Search Engine Marketing
How to Make More Money Online with SEM and SEO
If you have any type of business then your first priority has to be making it visible to your potential customers so that they know what you are offering. This is as true for internet sites as it is for physical stores and malls, even though their respective ways of achieving this visibility are very different.
If we compare internet marketing techniques such as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with those utilized by businesses with geographically specific locations we can see that a completely different concept is at work. However, we can also draw some similarities between the two different types of business for the purposes of understanding the complexities and challenges faced by those who wish to market their website in an effective manner.
The Physical Location
Firstly, the physical location is a key concern for businesses that operate out of a fixed building, such as a shop or an office. If you are lucky enough to have your business in a prime location in a big city then putting up a large sign or eye catching window display is a simple way to try and attract some passing trade. With internet marketing, location in the strictly geographical sense is irrelevant, and the concept of passing trade is completely different. Having said, we can consider that the ideas behind SEM and SEO as being similar in that they are designed to make your business stand out and thereby attract customers.
Size of the Business and Its Offer
Another important point to consider is the size of the business and the variety of products or services on offer. As an example, a big shopping complex will undoubtedly attract more customers than a much smaller one in the same part of town. If someone is shopping for shoes and hears of a center with 5 different shoe retailers in large units then this will usually be a greater attraction then the one solitary small shoe shop at the other end of town. This visual appreciation of size is something that website owners are deprived of, as by looking at a website it is impossible for a potential client to tell at first glance the range of offers available to them, and the internet marketing techniques we are going to look have to find a way of telling the customer that they will find what they are looking for on your site and that it is a good place to shop or check out.
Internet Shoppers Know Exactly What They Are Looking For
Before we look in depth at the actual techniques it is worth bearing in mind one other big difference with internet marketing; and this time it is an advantage. The potential customer whom you are trying to lure onto your site is looking for you! Unlike traditional shoppers, internet shoppers tell us exactly what they want and how often they look for it. With this in mind we will go on now to look at what is actually involved in making sure that they find what they are looking for from your site.
The History of Internet Marketing Techniques
Like so many other fields of business, internet marketing was born out of both a need and a demand. As the number of internet sites began to grow exponentially it became clear by the end of the 1990s that users needed help in finding what they were looking for and that businesses wanted to find a way to place their site on the most visible spot. As the search engines that had recently appeared on the scene began to offer paid advertising, such as Pay per Click, experts also began to look at alternative ways to use the power of the Internet to make money and increase sales.
At the start of the 21st century, internet experts began to offer their services to businesses who wanted to exploit the online possibilities in the smartest way possible, and the term ‘Search Engine Marketing’ was invented in 2001 to explain the processes involved in all the elements of online marketing used to increase visibility and earn more money through internet advertising and sales.
If you still have doubts about the growth and current importance of this business then you may be interested to learn that in 2008 over $13 billion was spent by North Americans on Search Engine Marketing, and the industry shows signs of continuing to speed up and attract more and more investment. In 2009, Google AdWords made the firm $29 billion,– making it the firm’s biggest money spinner – and since 2007 paid advertising has been the main revenue source for search engines.
More Pay per Click Details
We mentioned ‘pay per click’ as being important in the history of internet marketing, but it definitely deserves its own section too. This technique is simply one whereby you pay the search engine for putting an ad for your site in a prominent position either on their search page or on an affiliate’s site. This third party site owner then also gains a percentage of the profit from what you pay, making pay per click a huge part of many people’s strategies for gaining online revenue.
The name derives from the fact that instead of paying a set fee for the ad, you pay for the number of times people have seen it or actually entered into the site (clicked through), although there is no guarantee offered by the service that the customers they direct to you will generate any revenue for your site.
You may see that ads appear on search engines with a phrase such as ‘sponsored links’. Google AdWords is generally regarded as being the biggest and most important provider of this service but Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter are among the other possibilities you could use. Automated tools help avoid people abusing this system with repetitive clicks.
While many people regard Pay per Click as being synonymous with Search Engine Marketing, it covers other areas too. One of the most important, and complex, of those is Search Engine Optimization and we will now go on to look at this is in more detail.
