Search Engine Marketing
“Search engine marketing” is how you reach prospective customers when they’re actively looking for your products and solutions on search engines. You can activate agile, paid ad campaigns that get clicks, and drive traffic immediately. Or you can play the long game with optimization of your website content to drive awareness over time.
When we think of search engines, we think of Google because that search engine has over 90% share-of-market for internet searches. Bing is another search engine but it has a very small share of searches.
Google is the main gateway to the internet with billions of searches per day. Ensuring your business appears prominently on Google is a critical marketing goal.
To understand search engine marketing, its important to distinguish between “paid search” and “organic search.”
Paid search is when you pay Google for your ads to appear in search results. For example, if you want to attract bike buyers to your bike shop, you would buy keywords like “bike shops near me” and then your ad would appear when that search term is entered in whatever geography you’ve specified.
Organic search describes how you increase the chance that your online content appears on search engines without having to pay for it.
If your Philadelphia bike shop website has lots of pages of bikes and someone enters “bike shop Philadelphia,” your site is likely to appear in the search results. And you didn’t have to pay for that. This type of marketing is also called “search engine optimization” or SEO.
Paid Search Advertising on Google (“PPC”)
Paid search advertising allows you to intercept customers searching for your product or service on Google. Google says these customers as seeking to know, buy, go, or do. In other words, they need information and they’re searching for it on Google. Its sometimes referred to as “PPC” which means "pay-per-click” because the advertiser only pays when a click occurs.
To set up a search marketing campaign to reach prospective customers, think about several factors. What message will attract these searchers? What region do you want to focus on? How much do you want to spend? How long do you want to advertise? Let’s look at some of these factors in detail.
Targeting with keywords and match types
Selecting keywords to buy is one of the first steps. Keywords are the search words or phrases that people are searching for. A Philadelphia bike shop owners might consider buying keywords and phrases like: “buy a bike,” “bike shops near me,” or “bike shops Philadelphia.” Google will show advertisers how much search volume there is for any keyword and how much it costs to buy a click on it. Knowing that information enables prospective advertisers to pick ones that have at least a moderate amount of search volume but are reasonably priced.
Advertisers on Google can also select how they want to target prospects by picking different keyword “match types.” Match types determine how precisely your ad serving aligns the search query. For example, if an advertiser picks “broad match” that means their ad will appear for search queries that are broadly like the search term they bought. For example, if they bought the term “bike shop” as a broad match search term, their ad might appear for all these variations of that search term: “bike,” “shop,” and many others. There are five different match types that get increasingly specific: broad, broad match modified, phrase match, exact match, and negative. Negative keywords enable you to pick words for which you never want your ad to appear. Using match types enables advertisers to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of campaigns through improved targeting.
Advertisers can also use dynamic search ads. These are ads that are dynamically created by Google to match campaign parameters that you set. Using these means you don’t have to pick exact keywords to buy and you don’t have to manually create a bunch of ad variations-Google does that for you. Dynamic search ads are a good way to augment the reach of your campaign.
Lastly, Google offers something called Search Audience Solutions. These are strategies that allow advertisers to reach specific types of high-value customers as part of search marketing campaigns. You can target uploaded audience lists, for example. You can also target demographically or by audience interests.
Messaging and ads
To create a paid search ad, you need to provide a headline, a description (up to 90 characters), and the URL where clicks on the ad will go. You will organize your ads into ad groups; it's recommended that you create three to five ads per ad group. Also, Google recommends that you create at least one responsive ad per ad group. Responsive ads are ones that Google automatically creates based on campaign parameters. All you do is supply headlines, descriptions, and URLs.
To increase ad engagement, Google recommends using Ad Extensions. Ad extensions are additional pieces of information (beyond your headline and description) that show up for users to help them see the relevance of your ad. Here are several types of ad extensions.
Site links are links directly to pages on your website. Contact us is a common one.
Callout extensions are 25 character descriptions of value-added features you offer. Store hours are a good example.
Structured snippets are another type of ad extension- these describe your products or services. For example, a hotel might call out that they offer free wi-fi and a pool.
