The term search engine marketing can be used as an umbrella term to cover all forms of marketing carried out via search engines and therefore it encompasses:
Pay Per Click ( e.g. AdWords), the practice of obtaining visitors and leads using the paid search engine listings such as those offered by Google’s AdWords program. A user bids for position on relevant search queries to advertise products or services but pays only if a visitor clicks on the ad, hence the term pay per click or PPC.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the practice of maximising a website’s natural visibility in search engines so as to maximise free visitor traffic. This can be a large traffic generator for large sites with many pages of good content.
Local (Places) Listings, the practice of maximising a websites visibility for local area searches on services like Google Maps.
Pay Per Click has proved to be enormously populardue to the high level of control it givesthe user. Google’s AdWords program is the biggest by a long shot as Google has about 94% of the search market in Australia, Bing, Yahoo and others share the rest.
You can choose to have your ads appear for particular search terms and you can control where in the world the ads appear too. It’s possible to schedule your ads to appear only at certain hours or on certain days.
The system is largely auction based. If your ad and your web page are relevant to the search query your ad can be shown and its position on the results page will depend mainly on how much you are willing to pay to get a visitor. That’s because inevitably there are other advertisers who also want to advertise to people using the same search queries so competition drives pricing dynamically.
You can limit both the amount you are willing to pay per click and the amount you are willing to spend per day. The more you are willing to pay per click, the higher your ads will appear. The more you are willing to spend per day, the more often the ads will be shown.
- Fast results, you can have listings on demand.
- Control over geographical showing
- Control over ad scheduling for particular days of week or time periods.
- Can be paused and resumed as required.
- Precise keyword targeting or broad targeting as required.
- Requires some advertising budget
Search Engine Optimisation is the art of optimising a website’s content, code and other factors to improve its ranking in the natural listings of a search engine. Achieving good listings through SEO can lead to good visitor traffic while the position is high and the visits from search engine users are free of charge.
SEO is often highly competitive and some search queries are so competitive that only larger established brands with good reputation, history and great content will rank well consistently. SEO can take considerable time to achieve results and is prone to fluctuation as other competitors also fight for position and as search engines change the algorithms they use to rank web pages on a regular basis. Google for one example can make over 500 changes to its algorithms in a single year.
Choosing which search queries to try ranking for is a vital part of SEO, generally speaking the more specific queries are easier to rank for and often lead to better business results.
- Free visitor traffic for as long as the listing ranks high enough.
- Time and patience! SEO can take considerable time and effort, often many months before success is seen
- Success can be fleeting as competitors fight for their position and/or as search engines change how they rank pages
- Professional consultants can be costly due to the specialised nature of the business and the rewards at stake.
Local Listings such as the Google Places listings are another way to get search engine traffic and are also free of charge. Local listings are not always shown in search results and are most suited to businesses serving a relatively small local area.
Just like standard SEO, getting into those few local results shown for a local search can be very competitive and will require patience as well as good relevant content and consistent effort to maintain position.
Local Listing Benefits:
- Emphasised listings for local businesses with map pointers helping to attract clicks.
- Free traffic for as long as the listing is shown.
Local Listing Costs:
- Similar to the broader SEO costs above with increased uncertainty over when local results will be shown. Google for example may change which queries trigger local results at any time.
The strategies described above are not mutually exclusive, businesses of all kinds use them as appropriate. The apparent bias towards PPC in this post is simply because it is the most reliable, measurable and quickest way of marketing on search engines. It does not however suit all businesses as it requires a budget!