We will start by covering search engine marketing (SEM) which includes search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising.
We will then move on to affiliate marketing, directories, Email marketing, advertising networks and finally social media.
Search engine marketing (SEM)
Having become the most visited online category ahead of the like of portals, social networks and Email, search engine marketing must be at the heart of your marketing efforts. The big three search engines by quite some margin are:
| Search engine|| Global Market Share|
| Google|| 81.57%|
| Yahoo!|| 10.07%|
| Microsoft*|| 4.71%|
* MSN & Live Search now called Bing
With 96% of the global market, it is pretty much a safe bet if you decide to focus your energy on those search engines alone.
Although Google claim 25% of searches each day have never been conducted before, there are three broad types of searches:
- Navigational e.g. typing in a brand name that you are already aware of (e.g. Apple BBC)
- Informational e.g. “World Cup winner 1978”
- Transactional e.g. “iPod Nano”
A search engine results page (SERP) is made up of two distinct sections; organic results and sponsored results. A typical SERP looks like this:
Looking at this in more detail:
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Search engine optimisation is the process of increasing your website’s organic position in a search engine’s ranking. There are two methods to achieve this; ‘On site’ and ‘Off site’.
On-site deals with all the variables you can control as the site’s webmaster. These are primarily based around your use of keywords:
- Page title tags <title>
- Header tags <h1>, <h2> etc
- Body of text
- Anchor text <a href=”http://www.example.com”>Anchor
- Domain name
Choosing the right keywords to focus on can be the difference between being ranked highly for the most popular terms and being buried on page 3 or below. There are numerous keyword research tools to choose from, some paid and some free. Unless you have a site running in to hundreds of pages or you have a product inventory the size of Amazon’s, the free tools will be enough.
If we use the search term “trainers” we can choose which variation is most popular (e.g. “trainers” or “trainers shoes”), which associated product/service is most popular (e.g. “Nike trainers” or “Adidas trainers”), and compare completely different words (e.g. which is the most searched for “trainers” or “sport shoes”?)
One of the most popular is KeyWord Discovery’s free search term suggestion tool (http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html).
Google also provide a keyword research tool found through your AdWords account or if you do not have one you can find it here https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
SEO and your meta keywords
In your HTML file, in between the <head> tags there are two meta tags you can use which were created to help inform search engines about your website:
- <meta keywords=”...”>
- <meta description=”...”>
Most SEO software still put a lot of emphasis on these as important ranking factors, unfortunately they are selling you a lemon. The meta keywords tag has not been used for ranking factors since the turn of the century due to misuse and spamming. A site can ignore this tag and see no negative impact whatsoever. The meta description again has no ranking influence, but it is used by the search engines for you site’s description in the results page under the title (highlighted below). A strong page <title> (used for the SERPs title) and meta description can greatly increase the number of clicks you get.
Tips for writing your <title> and meta description:
- Use your brand name and the main two or three keywords in the <title>
- Do the same for the meta description
- Write the meta description with people and not the search engines in mind
- Don’t just use a list of Keywords e.g. “Trainers, sport trainers, Nike trainers...”
Anchor text and SEO
When you link from one page to another in your own website or you link to someone else’s website using non-descriptive terms such as ‘click here’ or ‘find out more’ as the anchor text you are not providing the search engine’s spiders with information about what that page is about. As a result you miss out on taking advantage of one of the most important SEO ranking factors.
To see this in action search for “click here” on Google. You will see Adobe tops the rankings without a single mention of it anywhere on the page (the same goes for all the sites on the first page). This is 100% down to thousands of websites using something along the lines of “To download Adobe Acrobat Reader click here”.
Anchor text and usability
Getting in to good habits naming your anchor text also improves your site’s general usability. Research conducted in to how people read online content shows people don’t, they scan. Visitors look for visual cues as to the page’s topic and what they need to do next. Linked text stands out and draws the eyes, but non-descriptive links tell the user nothing and they will continue scanning elsewhere.
Getting the best of both worlds
When you link to another page use descriptive keywords for both the reader’s benefit and for SEO purposes. For example…“Widgets Inc the UK’s leading provider of uidgets is pleased to announce the launch of Widgets XL.”
When you are linking to a page make sure they are…
- Written for the user and not the search engines
- Part of the sentence and not tacked on at the end
How do you get links to your site?
To get sites to link to you, you need to give them a reason to do so. It sounds simple but it can be a very hard nut to crack.
Good content: Your best bet for links from other sites associated with your industry such as blogs, forums and news sites is to provide content their own visitors will want to read. Blogs are a proven method of doing this with many successful sites even placing their blog at the centre of their business.
