Paid Search Marketing 101: Part 1 of 3

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.


5 Tips for Church Email Marketing

Email marketing can be a great tool for your church to retain and reach out to congregants.  Most people either personally or professionally, or both, have an email address that allows you to stay in touch with them throughout the week in between services and gatherings.  Many churches are familiar with the practice of sending regular newsletters, but if you’ve never ventured into email marketing (or need a little refresher) here are a few tips to get you on your way:

  1. Determine Your Goals
    Sit down as a church leadership team and determine the goals you have for email marketing as a church.  Are you looking to retain existing members and stay in touch with them throughout the week?  Will you have an email signup on your church website?  Will it be important for each ministry to have its own email design or list database?  Establishing goals will help you get a handle on how you want to best utilize email, and why.
  2. Choose an Email Provider
    There’s no shortage of email service providers (ESPs) out there – and many of them are decent.  How do you decide which is right for your church?  Here are a few points to consider:

    1. Usability – First and foremost, you’ll need to be comfortable using whichever ESP you choose.  Spend some time with a few before you commit or feel free to ask us for recommendations.
    2. Cost – Many ESPs offer free plans for churches and nonprofits, but be sure you have room to grow and that any costs you may incur will be within budget.
    3. Website Integration – Minimally, you’ll most likely want to include a subscription form (for people to add themselves to your email newsletter list) on your website.  Many ESPs provide direct integration with common web platforms like WordPress; consider which providers will work best with yours, both for signups and performance tracking.
    4. Deliverability – Review the deliverability rates each ESP advertises and how they intend to continue improving and adapting.
    5. Customer Service – Issues arise from time to time.  How will the ESP handle technical issues?  What kind of knowledge bases and help forums do they have available?  Simple test: we call the vendor to see if we can get a human 🙂  It’s also a good idea to check out reviews online.
  3. Design Your Email

    Based on what you’ve found in your research on engaging content, design your email template to make the most of the content you’ll be sending. Consider including links to social media accounts, your blog, service pages, donation forms, volunteer signups, etc.

  4. Get Subscribers

    Include a signup page on your website, promote your newsletter in social media channels, and offer newsletter signup on donor and volunteer forms. Remember those engaging blog posts you identified? Let your blog readers know they can get even more by subscribing to your newsletter!

  5. Go for it!

    There’s a lot you can do to plan and prepare for a successful email campaign (this post is only scratching the surface), but in the end nothing is more valuable than getting started and testing live campaigns. If your ESP offers A/B testing, take advantage of it – test subject lines, featuring different content, and variations in content length.

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Write a Marketing Plan that Takes the Cake

Don’t just write a marketing plan for the sake of checking off the box; develop one that takes the cake.

What stands between you and this delicious competitive advantage? Only a baking dish, some flour, a few eggs, frosting, and of course sprinkles. Caution: this may be more marketing plan wisdom (and metaphors) than you ever thought possible:

1.   Baking Dish Basics: Your Target Market
A cake needs a framework to fit into, and so does your marketing plan.  If you don’t know who your target market is, find out.  There’s nothing harder or more frustrating than crafting a message to a group you know nothing about.  Consider the basics: demographics, characteristics, habits, interests, and passions of your market.  Make sure you know why you’re focusing on them, and be sure these reasons make sense.

2.   Add the Main Ingredient: Flour (Strategy)
Flour is the main ingredient to a cake, just like strategic innovation is the main ingredient for your marketing plan.  It is the underpinning for the entire plan, and should be given careful consideration.  Marketing strategy provides a framework for the tactical initiatives you implement moving forward to take place.  Consider creative strategies and grassroot campaigns that can help you stand above the rest and have a voice.  Avoid heavily saturated and commonly used channels and instead consider ideas that are more ‘off the beaten path.’  It may feel a little risky at first, but most noteworthy things do.

3.   Time to Beat the Eggs: Your Competition
When baking, you crack the egg and use what’s inside it; the shell has little value.  The same is true in the business of marketing.  Start by completing a competitive audit, which means taking a sample of who is in your competitive arena and what they are offering.   Are they targeting your same demographic?  Do they offer a similar set of services as you?   Is there a competitive advantage they have at their disposal which you do not?   Ensure you know what differentiates you from your competition and the other hats in the ring when it comes to your potential customers/clients/donors.

4.   With Frosting Set it Actually Starts Looking like a Cake.  Set Goals.
Once the frosting is spread and set, it really begins looking like something worth putting candles in and singing over.  Get a vision, set your goals, communicate them to your team, and you’ll feel like singing, too.  What are you trying to achieve, both short-term and long-term?   Is it an increased donor base, more committed investors, increased exposure and hit rates for your online promotions, awareness for your cause?  The more specific your goals, the better.  Once you know where you want to go, getting there will suddenly become a lot easier.   Tip: Document.  Stats show you’re over 85% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

5.   Finally, the Sprinkles…and Budget (both may seem tiny)
Have a shoestring budget?  You’re not alone.  This takes us back to the creative strategy mentioned above; especially in today’s social media saturated marketing environment, you don’t have to be a millionaire to have your message heard.  When it comes to budgeting, make sure you break it down.  Have goals and projections for each quarter, and make sure you are completely accountable for being in the ballpark of those projections.   If it takes sharing the numbers with others to accomplish this, by all means do so.

Can writing a marketing plan be “as easy as cake”?  Of course.  Corporate, nonprofit, or ministry-related, all marketing plans build on the same basic fundamentals of marketing best practices and an eye for the trends.   If you keep to the basics and make sure they’re solid, developing a marketing plan that takes the cake will come more naturally than you’d think.

Need help writing your Marketing Plan?  No problem!  Start with our Services page or Contact Us.

What is SEO and How Does it Work?

What is SEO? Everyone is talking about it. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the way that results are pulled by Google. It’s important not only to have a dynamite website, but for it to be found. That’s where SEO comes in.

This video does a great job of explaining how search works, and it’s important because let’s be honest – no one goes to the second page of search results.

Google expert, Matt Cutts, explains it all in this high-level view of how Google search results are pulled and the framework behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Take a look!

Need help with your SEO Strategy? Contact Us or start with a Free SEO Audit!