Search Engine Marketing (SEM) for beginners

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The process of setting up and maintaining a successful Search Engine Marketing campaign is a big job.  But with a little study, forethought,  goal setting, and measurement anyone can do it, and be relatively successful.

In this post I will cover the initial, high level steps to get your Search Engine Marketing campaign off to a solid start.  You can also visit Google Adwords for an extensive (75 modules when I took it) online training class that they offer.

Establish Your Goals

What do you want to accomplish with your Search Marketing strategy? What do you want your prospects to do when they find your website? Where are your customers geographically? These are just a few of the questions that we will ask to help you build and clearly define goals for your Search Marketing campaign.

A clear path, or sales funnel within your website should be defined.  Does your website communicate you value proposition to your prospects?  Does your website represent your company well?  Does it give a clear benefit to doing business with you?  Is your websites content engaging?  If the answer is no to any of the above, you may want to consider revamping your site before spending money to drive prospects to it.

Keyword Research, Selection and Tuning

Do you know what keywords people are searching when trying to find your business?  What keywords will make your phone ring?  Selecting the wrong keywords is probobly one of the biggest reasons Search Engine Marketing Campaigns fail.  Many PPC beginners will often go for “high volume” keywords, which often are extremely competitive and expensive, and may or may not achieve your desired results.  On the other hand, selecting keywords that get very little searches do little to move a small businesses sales forward.

There are many resources available for keyword research today.  In any case, at the very least every PPC marketer should use some sort of website analytics to measure how paid visitors are interacting with your website.

PPC Budget Management

Have you done your research on how competitive the keywords you want to buy are?  How big of a geographical area do you want to advertise to?  Have you allotted a sufficient monthly budget?  I have always used a simple calculation with my customers when coming up with a proposed monthly budget.  I call it the “5 Click Rule”.  The rule is pretty simple, you want me to get your phone to ring from highly qualified prospects, Google wants to serve your ad, we need to budget for a minimum of 5 clicks per day.  Let me explain further…

If your a Plumber serving the Portland, Oregon area, and you want to advertise to people in Google searching for “Plumbers Portland, Oregon”, and that keyword string costs $10 per click, we need to be prepared to spend $50 a day on Adwords.  If you want to advertise your services everyday, that is a monthly budget of $1500.  Now that’s not to say you will spend that much, as there are ways to be competitive on a lower budget, but if you want to really see the value of PPC, 5 people seeing your website, when they are looking for exactly what you do, should net you 1-2 calls per day.  What could the average Plumber make in extra sales if he had 30-60 new calls per month…I know it would be a lot more than $1500.

Lesson here is, if you’re going to venture into PPC, budget enough so it works.  Throwing $300 (or $10 a day), and getting your website 1 click extra isn’t going to do anything to move your sales needle.

Compelling Ads and Creative Development

Creating compelling ads, that get clicked on so your prospects can see your website can be a big challenge.  Many new PPC marketers will make the mistake of looking at their competition, and doing similar ads.  This will do nothing for you as it doesn’t differentiate your business at all from your competition.  Focus on what make your business different, and where you beat your competition.  Creating ads that show how you are different will get you much better click-throughs, than ads that say the same thing as everyone else.

Look for future posts from us that will dive deeper into Search Engine Marketing Tactics, Quality Score, Bid Management and more.

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Important factors for small business website rankings

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According to Google there are over 200 different factors that they grade on to determine how a website will rank within their Search Engine Results Page for any given search.  Given that they grade on over 200 of them, and the fact that most small businesses don’t have the resources to hire a team of SEO experts, I will list the 6 factors that I have found are a must for any small business hoping to achieve rankings in their area, and more importantly, results that turn into sales.

The below list is by no means all inclusive…

On Page Search Engine Optimization

On page search optimization is the practice of getting your site ranked though changes to your website. There are many ways to accomplish this, some good, some bad, a.k.a. White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. Generally writing good quality content with frequently searched keywords (careful to much keywords also known as “Keyword Stuffing”), cross linking, adding relevant keywords to meta-data, and providing fresh & updated content will increase the frequency of the Search Engines Indexing your site.  Having a good understanding of how the search engines index your website also helps with your website optimization.  You can read more about this in my prior post about Google Caffeine.

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Off Page Search Engine Optimization

Off page search engine optimization conversely is everything you do to raise your ranking with the search engines outside of your website. Link building is a popular strategy for this. Another tactic is submission of correct content and information about your business to sites that the search engines consider “authoritative”, ensuring you have links to your website posted on these sources. It’s a good practice to make sure you link to sites with a good Page Rank. This will ensure the search engines look at your website favorably.

Link Building

Developing good quality inbound links to your website is probably one of the most effective ways to improve rankings with the search engine. This is often the most time consuming component of SEO, but can yield large measurable results. Directory Submissions with differing anchor text on each, Link Searches is another useful, but advanced exercise in which we let the search engines find the sites for us to link to. Article writing, forums and blogs are also quality ways to get inbound links.  Often, many small business owners skip this as it takes time, patience and work.

Ratings & Reviews

Never under estimate the power of consumer reviews. A study done by ComScore showed that up to 87% of consumers purchase decision was based upon reviews, and 97% of those said that they made a purchase based their decision a review. Also notable was the fact that consumers were willing to pay up to 20% more for quality services based upon favorable reviews. It is essential for businesses to generate positive reviews from consumers for local search ranking. Read here why Google changed its review index

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Local Search Optimization

Local Search, in my opinion is the best search optimization technique for small business. Local search is nothing more than a query that includes a local factor, such as “Plumbers Portland OR”.

According to Google 20% of the searches they receive are local. Want to know how big this is? Every day 600 million local searches are done on Google alone. Try to get that kind of traffic anywhere else, it’s not going to happen. Clearly Local Search should be a priority for any small business.

Quality Content

Fresh Content, Blogging, Article Submissions and Forums are all great ways to promote via the web, and can spotlight you as a trusted industry leader. They’re also excellent ways to get your business indexed for obscure searches or front end keywords related to your business. Blogs, Articles and Forums are also great ways to generate inbound links to your web property. Blogging takes work on the business owners part, as such commitment and dedication are keys to it ultimate success.

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