Search: Not Just Paid Placement

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Many marketers believe that search engine marketing is as easy as going to Google AdWords or Yahoo Search. But savvy online advertisers have realized that a more strategic approach is necessary and that the vital components of online presence lie in a company's development of a holistic search strategy that encompasses all elements of search.

Getting and keeping a top ranking within all the various areas of the search results is the goal, and to do this you need to have a plan for your campaigns.

Maximum coverage comes from reaching the broadest audience. Marketers looking to achieve this goal need three critical components of search engine marketing. The first is paid placement, which is the placement of ads above or around natural search results. Next is paid inclusion - the inclusion of paid results directly into the relevant natural search results via an XML feed. Finally, there's natural search engine optimization, using technology and consultative services that develop the highest natural search results for a given keyword or keyword phrase.

Strategic Planning

First, marketers need to create a strategic plan for their Internet marketing. Within that plan will be their search strategy. A thorough plan - and a search plan within it - should include a technical understanding of their site, target audience, flexible and conversion-oriented landing pages, success metrics (the highs and lows) and a budget.

Owning as much "shelf space" as possible to create a multiplier effect on results for high conversion terms is the key to search planning. Both paid and algorithmic search are important strategic tactics as more search engines attempt to create additional revenue channels and PPC occupies a greater percentage of page real estate.

Unlike going directly to one of the paid search engine services and purchasing keywords, SEO is a combination of understanding the goals, keywords, technology and relevancy of the content of the customer. SEO is complex and time-consuming, but it is also essential to most online marketers' overall strategy.

It is critical to get full cooperation from your technical and Web site design team. Often, the marketing group's objectives differ from those of the technical group, but the teams must collaborate on one agenda to optimize a site. Some sites have little text content or actual URLs to work with. In these cases, creating additional URLs based on the subject matter of the site or categories within the site can improve search results.

Advertisers must be careful to avoid duplicating the content in its exact text form as the search engines will deem duplicate or mirror content to be spam. It should include user-friendly information that will let the visitor gain more relevant information based on the subject matter of the respective pages. If additional content is to be created or if dynamic content is to be converted into static content, a strategy should be outlined in the beginning that defines what the changes could be.

Paid inclusion programs mean that for a fixed payment per click, a search engine will guarantee placement of various pages from a Web site within an engine's natural site results. Today Yahoo Search is the largest provider of paid inclusion programs, which typically do not guarantee that the pages will rank well for particular queries. The page is submitted on a fee basis, but page ranks still depend on the search engine's underlying relevancy algorithms.

Unlike paid placement, there's no guarantee you'll get any traffic at all. The important thing to realize is that you are getting more exposure on additional listings that you may not have ordinarily received. In doing so, you may have more chances of your ads being presented than normal for various search terms. If this happens, you may find that you get a significant lift in the volume of quality traffic for a less expense price than through paid placement programs.

The final component is paid placement, which is the most popular and the easiest to start. From the knowledge of search obtained by understanding your SEO tactics, you can translate some of that learning into your paid placement component. Though keyword lists are shared across the three components of search, the results often vary based on the tactic. Results may vary depending on the client, but it is important that marketers constantly analyze the paid placement portion of their campaigns.

SEO is undoubtedly the most time-consuming form of search marketing, and the results take far longer to implement and enjoy than those of paid search listings. Results typically aren't witnessed for weeks or months after initial deployment. SEO requires a strategy that is more long term in nature. The waiting periods between spider crawls and actual results can seem like an eternity, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Paid solutions like inclusion or placement can produce results in days.

With marketers looking to gain more eyeballs than paid placement can offer, they must expand their marketing plans to include additional search opportunities. Strategic planning is the only way to build out and effectively understand all the opportunities that abound in search.

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