The higher you rank in search results for keywords related to your business, the higher the chances that searchers will click to visit your website. And over time, those clicks can become leads, sales, and revenue.
Google’s algorithm ranks results based on how helpful they are to a specific search queries, how user-friendly a website is, and many other variables. So if you want to maximize your search engine visibility, you need to pay attention to those factors.
Getting customers on your website is half the battle, which is why effective search engine marketing is so important. Without it, you won’t be able to rank highly in results pages, and you’ll miss out on valuable search traffic.
On this page, we’ll talk about what search engine marketing is, what strategies are best for marketing your business, and a few tips to help you gain revenue from search marketing.
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What exactly is search engine marketing?
Search engine marketing (not to be confused with search marketing) is any strategy that helps increase your company’s visibility in search engines like Google.
Just because you make a website and add pages to it every so often doesn’t mean that you’ll appear in search results when someone searches for your products or services. You have to optimize your site to rank well, and keep up with search trends to make sure your target audience finds you before your competitors.
If you aren’t yet using search engine marketing to improve your visibility, you could be missing out on traffic and revenue. And considering how much the digital marketing industry has grown over the past few years, there’s a strong chance that your competitors are already using strategies to rank for keywords related to your industry.
Who can use search engine marketing?
Anyone that has a website can use search engine marketing to attract more traffic and increase brand awareness.
It doesn’t matter the industry, the niche, or the size of your business – anyone can and should use search engine marketing to grow online.
Search engine marketing strategies
There are many ways to increase your website’s visibility your website and your business online, but the two main strategies you need to know are SEO and PPC.
Keep reading to learn the difference between the two, as well as how you can use them together to make the most of your SEM campaign.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an extremely important digital marketing strategy that involves making your website and business visible in search engines.
Essentially, SEO is an umbrella term that describes any technique used to move your website higher in search results for keywords related to your business.
It takes time to build an effective SEO strategy and see results, but because it involves making improvements to your own site (instead of paying for ad space) it’s a cost-effective way to earn new customers. Plus, as you establish rankings, you improve your credibility among searchers and build trust with potential customers.
There are many different parts that go into an effective SEO strategy, so if you’re just getting started, these are the elements you need to know.
No matter what SEO strategies you choose to use for your website, there are a few preliminary steps you’ll need to consider.
The first is your target audience.
Your target audience plays a major role in your SEO strategy, because Google’s ranking algorithm is based heavily on serving the most informational and beneficial results to a searcher. So if you want to rank well, it’s crucial that you know exactly who your target searcher is.
This allows you to cater to their needs with your content, keywords, and overall usability of your website.
Finding and studying your target audience allows you to get a feel for what their interests are, what kind of information they like to read, their primary needs and goals, and demographic information.
This information helps you dig deeper to determine the kinds of keywords your audience is searching for, what kind of content will be best received, and even how to design your website.
The next step is to look at and study your competition.
Your competition is what keeps you from the number one spot on results pages for your target keywords. They’re the businesses that are fighting for your customers and clients, as well as online visibility.
In order to beat out your competitors for the top spots in search results, you’ll have to get to know them – especially if they’re ranking above you.
What kind of content do they write? How often do they publish posts on their blog and other areas of their site? Do they have particularly compelling calls to action? Or fantastic landing pages?
It’s important to get familiar with your competitors’ approaches, because if they’re beating you in search results for high value keywords, they’re earning potential customers that could be yours.
The idea isn’t to copy your competition, but to determine what they’re doing right, and create campaigns that are even better – with your own brand, content, and ideas.
Keyword research is the first major step for any SEO campaign.
Keyword research is the process of using both your knowledge of your industry, audience, and company, as well as research tools, to determine which terms you should target in your SEO strategy. These are the words and phrases you want to rank for in search results, and can help you create effective content, ads, and more.
It’s best to start with a tool like KeywordsFX or keywordtool to get a feel for what people in your industry are searching for.
Start by opening the program and typing a keyword in the search bar. We’ll use “specialty wedding cakes” as an example.
When you type the keyword into KeywordsFX, it’ll give you a list of common keywords related to the one you entered, along with questions including your keywords and modifiers.
This information is extremely beneficial to deciding which keywords you should use in your campaign. Ideally, you want to choose keywords that have a high monthly search volume, low CPC, and a low competition level. As you build your strategy, you can work your way up to more competitive keywords – but if you’re new to SEO, it will be difficult to rank for them.
As you collect numerous batches of keywords from different sites, you can do a bulk upload into a tool like Keywords Everywhere, which will give you a long list of all the keywords you’ve entered, with the same information. You can even reorganize the list to go from high traffic to low traffic, high CPC to low CPC, etc.
Your business likely has hundreds of potential target keywords, and if you want to create a well-rounded SEO campaign, you should research them all.
Besides just general keyword research, you should also research geographical keywords, like “Harrisburg specialty wedding cakes,” so that you can customize your content based on the locations you serve. This will also help your business rank in local searches for your products or services.
Local keywords can also help you show up in Google map results, which are at the top of many results pages for location-based searches. This is a great place to get your location found!
You should also pay special attention to long tail keywords, or keywords with three or more individual words. They are much more detailed, and therefore typically have lower traffic levels, lower competition, and lower CPC.
These kinds of keywords can give you some big wins with your content, because even though they don’t generate a huge monthly search volume, the people who do search these keywords are more likely to convert because they already have a clear idea of what they’re looking for.
After you’ve done your keyword research, it’s time to put your keywords to use.
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Content creation is probably the most important part of an SEO campaign, since your individual pages are what rank in search engines.
Without useful content, your site will most likely not be visible to searchers, since it doesn’t offer the information they want. When you do create useful content, you give Google something to rank, and gain the ability to serve your target audience.