What Does SEO Involve?
The SEO, element of SEM is directly concerned with improving a site’s position on the results page of the search engines. We can go back to the original analogy about “real” stores and consider that achieving a higher ranking with the search engines is akin to moving into a shop in a better location or putting up a bigger and more attention grabbing sign outside. SEO is about making sure that someone who types in the name of something which you sell sees your site as one of the first offers on the results page without paying for Pay per Click advertising.
The first thing you should know about Search Engine Optimization is that no one really knows how search engines such as Google and Yahoo calculate their rankings and you will come across some conflicting ideas and assumptions if you investigate the subject. This might make SEO seem a bit like a hit and miss affair, but what we do know about the search engine calculations is enough for us to work out a strategy which will see a given site increase its rating and therefore its traffic.
Probably the single most important element here is that of the keywords. These are the words and key phrases that real internet users enter in the search engine when they are searching for something on the web. If you want to improve the rating of your website, then the first thing you have to do is work out what keywords you need to focus on. The first step here is to think, “If I wanted to find a business like mine what phrase would I use?” Type in a few searches on any search engine and see what results you get back. Does your business already appear in the top listings or are your rivals all sitting there comfortably and gathering all the business which falls into their lap every day?
Once you have an idea of the words and phrases which are relevant to your business, then you need to back up your intuition with hard facts and see just how many people are using the same phrases that you used. In order to see what people are searching for you can go to https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. If the phrases you came up with don’t appear here with the sort of big numbers you expected, then could it be that there are other phrases you haven’t thought of?
A common mistake made by website owners is to think like a businessman rather like a member of the public. The public don’t always know the correct, technical names or serial numbers for the things they want to find. If you are still stuck, ask a few friends who aren’t overly familiar with your business what they would type in to try and find you. Don’t forget to check out spelling mistakes on product names or places, as these can also account for a fair number of website searches every month.
Of course, not all keywords have the same commercial intent, and entering into www.marketsamurai.com will give you an idea of which phrases are most likely to lead to sales rather than aimless browsing. A high score on this tool will tell you that the word or phrase you are looking at often leads to commercial transactions, while a low score tells you the opposite. You can also check this page to find out a variety of other keyword related information.
A common mistake is to focus on keywords which are part of the company name, as this misses the whole point of this type of marketing. On the Internet, no one is really that interested in your company name; they just want to know what you are offering. Getting to a good position on the search engine rankings with this is unlikely to increase your sales unless the name is actually part of the business, such as ‘The Quick Shoe Repairs Company’. In that case it would be worthwhile focusing on the name, but if the shoe repair company is called ‘Jones And Sons’ then putting effort into the name is rather pointless. In summary, people want to know what you do, not who you are.
You should also avoid words which can mean one of a number of things to different people in different situations. For example, if you sell sushi knives for left handed users you aren’t really that interested in the word “knives”, as this is bound to be a very competitive word and is also a bit vague. People searching for “knife” of “knives” could be looking for any one of a number of different types of cutting implements. You might want to focus on “left handers”, as these people might be interested in the offer once they see it, even if they weren’t really looking for in the first place. However, your top priorities have to be the complete, unambiguous phrases such as, “left handed sushi knives” and “sushi knife for left hander”, or even “left handed sushi”. With current search engine technology being so advanced people have gotten very lazy and type in the minimum number of words possible, so you might want to try phrases like “left hand sushi” and “sushi knife left”.
How to Use Keywords as Part of SEO
Now that you know the keywords and phrases that matter to you, the next challenge is what to do with the knowledge. A few years back search engines relied almost exclusively on the keywords that were included on site content, and this was exploited by people who just stuffed their pages with the keywords they were interested in – sometimes hidden from the sight of the web users.
