Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or “Search Marketing” is the process of using search engines on the internet to market your business. Search Engine Marketing consists of three parts: Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC), Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Local Business Search (Local SEO). It consists of these three parts because the search engine results page is divided into these different sections where your business can appear and each requires its own strategy.
Within the industry of digital marketing, the phrase “search engine marketing” has a history of what it actually means and its meaning has changed over time. Some (correctly) interpret it to be a blanket term since “marketing” is a blanket term, while others use it interchangeably with just paid search advertising (PPC) as if it doesn’t include SEO.
It is important to understand each part of search engine results pages (SERPs), because each requires a different strategy. The most popular search engine is Google with over 80% of the search market. Search engine competitors such as Bing, Yahoo and others also have significant user bases that you can reach. However, since Google dominates the market it’s normal practice to form strategy according to known Google preferences and appearing in other search engines often follows naturally.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC or CPC)
The top and bottom of the search engine results pages are dedicated to Pay-Per-Click advertising. This marketing strategy is often abbreviated as PPC which means “pay per click”, or CPC which means “cost per click”. This is the only area of the search results page where the search engines accept money for advertising. The search engines do not accept money to appear in other areas of the page.
An important formula to remember for pay-per-click advertising is quality plus bid amount (quality + bid amount). Notice how it has the common factor of “quality” with search engine optimization described below. While you may be paying for preferred placement, search engines still fulfill their purpose of connecting users with the correct content whether the marketer is paying the search engine or not. This area of the page receives about 20% of the total clicks. That number is dynamically changing, but it’s a good guideline. The leads from these clicks are very targeted leads. This means they’re looking and they’re getting ready to buy if the search is business-consumer related. PPC is the quickest way to drive traffic to your website.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Below the ads are the “organic” search results. These are the websites that the search engine has deemed to be the best results for the particular keywords and phrases that the user entered. The search engine determines this based on algorithms that the search engine developers created. While the exact algorithms are kept secret, there are over 200 factors that marketers and researchers have determined are important for appearing in search engine results. Search Engine Optimization, often abbreviated as SEO, is the process of “optimizing” your domain to help give your site a higher search rank. The higher the rank for any particular keyword, the more likely users will click on your link and generate a return for your business.
An important formula to remember is quality plus authority (quality + authority). The organic search results receive about 80% of total clicks and the leads from these clicks are very, very targeted. While PPC often produces quicker results, SEO often produces a higher ROI over time.
Local Business Search (Local SEO)
Local results are “organic” non-paid results but they are reserved for local businesses. On Google these results now appear in the top 3-4 link positions of the organic results, which receive over 30% of overall clicks. A local business is generally a brick and mortar with a geographic target customer base that reaches 5-10 miles from their location OR an onsite service business, such as a contractor, that covers a geographic service area. (Yep, Google and other search engines know exactly where your computer is located unless the user blocks this information).
The local search results have enhanced features and are accompanied by a map. The data from these results is directly synced with Google Maps so people can immediately get directions to your location, especially when searching from mobile devices. (Over half of internet traffic now comes from mobile devices). An accurate Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) is essential for Local SEO. Local business search results may display reviews that previous customers have left for your business. The NAP and receiving positive customer reviews are the two most important factors for appearing in local search AND gaining the user’s trust so that they make the decision to buy from you. (Quality + Authority + Local Factors)
Video Marketing, Video SEO
Video marketing legitimately belongs on a page about “search engine marketing” for two reasons. The first reason is that videos can appear on search engine results pages, even the first page of combined results (Google lets you filter only video results if you wish, but videos can appear in the combined results). The second reason is that while Google dominates 80% of the search engine market, it is not Yahoo or Bing that comes in second; it’s YouTube. YouTube is the second most popular search engine and one of the top 5 social networks.
Why you should care about Search Marketing as a business or business owner:
Over 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. The first place people will go to find services or products that you offer is a search engine. This is such a predominant trend that “Google” became a verb in 2002 (or 1998 or twice in 2006 depending on how you look at it). Whether the clicks come from the organic or paid results, the leads are targeted, meaning they’re searching for what you offer and they’re ready to buy.