Search engine marketing can be considered a subset of search engine optimization where marketing refers to optimization practices that take place off the website while search engine optimization sets up the pages on the website for both the search engine spiders and the visitors to the site in term
s of design, content, navigation, etc. The relationship between two activities can be thought of much in the same way as the operation of a bricks and mortar storefront with SEO pertaining to in-store work such as merchandising, having the right mix of inventory, and an easy check-out procedure. SEM, on the other hand, would be the advertisi
ng that draws people to the store. When optimizing a website, SEM refers to all activities utilized to generate the incoming traffic which is a vital element of moving site pages higher in search engine results pages (SERPS). Common strategies and tactics include search engine and directory submission and back link development from relevant sites, blogs, ezines, forums, social media sites, and online news media.
As an active process of driving traffic to a website and improving search engine page rankings, search engine marketing is an ongoing process which must be carried out consistently for a website to be successful. Without it, a website would much like the previously mentioned bricks and mortar store that stops its advertising leaving its discovery to random passersby which may find the store but not in the kind of numbers required to make a business successful.
As businesses continue to migrate to web and increase their presence on it, multi-pronged search engine marketing has become the most cost-effective, fastest growing, and popular new marketing channel available, especially when compared to print and other traditional media
outlets. Almost any site trying to generate revenues can benefit from a properly run SEM campaign by raising awareness and driving traffic to a site, thus improving the chances of purchases and or other forms of conversions.
The ability to track and measure performance with multiple sources of hard data such as visits, click throughs, conversion rates, and a host of other metrics also sets SEM apart from other forms of advertising. Being able to measure performance can also give a search engine marketing company an indication of whether a campaign will be successful before its inception, reducing the risk of spending advertising dollars on a project that doesn’t provide a return on investment. An example of a campaign that a search engine marketing company would likely avoid would center on highly competitive keywords carrying a high marketing cost with a relatively low average unit sale price. In that kind of situation, the SEM company would search for less competitive key words which would still provide a return on investment.
Running a successful SEM campaign can consume one hundred to two hundred hours per month of labor to get started. Due to the time required, the vast majority of successful projects are normally outsourced to SEO/SEM companies. While the hard costs of executing an SEM campaign may make it tempting to try it as a do it yourself project, the re-allocation of hundreds of hours to in-house employees is not typically the best use of labor, particularly if existing SEM experience cannot be found in-house. Additionally, the timeline for meaningful results can vary widely depending on the level of competition for the keywords being optimized and the monthly budget allocation toward the project, meaning that an in-house employee tasked with the project might be re-allocated indefinitely.
As previously mentioned, multi-pronged search engine marketing campaigns are increasingly viewed as providing the best return on investment dollars. As such, the integration of a full spectrum marketing campaign can be quite complex and carry many moving parts.
A typical search engine marketing campaign can include:
- Press releases – Relatively easy to produce, press releases can be generated based on all kinds of events, ranging from new features on the company website to new product releases. The key is not to fall in love with doing releases to the point where they become meaningless. While fresh content is generally beneficial, repetitive releases of minor announcements will start to turn readers off.
- Blogs – Blogs present a terrific way to communicate informally with a new and existing audience in a direct manner. They can be used to position the company as an authority in the field, provide another channel for public relations, and serve as point for media relations. Whether embedded on the company site or hosted separate from it, blogs will play a significant role in increasing the site’s presence on major search engines. Blogs can also provide support to branding efforts and help in terms of differentiating one company from another.
- Article submissions – Articles can develop trust and position the sponsoring company as an authority in its related fields. White papers, newsletters, research, and informational articles, especially when published on a regular basis, can raise a company’s public profile, improve search engine rankings, and grant credibility to a company and its brands.
- Social Media Marketing - Rapidly becoming a force unto their own, the social media sites have attracted a search engine marketing cottage industry which caters only to marketing on Twitter, Facebook, etc. These sites offer a massive opportunity for companies to find and connect with people who may be interested in their products and services. Basically, a grass roots platform consisting of hundreds of millions of users, the sites offer a double edged sword of instant communication which can either be favorable or not. For that reason alone, companies now must monitor what is being said about them on the social media sites even if they have no desire to build a corporate presence on them.
- Link building - Link building has become a huge priority in search engine marketing efforts due to the weight given by search engines to one way links coming into a site from other relevant “authority sites”. While there are many companies advertising their link building capabilities, it is only the inbound links from authority sites which score in the search engine’s algorithms. As such, the practice of link building tends to be the most time consuming and important part of any online SEM strategy. Much of the cost of these strategies is directly related to developing these inbound links. All of the above mentioned components of SEM can play significant roles in a link building strategy. Due to the substantial amount of time and experience required to execute a strategy properly, SEM services are the most commonly outsourced aspect of the total SEO process.
- Pay per click – Pay-per-click (PPC) ads run down the right side of the search engine results pages, with prices set by a bidding process for keywords. Once the bid price is accepted, a business can set a budget for how many click-throughs they’re willing to pay for and have the ad pulled once that budget amount has been reached. Optimizing for pay-per-click can be done in the same manner as website SEO where the most advantageous keywords are chosen for the objective of providing the best return on investment.
- Search engine placement – Search engine placement ads are found at the top of page one of the search engine result pages. The spots are purchased for a fixed price which guarantees placement in the shaded “sponsored” area for a set period of time. Like PPC ads, a search engine placement ad can be seen on the front pages of the search engines and provide a jump start to a search engine marketing campaign while waiting for the optimization and marketing campaigns to achieve results aimed at the top rankings of organic search. Unlike PPC, search engine placement ads hold their place for an agreed upon time frame, eliminating the possibility of getting bumped due to the exhaustion of a click-through budget or being outbid for a top spot on the page.
When embarking on a search engine marketing campaign the firm you go with must be able to deliver results needed to drive enough visitors to the site for conversions. The best way to determine whether that firm can deliver is to check out how their existing clients are doing and how they’re doing for themselves. Checking to see clients’ rank, increases in traffic, conversion numbers, etc. can shed a lot of light on the capabilities of the search engines marketing companies. If all other things are equal, lean toward a larger rather than a smaller one to ensure continuity should there be some turnover in personnel. Keep in mind that a project in a competitive marketplace could require up to two hundred hours per month. If you’re dealing with a small firm, the two hundred hours per month required for labor at the outset of a search engine marketing campaign would provide full time work for one employee. If your company is their only client, it’s all good. It’s when small companies take on multiple projects with high labor demands that clients can either be neglected or outsourced to companies they may not be familiar with. The Gervais Group has years of experience in search engine optimization and search engine marketing. For a free analysis on starting your campaign, call the Gervais Group today at (770) 529 2262 .