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What exactly is Search Engine Marketing?

Ok, now that you’ve worked really hard to get your shiny new website live (and it looks great!), the last thing you want is to listen to a consultant who asks you to invest even more time and money to be visible on search engines.

But your website is the first point of contact with your audience online and your best sales person. It is open 24/7, never sleeps and is never off sick. It can generate leads, qualify prospects and attract potential new customers, partners or even investors…

…and unfortunately unless people can find it, it is good for nothing.

How do people find websites?

Think about how you use the internet. Unless you know the website address of the company you are looking for you would start with a Google search right?

Exactly. Need I say more?

What about the many different search engines out there?

Recent research has found that Google accounts for a whopping 93% of online and mobile web organic search traffic worldwide, leaving Bing and Yahoo to account for just 6% combined.

Love them or hate them they are still the Big Daddy Mac when it comes to search and are where you should be focusing most of your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) efforts.

But what exactly is Search Engine Marketing?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the art of driving relevant traffic to your website from search engines like Google.

Where many forms of marketing are based interrupting a potential customer with a sales pitch, SEM harnesses the fact that a user is already in a ‘seeking’ mindset and actively looking for something that you might be able to provide.

Then it is basically a prospect magnet, attracting potential buyers to your website through strategically placed ads on a search results pages for keywords relevant to your business where users are already looking for information. It’s about being where your customers already are and signposting them towards the solutions you offer.

We all know that entering keywords into Google is the way you start any good search so it should come as no surprise that keywords are the foundation of any SEM strategy. Using keyword analysis, you can find ideas as to which keywords are relevant to your business, how big a potential that search “market” is, how many people are searching for that exact keyword, how competitive a specific search area is. And using the powers of deduction you can even make a call as to what a user’s intention is.

For example, a well planned SEM campaign for a hotel will reach potential customers looking to take a holiday, lead them not only to your website but to the right section that addresses exactly what they’re looking for. Sort of like a tour guide, receptionist, concierge, marketing executive and salesperson rolled into one.

And what exactly is the difference between SEM and SEO?

The key is in Marketing (ie paid) vs Optimisation (ie earned).

SEO focuses on on-page and off-page activities to bring your website in line with what search engines want. Google are concerned with delivering the top content to users, and they tend to favour sites with clear navigation and easy-to-understand benefits for searchers. The higher up you are in a Google search result the more traffic you are likely to get.

SEM relies on buying traffic through creating quick, clear advertisements and bidding on keywords that prospective customers will likely enter into search engines.

As a start up you are new into the market and need to start generating traffic (and revenue) quickly so you can pay the bills. This is where SEM (or pay per click PPC) can be your best friend.
• It is quick to set up and provides instant gratification
• Your media budget can be added on a pay-as-you go basis
• You only pay when someone clicks on your ad
• It is measurable and optimisable so you know that you are spending on what works
• Your budget dictates how high and how often your listing will be shown.
• It is easier to obtain rankings because you’re paying for placement/clicks

However that doesn’t mean you should ignore your SEO strategy. Far from it as users have been proven over and over again to trust natural search results more than paid search ones.

In fact here are some statistics to blow your mind:
• Unpaid (organic) search results receive 90% of clicks
• Paid search results (PPC) receive 10% of clicks
• The #1 organic result drives 33% of clicks
• The top 3 organic results (#1, #2, #3) capture 61% of clicks
• Less than 10% of people advance to Page 2

Still think you don’t need SEO?

Remember though that Google is a machine so optimising your website and teaching it to understand what you are about so it knows which keywords and search results are most relevant is a long game and an ongoing commitment.
While PPC may drive more revenue your organic SEO should remain a bedrock of your online presence. It is a never-ending process and if you’re not moving forward and improving your position, you’re losing ground to a competitor who is.

So how does this all work with mobile?

Last year the amount of traffic delivered to mobile devices exceeded that delivered to traditional desktop computers. This is a global trend but even more so here in Africa where over 40% of all internet browsing is done through a mobile phone.

In fact a recent Google update has made sites that are optimised for mobile rank higher in mobile searches than those that aren’t.

This dramatic explosion in mobile usage has opened a whole new world of local search techniques. eg some users may have completely different search intent while out and about on their mobile that they do at home/work on a desktop (e.g., [“coffee shop” + “nearby”]).

The actions and tactics are the same but you should target accordingly and it goes without saying that it would be wise to make sure that mobile is always heavily considered when doing anything online.

In short without a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM/PPC) strategy people will have a very hard time finding you and will instead find your competitors.

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