'v7ndotcom elursrebmem': Niceville teen takes part in contest to get Web site ranked No. 1 on Google
(Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 9--NICEVILLE -- In real life, Kyle Schumacher is an ordinary 17-year-old guy, juggling his time between classes and sports, club leadership and a social life.
In his virtual life, however, Schumacher is a webmaster who owns several sites with thousands of pages, and charges clients like divorce attorneys, laptop sellers and others a monthly fee to link to his sites.
"I guess I'm competitive. That's why I like wrestling, too," Schumacher said. "It's like I get to go to war, and see if I can compete with the big guys."
It's that spirit of competition that has the local IT Institute student joining an Internet team to win a Google search contest.
If they win, his team will donate its $7,000 first-place prize to the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, the oldest and largest institute working to cure the ailment, a genetic disorder that causes children and adults to be gluten intolerant, unable to eat wheat, barley and other grains.
The team's goal is to get their Web site ranked as Google's top-searched site for a nonsense term -- "v7ndotcom elursrebmem" -- offered by the contest's organizers.
The contest, sponsored by v7n.com, an Internet marketing site, and competing individual donors, ends May 15. It has drawn teams of competitors from all over the world.
To compete, Schumacher and other members of the team have had to do something that's become a big part of the Web-marketing business: search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, focuses on boosting a Web site's ranking in search engine results.
As Google's Web site explains it: "Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B."
Links alone, or the sheer volume of votes, don't drive up a page's ranking. Google also analyzes the pages that cast the vote, giving more weight to "important" sites.
As of Friday, Schumacher's team's site was ranked No. 4. On Thursday it wasn't even on Google's radar screen, which shows the volatile nature of the online environment.
To Schumacher, the contest is more fun than any video game. And, when you win, the results are a lot more real.
Search results matter for far more than bragging rights. Someone who advertises on the Web wants the most bang for his buck, and if he can saturate the global market with his product, he can expand his customer base.
Links from sites with a high Google page ranking drive up a receiving site's Google ranking so much that the linking site can charge much more for commercial links, up to $1,000 a month.
Schumacher has become a bit of a Google guru in playing this game, even to his IT teacher, Sean McSheehy.
"The new buzzword now is finding the Google secret sauce," McSheehy said. "No one has the full recipe, but Kyle is definitely a master chef."
"There are certain things you can do when you put your site up to maximize your rankings," Schumacher said.
He knows the key words that help both on and off his pages to snag more hits, and the credible site links that build more searches.
"If you use too many key words, you just look like spam. If you do too few, you won't move up," Schumacher said.
"The biggest cost in setting up a domain is time," McSheehy said. His student has put in the time carefully designing his pages to optimize their search engine ranking, and now he can invest a little time to keeping his entrepreneurial efforts going.
He hasn't just made extra cash doing this search engine work. Schumacher has groomed professional contacts in the global economy.
"Being a teen-ager hasn't been an issue online, because most people who know me and work with me know what I can do," Schumacher said.
He's worked with a group of women from India who were doing outsource work for an American company, and with teens in England and graphic designers in Singapore.
Now, Schumacher is hoping to develop a fishing lure business online, and is working with a Chinese company to create the saltwater fly-fishing products.
One of his sites, www.saltwaterflyfishers.com, already has a forum for that sport, where he found the demand for the items he's planning to market.
But for his future, Schumacher will focus more on business than a computer career.
"I want to be more of an entrepreneur, and hopefully I can find a good niche," he said.
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