Call extensions allow you to highlight your phone number in ads.
App extensions allow users to click to install an app.
So paid search ads enable advertisers to reach people who are searching for products, services, and solutions on Google. Campaigns can be precisely targeted and advertisers can control their budget, how long they want to advertise, and what keywords they want to target. It’s a fast, flexible advertising solution that delivers immediate results.
Ad Auctions on Google
Google uses an auction system to determine the cost for each keyword you might want to buy. The order in which ads appear on the page is determined by a calculation that Google calls Ad Rank. The price you pay depends on several factors: relevance, expected click-through rate, quality of the user experience when they land on your site, and the amount of demand for that keyword.
Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of “optimizing” online content to give it the best chance to appear on search engines. Website pages are the type of online content most often optimized, but SEO is not confined to website pages; other types of content can be optimized to appear on search engines and can be just as valuable to marketers. Examples of other types of content are videos, infographics, and social media content. But SEO is most often applied to website pages.
Before we go further, there is one important difference between paid search and SEO that marketers need to understand. Paid search is fast and its results are virtually guaranteed- when you buy a keyword, you will get clicks almost immediately. SEO, in contrast, is slow and results aren’t guaranteed. You might do a lot of work adding content to your website and optimizing it only to discover that the visibility of this content has not risen significantly. That happens.
So for marketers, it can be hard to determine the payback on SEO work. But the reason it continues to be important is that the return-on-investment can be huge and, unlike, paid search advertising, once traffic starts to flow to optimized content, there is virtually no ongoing cost.
How does SEO work?
The way SEO works is based on the way the Google algorithm works- the computer-based logic that determines which content is most relevant to each search. And while we don’t know exactly how the algorithm works - it’s a closely held secret- we do have enough of an idea that we can take steps to improve the likelihood that our content gets more visibility.
According to search engine marketing authority Moz, there are several main factors affecting the visibility of website content on Google:
The content on your website- how much is there and is it relevant it is to a search?
The technical structure of your website- is it easily indexed by Google?
The quantity and type of inbound links to your site- do they show that your site is trustworthy and relevant?
The speed and security of your site- does it offer a fast and safe user experience, especially on mobile devices?
Why website content and speed matter
Google’s mission is to deliver fast, relevant search results to people. That means that when you enter a search like “bike shop Philadelphia,” Google aims to provide a list of search results that are as close to exactly relevant to that search query as possible. So they want any websites that appear in this search, especially on the first page of search results, to have lots of bikes, to be in Philadelphia, and to present the user with a fast, satisfying user experience at the website especially on their smartphone, the device that more and more searchers use.
So let’s look at factors that might prevent your Philadelphia bike shop website from appearing on page one of search results for this search.
Your site is not secure. In other words, it doesn’t have HTTPS designation for your domain.
Your website is built in such a way that Google can’t easily zip from page to page indexing your content on its servers.
Your site loads slowly because you have lots of big images and bloated code.
Google can’t immediately tell if your shop is in Philadelphia.
Your site has fewer pages of bike content than some other Philadelphia bike shop websites.
Your site doesn’t have many links from relevant sites reinforcing the trustworthiness of your content.
To increase your site’s chances of appearing on page one of Google for this search, the site needs to meet the requirements described above.
The importance of linking
Think of the internet as a big spider web with connection points where strands come together. Some of those connection points are at crucial junctures where many strands join. Those are critical nodes. Your website can become one of those critical noes if it has lots of links to other important sites. When it becomes a critical nod, its visibility rises. That’s why links are so important.
Now that you see what factors may affect your content’s visibility, how do you fix those? J. Walker Marketing can perform an analysis that shows the best opportunities for rising in the search rankings. Then you can decide which areas you’re ready to address based on your marketing goals and your budget.
SEO engagements usually have these steps. 1) Analyze the best opportunities. 2) Fix technical glitches on the website that might prevent Google from indexing the site’s content. 3) Build new content that contains the right keywords to match common searches. 4) Find ways of building inbound links.