The importance of the search engines to online business cannot be underestimated. How many times a day do you check Google for an answer to a question, search Bing to find a business or use Yahoo for your daily news updates? Chances are you have used a search engine today and not even realized it. We take them for granted because they have become an integral part of our lives.
The likes of Google, Bing and Yahoo have become vitally important to businesses of all shapes and sizes, and have grown significantly in the last 15 years or so. Google is the largest of the search engines, owning 67% of the market share (as of August 2013). Although they own the largest share, the other search engines get their fair share of traffic too, and shouldn’t be neglected in favor of the big one when you are looking to reach out to customers and become more visible to the online users.
The term “Search Engine Marketing” became popular around 2001, and the phrase was coined to describe the actions of businesses that were looking to get their websites listed highly in the search engine rankings. These tools are still being used today, and include the following:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Paid Listings – Using tools such as PPC (Pay Per Click), Google AdWords and Bing Ads
Search is crucial to the strategy of most small, medium and large businesses today, as so many people use the search engines every day. According to Statistic Brain, there were 5,134,000,000 Google searches in 2012 alone, and that isn’t including the other search engines. Suffice to say, people are going to be using the search engines for years to come, so it pays to know how they operate and how you can optimize your site to rank well with them.
What is Search Engine Marketing all about?
The amount of traffic that comes to your site will ultimately determine how many bookings your massage therapy business makes every year, and how often people come back to your website will depend on how good the content is and how well you perform when people make a booking with your business.
Search engine marketing (SEM) can increase the amount of traffic that comes to your site by targeting traffic that comes through the search engines and directing that traffic to your site. You can do this in a variety of ways, including paying for ads and using location-based content to find customers in your area who are searching for your kind of business via the search engines.
Depending on the business niche, you could have dozens of visitors, hundreds or even thousands of people searching for your type of business, and it pays to understand what methods of search engine marketing techniques are available to you so that you can find these people and convert them into paying customers via your website.
Search engine marketing allows your business to pay based on clicks, meaning that you only pay for each click through to your website via your online advertisement. Advertisements stemming from a well-conceived SEM campaign will result in a higher conversion rate because they are targeted to those people who are seeking out a massage therapist in your area. It can be incredibly beneficial, but also expensive, and there are no guarantees that a visitor will convert into a customer right away.
For a great guide on how to use SEM and paid search correctly, check out the guides at Search Engine Land.
SEM and SEO… What’s the Difference?
There is often confusion differentiating search engine marketing (SEM) from search engine optimization (SEO). Whilst SEO has become a far more common term and is used far more frequently by businesses in recent years due to changes in the way that search engines operate, SEO was originally just one part of the wider term of SEM.
The difference between the two is that SEM uses the search engines to advertise with paid ads and send more targeted traffic back to your website that way. SEO is all about getting organic search results, which is more about using keywords in the content you create, whilst using blogging and social media to gently nudge people towards your business. SEM and SEO are often used together, meaning that you have paid and organic results in search.
If you search for “Massage therapists in [your location]” the organic search results will come up based on relevance and the SEO tactics that have been used to influence the rankings. The paid ads and SEM results will be at the very top of the search engine rankings and down the side. This is where the paid advertising and sponsored links appear in Google’s search results. A number of people would suggest that you use a mixture of the two, especially now that Google and the other search engines are rewarding great content. If you pay for great rankings but your website is shocking, you may as well have thrown money out of a moving car, because it isn’t going to generate interest in your business for long.
Should You Take the Plunge with Search Engine Marketing?
Paid results are costly, but they can get your business in front of the right people at the right time. You have to be strategic with your paid ads. Organic results require more patience and can take time to see results, but those results are far more rewarding as a result. You could spend a lot of money on ads and see less results than you would spending time on your content marketing strategy.
Getting your business on page one of Google can become an obsession for some people, but it is better to build for that and earn it than it is to pay for it. After all, you will only be there for as long as you are willing to keep paying for the ads. If you have the budget than go for it, but the vast majority of businesses will not have the budget, and have to use the organic route for the most part, with the occasion paid ad to give your business a boost when the timing is right.
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