Firstly, a definition of what Search Engine Marketing means: SEM is a method of marketing to an audience actively engaged in using a search engine like Google. Forge Online only offers Google SEM services, so wherever we refer to SEM, we’re really talking about Google SEM. There are however many different search engines, not just like Google and Bing. YouTube also has a search engine, so does Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Each have their own criteria for discovery or rank. It’s important to appreciate that each may be a valid and useful way for you to market your business and if you need a tailored marketing campaign we may recommend some of these platforms to you as well and can help with implementation.
SEM splits into two main sections: Paid and Organic.
Paid Search Engine Marketing:
Via Google, this is managed through Google Adwords. The Adwords ads appear in positions 1-3 at the top of each search page, and sometimes along the right-hand side of the search page for positions 4-10. Sometimes Google also places ads at the bottom of a search page instead. There’s not always 10 advertisers in every search. It depends entirely on which search words are being bid on by advertisers, so Google may re-distribute advertisers between these three areas in search pages depending on how effective they believe they will be.
When a user of Google searches for something then some (or many) businesses may want to show an ad in the search page to try to get that user to click and view their website. For every user that clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays for a competitive rate for that click directly to Google. The amount paid depends on many factors. The top bidder doesn’t always get the click because it also depends on whether the page the advertiser wants to send the user to is highly relevant to the search. It’s in the advertiser’s interest to bid high enough and create a quality landing page so that the user comes to visit. It’s in Google interest to ensure both advertisers and users are as satisfied with that experience as much as possible. Happy advertisers come back to buy more ads, and happy users become more likely to click on them. While Google is certainly interested in generating revenue this way, it knows that unless all parties are happy, it will find it difficult to grow that revenue. There was at some time a conception that paid ads in Google where less relevant than organic ones and it may have been partly true in some cases in the past. In today’s reality, that’s not really true at all.
The number of people who will click on an ad varies greatly between industry types, but on average there’s about a quarter of all user traffic on Google search that will click on a paid ad. That also implies that advertisers can’t reach all of their available market through paid ads, so they have to gain organic rank to get access to a far greater share of search impressions and clicks.
Organic Search Engine Marketing:
Most users of Google will be very familiar with the text-based search labelled “Web” in their Google search window that provides links to websites based on the rank of their web page. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) comes into play with the arrangement, volume and quality of the texts within the site, but those features are generally not visible yet until after the click from search has been captured. The two main technical elements of SEO that do feed through to search results are the Page Title and Meta Description elements. The Page Title almost always shows as written, but the Meta Description doesn’t necessarily. To read about why Meta Descriptions might not show up, click here.
The Google Web search section also offers advanced search features to the user via the Search Tools function. Web pages can be filtered by country, published date, verbatim search and location. All Web search results are unique to the user based on many factors so it’s very difficult to derive anything meaningful about your own website from your own search results. To find out more about Google ranking factors, you might like to read these articles.
Text search is not the only way that you can market your website in search engines. In Google’s New Zealand search property (google.co.nz) you can also market your website through use of images, videos, news-feeds and your location. I’m ignoring Books and Apps for now, as they are (not surprisingly) primarily about books and apps.
Marketing your business using the “Images” search engine in Google does tie in with the rank of a website, but it revolves around whether or not an image in your website is seen as relevant for the search. Google may sometimes introduce images from the Images search engine results into the Web search engine results if it thinks images may be especially relevant. To leverage SEM in the Images section, you will need to optimise both your website as a whole and also your images. It does also help vice-versa too: optimised images assist with rank in the Web search section. To optimise your images they will need to have the necessary features that assist in building relevance. They need a title (which may be different to the filename) and an ALT. The alternate (ALT) is simply a short description of what the image is and how it’s relevant to the content. This description is designed to show up in the web page if form some reason the image cannot be or is prevented from being displayed. To learn more about how images can be optimised, view this article.
Just a side note: Theoretically, any image can be optimised for any keyword phrase, but it’s sensible to use images that actually portray a relevant picture for the keyword phrase you optimised it for, and be 100% relevant to the page you place it on.
Images are also sub-classified in the Image search engine via the Search Tools function. In Google the user can filter by size, colour, image type, upload time and user rights. There are sometimes ways to leverage these, depending on what kind of business you have.
Videos can also assist your Search Engine Marketing efforts, and while YouTube is a great place to do this, any YouTube and other videos that you add into your website can gain rank too. There are many creative ways that you can use videos to boost relevant traffic to your website such as by recording simple ‘how-to’ videos with a very narrow topic so that it can be optimised for a good long-tail keyword search. Videos don’t have to be million-dollar productions. They just have to be useful to the user.
The Google Maps search engine is one we see appearing regularly for any searches in the Web search engine that Google has determined is for some kind of local product or service. Searching for a plumber is likely to show plenty of Maps type results in the Web section. Ditto if you search for something and mention a specific location in the search phrase, like [builders, Auckland]. Marketing your business in the Maps search engine section requires your business to have a Google+ page, which Google may self-generate if your business appears in trusted directories like the Yellow Pages. To ensure you get the most out of Search Engine Marketing for the Maps search engine, Forge Online can help you claim your Google+ page and connect it with your website so that both might appear for some relevant searches. To view services relating to this please visit here.
Finally: You may be able to leverage the Google News search engine if your website meets certain technical and content criteria. To market your business in this search engine you need to be publishing regular and genuine interest articles that have current time relevance, i.e. it’s actually news! News search items, just like with Maps, Images and Videos, can appear in the more commonly used Web search engine when they are relevant to the search phrase.
You might want to discuss the criteria for News with Forge Online to see if you can take advantage of this search feature to market your business.