Thanks to the Hammer's deconstruction of the digital dilemma in the September issue (if you haven't read it, boy have you lost out), I am inspired to pen down a few words on the principle of Search. With 960 million searches done a month and a 300% growth in Search queries over the past two years, we need a better understanding of search; in order to capitalize on it.
Understanding Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
I've heard it whispered along the corridors of the industry that SEM is a think of "Digital Yesteryears". That just doesn't do it justice. This is probably due ti the industry's lack of understanding on the various facets of SEM.
To begin with, let's just get the definition clear once and for all. Firstly, SEM is a form of internet marketing that seeks to promote Websites by increasing visibility in the search engine result pages. Its methods include Search Engine Optimization (SEO), PPC ads, contextual advertising, and digital asset optimization.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is not just Paid Search (Pay-per-click ads). More often than not, practitioners get this wrong which is quite alarming as this results in the clients getting misinformed. I'm not crazy about getting acronyms right, but more concerned with the effect - the misguided information on what SEM really is about and how it helps the client in the digital landscape. We have to paint the right picture for marketers.
So when advertisers require an SEM solution and strategy, one must start thinking holistically. Type a keyword on a search engine, glue your eyes at the results page, and then identify how your digital assets, bought, owned or earned, can muscle your digital marketing. You'll notice news, videos, images, social signals, ads, and websites. Everything listed there can be searched for and are pathways that can lead to your website.
The Misconception of Paid Search
"Am I paying for words???" The reality is yes you are. However, the greater truth is that you're actually investing to funnel in prospects - the audience that looks for solutions hope to find it in search engine results. These are prospects that have qualified themselves to you, like a 10 year-old-boy raising his hand in class, eager to find out from the teacher how knocking two rocks together creates a spark.
At the end of the day, investing in search gives advertisers the ability to purchase a desired outcome; brand exposure, product interest, sales leads, etc. Try thinking beyond buying keywords.
"My website is ranking well organically, I don't need Paid Search" In an iProspect study, it was revealed that the combination of organic and paid search impressions enhances brand trust by 50% in aggregate. Paid search alone creates a 28% lift in brand favorability.
However, when combined with organic search impressions, the organic-paid search duo boosts this metric to 40%. Such matrices are used by iProspect to help clients uncover how combinations of search and other digital channels produce a lift in the likelihood of sign-up and purchases.
Marketers need to develop systems and processes that will allow them to gauge the impact of digital media on their brand. They then need to continuously test to see which types of digital media and combinations produce the best results for them, so they can invest digital and branding dollars in the most effective manner.
For the benefit of those not familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it is a specialized process that involves analyzing the underlying code, architecture, and visible content of websites and other digital assets such as online videos. In turn, these elements are adjusted to ensure that the website or digital asset is returned more prominently in the natural search results of spider–based search engines such as Google and Yahoo!. These search engines use algorithms (a set of rules used to determine relevancy) to rank listings in response to a search query made by a user.
SEO has certainly not gotten easier over the past few years especially when new algorithms are introduced e.g. Google May Day, Google Panda. The SEO market in Malaysia has far from matured but I'm pleased how marketers are beginning to adopt it, albeit gradually.and I actually enjoy educating the whole 101 or 202 on SEO to clients who are interested.Why it is not an overnight thing
A well-executed SEO strategy requires crafting and generating valuable content, promoting that content, and finding ways for trusted resources to link to that content. It takes time to see organic search results. Great SEO work is never really complete as it takes time and can be continuously refined. This is because search habits evolve, algorithms change, and competitions grow. One effective way of refining SEO efforts is by letting your data tell the story. Take the time to understand how all the data you have impact your business and marketing efforts.
There's more to SEO than just Rankings
While you can get great rankings for certain keywords, if they don't align with the products you are selling, or the brand that you are trying to showcase, then you probably won't get the customers that will help your business grow. Rankings and traffic don't mean much if you're not converting that traffic into customers and profit.
SEO can get more people to your website, but it is the job of your Website to convince them to do business with you. You need great content that is effective in closing the sale. All the rankings in the world cannot make up for a poor user experience on your Website.
OH! The guarantees
Don't get drawn in by promises of number one spots for top keywords in a matter of weeks. It may take some searching, but ethical agencies do exist and can deliver great results. Be cautious and you'll find that SEO work can be incredibly fruitful.
Any agency that offers you any kind of guarantee when it comes to the results they can deliver for you, is not being entirely honest with you. The way Google ranks websites is constantly evolving and nothing about the world of SEO is stable. In such a fluctuating market place, one is hard pressed to find guarantees. My advice when searching for an SEO agency is to look into their experience, capabilities that are beyond just driving traffic, and ethical practices.
So, there you have it…for now.
With brand plan season hereabouts,
start thinking digital as a whole and try to
realize the huge role search has to play.
Search is hungry to play its part and has
so much more room for growth and far
from being a "digital yesteryear".
With all sorts of digital assets appearing on search engine results, from images to videos and news to social signals, the page is one heck-of-a "digital billboard". Plan out how it all can answer the call of a simple search query.