A Handy Guide To SEM

Copyright © 2008 Steve Renner

Search marketing or search engine marketing (SEM) is all about harnessing the search engines for marketing purposes. For some, it's an obvious decision whether or not to use search marketing. Others need a little more convincing. But first, let's understand how it works...

Well-known search engines display both free (also known as "natural" or "organic") results and paid results when someone uses them to look for something. Each result contains some text (or in some paid advertising, a image) that supposedly indicates the nature of the relevant webpage, as well as a link to that page. The paid advertisements can be specifically written to advertise a given webpage (i.e. landing page), while the free results usually incorporate the description "tag" or specific text from the relevant webpage. As a marketer, you main goal is to have your web pages appear in the search engine ranking pages (SERPs) when your target searches on words related to your products, services or website content.

Is the very first position on the SERPs the best position to have? Well, opinions vary. Many search engine marketers believe that the top spot on the free listings is the best... but not necessarily believe that the top spot on the paid listings is as profitable as, say, a couple of spots down. Ideally, in as far as the paid listings go, this is something you should test.

The search engines depict two sets of results - "organic" results and paid results. The organic results are based on the search engine's "opinion" of the relevance of various websites (or, more accurately, webpages) in relation to certain keywords. The paid results are essentially ads that companies have paid for. Since no one exactly knows how each search engine determines the relevance of a website, optimizing a site for the search engines - or "search engine optimization" (SEO) - can be quite challenging.

Accomplishing a superior listing in the paid results is much more straightforward. For most SEs, the more you're willing to pay, the higher your listing. Having said that, Google's formula for determining the order of the results in its paid listings - known as Google Adwords - also incorporates your click through rate. The more people click on your listing, the higher the click through rate, which in turn, raises your place in the order. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can pay every time someone clicks on your listing or pay on the basis of how many times your ad is displayed.

Paid advertising, in particular pay-per-click, is a good way to get started in search engine marketing as you can limit how much you spend, while testing whether you have an offer, product or service worth promoting. You can also test keywords, ad copy and landing pages that can all assist you when it comes to search engine optimization.

Search marketing is well worth pursuing if you're serious about building a web-based business. But given the work involved, that does NOT mean that YOU need to manage all your search marketing efforts. You can always hire individuals or companies to optimize your webpages for SEO purposes, or to run your PPC campaigns.

Steve Renner is a well known Internet Marketing Expert, author, consultant and speaker. Get Professional Internet Marketing training and resources at imtrain.com

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