For many businesses, a customer’s journey start with a search and a query. This is where Search Marketing comes up. It is all about increasing the visibility of a brand or a product on search engines by serving an ad at the precise moment it will be relevant to the audience’s intent or by optimizing its ranking naturally.
Search Marketing is a term that refers to both paid and unpaid search activities. It is used as an umbrella term for SEO and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Both are online techniques for increasing a brand or product’s visibility to audiences using search engines to find information.
Be careful with this last term: SEM is just about paid ads and does not include SEO. It is a marketing method that focus on ads displayed on the search engines results, typically appearing on the top or on the right of the SERP. Basically, the higher the bid one offers to pay for an ad, the higher the ad will be on the page, depending of the degree of competition.
Search Engine Marketing or paid search is divided between these terms:
- Paid search ads
- Paid search advertising
- PPC (pay-per-click) :
PPC (pay-per-call) – some ads, particularly those served to mobile search users, may be charged by the number of clicks that resulted in a direct call from a smartphone.
- CPC (cost-per-click)
- CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions)
Most search ads are sold on a CPC / PPC basis, but some advertising options may also be sold on a CPM basis.
Google AdWords is the main resource for paid search followed by Bing Ads – which is also supporting Yahoo ads. Social networks also offer PPC options.
Who employs search marketing?
All websites are “crawled” by search engines in an effort to determine a particular site’s page rankings. Those that employ dedicated teams to actively manipulate those rankings through search marketing are much more likely to end up at the top of the results. This means that all websites looking to draw traffic (whether for e-commerce, information, or another service) should employ search marketing.
Attention to relevant keywords is invaluable for all websites, no matter what product or service they offer. Every website can benefit from analyzing each page of its site to make sure that some combination of relevant keywords shows up in the content.
For example, a Google search of the phrase “custom cookies” first returns the website http://www.CustomCookies.com. Because they bought that URL, they show up first. In second, third, and fourth positions, however, are Veronica’s Treats, Memaw’s Cookies, and Rolling Pin Productions – all modestly-sized cookie manufacturers who do a good job implementing search marketing strategies. Because they made sure that the phrase ‘custom cookies’ was prominent in their web content, they have made themselves easy to find.
How is a search marketing plan developed and employed?
Before a team develops an active search marketing campaign, they should make sure that their websites are up to par. It is imperative for visitors to like what they find once they reach the desired website. This means that all links should be working, all content should be informative and easy to read, and the look and feel of the site should fit the brand or company’s message.
Then, the search marketing team can begin working on keyword research and analysis. Research determines the most relevant and searched keywords on the site, and uses these findings in a way that generates traffic and makes sense to users.
For example, when a search marketing team working for an electronics website determines that the most popular search terms driving traffic to the site are “best digital camera,” “refurbished hard drive,” and “top ten smartphones,” they can’t just list those terms over and over again at the top of a webpage or worse – hide them in a background-matching text.
These practices, known as “black hat” SEO, are extremely frowned-upon in the search marketing world. While they may help a website jump to the top of search results temporarily, Google’s intelligent analysis will not only remove these high rankings, but ban the website from being indexed correctly in the near future. Moreover, Internet users dislike and mistrust these practices. (See also Black Hat Marketing)
To use keywords correctly, they should be integrated into the content, headlines, meta tags and search descriptions in a way that feels natural to the reader, not forced. Additionally, search marketing teams should analyze lesser-used search terms that they may be able to monopolize. For example, while a local electronics store website may not be able to compete with online giants Amazon and Best Buy for search terms like “best digital camera,” they could corner the market on a search term like “refurbished Canon Elph, Springfield MO.” Used correctly, this keyword might be sprinkled into a paragraph that reads: “Are you looking for a refurbished Canon Elph? Springfield MO electronics shop Electric Shop carries all models, and guarantees their refurbished products for 24 months.”
Next, the search team can begin analyzing their website’s saturation and link popularity. These determine how much presence a site has on search engines, and can be analyzed through page counts, indexed pages, and backlinks from other places. If all the website’s pages contain keywords and “crawlable” content (searchable text, not photos with words written in them, Flash or videos), it should lead people to the site and rank well in the search engines. To help them measure saturation and popularity, a search team can use tools like Google Analysis, Marketleap’s Link Popularity, and Search Engine Saturation.
Back end tools like Google Analytics and HTML validators measure the success of a website by providing data on visitors. More than just counting traffic, these sophisticated back end tools can reveal important information about specific web pages and how they’re being used. Once a search team knows where they’re gaining and losing website visitors, they can target their keywords to fill those holes.
What types of careers work with search marketing strategies?
Because search marketing is a digital marketing field, a career in search marketing requires marketers to not only have a marketing background, but also a firm understanding of the ever-changing world of social media, search engine analytics, and broad-based online marketing. An effective search marketing team will be made up of individuals who are extremely comfortable with technology trends and have the creativity to help a website stand out from the crowd.