A lot of people don’t understand the difference between Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEM isn’t just a rebrand of the more widely talked about SEO. So, what makes one stand out over the other? And what type of business should look at getting SEM done for their business here in Nashville? The first and foremost is to work with a company who truly understands SEM and knows that it includes: SEO, Website Design, Social Media Marketing, Paid-Media Advertising, and is conversion not click driven. When you hire a true SEM expert, you will get someone who understands the business processes, user experience, accountability, and reporting that’s required to convert clicks into customers, and how to tweak your website to where it needs to be to take search to the next level. A good SEM company is able to help you focus on an integrated and holistic plan, pathway, and strategy that is built to lead you from point A to point B.
A lot of small businesses have become burnt out when it comes to SEO and SEM, and this issue is not just seen here in Nashville. We talk to people all over the country and we hear horror stories of how they paid thousands of dollars and got so few conversions, or how they had no idea what was being done and why it was being done. This is why many small business owners in Nashville and around the country feel like people who sell SEO and SEM are selling snake oil to them.
What does Serious SEM do to help promote SEM in Nashville, and bring something new to the table that sets us apart from the rest? It’s a simple philosophy of being transparent and understanding what company needs SEM. We know that businesses need more than just a company to throw money at Ad words for them, they need a blend of SEO, Paid Media Management, and Content Marketing.
SEO & SEM
The initial plan for every client we meet is a pretty simple one, and often the end goal is the same. By applying the right search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to their website, they can attract more visitors who are looking for the products and services they offer. And that, in turn, will likely increase sales opportunities. Although the goal sounds easy, the path to get there is not always easy to get it right.
SEO has gone through huge changes in the past 20 years. It’s gone from being the place to spend money at the end of the quarter when you don’t want to lose it, to a critical component that touches every piece of marketing today.
In the past, SEO was a brand-building exercise, and showing up first in the search results of the biggest search engines was the goal. Now, it’s a core component of life-cycle marketing, supporting customers and prospects through every phase of the buyer’s journey. It’s about creating and sharing great content to attract new prospects. It’s a big part of creating thought leadership targeted to the middle and the bottom of the funnel so you can nurture prospects and turn them into customers. It’s also about creating continuing education and support content to help keep customers satisfied and turn them into evangelists.
Search is headed to more personalized content. The era where what you see in search results is the same as what I see is long gone. Google and the other search engines are continuing to gather more and more information about searchers and the Google mobile update on April 21 has already accelerated this. They are going to start incorporating app information, better GPS information, and they’ll start to personalize the search results to every searcher. This is a lot to learn, a lot to keep track of, and a lot to worry about.
So, how do we handle all this? Serious SEM brings a straightforward three step plan of action, that is customized to your business to help you gain more traffic, and convert more visitors to customers.
1. Good Search Marketing Means Good Content Marketing
Content marketing and search marketing have always been very complementary, and for many companies, they’re part of the same strategy. With content marketing, you’re creating information that you think will be useful for your target audience (whether it’s a podcast, white paper, data sheet, case study, infographic, video, and so on).
Once the content is created, you find a channel you can use to get the content in front of the audience you are trying to reach. This could be printing it out and handing out copies at a trade show, finding like-minded websites where your audience is likely to see the information, or optimizing the content so search engines like Google are likely to show it when someone is searching for information.
But in reality, up until a few years ago, many companies completely lost sight of the fact that search is a vital channel for getting quality content in front of a target audience. Instead, it became a goal in and of itself. That means many companies decided, “It doesn’t matter what kind of garbage we show the visitor, as long as we are #1 on Google!” This is an incredibly short-sighted way of thinking because nobody makes money because they’re #1 on Google. You make money because your target audience is able to easily find your company and get the information they’re looking for. You use that content to build a relationship with the prospect, nurture them, and turn them into a customer.
Fortunately, Google and the other engines realize this and have been making significant changes to the algorithms to reward high-quality content.
What does all this mean for your small business and the SEM plan you have for it?
Simple. You need a company who understands what Google wants, knows how to produce it in just the way to make both the user and Google happy. It also means a lot of people need to shift how they define success for their SEM plan. Being number one helps, but the goal should be: seeing bigger traffic coming in, more conversations, and more people talking about them. As this happens over time you will see your page rise because Google will reward you for making people happy and giving them great content. Adwords and paid media ventures are a great way to push a well thought out and laid out landing page, to give an even more niche look at the things the people looking for you actually want, and help you grow your bottom line in the long run.
2. Develop Your Perfect Search Engine Marketing Strategy
Perfect search marketing happens when you create a high-quality piece of content that is highly relevant to the audience you are trying to reach, and your audience can easily decipher the content to get the information they are looking for. If you start with this as your goal, the rest of your SEO strategy will just fall into place:
- When you start with the goal of creating great content for your audience, you are likely to use the language that they use.
- You are going to use the right keywords throughout the content.
- You are likely going to have a relevant headline to the content and use synonyms and proof terms throughout the content.
- When you create the title of the page, you are likely to create something compelling and your description is probably going to give a good idea what the content is about.
And if you truly do create a great piece of content, people are going to want to share it.
Obviously you also have to pay attention to character counts, keyword placement, link building, off-site optimization, social media trends, reviews, feedback, and other factors. But if you start by creating great content for your target audience, you will be most of the way there. This is why we start every meeting with a new client with a goal to outline your needs as a business; who your perfect customer is, and how to best reach them. We spend much of the start getting to know your business, industry, and brand so we can better think like your customers and future customers to give them everything they will want in the content they are looking for so we can drive them to you.
3. Keep Learning and Adapting
As I’ve said before, the only constant in search marketing is change. Serious SEM is able to adapt to these ongoing shifts by continuing to innovate to make sure our customers are aware of all the changes, and ready to take advantage of the new opportunities as soon as they arise. We’re constantly monitoring changes in the search engines and industry best practices and evolving our SEM solution so our customers know they are always optimizing against the latest information and can focus on creating great content and nurturing their leads instead of worrying about what Google is going to do next.
From SEO to Paid Media Management, we make sure we are always learning, tweaking, and adjusting how we tackle them to give our clients the best results. Our clients are never left in the dark about what we are doing, and where things are going. And any time you want to talk to us, you can pick up the phone and one of our SEM specialists will be happy to take time out of their day to talk with you and go over numbers, worries, and concerns so, both, you and us are on the same page and ready to keep your customers happy and talking about your brand!. SEM is for Nashville, it’s neighbors, and every business across the country. But you need to make sure you’re working with a company you can trust who has the right goals in mind, and is not focused on the coveted number one spot and ignore all the things that make you money and allow you to sustain a strong SEM plan along the way.