Searching For Clues?

During my past 6 years of reviewing the Internet for the manufacturing and machine tool industries, I've seen several trends and fads fluctuate in importance. Portals. Marketplaces. E-commerce. Database migration. ERP. Reverse auctions. Applications Service Providers (ASPs). Flaming logos. But there has been

During my past 6 years of reviewing the Internet for the manufacturing and machine tool industries, I've seen several trends and fads fluctuate in importance.

Portals. Marketplaces. E-commerce. Database migration. ERP. Reverse auctions. Applications Service Providers (ASPs). Flaming logos.

But there has been one Web topic that consistently, when broached, still stirs debate, confusion and passions at the same levels it did 5 years ago:

Search engines.

There is no greater source of both bliss and road rage on the "Infobahn" than search engines. On the one hand, they offer immediate access to arguably the greatest wealth of information ever available to humankind. On the other hand, they offer immediate access to arguably the greatest wealth of information ever available to humankind.

You see, search engines are still just as inconsistent as they've always been. Each engine still responds to unique subtleties from one site to the next. And once you've crossed all your "t's," you're still at the mercy of each engine to index your site properly.

And now, add this: A California group that examines the Internet has just released a study concluding that 47 percent of sites are visited through browser favorites or bookmarks, 46 percent are accessed via links on other sites, and—get this—less than 7 percent are located through search engines.

Now, you don't have to be Bill Gates to figure out that there may be better ways of spending your online energies.

Continue looking for ways to promote your shop's services to serve your existing customers. Explore online RFQ, e-commerce and marketplace environments for useful applications. Promote your online initiatives on cards, ads, stationery and your phone messages. And find other sites (for example, clients, associations and so on) that attract prospects for your business to add a link to your shop's site.

My best advice: Don't ignore search engines, but don't rely on them so heavily, either.