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What Is Search Engine Marketing?

Summary: Businessman's guide to Search Engine Marketing. Learn the basic elements of Search Engine Marketing, how it compares to traditional marketing and how your business can benefit from it.

Simply put, Search Engine Marketing or SEM is the fastest, most powerful, highly-targeted, most dynamic, highly-measurable and most cost-effective marketing strategy that can give your business the power to reach potential customers anywhere in the world anytime for as little as USD $0.05 cost per customer acquisition or even for free!

Search Engine Marketing or SEM is about making sure that your Web site appears on the top 20 of search results every time potential customers search for whatever products and/or services that you offer on any of the major Search Engines including Google, Yahoo and MSN which collectively accounts for over 90% (Google powers AOL) of all Search Engine originating traffic.

Share of searches July 2005

There are of course other smaller Search Engines that focus on niche industries such as Kayak (Travel Search Engine) and country-specific Search Engines like Baidu which is very popular in China. Locally, the closest thing we have to an actual Search Engine is Yehey although it may not be technically defined as a Search Engine in the strictest sense.

How Popular Are Search Engines?

A new study last November 2005 finds that the number of people who use Internet Search Engines to find information has jumped over the last year, claiming a solid No. 2 spot behind e-mail as the most popular activity online. In the year 2003, 250 million searches were made daily on Google alone!

How Does SEM Work?

On the Internet, whenever somebody wants to find something, they use Search Engines. As spam continues to lessen the effectiveness of email as a marketing tool, Search Engine Marketing is fast becoming the marketing strategy of choice for companies who want to reach a global audience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, either for free or for as little as USD $0.05 per visitor. As the Internet becomes more and more a part of our everyday lives, the greater their role becomes in helping businesses connect with their customers at that crucial point in their buying decision process (when they are searching for it).

Right now, there are probably people… potential customers who are looking for whatever products or services you are offering on any or all of the major Search Engines. For example, if you are a wedding planner based and operating in the Philippines, in the month of December last year, did you know that over 600 searches were made for the keyword “wedding planner Philippines”? If you were able to get the attention of those searchers and converted just 3% of them, you would have 18 weddings to plan right now! When potential customers type in the keywords that they are searching for and press that “Search” button, do they find you or your competitors instead?

In the last issue of a local business magazine I read a lot about the virgin coconut oil industry.  If you are in the business of producing and selling or exporting virgin coconut oil, the keyword “virgin coconut oil supplier” and “buy virgin coconut oil” were searched for 28 and 181 times respectively last December 2005 on Yahoo and MSN alone. The people who searched for these keywords were most likely ready buyers. Doing a search on Google for “buy virgin coconut oil” yields a result of 2,280,000 Web pages and it is a proven fact that searchers rarely ever look beyond the top 20 of search results so getting the attention of potential customers who use Search Engines is very important. Now can you imagine the power of Search Engine Marketing?

How Can You Get Your Business To Appear On Search Engines?

Of course, you first must have a Web site. If you don't have one, get one designed by someone who has a decent understanding of Search Engine Optimization. I've come across business Web sites that are so badly designed from an SEM perspective that you can't even find it even if you search for the company name or business name itself! Even worse, their sites are designed in a way that prevents instead of facilitates their visitors to transact with them.

There are basically 2 ways for you to get your Web site to appear on the Search Engines. You either get it listed on the “organic” or natural search results by doing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or you launch a Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaign for the keywords you want your Web site to appear for. Ideally, you should be doing both because a PPC campaign can start driving highly-qualified traffic to your Web site almost instantly while you wait for your SEO campaign to gain momentum and get your Web site within the top 20 of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), otherwise known as “organic” or “natural” search results.

What Is Search Engine Optimization?

To get your Web site to appear on the SERPs you need to launch an SEO campaign. The main problem with SEO is that it can be very difficult and take anywhere from several months to over 1 year before you can see results, achieve good rankings and appear within the top 20 or top 2 pages of the organic search results which is all the results that most people are willing to see before they make a decision and choose what Web site to ultimately visit and do business with. Getting your Web site listed in the top 20 results is going to be a constant battle, especially if you are in a highly competitive industry and your competitors are also actively doing the same thing.

How your Web site is designed determines in great part how well its Search Engine rankings will be. Do you adore that lovely Flash animation on your home page? Loose it! Search Engines can’t see that Flash animation and they rely almost exclusively on text to determine the relevance and consequently, the ranking of every Web page.

What Is A Pay Per Click Campaign?

Pay Per Click or PPC campaigns are basically ads that appear alongside the organic search results whenever someone uses a Search Engine to search for anything that he's interested in. The reason why it's called Pay Per Click is because you spend only when somebody actually "clicks" on your PPC ad and not every time somebody sees it. These ads are controlled and are made to appear only every time specific "keywords" are searched for. The level of control an advertiser has over his PPC campaign is so high that he can control exactly how and who gets to see his PPC ads and most importantly, how much he spends for it. For as little as USD $0.05 per click on Google and USD $0.10 on Yahoo and MSN, you can start driving highly-qualified visitors to your Web site.

SERP screenshot

What Are Its Advantages Over Traditional Marketing Mediums?

While you may get an increase in sales when you put out an ad on TV, radio or print, it is almost impossible to track how well your sales were influenced "directly" by your ads. With Search Engine Marketing, you would know exactly how much you are spending and how much actual revenue you are getting for each cent that you spend for it. You can even know where your customers are coming from using Web Analytics such as the popular and free Google Analytics.

Google Web Analytics

The ability to control your marketing expenditure, track your campaign's performance, identify and target your market, a truly global reach, measurable results and being able to make changes to your campaign on the fly makes Search Engine Marketing far superior to traditional marketing medium.

How Effective Is Search Engine Marketing?

It is not impossible to convert 50% of your Search Engine originating traffic. The real beauty of Search Engine Marketing is that it allows your customers to find you instead of you trying to find them.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of any Search Engine Marketing campaign depends greatly on the scope and extent of it. The more keywords and the broader the audience you want to target, the more it's going to cost but the greater the benefit would be. Maybe the more important question is. "How much is it costing your business by not doing Search Engine Marketing?".

Note: We have just touched on the first part of Search Engine Marketing which includes driving visitors to your Web site. We would discuss the second part of it which involves how to actively and effectively convert those visitors into actual paying customers. Subscribe to our monthly newletter using the form below.

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