SEO/SEM

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BEST Strategies to Integrate SEO/SEM into Your Marketing Plan

It’s not all together easy but with a focused SEO/SEM marketing strategy, you can begin boosting your overall marketing presence!

Search engine optimization and search engine marketing were all the rage in the early aughts. Seemingly every business with an online presence was vying for time and space under that Google search bar. And while things have changed in some ways, in other ways things have stayed the same, and SEO and SEM are still going to be an integral part of your digital business plan.

It’s true that consumers have grown savvier and are not so likely to engage with obvious clickbait or trust an article with the same three or four word phrase jammed into every few paragraphs. And even though the whole Google Authorship thing didn’t work out, consumers still want to know that they are being provided with reliable information from a reliable source.  Likewise, consumers increasingly don’t want to be “sold to” even though they desperately want to buy.

So how do you sell something without selling it?

The answer is SEO.

But tackling how SEO and its cousin SEM fit into your marketing plan can be difficult. So is figuring out how to effectively use the algorithms out there and provide content that will get you clicks and, more importantly, generate sales.

It’s not all together easy but with a focused SEO/SEM marketing strategy, you can begin boosting your overall marketing presence!

5. Know Your Target Audience

This one’s a no brainer and undoubtedly the most important part of detailing your marketing plan, but you’d be surprised how many businesses and marketing professionals have no idea who their target audience is. Maybe you know your demographic or the industry, the general lump of people who would want your product, but you need the whole picture: their sex, age, where they’re located geographically and what their needs are.

Get to know your target audience by putting a survey on your site, read up on industry market statistics or set up focus groups on your own.

The only way you’re going to effectively integrate SEO or SEM into your marketing plan is by knowing your audience.

4. Content, Content, Content

After you’ve nailed down who it is exactly you’re selling to, you’re going to want to start generating content.

Have a plan to set up a blog and think of that blog as a home, covering all the topics that might not fit anywhere else on your website or on the web at large.

Carefully craft and curate the content. Realize that this isn’t the Wild West days of SEO and you can’t just stuff words into a post and expect consumers or Google to react positively to it. It will look spammy (partly because it is) and will lead to a negative customer experience. And, perhaps more importantly, it looks spammy to search engines and will more than likely harm your site’s ranking.

Write reviews, have intelligently written and informative content and above all make it a place your customers will want to inhabit.

3. SEO and Content =/= Advertising

Your content and the steps you take toward SEO are not advertising. Advertising and marketing, ideally, is broken down thusly— producing a product, marketing that product, and then profit.

Content creation, while a form of advertisement, is not really advertising. It’s more of creating an ethos with your customers. It’s building trust between you and your customer, making your company appear authoritative and as experts in your field. The more of this ethical currency you cultivate, the more your customers will rely on you for information and build repeat business.

2. Cultivate Your Customers Through SEM

Say it with me: SEM is not the END. In all reality, SEM is just the tip of the customer interaction iceberg.

To make a service like Adwords truly work for you and your business, you are going to have to, more or less, shepherd (or “funnel” if you’re into the more mechanical analogies) your customer through your marketing strategy. To make a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign work, you’ve got to direct your potential customers to a landing page wherein there is a well-defined purpose. Generally, this is going to be buying a product, signing up for your listserv and the like.

Furthermore, if you’re using SEM for B2B sales, it’s important that you have systems in place to initiate follow-ups, whether it’s a sales rep call, drip email, etc.

1. Your SEO and SEM Should Work in Tandem

It’s easy to forget when you’re working on one or the other, but your SEO and your SEM should be a team.

The keywords and phrases you’re boosting with SEO should be informed by the data you collect from your SEM, these two working in tandem will increase the probability that these SEO keywords will produce positive results.

SEO and SEM should work together in perfect harmony and always toward the same goals, supplementing each other and ensuring that all the facets of your digital presence— keywords, messaging, listserv, landing pages, etc.— are intersecting and providing your customers with a singular, consistent experience.

