In the whirlwind of activity that running your own company demands of you, it’s easy to forget or ignore the things that can really make a difference to your business. You’re looking for growth, new clients, fresh markets and opportunities, but the day to day gets in the way, particularly if you’re the MD, the sales person, the finance director and the marketing director all rolled into one.
An area that is often dismissed is Search Engine Marketing (SEM), usually because it’s perceived as being too expensive, too techie and too embedded in the dark arts of digital marketing. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Looking at your website and its activity from a SEM point of view can give you fresh ideas, highlight opportunities and open the door for increased traffic. This article gives you a quick primer – three key activities – on how that might work.
- Understand what SEM is
It’s all about getting reputation – Google-juice! The better your ranking and reputation on search engines, the more relevant traffic you’ll get on your website. SEM activity uses techniques to boost your presence on search engines to increase the likelihood of your site being found and clicked on. It’s not cheating or using underhand methods – it’s doing what all your competitors will also be doing.
There are four main areas of activity in SEM, as follows:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the technique by which it’s possible to improve your ranking on search engine results pages. It involves a number of elements that include the following:
- Technical SEO – this is where website developers look at your website and its results pages and find areas that are causing problems with search engine “crawling”. Fixing these issues means that the search engines can index your website better and therefore help people find your content more easily. It’s also about making sure that the right “signposts” are in place to tell the search engine, for example, which country or language a particular page is aimed at
- Links – getting links from other websites with good ranking helps your ranking (your position in the results pages) to improve too. For example, if you use Public Relations (PR) activity to get coverage on news websites or in professional journals, do your best to get links back to your website. The more well known and reputable the website is, the better for you!
- Content – making your content clear, unambiguous and rich in important keywords is a highly skilled job, involving using sophisticated software tools. However, you can make a start with your content and good keywords, simply by thinking what people would put into Google if they were searching for your company or its products or services. Use those same words and phrases in headlines, page titles and body copy. Naturally, professional SEO is not quite that straightforward, but it builds on those principles
Pay Per Click (PPC)
Paying to get clicks may seem rather extravagant, particularly if yours is a small business with small budgets. However, PPC can be very effective in driving potential customers to your website, simply because you have carefully targeted ads that speak to their interests. For instance, type “tyres” into Google and at the top of the results page you are almost certain to see ads results from local tyre suppliers. These have been presented by Google in the hope that you’ll click. Once you do, the advertiser is charged for that click and you, the enquirer are routed through to the website landing page. You can create ads like this for yourself by visiting the Google Ads pages.
Ads might appear also in Facebook timelines. These are particularly effective if you wish to target people in their downtime. You may have experienced this yourself, where you are browsing through Facebook and suddenly an advert for something in which you are quite interested pops up. It’s not a coincidence! Facebook monitors your activity and points relevant ads at you. You’ll find the interface for placing ads in the Ad Centre in the area where you manage your company page.
Public Relations (PR)
It might seem strange to put PR into the SEM category, but it’s a major contributor to any strategic plan for content marketing. Your website is essentially the hub of every marketing activity you undertake – it receives all the leads, whether they are from SEM, email marketing, social media, adverts on the back of buses or anything else. PR adds a highly focused content approach that targets print, online and broadcast media in your region, nationally or internationally.
The content you create in PR work should be just as rich in keywords, just as focused on garnering search engine results, as any of your other SEM-related activity. It complements and extends what is on your website and provides pointers from media websites back into your own, thereby gaining the highly desirable Google-juice. Your PR strategy therefore should work hand-in-glove with the rest of your SEM activity.
Have you ever had that slightly annoying experience where something you searched for on Google keeps following you around on other websites? You searched for a holiday in the Dordogne and now, bless me! There are ads for Dordogne holidays on Facebook and in other sites I’m visiting. This is remarketing. It’s the process whereby you emphasise results that a user has already received in order to ensure that they don’t miss a chance to click through. Though this might seem a strange way to carry on, it actually works and results can be very good with this technique.
- First steps
So, getting started involves a number of first steps that you should pay attention to:
Understand your website activity – Analytics
There is a set of measures in Google Analytics that enable you to understand how the audience for your website are responding to it. If you don’t know what Google Analytics is, check with your website supplier that it’s been installed (it’s free, by the way) and ask for access. If you manage your own website and it’s not installed, first job is to get it in place. Go here for more information on that process.
