Search marketing is now widely recognised as a highly effective way of reaching customers online. Last year, over £2 Billion was spent globally in online marketing and the figures are set to soar. More companies with an online presence are turning to search marketing to reach prospective customers, generate traffic to their site and convert them into sales. So, how does it all work? If you’re considering investing a percentage of your hard earned marketing budget on search marketing you should have a basic understanding of where it’s going and how it works. Most search marketing companies talk about improved web site and page ranking but what exactly does that mean? What you want is to increase traffic to your site, improve sales and raise the brand. How does that happen?
SEM or SM?
Search marketing which has now dropped the less glamorous “engine” from its previous industry name of Search Engine Marketing really consists of two disciplines – paid search and organic or natural search. Paid search is of course what keeps Google in hyper-growth or more specifically Google Adwords. In the UK we must not forget Yahoo Search Marketing (Overture), Miva and Mirago. These engines all enable advertisers to Pay-for-Position (PfP) or Pay-per-Click (PPC). It’s important to note that such marketing is a form of advertising and such adverts wherever they appear should be announced as “sponsored” or labelled as advertising.
The PfP networks mentioned above are referred to as networks because, in nearly all cases, their adverts are shown across a network of sites. The sites in the network depend on the relationship that the main ad technology provider has with search portals. For example, if you search for something on Google and look at the Google AdWords shown, you will see the same ads on Aol.co.uk. You may see some differences due to advertisers’ budgets causing fluctuations in impressions, but they are same.
Organic search or natural search results are provided by crawling search engines – more on those later. The important thing to remember is that paid search is advertising and organic search is editorial. Well, that’s the analogy the search marketing industry uses to describe in Newspaper-like terminology the complex world of search. It’s a rather good analogy because it allows us search people to explain Search Engine Optimisation.
Organic Search and PR
So if you wanted to advertise in a national newspaper you could book it directly, use a media buyer, engage a creative agency and possibly a media planner. Well you can do all of that too with paid search. The management of paid search is big business. But what about editorial or those crawled results? Well to influence editorial, you might engage a PR agency. Of course a PR agency’s not going to guarantee front page news but it will devise a strategy and execute on it to get results. Well in the world of search, to try and influence crawling search engines and their organic results, you should consider Search Engine Optimisation and you might consider a Search Engine Optimisation agency. Another point for clarity, Search Engine Optimisation is a really bad term. You don’t and can’t optimise search engines you actually optimise the website you want to perform well in search engines. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with SEO and not a more logical name like “website search optimisation”.
The find, crawl, read, index and rank
At ivantage.co.uk we always think of “ranking” on crawling search engines as just one of four steps in generating traffic and conversions in the process of successful Search Engine Optimisation. Your site, like every other site, needs not only to be ranked by search engines but found, crawled, read, indexed and then ranked by crawling search engines.
The UK’s leading crawling search engines, spiders and robots
Notice I talk about crawling search engines. What on earth are these? Actually you’ll have heard of most of them, there really aren’t that many and certainly the only ones you need to worry about, as far as traffic is concerned, are Google, Yahoo, MSN, (Ask Jeeves) Teoma and Mirago. Each search engine generally has a portal component which is the bit consumers visit to conduct their searches and a crawling component called the robot or spider. So each of the search engines I mentioned above has its own robot, each uniquely named Googlebot, Slurp, MSNbot, Teoma and Henry respectively.