toolbar, you can view all "backward links" for the websites you are visiting. Use this to see all the sites that point to your own website and make sure they have your website listed correctly with your targeted keywords in the link text. You can check on your biggest competitors and see which websites are linking to them. Contact each of these sites and see if you can get them to link to your site as well.

Keep Up the Good Work

Maintaining your search engine positioning is a time consuming but equally rewarding process. Out-witting your competition is a big challenge for any business but one that is worth the effort. The suggestions above are by no means exhaustive, but by following them you will ensure that you get to keep the great search engine rankings you worked hard to achieve.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Beal  is Vice President of Marketing for www.keywordranking.com, specialists in search engine marketing.  He has published in several magazines and newsletters on this topic.