UPPER TOWNSHIP - Type a search term in Google and a list appears. But the results and their rankings are anything but random.
Ken Wisnefski knows this.
The 39-year-old Ocean City resident built an online marketing business that helps companies make their websites more prominent on search engines such as Google and Yahoo and more popular on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
WebiMax, the company he started in 2008 in Mount Laurel, Burlington County, recently opened an office off Stagecoach Road in Upper Township.
He expects the region to be the site of more growth of the company, which last year had about $5 million in revenue, he said.
"Clearly this is where we're going to be expanding as well to try to leverage some of the talent in this particular community," he said.
The company serves as consultants or assists businesses running online-marketing campaigns.
One of the key phrases in his line of work is called "search-engine optimization," which relates to a company's listing on search engines. For example, when someone types "Atlantic County Restaurant" in Google, a list of businesses pops up. WebiMax makes a company's website attractive to Google criteria that help give it a higher, more prominent listing.
The higher the listing, the more likely it will be viewed.
The premier location on search engines is called "above the fold," an old newspaper term for the most visible stories appearing on the top half of the page. In Internet terms, it's the search results one can see without having to scroll down.
How search engines prioritize rankings is part of a complicated, always-changing and sometimes secretive process.
In February, the New York Times' "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search" exposed how a search-engine optimization company allegedly used frowned-upon "black hat" tactics to boost the prominence of J.C. Penney on Google. After the techniques were uncovered, Google lowered J.C. Penney's rankings.
Black hat tactics may include creating or using fake Web pages that link to a site, thus building its search prominence, or using invisible white text against a white screen to list search terms.
The story was a good thing for the many legitimate search-engine optimization companies that use accepted practices, Wisnefski said.
"When you see these hot markets arise and there's no real regulation associated with them, for all the good companies you've got the same amount of guys that speak a good game, double talk people and not doing anything for them," he said.
The technological landscape of Google shifts constantly.
When Google Instant was introduced (listing search results while someone is still typing), "It changed the way a lot of people are doing searches, and it's changed the way we need to do our campaigns as well," he said.
Now, one employee's job is dedicated to keeping track of developments large and small.
"It will continue to evolve," he said. "The smart thing is to identify what the needs of companies are and stay ahead of the curve to make sure that as things change, as different vehicles and platforms become more viable for companies to get more visibility, you're staying on top of it.
"Two years ago we would have been talking about MySpace. Now it doesn't even come up in the discussion," he said. "At one point, believe it or not, we won't be talking about Facebook. Something will surpass it."
One of the big areas of growth in his business involves companies using social networking sites to generate more business, he said.
Wisnefski sees a bright future in online marketing.
He started WebiMax with five employees. He opened the Upper Township office about six months ago. He sees potential both nationally and internationally.
A 1996 graduate of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Wisnefski said the high-tech world of computers did not come to him until later in life.
He rarely used email in college, he said.
A former sales rep, he began adapting to changing technology, he said.
He started an online company called Vendorseek in 2002 to help develop contacts for his job. The effort grew into its own business, which he sold in 2008 shortly before launching WebiMax.
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Location: 1300 Stagecoach Road, Upper Township, and other locations
Owner: Ken Wisnefski, 39, of Ocean City
Employees: About 125
Revenue: About $5 million in 2010