You’ve just launched your new website (or launched the redesign), and now you’re sitting back waiting for the orders to roll in. But wait a minute, something’s wrong… there do not seem to be any. It is as if your site does not exist.
Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but unless you have either a well-publicised site or many websites linking to yours, you are going to have to rely on the search engines. Moreover, if your site does not rank in the first three result pages, it is more than likely you will not be found at all.
So… you know what is coming next; that is right, you need a good dose of search engine marketing (SEM) to make sure your site gets listed on the search engines’ results pages. Do this, and the traffic to your website will soon follow.
“Right”, I hear you say. “Let us do some search engine marketing than…”
Well, that is undoubtedly a good start! Nevertheless, first, you have to work out your approach to maximise your returns. Let us call this your search engine marketing strategy. To create an effective strategy, you need to understand a bit more about how search engine marketing works. Currently, we can roughly-speaking separate search engine marketing into two different approaches:
- Organic: including search engine optimisation, links from other websites and offline marketing.
- Paid: including pay per click, paid submission and online advertising (banner ads).
So to help you further, I have listed below the advantages and disadvantages to each approach to SEM and outlined my recommendations.
- The majority of the work behind search engine optimisation (SEO) is a one-off activity, and so is usually charged out at a set upfront fee.
- The changes made to your website will probably still be relevant and driving traffic to your site a year from now.
- Credibility: most people (research indicates that between 60 and 80 per cent) will click on the organic results rather than the sponsored (paid) results.
- If you rank well in one of the major search engines (Google/Yahoo/MSN), you will most likely show up in the majority of the search engines worldwide.
- Changes must be made to your website’s code. Usually, the changes are invisible to visitors. However, if you have invested heavily in a search engine-unfriendly site, the process can be time-consuming and costly; and occasionally significant changes may need to be made to your site’s copy, navigation or design. Of course, ultimately, you will see returns if you commit to the necessary changes.
- Results (rankings and traffic) start slowly. You will typically see results within 3-4 months.
- There can be no guarantee. As the search engines themselves have the final say, you cannot predict how many rankings you will get for a particular search term or engine; nor can you predict how much traffic you will get to your site.
- Pay per click (PPC) advertising programs are fast to implement. It usually takes two to three weeks to set up and run. Google AdWords are up-and-running as soon as you start the campaign, and Overture listings are life within 3-5 business days (after an editor reviews them).
- Nothing has to change on your website, although I would recommend you create targeted landing pages for each advertisement as they’ve been proven to increase conversions (but that’s another subject for another time!).
- There is no limit to the number of terms or keyword phrases you can bid on.
- PPC is useful if you intend to run promotions through your site, as you can turn the PPC campaign on and off whenever you choose.
- You can dictate where the listing appears on the result’s page (within the sponsors’ ads area) and determine what the ad says.
- It’s straightforward to test all your different search terms and offers etc. and to measure the results.
- Clicks can be expensive. Bidding wars often erupt.
- You must keep paying for the clicks every month. If your budget is ever cut, your listings will disappear, along with your search engine traffic.
- Most people (research indicates that between 60 and 80 per cent) will click on the organic results rather than the sponsored (paid) results.
- It requires a time investment to monitor and adjust listings constantly, or budget to outsource this activity.
- Listings are subject to editorial acceptance. With SEO, you can state whatever you like on your website (which is where the search engines pull your page title and description). However, with PPC, editors insist that all listings be factual and that you do not compare your company with others. It means that even if you are the “largest” provider, you cannot state that.
Now you know a bit about the advantages and disadvantages of both organic and paid search engine marketing, you must decide how to approach your online marketing campaign.
Organic marketing is probably best if:
- You want to spend some time on search engine marketing upfront and have it pay off in the future, on conceivably every search engine there is around the world.
- You have a budget to do some work now, and want to save money later on.
- Your site is relatively simple, without a lot of complicated bells and whistles.
- You can afford to wait a month or two for results.
- You do not want to have to manage or maintain anything on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Paid advertising may be for you if:
- You want to get up-and-running quickly.
- You have a promotion where you want to be able to turn a PPC campaign on and off.
- You want to be able to test search terms, products or offers and quickly see results.
- Your site is search engine-unfriendly, and you do not want to invest in changing it.
- You are confident you will have the budget to spend the long haul, and you have time to maintain positions regularly.
Of course, many companies and businesses tackled both organic and paid SEM at the same time, and this is what I would typically recommend attracting qualified traffic to a website maximally.
If you are currently designing your site or redesigning an existing one, make sure your developer knows how to create search engine optimised code or is working closely with an SEO consultant. Getting it right from the beginning will save you time and money in the long run. And it need not cost a fortune either if you tackle this upfront
If you have an existing site you wish to optimise, you may have a hard decision to make if your current website does not search engine friendly. If your site has been built using extensive use of frames or dynamic pages (your URL may look like www.yoursite.com/page.asp?id=8), the cost to rectify these problems can be discouraging. If this is the case, now may be the time to consider redesigning your site earlier than you had planned thoughtfully.
Either way, the use of a small paid (pay per click) advertising campaign before optimisation can be a great way to nail down those essential keywords to use throughout your site’s copy by recording which keywords customers respond to the most in your campaign.