The information that can be gained from a well-structured website and its associated analytics account is almost endless, but here are the three top metrics and what they mean:
- Bounce rate – the higher your bounce rate, the worse your website is performing. A bounce is when a visitor lands on a page and immediately “bounces out” somewhere else. The page did not engage them and they were not interested by it. If this is your home page or a dedicated campaign or product page, this is bad news
- Pages per session – a “session” is a period of time during which a visitor goes to a number of pages on your site. The higher the number, the more your site is drawing people in. Link that with the next metric and you start to see how well your site is responding to people’s needs
- Session duration – this shows how long the visitor stayed on your website. If they were there five minutes and visited three pages, you’ve probably done your job well. If they were there two minutes and visited twenty pages, you perhaps need to examine whether your content is too wordy, full of irrelevance or just not up to the job
There is much, much more to explore on Analytics – dig and delve!
Plan your campaigns and the outcomes you desire
You want to have more visitors? Then make a plan of how you will attract them. This is your content strategy and it begins by you thinking what is important to your potential visitors. For example, consider the following:
- Put the reader first, not your company or products – they want to know that you relate to them, that you care and that you are listening to their needs
- What’s their problem? Consider why people will visit you. What are they trying to solve or to source, and why? Make sure you can get inside their motivation and then demonstrate to them that you know and understand their issues.
- Provide the solution. When you have done the first two, produce the answer – you have the solution. Guide them to where they can find the answers they need and the ways to purchase or enquire about your products and services
Put out signposts
Your content may a thing of beauty but people won’t just beat a path to its door. You’ll need to put signposts elsewhere to drive people to your website. Three of the ways to do that are as follows:
- Social media – get your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram accounts working for you. Make sure you have company accounts where it’s relevant – for example, Facebook doesn’t take kindly to companies using personal accounts to communicate. You need a Facebook company profile. Drive traffic to your website from these accounts by writing interesting posts that speak about the problems clients have (see above) and provide solutions. Always include a link back to your website and that wonderful content!
- Blog or news content – run a blog or post regular news articles. These will be longer than the social media posts, so you can wax lyrical about a whole range of topics. Make sure that you use your social media to point people into those articles
- Email marketing – build a regular subscription newsletter by getting people’s permission to mail them with relevant articles. You can use your news posts and blog articles as “food” for the newsletter. Just put a “teaser” in the newsletter to get people to click through to the main article on the website. It builds your traffic, which all gets measured by Analytics!
Monitor your success
Using your new-found Google Analytics skills, watch your audience and traffic build. Use the tools within Analytics to compare one year, month or week against another so you can see whether your strategies are working. If they aren’t, change them!
- Make it happen
Make your campaigns come to life, by planning carefully and then addressing the following with commitment:
- Use SEM tools to drive traffic. Optimise your website – get it working absolutely to the best it possibly can. You may need to get expert advice on this to identify where problems lie. Optimise your content – your product information, company information, news, blogs and so on should all be relevant, concise and written with a view to attracting the search engines
- Implement your campaigns to drive traffic from social media, blogs, news pieces – you can’t just sit and wait for people to come to your site: you need to signpost the way. Build a series of campaigns through social media, email and content generation to attract more visitors … and keep them. Also consider using PPC to push interested visitors to landing pages that will show them what you do
- Gain links and reputation – using PR techniques, get others to point to your website. They’ll do it if it’s authoritative, provides solutions to problems or is simply engaging.
Those three main areas of activity will kick-start your SEM activity and build a foundation for a strategy that will take your website forward and ahead of your competitors. If you want more information about any of the topics covered here then a great one-stop shop is ExtraMile Communications’ blog.
About the author
Nick Evans is Chairman of ExtraMile Communications, which he set up in 2000 with Gabrielle Hadley (Managing Director). ExtraMile is an international digital marketing agency that provides multilingual services in web design and development, email marketing, Search Engine Marketing and PR to companies large and small. (www.extramilecommunications.com)
Previously, Nick was Head of Marketing for Apple Education and before that, had a career in sales and marketing after being a school teacher in the North East of England. He has a long history of working in and with technology, in education, in marketing and in business. He is a published author with titles in topics including business development, education software and, latterly, a venture into teen fiction.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of My Entrepreneur Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, The Property Investor and Gold, Oil and Diamonds, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.