The halo effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when a person's positive or negative traits seem to "spill over" from one area of their personality to another in others' perceptions of them. (as defined by Wikipedia)
So, how does this apply in the world of Search Engine Marketing?
It's no secret that it takes more time to get a top ranking in Google than in MSN and Yahoo. Yahoo and MSN tend to allow newer sites top rankings within weeks, while Google will make a new site wait - this is done to prevent spammers from hogging up the top rankings through massive link campaigns.
So, the SEO halo effect takes place when your site gets it's first top ranking. It seems that when your site achieves the much sought after #1 ranking for a popular keyword or phrase, to get the next ones are easier.
Case and point:
For my site, SEO for Google, that was the exact phrase I was optimizing for when the site was first launched in January 2005. I spent four months submitting to directories, writing and posting articles every two weeks, and I made sure I posted to my blog at least 5 times a week.
I knew I had to do all of this to overcome the "sandbox" that Google would place the site into. And in April of 2005, the site finally came "out of the box" and the phrase "SEO for Google" had the site somewhere around the 30's. It took another month's worth of focused effort to get phrase to the top spot.
Finally! after five months of continual effort, about 1,200 directory submissions, and article postings, all based on the key phrase "SEO for Google", the efforts paid off.
But, now the challenge was to expand on other phrases that people would enter to find out information on search engine optimization for Google. So, after using Wordtracker, I found nine more phrases to pursue:
• Google SEO
• Google Search Engine Optimization
• Search Engine Optimization for Google
• Google Search Marketing
• SEO Techniques
• SEO and Google
• Google Search Optimization
• Google Search Engine Marketing
• Google SEO Optimization
Now, to put things in perspective, the competition for the phrase "SEO for Google" was not very much when I started - about 5 million results. The new phrases, averaged around 30 million results to compete against. So, would my effort to get these new phrases need to be even more?
No - thanks to the SEO Halo Effect.
Since Google and the other search engines had already recognized the site as being the most relevant to the phrase "SEO for Google", other similar phrases could take advantage of the relationship to the original phrase. In effect, I could leverage the top ranking for the original phrase to pull the new phrases up through the rankings without having to exhort the same amount of effort.
Today, those nine phrases are within the top 15 in Google and climbing. I continue to get directory submissions for the new phrases, while every tenth listing I will still use the original phrase.
So, take advantage of the trust you have created with the search engines for your top phrases, and be sure to always look for similar keyphrases that can help get you ranked.
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