What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)? It’s about getting a web page listed and ranked well on the search engines, and the interrelated title and description metadata that compels a searcher to click-through to your website. Also, you could think of SEM just as a message or advertisements seen on search engines.
There are quite a few ways to get an advertisement onto the search engines for free, and always a direct pay for play method (PPC).
To provide the best experience for searchers, Google and Bing both put a mix of different media types and information on each SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The variety of results provides you multiple ways to get your message in front of the people typing keywords into search engines.
7 Ways To Get Listed On Google
Most people only focus on the top three search engine listing opportunities.
- Paid Search
- Local Directories
- Social Media
But most search engines also list #4 Video, #5 Pictures, #6 News, and #7 Social. Four and five help support the big three.
Paid search is also called Pay Per Click (PPC), Sponsored, and some referred to it solely as SEM. There is no written rule or set of standards, so people can call it what they want. But just so you are not confused, as far as I am concerned SEM is not paid search alone.
Google’s brand of PPC is called AdWords. They currently offer three methods of paid search, but only two types that target search engine visitors. AdWords is Google’s most popular Pay Per Click model, where you bid against other advertisers for selected keywords. The highest bidder is usually in the top position and so on down the ranking.
With Google AdWords, you only pay when a searcher clicks your ad, not for merely being listed.
The second is called Adwords Express, AdWords Express is a stripped down version of the original AdWords product. Google manages this version for you. They promote your local Maps listing, and again you are only charged for clicks.
Google’s paid search listings usually comprise the top 3 or 4 listings and all the ads on the right-hand side of the SERP. Sometimes there is a colored background or the word “ad” to mark the paid advertisements.
AdWords accounts are free to set up. Search engines give coupons as an incentive to trying their paid search. Anyone with a registered payment method can run ads. Only new accounts can take advantage of the incentives which range from $75.00 – $150.00
The third pay for play method called Display Advertising places colorful banners or text ads on Gmail and millions of search engine partners websites.
Organic listings are placed right below paid search, and usually below local maps listings too. Although, occasionally they’ll put one or two organic results above the local-search directory. Traditionally the order goes: Paid ads, then Maps and then natural.
Again, every listing can be view and clicked on for free that is indexed in Google’s organic section. Getting indexed is simple, ranking well is another matter.
Ranking highly in the natural area is based on a secret mathematical algorithm. The algorithm is made up of over two hundred criteria, or so it is believed.
The specialists that work to rank sites in highly in the organic section of SERP’s are called SEO’s which has to do with the art and science of search engine optimization.
We don’t claim to understand Google’s Algorithm entirely, but by reverse engineering thousands of top-ranked websites, we have it narrowed down to a 75% match (or so). We pretty much know what it takes, and we A/B test different ideas and monitor results to improve rank. That is the life of an SEO.
Google Maps / Local Business Directory
Google understands that many searchers are looking for local services and businesses. So they will often show 3 to 7 local businesses in the maps/directory section of their SERP’s. Getting listed is free, but getting listed above the competition can be quite a challenge.
If there are only a few similar businesses in your town, you will probably rank well for your immediate area. Getting listed for searches done in neighboring cities can be a bit more challenging.
Directories are always getting a turn at the top of the search engines. I see Urbanspoon and Grubhub listings, Superpages listing, BBB, and Yelp. Most directories are free, and they offer you the opportunity for a citation. Brand citations help push up your more powerful Google Directory listing.
BBB often come on search engines for Contractors. This can be a great way to own more SERP Real Estate. – See Contractor Advertising
Location Location Location
You in the real estate world know the slogan, on search engines, it is just the same. The top is where you want to live. Search engine marketing is a zero-sum game, the more real estate you own at the top, the less there is for your competition.
Search engine marketers listed above the scroll receive 90% of the clicks. For this reason, we do not neglect Video, Pictures, News or social.
Video or Live Streaming
Have you heard of something called Youtube? I thought you might have. There are almost always videos listed with any search. Video marketing is the fast-growing area of advertising. People would much rather listen to a video than read a blog post.
Live streaming give you a chance to interact with your customers and get immediate feedback. All the film you get during a live session can become stock for new videos. Generation Z, or as I like to call them Generation Instagram are going straight to Youtube for search bypassing all traditional search engines.
