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Search Engine Marketing Guide for Small Businesses

By , posted on SEO and SEM  March 20, 2013

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10 keys for small business

We’re taking on the task of tackling a huge topic: Search Engine Marketing. It’s too large a topic to cover in one post. That’s why we are kicking off a series on Search Engine Marketing over several blog posts.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Wikipedia explains:

“Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) through optimization and advertising.[1] SEM may use search engine optimization (SEO), that adjusts or rewrites website content to achieve a higher ranking in search engine results pages or use pay per click listings.”

In other words, it’s an all-encompassing term that includes pay-per click advertising and search engine marketing. SEM can include local online marketing as well as global online marketing. Marketing through Google, Bing and Yahoo, and online marketing for both B2B and B2C. As you can see, it’s a pretty wide-ranging topic. What we’ll do in today’s post is to break down the component parts of our series, and in the next post we’ll cover the first in the series. In the series we will be covering Search Engine Marketing (SEM) from beginning to end, from how you decide to how you monetize.

1. Search Engine Marketing Goals

SEM Guide: Goals

What are your goals for SEM? Your number one goal should be to drive sales of your product or service. But that’s not enough. You’ve got to specify what you specifically want to achieve. Set numbers. Do you want to increase sales by 20%? Do you want to drive $20,000 in additional sales over six months? What are your goals?

However, selling more isn’t the only goal. Some companies have other goals they’d like to focus on:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Drive subscribers to their mailing list
  • Gain followers on social media

However, the bottom line to all of these goals is sales. You have to work out the relationship between brand awareness, or your mailing list, on your bottom line. Maybe you want to increase your brand awareness because you sell a high-end, six figure Business to Business product.

This is helpful so that when your sales people cold-call the Director of IT, he would already have a level of brand recognition of your company. Or maybe you want to increase subscribers to your mailing list because you don’t have a product to sell – yet. We discuss your goals in details in our blog post here.

Your Target Audience

Before you do anything else: before you conduct keyword research, before you write an ad, before you launch a PPC campaign, before you build a landing page, you need to understand your target audience. And I’m not talking about a generic target audience such as “women aged 20-40,” or “Chief Marketing Officers of Mid-Sized companies.”

I’m talking about very specific personas, people that share certain psychographic characteristics, goals, dreams, concerns, fears, values, and points of view. We’ve reached an age where the “riches are in the niches.” And there are infinite niches. We discussed how to pick, research and target your niche in our March Lander Academy post.

2. Keyword Research

How to Research Your Way to Keyword Success

Ok, so I know keyword research doesn’t sound very sexy. In fact it sounds rather tedious, rather boring. But I beg to differ. There is nothing more fascinating than using the keywords that you gathered from your research on your target audience, entering those keywords into a keyword research tool to, and seeing how much competition and potential traffic you could gain from those keywords.

It’s rather geeky, but you’ll start to understand just how your SEM campaign will unfold while finding the keyword combinations and long-tail keywords that will drive potential customers to your landing pages.
We cover keyword research in this post.

3. Where to advertise?

SEM Guide: How to Find the Perfect Channels for your Campaign

The invaluable research you did on your target personas will also determine where you will advertise. Are most of your potential customers searching for answers to their problems on Google? Are your potential customers not even aware they have a problem you provide an answer for, but by advertising a thoughtful blog on their favorite online publication you can slowly weave a story arc that will build awareness that they do have a problem, and that you’re the indispensable provider of the solution to that problem?

There are so many possibilities for you. Google AdWords, Bing Ads, LinkedIn Ads, YouTube advertising, Google’s Content Delivery Network, private deals with niche blogs or websites, etc. In the fourth post we cover where you should advertise, and uncover some little known but surprisingly effective niche sites.

4. Mechanics of a PPC campaign

SEM Guide: How to Run a Pay-Per-Click Campaign

Even though Google and other large web properties provide tutorials on how to conduct an online advertising campaign, we’ll break it down for you by focusing on Google AdWords. We’ll discuss the difference between campaigns, AdGroups, and ads; the importance of quality score; bidding, and landing page quality.

We’ll also touch on LinkedIn, Facebook and Bing advertising. Look out for our sixth blog post in the series to get into the mechanics of PPC campaigns with Google AdWords.

Learn how to run your PPC Campaign in this post.

5. Mechanics of SEO

Do SEO The Right Way

Search Engine Optimization is the subject of our seventh blog post in the series. SEO is the practice of optimizing your website to be found in organic search results on search engines. So much has been written about SEO, and there are so many professional membership sites that are dedicated to it, you would think there is almost nothing to say about this topic. However, for your average small business there are still some basics that need explaining. We’ll cover how simple SEO really is, but how so few people get it right (it does take a lot of work and a lot of thought).

Learn how to do SEO the right way here!

6. Mechanics of Google Places

SEM Guide: How to Get Started with Google Places

If you’re a bricks and mortar business then our eighth blog post in the series is for you. Google Places is increasingly becoming the main vehicle your clients are using to discover your store, restaurant or hair salon. In this post we’ll cover how to establish a presence on Google maps, and how to drive visitors who are looking for your type of business into becoming your customer.

Get started with Google Maps here! 

7. Testing and Measuring

SEM Guide: Test and Measure Your Way to Search Engine Marketing Success

If you you’re not continuously testing your Search Engine Marketing, and measuring your results, you’re throwing good money after bad. A marketing campaign, just like a new business venture, is never right the first time. You need to always be optimizing the results of your SEM efforts. In this blog post we’ll cover how to test and measure your way to search engine marketing success.

8. Conversion

SEM Guide: How to Convert your Prospects into Customers

Finally, you need to convert all those people you have attracted through your SEM efforts. Conversion is the last piece of the puzzle. It’s the keys to the kingdom. It’s where the rubber meets the road. In our final blog post we’ll cover how to maximize the conversions on your landing pages so that you can actually drive sales, subscribers and followers.

Your Next Steps

So stay tuned. Come back next week when we publish the post on goal setting. Or better yet, subscribe to our newsletter so you can receive each article in this series the minute they are published.
See you soon!

By Juan Pablo Castro