Creating link bait: Link bait describes content (be it an article, a widget, a down load...) created especially to attract links from other sites. Some ideas include:
- Give away something free e.g. research, guides etc
- Being controversial
- Launching a widget
- Appealing to an opinion former’s ego
- Being funny
- Running an interview
- Top xx lists are always popular
- Survey results
Online press releases: These are a great way to gain links from your industry’s news sites. If you launch a new service, re-design your site, start a special offer etc send out a press release to the relevant news sites and blogs. You will be amazed how many publish the press release, often word for word including a link.
Become active in your community: Put time aside to read other site’s blogs and forum posts and start commenting on them and interacting with other people involved in your industry. Over time you and your site will start to become known. The more incisive and interesting your feedback the better your reputation will be. Simple one liners such as “Great post” will get you nowhere.
Ask for them! Who are your industry’s heavy weights, who carry news, who are the popular blogs etc? You can either try to be subtle and leave a comment or be explicit and send them an email to draw their attention. If you decide to contact any one directly tailor the message specifically to them. They will be able to smell a generic mail shot a mile off.
Buying links: Taking a short cut and buying links directly from sites or through link farms/ brokers can be very tempting when you first start. It is important you understand Google takes a very dim few of this practice and will punish any sites found to be guilty of this. The punishment can vary from having the link juice removed through to your site being excluded from their search results altogether.
Search engine pay per click (SEPPC)
SEPPC is the favoured advertising model of most search engines (including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft). As the name suggests advertisers only pay when someone clicks on one of their adverts.
At its most basic level the model is essentially an auction based on keywords that trigger the adverts. Advertisers state how much they are willing to pay per click for an advert to be shown when someone types in a search phrase with that keyword. The more the advertiser is willing to pay the higher their advert is shown.
However, the bid amount is not the only factor when it comes to the adverts’ rank. To make sure the adverts being displayed are relevant to the search terms the search engines have introduced a series of quality checks that also determine an adverts’ position. Google calls theirs the ‘quality score’ (QS). The quality score is so important that advertisers with a high quality score can bid less and have their adverts shown higher than those with a low quality score.
The factors used include:
- The adverts’ click through rate
- The landing page’s relevance to the original search
- The advertiser’s keyword performance history
You can read more here http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=10215
A well thought out Google AdWords account benefits from improved quality score (QS), lower bid prices, higher ad positions and more effective reporting/ analysis.
A Google AdWords account has four levels:
- Ad Group
How you structure each level at the set up stage will impact on both your account performance and the ease at which you can analyse results. It will also remove the often tedious and lengthy process of having to restructure the account further down the line.
How to structure the account
Campaign: A product or service
Ad Group: Search themes surrounding the campaign
Keyword : The keywords associated with the ad group theme
For example, if we apply this to domain names…
Campaign: Domain names
Ad Group: Cheap domain name
Keyword: ‘Cheap domain’; ‘cheap domain names’; ‘cheap domain UK’
We would then run an advert tailored to the ad group/ keyword. For example, if someone searched for “Cheap domain names”, our advert would be as follows…
Cheap Domain Names
Domain names only £2.59/year
.com only £4.99. Register now
Why structure the account that way?
- Increased relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group (QS benefit)
- Increased relevance of the keyword and the matched ad to the search query (QS benefit)
- Adverts tailored to the keyword see a major increase in click through rate
- Easier to adjust bids and distribute budgets to the keywords that are the strong performers
- It is easy to run reports at each level without unrelated products or keywords skewing the numbers
- Conversion tracking cost per acquisition statistics are clean at each level (e.g. if we had grouped ‘cheap domain’ keywords with ‘bulk domain names’ at the ad group level the conversion figure doesn’t tell us which generated the most sales)
- It informs your SEO efforts through the impressions metric (i.e. which keywords are the most popular?)
What makes a good SEPPC advert?
As you can see below a PPC advert does not give you a lot of space to grab attention, generate interest and convert that in to a click:
A PPC adverts’ dimensions are:
Title: 25 characters
Line 1: 35 characters
Line 2: 35 characters
Display URL: 35 Characters
To grab as many clicks as possible:
- Use the keyword at the start of the title
- Use the keyword at the start of line 1
- Stand out from the crowd e.g. ”Free delivery”
- Use a call to action e.g. “25% Sale ends soon”
- Use the keyword in the display URL
For the search term 'Football Boots' we could use the following...
Football boots 25% off top brands
Sale ends soon. Free delivery
How many should clicks should you expect?
Although this will vary massively from industry to industry and keyword to keyword, it is becoming accepted that PPC adverts claim far fewer of a page’s clicks that the organic results. A split of 85% (organic) / 15% (PPC) is widely considered to be a fair assessment. Although your advert impression reports will show all the times your advert was shown, you are really only going to grab 15% of that total.