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Search Engine Marketing (part 3)

Where SEO deals largely with the mechanical constructs of a web page,  search engine marketing (SEM) seeks more to manage and promote a website and its pages across the Internet and, in fact, subsumes SEO within the discipline – albeit as an intrinsic element.

SEM operates at a more strategic level. It defines products and services, examines market strengths and weaknesses, performs competitor analysis, identifies appropriate web page keywords and phrases, establishes link (anchor) texts and potential link referrals, looks for directory placements and promotes within the industry. Further, it initiates proactive strategies like PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns like Google’s AdWords or Yahoo!’s Search Marketing (formerly Overture) while organic (natural) SEO kicks in.

Organic SEO relies on the skills of the web optimiser and/or marketer and the inherent strength of the page they have created plus the links they might generate pointing to it to elevate the page in the SERPs. Results are not generally immediate – especially for a fierce market – and it may take three – five months, sometimes longer, before benefits are seen. Which is why a more proactive approach may be used.

Pay Per Click

Pay-per-click is often used to kick-start website visibility when a new website or page is promoted, and is basically a bidding system for advertisers who pay a fee to the promotion vehicle (search engine or directory) whenever a surfer clicks on their advertisement. The more you pay, the higher the bid, and the more highly placed – prominent – your advertisement appears within the featured or sponsored sections of the SERPs.

The costs of a PPC advertisement varies from a few pence to tens of pounds for more lucrative keyphrases in competitive markets and, unless properly setup and monitored, can prove an expensive drain on marketing budgets. Advertisers new to PPC make the frequent mistake of targeting too broad a market by using woolly or catch-all keyphrases. Tightly targeted campaigns deliver a better ROI (return on investment) because there are less wasted click-throughs; the more focused the advertisement, the more likely a click-though will result in a conversion – a sale.

Google’s AdWords promotional engine has catapulted the company’s commercial worth into the multi-billion dollar league and funded development of spin-off search technology such as their desktop search and led to further marketing opportunities for businesses as the search engine giants reach expands into such areas as email and map marketing.

Google recognised a much more vast marketing opportunity and released a system for webmasters and site owners to publish Google AdWords advertisements on their websites. Called AdSense, the program delivers content-relevant ads in much the same way as those delivered on its SERPs pages and rewards publishers with a percentage of the takings. A lucrative sub-industry quickly emerged with SEOs and marketers quick to realise considerable revenue from popular sites.

Yahoo! recently responded with Publisher Network, a range of publishing products headed up by Content Match, the equivalent of AdSense. Although still in beta – and until recently the province of big promoters – it is being released to small and medium business websites.

Microsoft via their MSN search engine soon revealed adCenter but at the time of writing courts by invitation only, that is, it is not open to general account signup but a potential promoter must receive an invitation from an existing promoter.

PPC may also be a perpetual feature of a marketing strategy, the costs of which are identified and borne within general marketing expenditure. Sharp, well-focused PPC campaigns can pay for themselves by ensuring a high conversion rate.

Cost Efficiency and Accessibility

Websites and pages built using SEO and SEM techniques offer a far higher probability of ranking well in the SERPs and a better return on investment (ROI) than those not underpinned by contemporary techniques. Besides the immediate advantages of strong SERPs, their efficient, to-standards build means greater audience visibility and cheaper maintenance overheads - costs which may not at first seem appreciable but which mount considerably a few months or years down the line.

A less immediately apparent but potentially more exciting return lies in the area of accessibility: a well optimised website not only performs within the engines but is efficient and properly structured to deliver content to individuals with physical or cognitive impairments. Such users rely upon assistive technology (AT) like JAWS or Window-Eyes to view and navigate websites. The software works in conjunction with a web browser – typically Internet Explorer – and is entirely dependant upon the page markup, the (X)HTML, to ‘see’ the site. Proper use of ‘alt’ tags in association with page images not only offers a boost in terms of SEO but delivers a more rewarding visitor experience. Further, ‘title’ tags associated with page links offer a more discrete description of the destination page and, again, will help with content relevancy.

Not only will impaired users appreciate the efforts made to deliver a well-structured site, provided the content is relevant they will more likely bookmark the site and return.

Article March 2005 by Sonet Digital an Internet marketing company that specialises in SEO and PPC advertising. They are a contributor to Search and Go special features portal and directory that provides up to the minute information on every subject imaginable. If you need info… Search and Go!

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Search engine marketing