This loophole in the search engine calculation was one of the main reasons for them being changed into the more complex and partially unknown systems that we have today. Since search engines are smarter now, most experts have recommend toning down the number of times you use a certain keyword or phrase to between 1% and 5% of the full content. The most generally accepted theory is that by providing relevant content on a regular basis with a moderate use of the keyword, you can prove to the search engines that you have a website which is both useful and informative for internet users to see. Stuffing your site with keywords in a pointless way is tantamount to spamming and your site could be penalized for it.
A blog is often seen as being a better way of quickly putting on this content rather a conventional website. This is because blogs are seen as being more personal and trustworthy then official looking sites. They are also generally easier to set up and maintain through open source content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, where adding content can be as easy as using a word processor. As suggested by the assertion that keyword stuffing is inappropriate, the best approach is to write naturally and drop the keyword in when it feels right. The key point here is that you should be writing for both search engines and human beings.
Getting it Done Professionally and Consistently
If you are doing your own SEO but don’t want to do the content yourself, then you can outsource this part of the work to freelance writers. Sites such as www.odesk,com and www.elance.com let you post a project with details of what you want done, and freelancers from all over the world will bid for the work. You can also use these sites and others like them to find someone to do the entire SEO work for you if you prefer to work that way, as we will cover a bit later on.
Of course, the results you get don’t only depend upon the work you do but also upon that which your rivals are also doing. If you are looking at highly competitive keywords you will probably be up against some of the big hitting businesses that spent a fair chunk of the $13 billion we mentioned earlier. This means that one of the early processes you have to carry out is an analysis of the competition and their strengths and weaknesses.
As well as posting the content to your own site or blog you can send off your best articles to article directories. Many of these article directories let you include a link back to your own site and are a good way of increasing the ranking of your site through establishing a large number of quality backlinks. This technique can also help your sites get ranked quicker by the search engines, as it makes it easier for them to find you.
Another important feature of SEO is link building. This comes in two forms. Firstly, there are the internal links which a site has to other pages of the same site. These are believed to help the search engines index the site more efficiently and are therefore heavily used on many sites, with between 2 and 5 links per page being regarded by many as a good level.
The other element to link building is the part that relates to the site being linked to other sites. This is known as backlinking, and the single most important feature of this process is that the link has to be made to a well-ranked and relevant site or it is not really worth much. We will see later on in the black hat tricks section that some spam links can be gained from sites that are set up for this purpose (link farms), but the true benefit of links is only achieved by linking to a well-rated, relevant site and preferably one which is regarded by the top search engines as being an industry authority on the subject you trying to obtain a better ranking in.
Once you have worked out an idea of the keywords you are interested in, the competition you are up against and the kinds of sites you are interested in linking to in order to increase your online revenue, your next step is to consider whether to do the SEO work yourself or outsource the work to a specialist in this field. Finding someone who is keen to do the work will not be a problem, as there are huge numbers of these experts all over the world.
However, even if you plan to do this, it is still advisable to learn a little bit about the subject to make sure that you are aware of what the person or firm that you hire is doing and why. For instance, you are the expert in the business and it makes sense for you to have a big input into the keywords you want to focus on, rather than leave it to someone who is good at what they do but probably doesn’t have the same level of expertise and experience in your business.
Avoid Black Hat Techniques
This is a good point to mention the so-called black hat tricks, as some unethical SEO experts use these to quickly boost a site’s ratings with the main search engines, thereby ensuring that it appears as one of the first businesses on the results page for the specific search that they are interested in. These are basically “cheats” that can sometimes fool the search engines into thinking that a site is more relevant or more popular than it actually is. Some of these tricks are carried out using automated software and typically include putting computer generated content onto a site, adding keywords to the site that aren’t relevant and linking to spam sites which have been set up for that very purpose. As we have looked at the genuine organic SEO techniques we can see why these black hat tactics work, but there is a high risk of you being caught and having your site penalized and delisted if you do things on this unethical way.
If you do carry out SEO work on your site and achieve a nice rise up the search engine rankings, you should not consider this the end of the story. Rival site owners who see you go past them on the results page will almost certainly step up their own SEO efforts in an attempt to make up the lost ground. This makes it important to have an overall strategy for improving your rankings, not just a short, one off campaign.