We've talked previously about ways to build your email
list. One is providing a way for your website visitors to
opt-in to hear from you. Great idea, right? But as rocker
Tom Petty once said "the waiting is the hardest part." Where
are those elusive site visitors? And how can you attract
more of them so that your list (among other things like
sales and brand recognition) grows faster? Our friend and
search engine expert, Kevin Lee, explains.
Now more than ever, marketers are recognizing that
search engines deliver the traffic that can be converted
to sales and newsletter subscriptions (which, of course,
may turn into sales at a later time). The hard part is
getting the targeted search engine traffic you want and
Several years ago it was possible, even easy, to get
good search result position in the organic (unpaid)
search results. Now, even if you can get decent organic
position that may not be enough. For example, a search
results screen at Yahoo or MSN for a popular search term
such as "travel" or "healthcare" returns a screen of
nearly 100% paid listings. Scroll down and you still see
a large percentage of paid search results. Even Google
has sponsored listings that are displayed above their
"organic" unpaid results.
However, organic search SEO is still important. Make
sure your site is "search engine friendly" by following
good practices, particularly unique title tags, and good
- Every page on your site should have a title tag
that starts with the keyword phrases and words that
most accurately describe the page and also are
keywords you would like the site found for.
- Copy on the page itself should all be in text
form (not graphics) and should be written with the
searcher in mind, using phrases and keywords that
your target audience is likely to use when looking
- Make the page "search engine spider friendly"
and then make sure you have directory listings
(Yahoo and DMOZ.,org).
- Try to get appropriate sites to link to you.
Of course you can spend lots of time, energy and
money trying to obtain those elusive top organic natural
placements. But, many marketers have realized that
assured positions and traffic are available through paid
listings, as search engine traffic is always available
for a price. Marketers can buy text-link search results
on all of the top 15 search sites as ranked by Media
Metrix and NetRatings. This is called paid SEM (Search
Engine Marketing) which is broken down into four
categories: Paid Placement, Directory Inclusion, Paid
Inclusion and Shopping Engines.
The top paid placement vendors are Overture, Google,
and FindWhat. Each of these search traffic vendors has
syndication partners. Overture has Yahoo, MSN and
others, and Google has AOL and Ask Jeeves; so, most of
the traffic you get is from sites that have partnered to
deliver the search traffic.
The top few listings are the only ones syndicated to
all the big sites, and Google and Overture work like
auctions. Argh! That means if you have 500 keywords
listed with three vendors, you have to keep track of
pricing and positioning for 1500 different listings.
More importantly, you should know what you want the
visitor to do after arrival at your site. That action
should be measured so you know which keywords result in
those desired actions.
By knowing what price you paid per click and the
conversion percentage, you can figure out what the cost
per action or order was, as long as you have a good
tracking system. If you need the diversity of lots of
keywords, and don't have great tracking, then consider
using a campaign management company that combines
tracking and automated bid adjustments that take the
efficiency of your keywords into account.
XML Paid Inclusion
Larger sites can take advantage of XML Paid
Inclusion. This service takes their sites (often
dynamically generated sites that are never visited by
most search engine spiders), and converts them into a
data stream similar to what a search engine spider would
have collected. This data is then fed directly into the
search engine databases as if the spider had, in fact,
collected the data.
These XML feeds can be created in two ways: The
database that drives the website can be dumped into a
format that is easy for an XML enabled search engine
marketing agency to work with, or the agency can spider
the site themselves, only more aggressively than a
typical search engine spider would.
After the raw data is collected, some vendors will
machine enhance the data, others will review it
manually, and some agencies will use a combination of
machine enhancement and human editing. Either way, it
makes sense to measure the effectiveness of the XML
listings as some listings may drive lower quality
traffic and may not be a good use of marketing dollars.
Directory Paid Inclusion
Business.com and Looksmart are Paid Directory
Inclusion. Business.com has an annual fee for general
inclusion and standard listings, and a premium service.
Looksmart has moved to a 100% CPC(Cost Per Click) based
directory inclusion. They have a separate XML feed, but
the directory inclusion product is distributed through
MSN and is therefore a good source of traffic,
particularly for search terms of three or more.
It is important to remember that paid inclusion of
all types does not guarantee a position, just inclusion.
A paid inclusion listing or URL will get clicks on a
variety of keyword combinations, just as a natural
organic search listing will. The database from which the
listing is pulled is indifferent to whether the listing
was paid or not, but paid inclusion does give the
marketer some additional control.
There are various tools and services available to
make your job of managing one or more of these types of
SEM easier. Before you select any tools or services, you
need to define your campaign objectives. In the early
days of search marketing, the typical objective was
traffic volume. Now metrics of success tend to be more
action oriented such as, CPO (cost-per-order), CPA
(cost-per-action, such as newsletter sign up), ROAS
(return on advertising spending), and ROI (return on
If you have any questions on search engine marketing
(SEM), SEO, please e-mail me at
Also, there is a FREE White Paper entitled "Search
Engine Marketing Best Practices" to get a copy,