The In’s and Out’s of Search Engine Marketing

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The strategies to standing out in search engine results

Employing coy marketing techniques may be beneficial and strategic when communicating with unsuspecting consumers,  but there is nothing more vital than being easily found when a consumer comes searching for you and your products.

Although your brand may be listed on a search engine online, this is not merely enough- your place on the list of a relevant search is essential to your success.  It was found in a recent study that 90% of online users rarely look beyond the first 3 search pages.

So how do you get your brand on those first 3 pages?

There are two strategies with varying levels of success and costs; Search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid placements (PP).

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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Involves increasing and improving the keywords, tags, content and links associated with your site to make them more relevant for search-engine searches. This ensures the search engine’s algorithm provides the site a higher score than competitor sites and prioritises it in the search results list.

It has been found that 60-86% of online users prefer to click on these links in the search list (the editorial section) rather than ad links (paid placements). While it may appear that SEO programs are more effective in generating traffic, they may be very costly and time consuming, there is no guarantee that your site will make it in the top three pages. SEO services can charge between $499 to $40,000 a month and work to research and create the appropriate content, keywords and strategies. Despite this investment, it can take up to 120 days before results are visible and  there is very little control and the success of your site’s ranking is largely out of your hands.

Paid Placements

Involves paying search engine for a placement in the advertising section on a search results page.  There is certainly more control with paid placements as it can guarantee visibility at the top of common related search result pages. While this would appear to generate a nice return on investment, only 14-40% of online users will click on sponsored links rather than editorial search links. This is because consumers consider this sponsored section less trustworthy, and would prefer to click on the actual search results.

Do I really need to worry about SEM?

Well, that depends. If your market is filled with customers that are known to enjoy spending their time browsing sites (such as women’s clothing sites) or a niche market with few online competitors (such as vintage cameras sites), you may not need to. However, if your market is highly saturated with other online competitors with similar products, the value of the product is low or customers are disinterested spending their time browsing the products, SEM may be a necessary investment to attract these customers.

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What do you think? What is the most effective SEM strategy, SEO or PP?

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2 Comments

  1. Great job there! I really like how you laid out both strategies so clearly defined. I have to agree that personally I have never clicked on an ad link so far. Besides the point that it might have lesser credibility as compared to a website honed through SEO, an adlink by itself just looks like an annoying ad spam. This could a psychological side effect for those who are heavily exposed to multimedia and their ad spams and I am pretty sure I am not alone on this seeing that there is such a huge gap between those who click on SEO nurtured website and those who click on Google’s ad links. Having said that, SEO is definitely not easy to do well. You have to have a perfect website with amazing content, you need to spend time doing those external back links, and you need to decipher the words consumers will be searching for using Google Adwords – now that is just a mere portion of the things to do to effectively execute SEO. So in the end, if your company is in a competitive industry, you’ll just turn to Google and option for PPC. Personally, I believe if you are doing something long term, SEO is definitely the way to go about it, adding some PPC could help but is definitely not necessary. But if you are not thinking long term, then PPC would suffice.

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    1. I agree with your long term- SEO, short term- PPC idea! The amount of work required to pull off SEO is massive though, potentially with little reward. I think PPC is a great idea for small businesses who don’t have the resources to pull off SEO. I think its great the Google explicitly states that PPC is paid for and allows the search listings to be there in order of relevance. It’s quite objective of them! I’m sure theres plenty of businesses that would pay top dollar for the top spot without the “advert” note.

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