As we dig deeper into formulating our search engine marketing (SEM) strategy from scratch, it’s critical to outline clearly every step of this process. In my first article, I laid out a platform for success by defining the “what and why.” It’s now time to build upon that platform by discussing the “hows and wheres.”
Let’s examine this from a standard business point of view.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you’re in the process of opening a bakery. After you’ve answered the questions about why you want to open the business and what steps you need to take to make it a success, the execution of that plan; and, in turn, where to locate your bakery, is critical to your plan development.
The same thought process can and should—be used to craft a successful SEM strategy.
Defining the Hows
Earlier in this blog series, I established a few key benefits that SEM can provide. However, the reality is that SEM offers a multitude of opportunities—each of them coming with a distinct set of advantages that can assist in targeting your market and drive prospects to conversion. Let’s begin with defining how SEM can be used in providing benefit to your business:
- Driving awareness—do potential customers know who you are or know about your brand? There is so much “green field” available in targeting users who search on non-branded keywords—particularly when impressions do not cost a thing.
- Driving consideration—customers not sure whether your product is right for them? Appearing for review and comparison terms can drive that user down the funnel a bit further.
- Driving purchase—when customers are ready to buy, you need to be there. Competitors can (and will) take your position if you don’t appear on purchase and purchase + branded terms.
- Brand search—when users search on your branded terms, you want to be in that space. It has been proven that an organic listing and a paid listing appearing in top positions strengthens your brand in the eyes of the customer.
In each area of the purchase funnel, paid search can play a part in driving differing actions and goals. If we are using our start-up bakery as an example, depending on our budget levels, we can target different customers at different stages of their baked goods purchase process.
Now that we have defined how paid search can be used, we can delve into where we can utilize SEM.
Defining the Wheres
Once we have a clear starting point in mind (meaning we have clearly articulated the “how”), it’s now time to pick a starting location (or the “where”). Many SEM experts will argue that you shouldn’t start with a single location and in many ways they are correct. However, the reality is that most SEM programs begin with a finite budget. The best way to allocate those resources is to research into the where (location-geography, search engine, and network) that will offer you the best bang for your initial buck and not stretch your budget too thinly.
There are multiple search engines/networks that are potentially cost effective at reaching and converting customers in your target market. Here is a list to get you started:
- Search network—using text ads to advertise on the main page of a search engine
- Display network—advertising using images and text ads on a set of websites that are “partners” of the search engine
- YouTube.com—video advertising on the largest video site on the web
- Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines that are appropriate for your geographic target market
The trick here is to test and discover which locations are best suited to your specific goals, budget, and objectives as outlined in our initial plan. Have the input of a professional SEM manager who can rely upon knowledge/experience and is up to date with the ever-evolving changing landscape of “the interwebz” is an invaluable asset.
The bottom line is that anytime you’re building any Search Engine Marketing program from scratch—you’ve got to start with a structured plan of attack and a way of measuring and fine-tuning success.
In our next series of blogs, we’ll dive deeper into how we can measure paid search activity and scale SEM across different regions.