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Let’s go an imaginary trip to Oslo in Norway (bare with me here!).

Now, the first two things you’ll want to do is arrange flight tickets to Oslo, and find a good place to stay. Where do you go for this information? A small (but growing) fraction of the online population will pop over to social networks like Twitter or Facebook and ask their friends and contacts for advice. But the current reality is that 9 out of 10 web surfers will still hit up a search engine like Google or Bing. And it’s not just for trips to Norway. An increasing number of customers, consumers and clients are using the web to find everything from lawyers and doctors, to restaurants, hockey equipment and appliance repair.

A brief lesson on search engines…….

Search engines are complex software tools that send out scouts called ‘robots’ into the World Wide Web to find, analyze and index webpages, blogs and other forms of content, constantly growing their database of information about the Web. Using ‘intelligent’ algorithms, they sift the content gathered (by various criteria), and organize the information in a fashion relevant and useful to searchers. Search engines then present the results in an ordered format that tries to list the most valuable material highest so that their users can find them quickly and conveniently. In a philosophical sense, search engines try to create order out of the chaos of information and data on the Internet.

Being in the top 3 is key……

An interesting twist in recent times is that search engines have allowed businesses and individuals to advertise on relevant sections of their search results pages, giving paying customers the means to reach an eager audience who is already looking for this kind of information. While 70% of search engine visitors rely on “organic search” for their results, 30% click on these paid ads. Another interesting metric is that 60% of all clicks on organic search go to the links listed at the top 3 positions on search results, making them coveted positions that hundreds of businesses fight tooth and nail to secure.

So what’s the answer?

There are many strategies and plans to help manage your search engine results, but the bottom line here is that this takes time and patience. The first obstacle is coming to grips with the reality that this is where your potential customers are. Next comes the investment (and no, this is not necessarily $$). You need to invest time and energy in creating content that can be indexed and rank you higher. Position yourself as an expert in your field through creative and well written content, so when those customers are looking for your services, they’ll come across you first.  Honestly though, don’t be afraid to spend a little money on this too – it can often yield some of the highest return on investment off all advertising avenues.