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?