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Search Engine Marketing

Using Search Engines and Directories for Marketing

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Search engine marketing is the practice of marketing or advertising your web site through search engines, like Google, Yahoo or MSN. Search engine marketing (SEM) may consist of one or more of the following components:

  • Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Search engine optimization is the practice of applying techniques to maximize your ranking in organic, or natural search results. Organic search results are the rankings of Web pages returned by a search engine when you search for a specific word or phrase - a "keyword" or "keyword phrase".
  • Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) - Ads you place for your website with a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo. You bid the amount you are willing to pay per click. The more you bid, the higher your ad will appear in the search engine results. Google AdWords has implemented an additional factor in where your ads rank that is based on the relevancy or importance that Google places on your site, which is very difficult to manipulate.

    You can also use pay per click advertising to your advantage on your own site. For example, you can make money with Google AdSense and other similar programs.
  • Pay For Inclusion (PFI) - In addition to search engines, like Google, Yahoo and MSN search, numerous directories also exist on the web. These directories may be general in nature or related to a specific topic. You can get free listings in some online directories, like DMOZ but most directories now charge for a listing. Verizon's SuperPages is an example of a PFI directory. Another example of a major directory is again, Yahoo. Yahoo Directory, which is separate from Yahoo search, is described in Yahoo's own words as: Subject-based directory listing websites in a wide range of topics, from arts, entertainment, and society and culture, to science, education, and health.

Why is Search Engine Marketing Important?

You may or may not decide to make search engine marketing part of your marketing and advertising strategy. If you don't have a Web site for your business and don't plan to ever have one, you certainly wouldn't need search engine marketing. However, in today's business climate, nearly all business are expected to have a website and most do.

Search engine marketing is used as a way to get traffic to your website, which in turn should ideally lead to getting new customers and adding to your home business revenues. Compared to other means of marketing and advertising, search engine marketing can be very cost effective. For example, you could implement some search engine optimization techniques on your own. Organic search rankings are free, so if you can move yourself up in the rankings, your traffic should increase, which, in turn, should increase your home business revenues. Similarly, Pay Per Click Advertising can be very inexpensive. Since you can set limits on how much you'll pay per click and how much you'll pay per day, it's fairly easy to keep your costs in line. Likewise, some Web directories - like DMOZ - allow free listings, and others can cost as little as $30 per year.

How do I Measure SEM Effectiveness?

How you measure the effectiveness of your search engine marketing program depends on what your objectives were when you started. If your intent was merely to increase the number of visitors to your Web site, you would determine if your SEM efforts were successful by comparing your Web traffic statistics before and after you implemented search engine marketing.

Be patient though, search engine marketing efforts may take considerable time to boost your traffic. Although you can instantly get your PPC ads running, if you are aiming at improving traffic through SEO, it can be several months before you see solid results - especially through Google. Likewise, if you request a directory listing from DMOZ, your listing may not appear for 6 months to a year. DMOZ is staffed by volunteers and, because DMOZ listings can have a positive affect on your organic search rankings, it is arguably the most popular and valuable free Web directory listing to get.

In addition to site traffic, you need to track your conversion rates. For example, if, as a result of your search engine marketing efforts, your traffic doubles from 250 to 500 visitors per month, how many new customers did you acquire from the additional 250 visitors to your site. Do you now have twice as many customers as you did before? Probably not. If you picked up 5 customers your conversion rate would be 2 percent of the new traffic (5 divided by 250) and 1 percent (5 of 500) overall.

Find ways to increase the number of visitors to your website, and then find ways to increase the conversion rates of those visitors, and you'll know exactly what it takes to make your search engine marketing program successful.

Search Engine Marketing is Just One Piece of the Puzzle

Search engine marketing (SEM) is just one of the many tools available to home businesses when it comes to online marketing. See the Online Marketing Guide for additional ideas for promoting your business online.

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