Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a strategy that involves practices that will drive traffic directly from search results in engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. It is possibly one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your website; however, it is also one of the trickiest and most unpredictable.
What’s the general idea?
A lot of people’s online journey begins with a search engine. You can simply ‘go to Google’, type in any query of interest and Google will bring up thousands of web pages for you to select in order to continue in your quest for information. The art of SEO is making sure that a visitor clicks your web page over any rivals.
For example, if you sold hiking boots in the Wakefield area, you would want to appear high in the results below and you would want a prospective customer to click on your result over any of the others.
Why is Search Engine Marketing important?
As much as it pains many people to admit it, sites like Google are the cornerstone of the online world. Search engines are a combination of directories, encyclopaedias, dictionaries, recipe books, menus, maps, manuals; the list is endless. As long as somebody has access to a search engine, they can find what they are looking for.
This is why it is important to have your business appear in search engine results pages (or ‘SERPs’). If a prospective customer or client wants to search for ‘customised birthday cards’ and you happen to specialise in such a product, you will want them to find you in those results.
You will want to appear high in search results, with the optimal ranking being in the top three of a particular search term. An effective search engine marketing strategy will ensure you rank highly but will also have techniques in place to make your result are more appealing, with engaging titles and descriptions.
Why is Search Engine Marketing tricky?
The first thing that is hard about SEM is that it is tricky to predict. Sites like Google keep their algorithms secret so that people don’t abuse them. There are always new experiments conducted by digital marketing experts to figure out the best practices, but ultimately there is no certainty.
The main priority of search engines is providing users with valuable web pages that improve on the overall user experience and this is how they determine where to bring your web page up in their results - will your site give the searcher what they are looking for?
The second thing is that some search terms are more competitive than others. It is a lot harder to compete against well-known websites for really common search terms - especially if you trying to compete against the likes of Amazon and eBay.
This is why many strategies involve targeting search terms which are used less. Whilst your website may get less exposure from these, the people who visit your website will be more relevant and more likely to convert into paying customers.
A good search engine marketing campaign will try to include a balance of these kinds of terms.
What makes a successful Search Engine Marketing campaign?
There are many practices that agencies use to improve their search engine optimisation; however, these practices go out of date so quickly that if you don’t keep up with industry trends, you can actually do more harm than good. What used to work for SEO a few years ago, can now actually damage your ranking. So it important to keep up to date.
Some of the core principles of SEO are:
- Including keywords in your content. But there needs to be a precise balance between using enough and ‘keyword stuffing’ because the latter can be dangerous for your SEO;
- Encouraging other people to link to your website and your content where it is relevant and appropriate. Again, this can damage your ranking if done inappropriately;
- Using content marketing as a strategy alongside other SEO techniques;
- Encouraging your customers to share your content on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and especially Google+.
What’s the difference between SEM and Adwords?
These are very similar strategies and both utilise search engines to market your website. Effectively, AdWords is a form of search engine marketing.
The aim is to do all that you can to ‘organically’ drive traffic from search engines without giving Google any additional money. However, there may be times when you are willing to invest a little extra to provide better results and this is where AdWords comes into play.
What are the benefits of Search Engine Marketing?
The main benefit of search engine marketing is the exposure that a successful campaign can bring. This exposure can then lead to more brand awareness and ultimately drive traffic to your website.
An effective search engine marketing campaign can also help your company’s website gain long-term exposure which can bring a steady stream of traffic over a long period of time through search results.
The next chapter in this guide will be on social media marketing which seems to be Marmite for business owners! You can go read the post below ...