Picture Marketing on Search Engines
Make sure you are marking up your photos, include that alt text, so your images rank too. Did you know you can geo mark your photos? Many cameras today have a setting for this. Local businesses need to be taking pictures on the job.
Mike, news? Yes, News! Not only will an appropriately timed and executed press release get you to the top of search engines, but the links to your pages from these trusted new sources will push those pages higher too.
You should always be asking how can I earn another link, the news is one more way, and remember, the more real estate you own at the top, the better.
Hoe often do you search your favorite search engine and see facebook or LinkedIn results at the top? Often enough that social should be part of your search engine marketing portfolio.
What Google Wants
Now that we have discussed the majority of methods that get your business listed on search engines, we need to understand what Google wants. Google wants to offer its customers ( the people using Google) great relevant results and a good user experience (UX).
Google needs people to find the information they’re searching for; they need people to keep using their search engine so they can keep making 34 billion a year in ad revenue. Yes, they made an estimated 34 billion in 2012, and are growing by 15 to 20% a year. (I wrote this article in 2012, brushed it up for 2018)
They offer a wide variety of results to make as many searchers happy as possible. They know when people are shopping, trying to navigate to a particular website, or looking for how to articles or information.
It’s your job to make Google’s customers happy, and glad they used Google to find your company. Think of some of the things you don’t like about websites and eliminate them from yours.
- Pages that take too long loading
- Pop up’s
- White print on black backgrounds
- Small dense print
- Having to scroll past ads to get to information
- Missing pages – 404 and 500 errors
- Confusing navigation
- Lack of “alt” tags for images
- Keyword stuffed content | Spam
- Non-friendly Url’s
- Thin or irrelevant material
- Hard to find contact information
Put your self in the shoes of the search engines. Would you refer someone to websites that had the issues written about above if there were websites without these problems? It’s not enough that you have relevant content and a lot of links, If you don’t provide a good UX (user experience), you will not be ranked nearly as well as you could be.
How Google Measures User Experience (UX)
Google crawls all the pages that are indexed, so they know how long it takes for a page on your website to load, or whether or not the page even exists any longer (404 errors). They also know how long people spend on your website (time on site) or whether or not they visit a second page (bounce rate) or not.
Social Signals & Linking
Search engines are including tons of social content. Google also knows if people value and share the content they find on your website by monitoring social signals (Facebook shares, Pinterest pins, Twitter tweets & retweets, etc.). They also know if others are linking to it. Having no links to your website is a bad sign.
If you have great relevant original content, but you don’t have links, you may need to find websites that list resources like yours and let them know you exist.
Creating Pinterest and Instagram pages on relevant topics can help push down the competition.
Reviews alone are a great way to do search engine marketing. Running promotions and giving coupons for reviews will quickly build up a lot of reviews. I personally always look for reviews before making a purchase.
What kind of reviews does your business have? Are any being left? It is better to have bad reviews than none at all. Reviews help to validate that your business is still active, current, and at least real, even if it’s not well liked.
How To Measure UX On Your Website
- Page Speed: This is a significant metric. Check your website on Pingdom Google Page speed tools (does mobile too) or GTmetrix.
- Bounce Rate: This data lets you know if a second page was visited on your website, and can be seen using Google Analytics, or Google Search Consol (Free Google Tools).
- Average Time Spent On Site: Also available with Google Analytics.
- 404 Errors & Incoming Links: This data and a lot more about the health of your website can be found using Google’s Search Consol
The above metrics will help you to monitor UX which is essential, but when it comes to organic search, you also want to focus on three more things. Two are more critical than the last: engaging content that offers value and that attracts links (massive-importance). Content can be words, pictures video, infographics, case studies, top 50 features, etc.
The final is social: Get people socially interacting with your brand.
Social signals are admittedly already a big part of the Bing algorithm, and while Google is using social in theirs, they admit that they’ll be weighing it much more substantial in the future.
All these issues are important for Google Maps too, but you don’t even need a website to outrank your competitors in Google Maps. The two most important metrics for Maps are reviews and citations. With user feedback and company mentions, you can be the #1 of local search for many keywords.
Search Engine Marketing is about getting an ad onto the search engines, preferably at the top and compelling enough to get a click. When designing content for search engines always remember why people search in the first place; Information, transaction/shopping, navigation, help them get what they want.