What is Search Marketing?
Search marketing is a cornerstone of digital marketing that utilities online search tools such as Google, Yahoo and Bing together with peoples’ desire to find content on the internet. The aim of search marketing is to place a piece of content into the results of a query generated by an individual who is typing keywords into a search engine that is trying to answer their query in the fastest time and in the most relevant way. That content is your marketing message, and you should care not only about getting it into the results, but also about getting it to the top of the results and making the content that is displayed in the results set relevant, engaging, and desirable to the audience you are targeting. That’s a fairly wordy description but I will be referring back to the structure of the answer later in the post. Remember – search engines are rigorous about which websites they list and in what order. Their prerogative is to list the most relevant links in the fastest times.
What types of Search Marketing are there ?
There are essentially two types of search; non-paid for and paid for.
1) Organic search (also known as algorithmic search), is the original search type. Results are entirely organic in nature; that is, a search engine has not received payment in exchange for placement.
2) Sponsored search (also known as pay-per-click (PPC), pay-per-performance and keyword advertising) is an option for advertisers to ‘pay per click’ to their website. It is based on a bid-for-keywords model in exchange for priority placement. You can also opt to pay Google per impression. An Impression is an instance of your ad appearing in the search results. Typically you would pay per thousand impressions, or multiples thereof.
There are other types of search such as;
- Local/Maps Search – Search results filtered by a location and ranked partially on that location.
- Personalised Search – Search results that are customised to an individual based on their past search behaviour.
- Image Search – Search results that display only images from web sites.
- Video Search – Search results that display only videos from web sites, including YouTube.
- Social Search – Search results are from your friends and trusted resources.
- Product Search – Search results are products with price and item description.
- Mobile Search – A modified version of search engines available on smartphones.
- Real-Time Search – Seconds old search results from content on social networks like Twitter.
How does Organic search work?
There are some basic rules, and having a good website is number one on the list. ‘Good’ in search terms means accessible, relevant and credible – it does not mean loaded with fantastic graphics. An inaccessible site is fundamentally flawed because not only will the customer have difficulty using it, but the search engines may not include it in their search results. The key to effective organic search is that the business designs the website in a user-friendly way with a clear menu, text and information that allows the search engines’ discovery agent (the “spider”) to find its way around and identify the site’s main offerings.
Search engines work a little like the human brain but instead of sending out nerve impulses, they send out ‘spiders’ – basically computer programs – that constantly ‘crawl’ through the Internet taking copies of webpages. All of these pages are stored (and subsequently searched) on the search engine’s copy of the Internet. If Yahoo, Google, et al were to use the real Internet it would crash under the strain – Google alone makes over 100 million searches every day. The spider’s objective is to ‘read’ sites, identify keywords and link through to the next page as fast as possible. Ultimately they want to label the page under a certain set of words – ‘keywords’. They do this by making an index of every word on a web page, where it stands in relation to other words, whether or not a word is listed in a title, whether it is listed in a special typeface, how frequently it is listed etc.
The search engines want to see other sites linking to you – this gives them more confidence to rate your content highly. Effectively, links make for a ‘worthy’ site. The more links there are to the site, the more worthy, and the more times the spiders will visit and take fresh copies of your pages. Link popularity needs to be cultivated. It needs to be encouraged and propagated. Raise awareness of the “link proposition” through viral marketing and press releases. This process is often refereed to as “a link building campaign”. Links to your site are the equivalent of “word of mouth” advertising in the search marketing world.
How to optimise your website for Organic search (SEO) – Search Engine Optimisation
Ensure the site is navigable – site maps and clear links to other pages will help achieve this. Think about the words the user would type to find your pages, and weave them into the copy. Make the content relevant, honest and information-rich. Structure the content as best as you can with headers, sub-headers and highlighted keywords. Use text instead of images to display important names, content or links – spiders don’t recognise the content contained in an image. Focus on building a quality website before looking for ways to improve your search engine ranking, take a careful and objective look at your website. If you want to achieve and keep your top search engine ranking, you have to stay relevant by constantly updating your site. The best strategy is to provide useful, well-written content on all of your Web pages. Segment and target. Even without sophisticated personalisation technology, the web allows you to easily target your messages, making them more relevant to users. Find out who the users are in the least intrusive way possible, and then talk to them more personally.
