Search Engine Marketing (or SEM) – What Is It?

Over the years, “What is Search Engine Marketing?”, has been one of the top three questions asked by prospects and site visitors. The other 2 questions were, “How much does it cost?” and “Why does my small business website need it?” We’ll briefly answer those questions here.

So, exactly what is this “search marketing?”. Let’s explain another term before we get to that answer.

Search Engine Optimization

Even if you are fairly new to the Internet, you would have seen the term Search Engine Optimization or it’s abbreviation, SEO bandied around in various places.

As recently as 2002, a website owner could have published a web page with keywords stuffed in all the wrong places and somehow still manage to get it ranked fairly highly in the search engine results pages returned by Google, Yahoo and MSN. That was once called SEO.

Today, optimization entails many more details and can even be divided into two sections, on-page and off-page.

Without going into too many details, on-page optimization refers to all of the aspects that anyone with access to the web-page’s source code can alter, hopefully in a positive manner. Correct title tags, customer friendly descriptions and the proper use of the header tags are just three of those factors. Visitor enhanced content writing and user-friendly navigational menu elements are two more.

Off-page refers to those aspects that are largely out of the website’s owner control. Involuntary linking, consumer branding and search engine trust-rank are three examples that come to mind. Though off-page, they still can be controlled to an extent.

Together, off page and on page optimization efforts are referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

The aspiration here is simply to achieve the highest rank possible (#1), in the results returned by the free, (sometimes called organic or natural) search engine results pages, (SERP’s) for your desired keyword.

Search Engine Marketing is being able to use all approved, available techniques of SEO and other disciplines, and instead of focusing on Ranking, the focus is now on maximizing the number of visitors and the conversion rates of those visitors into prospective clients or customers.

Let’s face it, a keyword ranking #1 or #2 with a million visitors a month means nothing to a business person unless they interact positively with the site while they are there. They may sign up for a newsletter, buy something, fill out a contact form or click on an AdSense ad. Clicking on the “back” button is not.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

Unlike a soda pop or a can of tuna, there are too many variables in SEO to allow anyone to give a price that would be fair to both parties without at least a client consultation.

An in depth market analysis would be even more productive, and this is, incidentally, the first step we recommend a business owner take, especially if they already have an existing web presence. Every website is going to have a different set of strengths, weaknesses and requirements.

In this ‘down economy’, in an effort to control costs, some owners do so by first cutting the budget of the aspects of their business they understand the least. More and more companies are saying “the web won’t work for me” or “my service is local, why do I need to have a website?” If you are one of those people, continue reading, you’ll understand why you are mistaken.

4 Reasons why every business needs a web presence.

  1. The Internet is the first place a person goes looking for information on anything they are researching. Long gone are the days of stopping at the library or picking up the telephone to ask a question. Have you noticed how few places have ‘live’ operators answering their phone these days? This is by design.
  2. You may not be, but you had better believe that your competitors are online. At some point, you become less and less competition to them, due to the global reach of a website.
  3. Branding. It’s very difficult to do any meaningful branding without a website that can be seen around the world. Sure, your local community know about your business, but don’t forget, they go online too, looking for information.
  4. Many, many, many phone calls a company answer everyday are repetitious. Post your website’s url on all of your marketing materials, put up a FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions), page, and you will be guaranteed to cut the number of these phone calls significantly. The end result is, you spend less time answering telephone calls and doing more business.

There is so much more we did not cover in this article, however, you should now have a basic understanding of the concepts of SEO and Search Engine Marketing. The next time you come across these terms, pat yourself on the back, you now know what they are referring to.Read more about a business’ Internet and Mobile Presence:

Why Your Business Needs An Internet And A Mobile Presence.