Many marketers think of content simply as pages of text, but content includes everything from written content like blogs and articles to visual content like videos and infographics.
As you produce written content, you should cover a wide range of topics that your audience is interested in – which you should know after adequate keyword research. For example, if you identify a particularly valuable keyword for your business, but don’t yet have any content on your site related to it, this is a perfect opportunity to write an informative article for your website.
Create content that answers questions or otherwise benefits your target audience. This is the content that will rank high in search engines because Google knows it’s helpful and beneficial to users.
Starting a blog is another great content strategy because it makes it easy to constantly update your website with new information – and Google loves a consistent flow of new information.
Visual content is also beneficial because it helps break up walls of written content to make your pages more interesting. This can keep people on your website longer and decrease bounce rate – which Google calculates as a good user experience.
Plus, visual content is more effective in catching and keeping Internet users’ attention, so when you publish it on your site, you increase the chances that your visitors will be interested in staying there. Adding a few images, graphics, and videos can have a major impact on your overall user experience, and can be exactly what you need to turn visitors into customers.
Optimizing tags and headings
Another essential part of SEO is optimizing your tags like your titles and headings for your target keywords. Search engines use these elements to determine what the pages on your site are about, so incorporating keywords is an essential for ranking well in results.
Include relevant keywords in title and heading tags, and wherever they make sense naturally in the content on your pages.
Adding keywords where they don’t make sense, or just to have more mentions of them on your pages, is known as keyword stuffing – and can actually hurt your SEO efforts.
Some people think that just by adding a high volume of the keyword they’re targeting can get them to the first page of search results – but this is far from true.
Google looks at more than just keyword mentions. They want to see that users are getting the information they’re looking for, and that it’s high quality and beneficial. Neither of these qualities hold true when you opt for keyword stuffing.
You should also add numbers to listed headings and include unordered lists to increase your change of appearing in an answer box.
Answer boxes appear when you ask a question and Google gives an answer. It’s the first thing on the results page, and is sometimes known as position zero.
User-friendliness is a broad term for how easy your site is to use, and the quality of browsing experience it provides your visitors. It plays a role in how well you can rank in search results, because Google wants to give their users the best possible results – and the experience your site provides is a major part of that.
One of the most important elements of a user-friendly site is easy-to-use navigation so that users can easily find what they’re looking for. If your navigation system is overly complex, or doesn’t include the pages a user is looking for, your visitors could become frustrated and navigate away from your website.
Another important user experience consideration is page speed. Most users don’t want to wait around for slow-loading pages, so if your site isn’t running quickly, you could be losing customers.
You can use Google’s free PageSpeed Insights to analyze your website’s speed, and get a list of possible optimizations.
Finally, your site needs to be mobile-friendly so that users on smartphones and tablets can browse your site, find what they’re looking for, and convert just as easily as visitors on desktop computers.
For example, your buttons need to be easy to click even on small screens, and your navigation should be just as easy to navigate on smartphones as it is on desktop computers.
PPC, or pay-per-click, advertising is another SEM strategy that allows you to gain visibility in search engines like Google and Bing.
PPC advertising works on a bidding system. You start by selecting a target keyword that you want to display for, and then decide how much you’re willing to pay every time someone clicks on that ad.
When you win the auction for any given keyword, your ad will show up in search results when someone searches for your target keyword.
The best part about PPC advertising is that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad – and not just for ad space. This makes it an extremely cost-effective advertising model, and one that can work on any budget.
Google AdWords is Google’s proprietary software that allows you to track every aspect of your PPC campaign, from your bids, to the appearance of your ads, to clicks and competition.
Which search engines should you focus on?
You may be wondering which search engines lend themselves best to SEM, and the truth is, they can all bring valuable traffic to your business. However, there are a few that work better than others, purely based on the number of searches they receive per day.
Image credit: smartinsights.com.
Google tops the charts at 4.4 billion searches per day – which is why it’s the most common search engine for marketers to focus on.
Bing gets the second highest number of searches, with more than 8 million per day, and Yahoo comes in third with over than 5 million.
Typically, we consider Google the most important search engine for marketing, but it’s a good idea to consider others, too – for two important reasons.
1. More opportunities
One of the main reasons to use SEM on both Google and Bing is simply because it gets you in front of a larger audience. It’s unlikely that a user would perform the same search on both Google and Bing, which means if you only focus on one, you could miss the opportunity to reach users who search on the other.
Making both Google and Bing part of your strategy lets you market your business in both, and nearly double the exposure of your company.
2. Search competition
Earlier, we mentioned that Google AdWords places advertisements based on both keywords and bids. But with so many advertisers competing for space, there is a lot of competition for keywords – and as a result, more competitive bids.
For example, if you’re marketing a restaurant on Google, you may have to pay several dollars to advertise for the keyword “restaurant New York City,” because the competition is extremely high.
Since Bing has less users, the competition for the same keywords is lower. This means that you can more easily win a top result spot in Bing, and in many cases, pay less per click.
Search engine marketing plans from WebFX
If you want to improve your company’s online visibility and reach more customers and clients, search engine marketing is the way to go.
An SEO campaign can help you rank higher in search engine results for the keywords most valuable to your business, and today, optimization is essential for companies in any industry, any niche, and of every size. It’s one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience as they’re actively searching online, as well as a cost-effective marketing method.
PPC is also a great way to increase your online visibility, and as a result, your sales and revenue. It’s a great strategy to consider if you’re working on a budget, and Google AdWords offers a user-friendly way to track your results and improve your campaigns over time.
If you’re ready to improve your online presence and grow your business using SEO, PPC, and any number of digital marketing strategies, WebFX can help.
We’re a full-service Internet marketing agency, and we’ll create a custom campaign for your business, tailored to your marketing goals.
Contact us to speak to a specialist and get a free quote!