Search Engine Marketing – basis

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a term that is often used when talking about both SEO and PPC (Pay Per Click – such as sponsored links) in the search engines. It is time that we take a good look at search engine marketing for there is much to gain by having good control of it. I’m sure there are a number of aspects that you miss, for it is very hard to be good at everything.

Search Engine Marketing is search engine optimization and advertising in search results. When we talk about advertising in the search engines here at, we talk almost exclusively about Google’s sponsored links (Adwords), because that is where the traffic is. Once you’ve mastered the Google sponsored links, you can move on to other types of search results. We must also begin by looking at the other end, the fact is that there is a limiting factor for all search engine marketing and that is the conversion rate and the margin. I’ll explain why it sets the limitations.

The competition for search traffic is a zero sum game

Prior to working for a while with search traffic, it can be tricky to understand this, I’ll be concise. The idea is that every visitor you get to your website is a visitor another one is not getting. It is true that search traffic generally increases, but if you get traffic someone else is not. Traditional marketing does not have the same limitation (you can of course combine but now we talk about search engine marketing). Traditional marketing can create demand, in search it is not possible. You can, in exceptional cases, use search engine optimization to build a brand. If Volvo, for example, would be in the first position on ‘safest car’ it could enhances the image of building safe cars. But it has not created an interest, it has captured the interest that already existed.

As the main strength that exists is financial resources, it means that the person who has the most resources (at least in the long term) wins. It is true that the market is not perfect, some search engine consultants are better than others, some agencies are much better at buying sponsored links, but in the long run, the result is always the same. Anyone who invests the most wins the most. This is particularly clear with Adwords, which is actually an auction system (with some special features like Google have chosen to call Quality Score, will return to that later). If you bid the most you get the most traffic. Now think you understood that there are players with the deepest pockets who always wins, then you think wrong.

The one with best conversion is the winner.

No matter how much capital you have, you can never compete against someone who earns more. In the long term it does not matter because if the value of your visitors is higher than the competitor visitor, you are willing to pay more to get it. Even if the competitor has capital in his back that far exceeds yours, you will win, sooner or later all capital is finished, the conversion rate is forever. The difference is that you earn money on every customer that you pay 1 € for, while your competitor lose a few cents. One million customers with that ratio, he has lost 100 000 while you earned a buck.

The solution is to have a higher conversion rate and an improved margin. There are still a lot of segments where the competition is not yet developed. There you can find opportunities even for those with poor margin.

How to get the most out of the visitor?

Since conversion is very important in search engine marketing you have to be as good as possible. We begin to realize that conversion is not easy and the approach vary from site to site and from segment to segment. To begin with, let me tell you how to think.

The very first thing we must keep in mind is that your site will get surprisingly little attention from your visitors. Some visitors buy anything on the site at any time but most check quickly and if they do not see what they want, they turn in the door. You can bet that the average person gives you about as much attention as anyone he faces on the street. If you do not seem to provide what he is looking for and it can be seen directly, you are screwed. If you are looking and smiling you will get a second glance (assuming you are of the right sex, fit into the expectations, have nice clothes, etc, etc) otherwise you will get a glance and then you will be forgotten. That is exactly how it works in the search engine result.

I’m on the hunt for a new stereo for the car and have just Googled. I came to your site because you had purchased a sponsored link or maybe you were number one in the organic results. I am just like almost everyone on the Internet, picky and have the attention span of a fraction of a second. If I do not immediately see something that I like, I go back to Google and do a new search. You have to make me realize that you sell car stereos and that you do it at a price that fits me and that I can trust you.

For this to work the first cornerstone is clarity. You must be clear about what you offer, even before the visitor come to your site. The search results appear Title and Meta Description, they need to tell you what you could expect on the site. If the title, which is the one you usually click on in a search result says “Buy butter here” and then you sell only cheese, you will convert poorly no matter how much traffic you get. Be clear in every way, where to click to purchase, be clear about what it costs, be clear why they should choose you.

Keyword Analysis

All search engine marketing is based on keyword analysis. There are different approaches when working with Adwords than if you work with search engine optimization, but the basic idea is the same. It is about finding keywords that are profitable. My favorite way to get information about it is to actually use Adwords, not just the Keyword Tool Google has (which is very helpful), but actually to try to advertise. The fact is that no matter how good you are at keyword analysis, it may still be difficult to know in advance what will happen.

What I prefer to do is that I create a proper list in Google’s tools and then I run a campaign with plenty of budget and high bids on clicks. That way, I get to know a lot of stuff. To begin with, I get to see how many times my ads is shown and it is a very useful information. It is exactly the same as finding out how many searches are performed on each search phrase. I also get to know which keywords that are most profitable, I can measure how much I sell per keyword, and how much traffic I get. I can therefore see the conversion rate for each keyword in advance.

With all this data in my pocket, I know which keywords that are interesting in both PPC and SEO. What I do afterwards is to weigh them against the competition. For PPC, it is about the click price, in SEO how well optimized the opponents in the search engine results are.

Work on the campaigns

The two elements of search engine marketing, even though they are quite similar, requires some different types of activities. Your Adwords campaign requires you to work with titles and descriptions continuously. It requires that you work with perfect landing pages for each version of the ad so that you maximize the Quality Score and conversion. SEO, on the other hand requires link building, which is more work no matter how you do it.

One of the benefits of a sponsored links towards search engine optimization is that your ads appear more or less instantly. You can modify, test your way until you find the perfect combinations. The problem of course is that everyone else can do it and if they get more traffic, you get less. There is only one way to deal with it and it is to be better than the competition, so expect it to take awhile and many attempts before the campaign gets really profitable.

Search engine optimization (SEO) takes longer, but is also almost always more profitable in the long run. Most of all traffic from the search engines still go to the organic search results and SEO has more the character of investment than PPC. All the work you invest in SEO will pay for itself over a very long time. Adwords stops generating income the moment you stop buying ads.

Search Engine Marketing  summarized

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the two main building blocks of search marketing. Conversion and Keyword Analysis. In the long term, I am convinced that there is always those who have good conversion rate and made a proper job of analysis will be the winner. Everything else you can experiment with, test your way when you have these two in place. I hope this article has been helpful and good luck with your search engine marketing.