By Nick James

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is a form of Internet Marketing that seeks to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs).

But before we examine Search Engine Marketing in detail let’s look at what we mean by the term ‘marketing’.

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”
I think what they are trying to say is that ‘marketing’ is all about deciding who your customers are, working out what they want and then developing a cunning plan to sell products or services to them and make some money.
Well search engine marketing is no different but first of all you need to have a website that is search engine friendly.
Every search engine operates to a different algorithm a procedure or formula that solves a problem but they are all based around the following:
• Good site design making it easy for search engines to index the website
• Good content — information that customers want
• Links from authoritative and relevant websites to the site

Design for the search engines but write for your customers
A good website will have well-written, easy-to-navigate pages that aren’t ‘loaded’ with keywords to attract ‘search’ traffic but written with the reader in mind.
Like any sales presentation you should explain what problem you are solving and what your ‘solution’ is, what are your USP’s (unique selling points) and what a customer/visitor should do next.
OK so back to search engine marketing — you’ve identified the customers you want to target, you’ve got a ‘search engine friendly’ website and your ‘content’ is written for your visitor — how do you get more visitors to your website?
Let’s look at the two distinct ways — the advertising method using something like Google adwords and the ‘organic’ method whereby potential customers find your website in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) without you having to spend a penny on advertising.
The simplest method to understand, but not necessarily the simplest to execute is the advertising or PPC (Pay per Click) approach.
Pay-Per-Click advertising does exactly what it says on the tin – you only pay when a potential customer clicks on your advert.
However the price that you pay per ‘click’ is based on the popularity of the key words that you select and ‘purchase’.
Although it is possible to manage your own PPC campaigns it is often more cost-effective to use an agency that specialises in ‘paid search’ advertising to manage campaigns on your behalf.
Organic or ‘natural’ search results are listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms used.
It is accepted that users click (organic) search results more often than adverts but it is also accepted that most people rarely venture further than the first or second page of search results making it imperative that your business is as far up the ‘rankings’ as possible.
The leading search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, use web crawlers (also known as ‘bots’ or ‘spiders’) to find pages based on their algorithmic search results.
Assuming that your site is already ‘search engine friendly’ and that you have a critical mass of back links from other relevant and authoritative websites then you need to concentrate on content.
Content can be text, images or video but it needs to be relevant and engaging and it needs to be regularly updated.
But don’t panic — you probably have a lot of this content ‘in-house’ and it just needs re-jigging for the web.
Content can consist of existing sales brochures, press releases, short articles by in-house experts, video, whitepapers or presentations used at conferences or trade-shows.
The importance of good content mustn’t be underestimated as apart from the fact that good relevant content will bring ‘searchers’ to you it is that same content that will engage the visitor when they arrive at your site.
Getting engaged
Now the beauty of ‘search’ marketing as opposed to more traditional forms of advertising whereby you had to catch a prospects attention when they were doing something else like watching TV or reading a magazine is that by ‘definition’ they are ‘searching’. While this might seem obvious when potential customers are in that ‘searching mode’ they are looking for instant gratification.
When they get to a website they want to quickly understand;
• What you do
• How you can solve their current problem
• What are your USP’s
• Why should they choose you
One great way of succinctly answering all of those questions is with an online video, the additional benefit being that search engines are turning more and more to something called ‘blended search’ which includes video, local, news and book content in the top 10 search engine results pages.
Keeping the customer satisfied
If you don’t provide the information that a potential customer is looking for and a clearly communicated ‘next step’ they are very quickly going to click the ‘back’ button and find what they are looking for on one of your competitors web sites.
The old A-I-D-A advertising principles of Attention, Interest, Desire and Action are as relevant in today’s online world as they once were in traditional advertising.
You need to get people to your website and then you need to tell them very quickly exactly ‘what’s in for them’, you need to keep their interest, sell the benefits of why they should do business with you and then make it as easy as possible for them to contact you.
Search Engine Marketing in today’s fast moving world is a key part of business success but as with all marketing you need to keep reviewing and improving everything you do to stay ahead of the competition.

Natural search is under utilised and a lot of companies who are using paid search are wasting money. Smart advertisers understand how search fits into the whole process and should be asking themselves what else could we do?

Watch this video where Nick Suckley talks about organic search and paid search.

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