Competitor Analysis – Anything you can do, I can do better!
Find out what your competitors are doing on the web. Spend time checking out how your competitors are using the web. Analyse each site. How does the site help tell the world about that company’s products or services; is it easy to use; is it enjoyable to use; does it add value to the company’s customer service; is it integrated with the company’s other marketing efforts?
Quick Steps to SEO
- Find the keywords that people ‘naturally’ search for.
- Find out the top search phrases for your business, and use the highest-volume keywords in your copy throughout your site.
- Make sure your site is SEO ready. The page title, meta description, alt image descriptions, heading and subheading (h1, h2) attributes, and anchor text in links is vitally important real estate in the search marketing world!
- Make every page of your site unique: as well as original content, each page should have its own topic, title, and page-specific keywords.
- Make sure your keywords and copy are relevant to your audience and the product/service you are trying to market.
- Check your site for speed. Speed is an important factor in the ranking algorithm.
- Run your site through W3C validation tools.
How does Sponsored search work?
The concept is simple: the business buys relevant keywords and every time a user searches for those words and clicks on the link the business pays an agreed sum for that click-through. The pricing works on an auction model – high demand equals higher price. Search engines don’t control the price – in this sense the search engines are an auction house. Price depends on demand and on category. This morning there were 100 advertisers bidding for ‘loan’ but only two bidding for ‘ballpoint pen’. The margins for certain words can be high, therefore they cost more. For instance, ‘mortgage’ is more expensive than ‘CD’ simply because the margins are higher. In the early 2000s, all of the search engines used the auction method where the highest bidder achieved the highest place, but some are moving away from this and applying the natural search formulas to the sponsored side. Google initiated this in August 2005 with its Quality Score Model which takes into account the website’s click-through rate (just as in sponsored results) as well as the bid price. Essentially businesses get rewarded for good copy and quality sites. Yahoo still operates with the traditional auction method. With Yahoo you can control the position by price, ie. ‘I want to pay for the top position’ or ‘I want to pay 50p per click – where will that put me?'”
What about Ad copy?
With sponsored search, choosing the best keywords is important, but perfecting the 30 words of ad copy, just below the link, matters just as much, if not more. The position of a keyword-targeted ad on the search results page is calculated by the click-thru rate of the ad, the ad’s display URL, the relevance of the keyword and the ad to the search query, and the price that is bid. The top five or six positioned ads get the highest percentage of clicks.
Traditionally marketers bid on one or two term keywords (e.g. fast car), while searchers type in three or more keywords per search. Three word plus terms are generally the cheapest per click with higher conversion rates (depending on the keyword and the quality of the landing page). Add long tail keywords to your account; the phrases individually are unlikely to account for a great deal of searches, but as a whole can provide significant traffic (e.g. fast car for rent in London).
Step 1: Create a base list: Open up a spreadsheet or write down every single thing you can think of about what you do. What would people search for? What are the different products or services you offer? If you’re having trouble, go through your website. Pick out industry terms, brand names of your products, more general terms, etc. You don’t need every single term that someone could possibly search for at this point, but make sure that you at least cover all the areas that you cover in your website. Make sure you don’t leave anything out, even if there are services you don’t want to make your primary focus.
