Boosting Business+Profits Online

Most Effective Search Engine Marketing Strategies to Get More Leads and Customers

most effective search engine marketingToday, over 95% of Internet users use the major search engines – Google, Yahoo! and Bing – to find the products and services they need. Internet Marketing is not just for big business anymore – the Internet is increasingly used to look for local businesses.

The Kelsey Group, a market research firm, reported that in 2008 “83% of U.S. households used the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services… the Internet will soon surpass newspapers as a local shopping information resource.”

The Number 1 Challenge for Businesses Online

While the volume of Internet searches continues to increase, businesses who want to tap into this marketing opportunity face some significant challenges online. First, the web has become an increasingly competitive space. The number of websites has proliferated over the years and according to some estimates there are now over 180 million websites and about 9 billion indexed pages on Google.

In addition, web browsers have become increasing sophisticated users of the Internet. 84% do not even go beyond the first page of search engine results. Indeed, a Cornell study found that online searchers focused primarily on the top 5 results on the first page with the top 3 Google results getting 79% of all clicks. Given these two factors, the number one challenge facing all businesses today is getting found online.

Getting on Page One of Google

So how can your business be found by searchers looking for what you have to offer? In order to tap into the huge volume of local searches each month, your business website must appear ideally on the first page of the search engine results to get noticed and to get clicks.

By appearing on page one, your offerings will be placed right in front of prospective clients at exactly that key moment when they are actively searching for your service. Since Google is the dominant search engine (with 65% of the search market vs Yahoo and Bing), lets take a look at the 3 major ways in which your business can be positioned on page one of the search engine results.

1. Local Business Listings

The cheapest way to get on page one is to create your business listing using Google’s Local Business Center. This service is free and should absolutely be a ‘must do’ for all business website owners. Because Google is placing these local business listings first in the search results (i.e. before showing other web matches), it is critically important that you create your listing and position your business in the top 7.

This can be done with proper use of keywords. When setting up your Google local listing, be sure to select the right category for your business.  In addition, inserting the keywords or search phrases that you want to rank for in your business listing (especially in the title) will also improve your search rankings.

2. Pay Per Click Advertising or Paid Search

Pay per click (PPC), also known as Google AdWords, is the quickest way to get on Page One of Google. Paying the search engines for top placement gets fast results and generates immediate traffic to your business. Unlike the Yellow Pages and other forms of print advertising, business owners pay only for results (when their ad is clicked), can measure the ROI on their advertising dollars, and can track results efficiently.

3. Search Engine Marketing or SEO

The 3rd way to be found on page one of Google, and the best way to generate high quality leads online, is by having your business appear in the top 10 search results. Search Engine Optimization (SEO or organic search) is aimed at achieving the highest possible search engine results page (SERP) rank for a web site/page. SEO is an art not a science as the algorithmic elements that comprise search engine rankings are constantly being adjusted by the search engines.

Boosting Your Search Engine Rankings

Keywords and links are two of the biggest factors in terms of boosting your search rankings. “On Page” SEO refers to the optimization of your website page elements and content so the Search Engine can find your webpage for your targeted keywords.

“Off Page” SEO refers to the text and “inbound” linking from other web site pages to your web site pages. Since it takes time to build links in an organic way and to show results (usually several months depending on the competitiveness of your keyword), SEO is a longer term investment relative to PPC. Compared to traditional print advertising, SEO still offers a higher ROI especially for businesses that have high customer lifetime values.

By effectively combining these 3 lead generation strategies (local listings, paid search, and organic search) you can create a dominant presence for your business online. Your enhanced web visibility will allow you to capture active prospects, improve brand awareness, build a loyal following, and be recognized as the eminent authority and leader in your local market.

Google Local Business Center

Google has made a significant change to its Local Business Center listings.

As you can see in the image below, instead of displaying the top 10 local business listings, Google is now only showing the top 7.

google local business center

This makes it just that much more difficult for local businesses to show up on the first page of a local business search in competitive markets.

This change also re-emphasizes the importance of optimizing your business listing so that you can improve your business’ local search ranking position.

Make sure you use the appropriate categories and keywords in your local business center descriptions and try and get additional citations from local directories as well.

It looks Google made this change in order to free up real estate on the first page for their new Local Listing Ads service. For a flat monthly fee, Google will display your business ad in the sponsored search section as shown below.

google local listing ad

This service is currently only available in San Francisco and San Diego.

You can learn more about the Google Local Listing Ad service in the video:

Most Effective Internet Marketing Strategies

Most local businesses focus on paid search or pay-per-click advertising, such as Google Adwords,  because the results are immediate.

most-effective-online-marketing-tacticAccording to a Forbes/E-Marketer study however, the most effective online marketing tactic, for both small and large firms, is SEO or search engine optimization. This was followed by email marketing, then pay-per-click advertising.

The results are not surprising given that 88% of Internet search traffic flows through organic search results (Forbes) so the opportunity to attract more visitors and website traffic by ranking organically in the search engines is huge.

The downside is that it does take time (usually several months) to get a site ranked and the results are never guaranteed.  Organic rankings depends on a great number of factors, including back links to the website which can take time to accumulate. Link building is a gradual ongoing process that takes much time and effort.

Business owners who are willing to invest in the search engine optimization and marketing effort will reap significant rewards:

“Instead of spending advertising dollars on newspaper and magazine ads, focusing on acquiring more organic search traffic as a key pillar of advertising strategy should become mainstream in the next 12 months. Thus, I see organic as the next big frontier in online advertising” – Forbes 5/09

What is Search Engine Optimization: The Basics

SEO mazeGetting to the top of Google provides huge payoffs, as discussed in my previous post here. There are a lot of factors that go into getting your website ranked by the search engines.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of fine-tuning different aspects of your website with the goal of getting it ranked well.  The SEO world is filled with myths and misinformation due to the search engines’ secrecy with respect to the precise algorithms that they use for ranking.

For business owners, finding reliable information about SEO can feel like navigating a complex maze. For those who would like to learn more about the basics of SEO and what the search engines look for, this beginners guide to SEO (from SEOmoz) is a good resource.

This comprehensive report covers:

  1. What is SEO
  2. How Search Engines Operate
  3. How to conduct Keyword Research
  4. Critical components of Optimizing a site
  5. Building a Traffic Worthy Site
  6. Growing a Site’s Popularity
  7. Crafting an SEO strategy

While some of the tools are dated (e.g. Overture no longer exists), the basic concepts remain relevant. Overall, the report provides a holistic picture of SEO and what it entails.

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