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.
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.
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.
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?
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