This is the first in a three-part series Search Engine Marketing 101. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search. (Subscribe to the RSS Feed)
Search engine marketing (SEM) can be a daunting and confusing world. Much like the workings of an old watch, the variety of moving parts and complexity of their relationships can leave newcomers overwhelmed. To make matters worse, search engines reveal only certain aspects of their proprietary ranking and bidding algorithms, limiting many aspects of SEM to theories or educated guesses, about which there is often much debate.
Let’s look at some fundamentals of search engine marketing that will start you in the right direction.
Who’s Who, What’s What
Straightforward definitions of common terms
Search Query – Text the searcher enters into a search box
SERP – Search Engine Results Page; the page displayed by search engines with results for the search query
Organic Results – Listings on the SERP, which are a result of non-paid data collected by the search engine (both on a site and across the web)
SEO – Search Engine Optimization; the practice of tailoring a website’s content and data to gain higher positioning on the SERP.
Paid Search – Listings on the SERP whose placement has been purchased. Often designated by different background color and/or “Ads” or “Sponsored Results.”
PPC – Pay Per Click; the most common form of paid search results. Advertisers only pay for an ad when it’s clicked on.
Keyword – A term or phrase targeted by SEO practices or paid search bids
If it’s Too Good to be True
When starting with SEM, it’s tempting to find the quickest and easiest way to better rankings or click rates. But don’t forget that the primary goal of every search engine is to provide searchers with the most relevant results possible (after all, better results mean more searches, which means you and I will pay more to be in their results). So before you do anything that feels like a shortcut in SEM, ask yourself it is primarily providing relevant, valuable content to searchers. If not, you may succeed temporarily but be warned, search engines have become very good at identifying these shortcuts and penalizing offending sites.
You can Do It!
Search engine marketing is an incredibly effective tool to have in your online marketing arsenal. With a basic understanding of what the moving parts are and how they work together, you are well on your way to success in search engine marketing.