How Does Search Engine Marketing Really Work?

Search engine marketing, which is perhaps more commonly referred to by its acronym “SEM”, is a term that describes processes that can be taken to help gain visibility and traffic on search engines. Even if you haven’t heard of the exact term “SEM”, there’s a good chance that you already know exactly what it is.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing is a very broad term that refers to a number of other different activities, such as:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search retargeting
  • Submitting sites to directories
  • Managing paid listings in search engines (primarily pay per click, or PPC)
  • Describing the development of many different online marketing strategies
  • Social media marketing

NOTE: When people refer to SEM, it can often mean all of the above, or it’s possible that they are using the term simply to describe pay per click advertising, or sponsored advertising.

To put it simply, SEM is anything that you can do to help improve your site’s ranking in search engines, like Google or Bing, as well as the amount of traffic you receive from those search engines. This is particularly important, as over 70% of all new visitors will find your website just by performing a search query through a search engine.

Next time you do a search in Google or MSN, look at the layout of the page. If you do a search in Google, the left-hand side results are natural, organic listings that will appear when a certain keyword is entered into a search query. On the right hand side are the paid advertisement results that are linked to that keyword, like the PPC advertisements we mentioned earlier. Both of these are essential in driving traffic to your website, especially both organic listings and paid listings are a very economical way to get people to your site.

NOTE: In a recent study it was found that people who use Google do prefer the organic or “left hand” search options, while those who used the MSN search engine actually preferred to visit the paid listings.

Let’s put it this way. There are millions upon millions of websites on the Internet, many of which may be similar to yours, sell the same products as yours, and may be a competitor of yours. Through all of the above methods – SEO, PPC, social media marketing, search retargeting, etc. – you are allowing your website to stand out and scream, “HEY! I’M WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!” All of the above methods are ways that increase your ranking n search engines so that rather than being on the last search result page of Google or Yahoo!, you’re on page 5, 3, or possibly even page 1.

While this may sound all fine and good, to do SEM right you will have to spend a lot of time at it. You have to get it started, you have to learn what you’re doing, and then you have to continually revisit your site and fine tune it to make sure that it is fully optimized and as search engine friendly as possible.

Can I Create A Website Without SEM?

If you’re creating a website just to be a sort of hobby site or a personal site to update family and friends on your life, then you don’t need to be overly bothered with SEM. But if you have a business, or have finally realized just how profitable your blog can be if you put some time and work into it, then SEM is absolutely essential. Without SEM, there’s a small chance that anyone will be able to find your website amongst the millions of others that are on the web.

Search engine marketing has become so important that many experts are predicting that the amount of money that businesses are investing into it is going to double from the $13 billion USD in 2009 to $26 billion USD by 2014.

You Need An SEM Plan

If you want to be successful in SEM, then you need to come up with a plan. We’ll start with the first and most important point first:

  • Who is your target audience? You need to do your research and find out who will actually want to visit your website before you really delve into your SEM plan.
  • Create a business plan or make goals. You want to have something to keep you on track when coming up with your plan, whether it is through PPC, organic search results, or social media marketing.
  • Get the proper tools. Keyword analysis tools to find how well certain keywords are performing is obviously of the utmost importance, but other tools like web analytic tools and HTML tools are important, too. Arm yourself with what you will need in order to be successful.
  • Once you have a keyword tool, build a list! See which ones will perform best for you and your niche (word of the wise: don’t choose the highest ranking keyword or keyword phrase. If you do, you’ll end up on page 432 of Google search results)
  • Continuously test your keywords and see which ones work best
  • Keep on top of your current search engine ranking
  • Always add fresh content to your site, and continually improve your web design
  • Don’t forget about link building! Begin building partnerships with people on blogs, forums, and other websites and start building up your links. This will give you a great boost in the search engine rankings
  • Expand beyond your website. Do some video marketing or vlogs and post them on YouTube. Put pictures up on Flickr. If you don’t have a blog, get one. And submit articles to article submission sites, like eHow and About.com. Add a link to your website along with each of the above.
  • Turn on your RSS feed and update your site or blog regularly!
  • Get yourself some quality tracking software, and continue to track your site’s performance.

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