Step 2: Expand your list: The Google Keyword Tool is your friend. Use it! I like to set up my base list in a spreadsheet, and then go through the list, entering one keyword at a time into the keyword tool. Make sure you check [Exact] under ‘match types’ on the left hand side to ensure that Google doesn’t include the search traffic for other words or synonyms. If the terms are exact match, the search traffic it shows for a specific keyword is the traffic for that exact phrase. No more, no less. When you enter a keyword into the keyword tool, it will generate several keyword suggestions that all (more or less) relate to the keyword you entered. Scan through the list and check the box next to keywords that are relevant to your products or services. When you’re finished going through the list, click “download selected” and it will download the keywords and their search traffic numbers. Now enter the second keyword from your base list, and so on. If the keywords that the tool finds are too broad or irrelevant, check the box “only show ideas closely related to my search terms” and it will give you less options, but keywords that are more relevant.
Step 3: Organise: You should now have a pretty substantial list of keywords! Now you just need to organise them. Split up the keywords first by common sense – products or types of services, or different terminologies, whatever makes the most sense to you. Then sort by traffic numbers so you can easily spot the highest searched terms. Do any of the top keyword phrases have terms in common? Those longer tail keywords with several secondary phrases included are the keywords you want to track and optimise for. For example, if you optimise for the phrase “seo search engine optimisation keywords,” the phrase also includes the keywords “seo search engine optimisation,” “seo,” “search engine optimisation keywords,” and “search engine optimisation.” Optimising for longer tail keywords will make your SEO campaign more effective.
Writing and Testing Ad Copy
It is better not to create ads on a blank canvas. Instead consider opening your web browser and enter the search term. This will give you an idea of what ad copy is already being used for a search term. Don’t be all things to all people! It is better to create focused, concise and unique propositions in your ads than generic claims. Your ad is a window to your site. The message in your ad needs to be consistent with the language on your website.
Terminology for Search Marketing
SEM – Search Engine Marketing. As the name implies, SEM is the process of advertising through search engines. It is an umbrella term that includes SEO and Pay-per-click advertising or PPC. Whereas SEO is a means of optimising websites to appear in search engine results, PPC is purchasing clicks from search engines.
Backlink – Backlinks are links found on another website that leads to your own. Building backlinks is thus important because it affects a site’s PageRank, which consequently affects its search rankings.
PageRank – Created by Google, PageRank is an algorithm the search engine uses to determine important pages on the web. For example, if Site A has a backlink to Site B, it is reflective of its trust to Site B. The more links leading to a site, the more it is deemed important.
Linkbait – While linkbaits are often thought to be written materials, they can also come in video, photo, quiz formats, and others. Linkbaits are web contents published on blogs with the primary aim of creating backlinks to a certain website.
Anchor Text – Think of anchor texts as the face of hyperlinks in webpages. Anchor links contain backlinks and are clickable on websites. Google associates keyword-rich anchor texts to a website’s content, thereby making them a useful tool for search engine optimisation.
Title Tags – Do not underestimate title tags. Title tags are the first thing viewers can see upon clicking a web page because they appear on the top of the browser upon navigation. Title tags are one of the most important factors in Google’s algorithm which is why they should contain unique but relevant keywords.
Keyword Density – A particular page’s keyword density is a formula used by search engines that calculates the number of times a certain keyword should be used, depending on the total number of words in a web page.
Keyword Stuffing – A black hat technique. Keyword density used to be an important factor in Google’s algorithm which is why practitioners used to artificially inflate keyword density in web pages. This search engine optimisation practice can get a website penalised by Google.
Web Crawler – Used interchangeably with the terms “search bot” or “spider”, web crawlers are computer programs used by search engines to scour the web for new links and webpages.
Things to think about
- Keywords are a way for your target readers to find your content.
- Keywords are important, but content QUALITY is more important.
- Search engines don’t read your content – humans do!
- Ad Copy is just as important as Keywords in targeting your audience.
The successful website – Checklist for Success – Search Marketing
- Be relevant to your Products, Services, Content Copy, Keywords and your Audience all of the time!
- Your Website and Content Structure need to be refined for SEO – Page Titles, Page Descriptions, Highlighted Text, Headers and Sub-Headers.
- Group sets of Keywords together, then write Ad Copy that is relevant to that set of Keywords.
- Test and Test again; you will need to make changes to constantly improve, or your competitors will overtake you.