If you haven’t clued in on it yet, your SEO/SEM marketing plan is built on a foundation of knowledge imbued with trust and then carefully cultivated. When your customers see that you’re knowledgeable and begin to trust you and your message, they will come back again and again.

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What is the Key Distinction Between SEO and SEM?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has traditionally been thought of as a component of the umbrella term, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), encompassing both paid AND organic tactics. Today, SEM is used to refer exclusively to paid search. According to Search Engine Land, Search Engine Marketing is “the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines,” while Search Engine Optimization is defined as “the process of getting traffic from the free, organic, editorial or natural search results on search engines.”

So, rather than viewing SEM as an umbrella term encompassing SEO, it’s more accurate to view SEM (paid search) and SEO (organic search) as separate entities to use as part of your Search Marketing arsenal.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The industry and discipline of SEO is continually evolving to keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms, but one thing is constant: SEO is made up of on-page and off-page (aka “on-site” and “off-site”) activities as its two main pillars.

On-page SEO consists of:

  • Optimized meta data, including the page title tag, meta description, heading tags, and image ALT tag, which incorporate target keywords
  • Well-written and optimized page copy that incorporate target keywords
  • Simple and well-formatted page URLs with selective keywords
  • Optimized page speed
  • Social sharing integration within your content

Off-page SEO consists of:

  • Link building to attract and obtain quality inbound links (aka “backlinks”)
    • This makes up the majority of off-page SEO
  • Social signals (e.g., increasing traffic to a website from social media sharing)
  • Attracting attention from social bookmarking sites like Reddit, Digg and Stumbleupon

A large part of SEO is creating valuable, high-quality content (e.g., blog articles and web page copy) that your target audience will find helpful. Over time, this results in increased organic traffic to your website, more opportunities for inbound links and, most importantly, more conversions.

Be sure to pay attention to these on-page and off-page tactics to ensure your landing pages, web copy and blog articles are optimized for search.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM strictly involves earning search visibility through paid advertisements on search engines like Google. While these advertisements are commonly referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, there’s a slew of additional terms used for paid search or SEM activities—cost-per-click (CPC) ads, paid search ads and paid search advertising.

PPC advertising allows you to target potential buyers through relevant ad copy and keywords that match their search queries. These ads show up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) next to organic listings, which gives your company the opportunity to increase the visibility of its web pages, landing pages, blog articles and more.

What Are Some Examples of SEM Activities?

Google AdWords is far and away the most popular platform for hosting ads, but there are some key activities needed for successful SEM on the platform, such as:

  • Launching ad campaigns with a specific audience (e.g., geographic) in mind
  • Creating ad groups that consist of target keyword variations
  • Writing relevant ad copy using these selective keywords
  • Setting an ad budget
  • Monitoring metrics like clicks, impressions, click through rates and average cost-per-click

There are several other intricacies involved in launching and maintaining an effective paid search ad campaign, but these five activities are especially important for any beginner to master. If you’re thinking about ramping up SEM efforts to complement organic SEO, be sure to take a look at Google Adwords’ Search Ads page.

So, Which is Better? Strict SEO or SEM?

Advocates on either side could argue one is more effective than the other, but I like to view high-quality SEO as a prerequisite for high-quality SEM. SEO lays the foundation for SEM through well-optimized content that prospects and customers find helpful. Without landing pages, web pages and blog content optimized for search, your SEM efforts will fall flat due to poor quality, and visibility in the SERPs will be extremely difficult. Organic SEO is also less costly long-term as you establish search credibility, as long as you maintain it with the consistent creation of quality content and social media usage.

On the other hand, if you’re just launching your first website and initial online footprint, you’re likely going to need some immediate visibility in search until you build up some organic credibility. With a strategic PPC campaign, you’d be able to achieve this. What you shouldn’t do, though, is rely strictly on PPC long-term while ignoring organic SEO.

So, evaluate what’s best for your specific needs but make sure you fully understand the differences and how you’ll maintain your efforts long-term.