News

Keys to Search Engine Marketing Success
By Peter Koeppel

Today’s consumers are spending more and more time online, researching products and services and ultimately purchasing directly from web sites rather than visiting brick and mortar stores. To stay competitive and benefit from this trend, you need to market your company on the web, specifically through search engine marketing.
 
Just as the name implies, search engine marketing means promoting your site through various search engines, such as Google or Yahoo. And it actually involves two steps:
1. Improving your ranking naturally or organically, called Search Engine Optimization
2. Purchasing paid listings
 
With search engine optimization, whenever someone types a keyword that pertains to your company into a search engine, your site is listed in the results. The goal is to make your site one of the first ones listed rather than listing number 2,769,561. Even if your site is listed on the fifth or sixth page of results as number 57, chances are viewers won’t click that far into the search results to find you. You want to be on the first page, preferably in the first or second position.
 
When you purchase paid listings, your company's listing still comes up during keyword searches, but it appears as a sponsored link, not as a natural result of the keyword search. Because you may be one of only a few paid sponsors for that keyword, your ad/listing will likely appear sooner than your natural listing, but some people treat paid listings with less credibility. Think of the natural listing like a magazine article and the paid listing like an advertorial. They're both in the same magazine, but the article has more credibility because the author didn't pay to get it in the publication.
 
To effectively market on the web, you need to do a combination of natural and paid techniques. Following are some guidelines for each.
 
Search Engine Optimization Tips
 
Search engine optimization requires anywhere from six months to one year of dedicated effort before you see results. The goal of this long-term marketing project is for your web page to be one of the first results displayed when people search specific keywords. To make that happen, do the following:
 
  • Make sure your site has "meta tags." This is information that describes the content of a web page. This information does not appear on the actual web page, but is placed in the header of the page. Meta tags are typically done in HTML and may contain such things as the author's name or keywords.

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  • Edit and add to your site copy regularly. Search engines use "spiders" to scan web pages. These spiders are specifically looking for new content that has been posted. The theory is that if you have new content on your site, your site must be current and therefore more relevant to the keyword search.

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  • Have other sites link to yours. Search engine algorithms take into account how many outside sites are linked to yours. When they detect multiple links to your site, you move up the ranks.

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  • Submit your site to search engine directories. You have to tell the various search engines that you exist if you want them to list you in the results.

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    Paid Listings
     
    With a paid listing, your site is guaranteed to be listed when someone puts in a specific search term. Typically you pay more to have your ad listing appear higher up on the page. To make the most of your paid listings, consider the following.
     
  • Determine what you want from your online marketing. Are you simply trying to educate customers? Are you trying to get them to buy your product or service? Do you want them to buy directly from the website? Or do you want them to call a salesperson or stop by your store? When you know exactly what you want people to do, you can tailor your web ad copy appropriately.

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  • Know what search words your customers typically use. Do research to determine the best keywords. While you may start off with a list of hundreds of words, narrow the list down according to performance. Search engines such as Yahoo and programs like WordTracker can help you come up with keyword phrases. Be sure you include a wide range of keywords, from broad to very specific. Also include misspellings in your keywords, because often people don't spell things correctly.

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  • Test your keywords by tracking site traffic. Additionally, track which keywords lead to sales. Narrow your campaign to words that perform the best. You can even determine which search engines produced the best leads. For example, you may find that certain keyword ads do better on Google than Yahoo.

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  • Don't make the mistake of locking into a few keywords that you think you have to have. For example, if you're an advertising firm, you may think you have to have "advertising" as a keyword simply because your competitors do. But if that keyword isn't resulting in the traffic you need, then don't keep it just because you think you have to. Realize that the top five search terms for your site often account for only half of the total site traffic. That means you can be using a lot of other words to draw people to your site.

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  • Make sure your keyword ad links to the specific web page the customer is likely to want. For example, if someone puts in a search term of "designer watches," and your jewelry store ad is one of the paid listings, be sure that ad links to your page of designer watches and not to your general home page. The less clicking you make people do to get the information they want, the more likely they are to buy from you.

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  • Stay on top of the latest changes to the way search engines determine pay per click ad rankings. For example, recently Google and Yahoo changed their formulas for determining these rankings. Now, if your ad quality is better, meaning it's generating a higher click though volume than a competitor, they may place your ad higher in the paid rankings, even if you aren't bidding the highest amount for a particular keyword. They are also rewarding continuing advertisers. So if you consistently advertise with these search engines you may receive a higher rank than a newcomer, even if your bid is lower.

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  • Finally, when you're writing your paid listing ad, make sure the keyword appears in both the title and the description line. Doing so will give you a higher click through rate because it reinforces the keyword to the customer.

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    Little Steps Yield Big Results
     
    While all these suggestions may seem small, together they add up to big results. The key is to monitor and track your results daily. Tweak your keywords and listings as necessary to see what produces more results. Even when you think you've cracked the web marketing code, keep testing new things.
     
    Once get your natural site ranking relatively high for certain keywords, you may not have to buy as many keywords for your paid listings anymore. But again, that won’t happen overnight. So persevere with your efforts and get professional help when necessary. In the end, all the work is definitely worth it. You'll develop a strong web presence for your company, product, or service, and your customers will take notice…and will buy from your site.
     
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