Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has evolved with¬† a new approach to “integrated marketing”. SEM guru and consultant, Andreas Ramos, defines integrated marketing as “the use of two or more marketing channels to sell a product or service.”¬† Online marketing campaigns have seen channels multiply rapidly over the last decade. Online marketing now consists of integrating search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), email, webinar, blog, micro-blogging, RSS, podcast, and Internet TV. When venturing into SEM, it is wise to utilize as many channels as possible. However, there are two key search engine marketing channels that are essential to online integrated marketing and happen to be the biggest growth areas in Internet marketing….SEO and PPC.
For search engines there are two types of major links: unpaid and paid. The unpaid links are called “organic” or “natural” and are seen on the left side of a search engine results page (SERP). The paid links are pay-per-click ads and can be placed across the top of the SERP or on the right side (as shown above). Search engines are in complete control of where a website link ranks organically (what do you expect? It’s free). SEO, however, is the process which gives search engines a reason to rank websites higher organically. PPC lets advertisers pay to place links and are therefore known as “artificial”. Since they are paying for ranking placement, advertisers have more tools at their disposal to ensure top placements.
So what’s the difference between SEO and PPC?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the art of building a website and its content with search engines and searchers in mind. To make your website investment worthwhile it needs to be visible to searchers and search engines. Search engine optimization allows this to happen for free.
The goal of search engine optimization is to target consumers who are in the “research phase” and are looking for informative resources about the products and services they are interested in. During this phase, Internet users tend to click on the “organic” links (as shown above). To rank organically, the website must be relevant to the keywords typed by the user, and therefore needs to be optimized for those specific keywords so that search engines know the website is relevant and can rank it accordingly making it visible to the user.
The process of SEO relies heavily on optimizing or modifying one’s website content, HTML code, and web page tags so that the website can easily be found when searching on…you’ve guessed it…search engines. Optimization, then, involves modifying the above components of a website with keywords. Many companies set out with the logical goal of ranking number one organically on major search engines, but they mistakenly choose keywords they think the website should rank on, not the keywords that consumers actually use to search for their product or service. Researching the words and phrases used by consumers may seem like a large investment in time, but when you see you’re return on investment (ROI) grow, you’ll be glad you took these crucial steps. Researching which keywords your consumers use can also help you when creating a pay-per-click campaign.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
As the name suggests, you pay when a user clicks on your ad. You’re ad can appear anytime/all the time, but you only pay when it has been clicked. What makes your ad appear are the keywords you have placed bids on. The amount of your bid (as well as the quality of your ad) can affect the rank of your ad.¬† If you do your homework, use the tools at your disposal to determine what keywords users are typing, you can ensure your ad with appear whenever those magic words are used. Simply put, advertisers have more control over their placement than they do with organic ranking if they do their research.
PPC has become a sought after form of advertising because it allows advertisers, for the first time in marketing history, to track the ad displays, clicks, and conversions (leads, sales, etc.).¬† And they can do so right down to the penny! You know precisely how much each click cost and how much you had to spend to get a conversion. This information is a marketing gold mine as it supplies data and research that can potentially increase ROI. For only a few hundred dollars, you can test and generate data that indicates the best consumer responses. And you can test pretty much everything - headlines, keywords, slogans, time of day, and even placement position, just to name a few. A/B split testing comes in handy when you want to know which headline produces the most clicks and conversions, or if you want to know which product price is optimal for selling. If you don’t test, you never know what you’re missing what is most likely to drive more revenue.
But pay-per-click benefits don’t stop there. Your PPC campaign can be designed to target not only specific keywords, but also specific countries and cities, right down to neighborhoods. By looking at your data and research findings, you can see who your consumers are, when they tend to click to buy, and what compels them to click on your ads. Where can you find get all of these wonderful statistics? I’m glad you asked…
In 2007, Google released a useful tool called Google Analytics. This analytics tool supplies enough statistics to drown in. But let us start with the statistics most important to users and search engines alike, keywords. Using analytics, you can find keywords that produce sales through the SEO channel and add those to your PPC campaign. It works in reverse too: you can find successful keywords and even slogans in PPC and use them to wield and strengthen your SEO power. You can compare costs and results, then measure those findings to determine optimization and campaign success and failures.¬† With this information in hand, you have the marketing power to make additional sales, sales you may never have imagined possible, and have a better chance of increasing your ROI for both SEO and PPC channels.
Now you may be asking yourself…Do I really need both channels? Can I get away with just PPC? Do enough people click on paid ads to be worth my investment?
All very good questions to ask, and I’ll have the answers for you in my next article. Check back soon!