By Jordan Silton, SEO Strate­gist

What is search engine market­ing? Why is it impor­tant? How can it help my busi­ness? There is a lot of buzz through­out the inter­net about how to “SEO” your site or which tricks to use in order to gain more traffic and presum­ably more revenue whether it be in the form of leads, purchases, refer­rals, appli­ca­tions, etc.  All this buzz makes it diffi­cult to get back to basics and under­stand the funda­men­tals of search engine market­ing.  Search engines are becom­ing more and more complex, and there are infi­nitely more tools and tactics you can use to try and make an impact.   In the year 2011, it will be increas­ingly impor­tant to under­stand these funda­men­tals, weed through the clutter and make mean­ing­ful busi­ness deci­sions.  Let’s start with the defi­n­i­tion.

What is search engine marketing?

Wikipedia defines market­ing as, “the process of perform­ing market research, selling prod­ucts and/or services to customers and promot­ing them via adver­tis­ing to further enhance sales. It gener­ates the strat­egy that under­lies sales tech­niques, busi­ness commu­ni­ca­tion, and busi­ness devel­op­ments. It is an inte­grated process through which compa­nies build strong customer rela­tion­ships and create value for their customers and for them­selves.”

Search engine market­ing (SEM) is part of this overall process of market­ing with the primary medium of a search engine.  The two main disci­plines of SEM are paid search and search engine opti­miza­tion (SEO).  As search engines evolve, paid search and SEO expand tradi­tional roles moving into a broader cate­gory of online repu­ta­tion manage­ment.  SEM has expanded to include other disci­plines such as web analyt­ics and usabil­ity.

Sprite Instant Preview

In 2010, Bing began display­ing Face­book data, Google incor­po­rated tweets into the search results, and instant previews allowed users to see the website before click­ing to visit it.  All of these new features impact a website or brand’s perfor­mance on search engines, so they too fall under the wide range of mediums search engine marketers utilize to reach their audi­ence.  Looking forward into 2011, search engines are sure to continue inno­vat­ing and incor­po­rat­ing more and more differ­ent content into the search results.  As this happens, the scope of search engine market­ing will continue to expand.

How can SEM help my business?

Search engine market­ing can help almost every aspect of your busi­ness.  One advan­tage of search engine market­ing over tradi­tional media is that success or failure online can be tracked.  With analyt­ics soft­ware such as Google Analyt­ics, you are able to quan­tify your return on invest­ment for every incre­men­tal dollar or hour you spend.  It’s very easy to dive into the details on some little things SEM can accom­plish, but these are two high level reasons you must pay atten­tion to your pres­ence online.

Laptops Buying Guide SERPs

Users are search­ing for your products/services – Search engines present a unique oppor­tu­nity for busi­nesses.  Tradi­tional media uses mainly push strate­gies to send consumers infor­ma­tion and drive them to take inter­est.  With search engines, customers have already expressed a need, so search engine market­ing is a pull strat­egy.  When a user is typing in “laptop computer buying guide”, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume they are express­ing that they would like to buy a laptop computer.  In this case, the user is going to the search engine as a resource for direc­tion on where to buy the laptop and which laptop to buy.  Do you sell laptop comput­ers?  If you do, you better be appear­ing for search queries like this one.  The truth is, users are actively search­ing for prod­ucts or services in every indus­try and search engines are the primary online arena for users to find what they are looking for.  Users are looking for you.

*Online brand manage­ment *- Users are becom­ing smarter and smarter about who they engage in busi­ness with.  Approx­i­mately 70% of searches are infor­ma­tional by nature as users are research­ing and explor­ing the options for where to spend their money or who to go to for help.  In many of these cases, a user may not be ready to purchase a product and will be forming his or her consid­er­a­tion set for a future purchase.  Main­tain­ing consis­tant appear­ance online will help ensure that you gain consid­er­a­tion when a user is ready for you.

McDonalds Image Search Results

Your online pres­ence is an exten­sion of your brand, but many busi­nesses have repu­ta­tion manage­ment issues online.  Search engine market­ing can help main­tain a posi­tive brand pres­ence in the search results. How does your brand do?

Want to learn more about us?  If you’re inter­ested in Search Discovery’s search market­ing and analyt­ics services, please sched­ule a free consul­ta­tion.