A straightforward approach to search engine marketing

Increasingly small business owners are wanting to get better results from their website. And they are being encouraged to spend money on SEM (search engine marketing) or SEO (search engine optimisation).

If you’ve found it hard to get your head around SEM or SEO, don’t worry, most people do. And the experts aren’t always free and easy with information on what it is they do.

Here is a straightforward explanation of SEM and SEO that should help you figure out what its worth to you.

Search Engine Marketing – SEM

Each day around 300 million searches are performed on the Internet. The exact number doesn’t matter – search is huge. When searchers find a link they are after, they click on it. Searching leads to traffic, and traffic is valuable.

SEM is all about marketing to searchers. Figure out what they want, and get your message in front of them at the right time.

If you are familiar with Google and other search engines, you’ll probably know about the organic search results (down the left hand side of the page), and the sponsored links (down the right hand side, or sometimes in the ‘sponsored links’ section across the top of the page).

SEM is all about getting your link to appear on either the left hand side (organic) or right hand side (paid) of a results page, when a searcher is looking for a keyword relevant to you.

Organic Search and Search Engine Optimisation – SEO

When a searcher enters a keyword (or keywords) with a search engine, the search engine has to check its index of web pages, and find the most relevant pages for the search keywords.

If you want your page to appear in the list, you have to be in the index for the search engine. If you aren’t indexed by the search engine, you can’t appear in the results. Just publishing your web page isn’t enough to get it into the indexes.

SEO Rule 1: Get in the search engine index.

Where you appear in the list (top of the list, middle or bottom) depends on how relevant the search engine thinks your page is.

One of the primary ways the search engine figures out relevance is to do with your content. Is your web page relevant to the keywords? The exact way that a search engine figures this out is kept secret by the search companies. They do this to avoid people creating dodgy content that fits the search criteria perfectly. Search engines are good at finding relevant content, so if all you do is focus on creating content that is in fact highly relevant to the keywords you are focussing on, you are well on the way to excellent search results.

Keep in mind that a web page about 50 topics will probably be seen as less relevant than a web page that is about just 1 topic. Relevance rules. Search engines figure out what a page is about by looking at the page title (strong clue), the page headings (another strong clue) and the content of the page. Some people say your target keywords should be at a density of between 6% and 8% of the word length of the page.

SEO Rule 2: Make the content of your web page relevant to the target keywords.

Another big clue the search engines use as to how relevant your web page is are the other web pages that link to you. If 5,000 golfing sites link to your golf page, the search engine will see this as more relevant that another golf page with equally good content, but no ‘back links’.

If two sites both have lots of good back links, a search engine will see the links as more valuable if they have ‘golf’ in the anchor text of the link.

SEO Rule 3: Have good back links!

Paid Search and Pay-Per-Click

To get your link to appear in the right hand side of the search results, you need to pay. Google and Yahoo are the two main pay-per-click advertising providers. With pay-per-click, your define your keywords, bid for them (yes, its an auction system) and write short ads with a link to your site landing page. When you run the ads, the search engine displays your ad when a relevant keyword is entered by a searcher. All free so far. When a searcher clicks on your ad and is sent to your landing page, you pay for the click. What you pay relates mostly to how much you bid (although there are a few other factors).

You can set up budgets to make sure your advertising costs don’t spiral out of control. But for many niche advertisers, you can advertise very effectively and pay between 20c and 60c per click. Competitive keywords can get very expensive!

To be effective at building traffic with PPC advertising, you need to select good keywords. If you are advertising on keywords with minimal search activity, you may be missing out on traffic available from other keywords. Undertaking keyword research to find out what searchers are really searching for can help.

PPC Rule 1: Use keyword research to build your campaign around the right keywords.

With Google AdWords, the amount you pay per click is directly related to your keyword bid AND the relevance of your ad to the keywords. One advertiser – with a highly relevant ad and therefore high click through rates – may pay a lot less per click than another advertiser with a lower click through rate.

PPC Rule 2: make your ads relevant to your keywords to increase your click through rate and decrease your cost per click.

Once you are getting traffic, and people are clicking on your relevant ads …. you aren’t there just yet! You need to convert your traffic to a sign up, or a sale, or a subscription – whatever result you are seeking from the ads. To do this, you need to have relevant landing pages that have a well defined call to action.

PPC Rule 3: maximise conversions from traffic by using relevant landing pages focussed on a clear call to action.

Summary

So there you have a straightforward approach to understanding Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and its two components:

  • Organic Search (and you might use Search Engine Optimisation – SEO – techniques to help get your pages indexed with relevant content and good back links)
  • Paid Search

Hope it helps, and you are better able to decide how SEM, SEO and PPC is relevant for your business.

How PublicityShip builds SEM into its sites

We help clients who want to use their websites for online marketing. We’ve designed a lot of ‘search engine friendly’ features into our sites.

Getting your site indexed

Our sites automatically generate a Sitemap file using an industry standard file structure. This is sent to the search engines automatically each time your content is updated, for example, after you post to your blog. No action is required on your part, and Google gets to find out about your content as soon as its published.

Google Webmaster integration. If you register for the free Google Webmaster service, you can get information about how frequently your site is being crawled by the Googlebot, how many pages are indexed, back links registered for your site, what keywords Google sees in your site content and so on. To verify your site with Google Webmaster, you are given a snippet of code to include in your website.

Once again, copy the code snippet, go to PublicityShip Options and scroll down to the Google Webmaster field, and paste in the code snippet.

Relevant content

Relevant page titles. Each page in your site has a unique title, with the page heading appearing as the first part of the title followed by the site title.

By using keywords in your page name, the search engines see your keywords automatically in a prominent position in the title.

Use of headings. Pages are structured to utilise headings at multiple levels (H1 for the site title, H2 for the page title, and H2 for each sidebar section title). You can then use styled H3 and H4 headings to further structure your content. This search engine friendly approach means you have full control over what keywords appear in titles on each page.

Blog. All PublicityShip sites are blog-enabled. By including a blog, you create fresh content for search engines to index, clearly tagged and categorised by your chosen keywords. Use your blog as a powerful tool for establishing conversations with other bloggers to develop back links.

Anchor pages. An importart part of maintaining relevant content is the use of anchor pages for your chosen keywords. You can create as many anchor pages as you need, and update them as required to achieve optimum keyword density.

Self managed content. Relevant content is often a matter of timely updates to reflect changes in your business. A PublicityShip site gives you full access to manage your own content – add or edit content, upload and include images, audio or video, add new menu items.

Paid Search

Google Analytics integration: when you start using PPC advertising and Google Adwords, if you aren’t already you’ll want to register for the free Google Analytics service. This lets you analyse the traffic to your site, check on which ads are referring traffic, keyword performance and so on. You are given a snippet of code to include in your website.

No programming is required with a PublicityShip site, simply copy the Google code snippet, open your PublicityShip Options page, scroll down to the Google Analytics field and paste the code snippet in. All done.

Site back links

Developing back links is one of the hardest of all SEO tasks. With a PublicityShip site you have:

  • a Blog, so you can post about other bloggers and send Trackbacks or Pingbacks to their site
  • multiple ways to review back links – either through Google Analytics reporting or your WordPress Dashboard reports
  • access to the services of a Ghost Blogger to help your write content designed to promote back-links, and to undertake link-building research and campaigns.