Search Engine Marketing Tips, Tricks, and Strategies

by Kevin Lee, CEO of Did-it.com

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.

Search Engine Marketing Tips, Tricks, and Strategies

by Kevin Lee, CEO of Did-it.com

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 need.

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 copywriting.

  • 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 for you.
  • 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.

Paid Placement

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 investment).

If you have any questions on search engine marketing (SEM), SEO, please e-mail me at kevin@did-it.com. Also, there is a FREE White Paper entitled "Search Engine Marketing Best Practices" to get a copy, click here.

Kevin Lee is chief executive officer of Did-it.com, Inc. Did-it.com's clients rely on Did-it's automated systems to manage paid search results campaigns in auction and XML paid inclusion vendors based on their CPO/CPA data. Kevin and the Did-it team have been helping marketers since 1996.