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Why should I optimize multiple pages on my website? Can’t I just optimize the homepage? After all, once people get there, they’ll probably go to other pages.
Optimizing one page is better than nothing if your budget is limited or you’re not doing any actual selling on your site. However, it’s really only possible to optimize a page for one or two keywords, so if you want people to find you under multiple keywords (i.e. if you offer a variety of different services or several categories of products, or if you just want to aggressively market your business by having your website listed under many different keywords), you need to optimize many different pages.
This is why iMarket does a custom-optimized page for every town you serve – it allows us to strongly optimize for the name of each town, which is the best way to ensure that you get strong local search traffic.
If I try to do SEO by myself, can I mess things up and hurt my search engine rankings?
Oh yes! You can mess up by choosing weak keywords or not optimizing your site properly. That’s fairly benign, and with patience you may be able to turn things around. You can also inadvertently – or deliberately – engage in unethical SEO practices, for which you may get “blacklisted” by Google. That’s harder to overcome.
Do I have to do search engine marketing now? Can’t I just do it after my site has been set up?
Although you can do search engine marketing at any time, we incorporate it into the design process because it’s by far the most cost-effective time to do it. By optimizing your site at the time it is being developed (particularly by incorporating keywords into content as it is being written, instead of revising content later), you will save a lot of money – and will start getting results as quickly as possible.
We love online paid advertising, especially pay-per-click. Here’s why:
- It’s extremely targeted. People only see your ad if they’re searching for a product or service like yours, and they only click on your ad if they think you might have what they’re looking for. The result is extremely qualified leads for much less money than with traditional impression-based advertising, which in general cannot target its audience as closely and so has to charge more to cast a wider net.
- You can measure ROI precisely. Unlike traditional print or media advertising, which can only provide you with a general estimate of how many people were exposed to your ad, the “click” element gives you an exact metric. You’ll know exactly how many people paid attention to your ad and were interested in it, and you can even have your web team track the progress of the people who come to your site via the ad to see how many of those leads convert into sales. You can even track the relative success of different versions of your ad so that you can continually refine and improve your online advertising.
- You have total control over how much money you spend. You can set a budget for your pay-per-click campaign, and when you reach your maximum allowance, your ad will turn off. You won’t get charged a penny more than you’re willing to spend. You can even allocate your budget as a daily amount, so that your advertising budget gets spread evenly. But if you decide you want to spend a bit more in the short term to promote a special offer, or your cash flow is a little tight at the end of the month, you can immediately adjust your budget accordingly.
How does pay-per-click advertising work?
You have to set up an account with each of the search engines, and set up and pay for your ads through that account (you access it online). Remember, you’ll only pay when someone actually clicks on your ads to go to your site, which means that the amount billed to you may vary over time. Note, too, that you only get charged for a click if someone goes to your site and stays there for a while. If they click in, see that you don’t have what they want, and leave again right away, you won’t get charged. (The search engines won’t say exactly how long someone has to stay on your site before you’ll get charged for a click. This is to protect you against potential “click fraud” – that is, from a competitor paying someone to click on your ad, go to your site, and wait a certain amount of time so that your advertising budget gets used up.)
Pay-per-click advertising works on a kind of auction system. In a general sense, the highest bidder (i.e. the person who offers to pay the most per click) will get the top spot. However, your pay-per-click ranking isn’t determined only by how much you pay. To determine your ad’s final placement in the listings, the amount that you bid for your ad is multiplied by how many clicks your ad gets (that is, how many people click on it and stay on your site long enough for the clicks to count).
This simple but ingenious system keeps paid listings relevant and useful to searchers, and prevents a company from paying, say, a million dollars a click for the keyword “Paris Hilton” (which, unfortunately, is the number one search term as we write this) to lure lots of unsuspecting people to a website where there aren’t actually any pictures of the scantily-clad Paris at all but rather a sales pitch for some very boring car insurance.
In other words, the search engines use the bidding system to keep tabs on whether you really offer what you say you offer – and if you don’t, and people leave your site in disgust at your false advertising, you won’t get the clicks and your ad will quickly slide down into rankings oblivion.
Why should I pay to have my site listed in the paid listings – wouldn’t it be cheaper for me to just have it in the organic search engine listings?
If you can get a #1 spot in the organic listings for every single keyword you think your potential customers might use to find you, great! Forget all about pay-per-click – but make sure you keep an eye on your site’s placement, and keep updating the content regularly so your site doesn’t slip in the rankings.
In real life, though, that rarely happens. Chances are that there will be some competition for your site in the listings, at least for some of your keywords, and that you won’t have a top ten placement for all of them. And chances also are that if your site is new, it’s going to take at least a few months to work its way up the search engine rankings, even for the terms under which it will eventually dominate the free listings.
This is where pay-per-click comes in handy. It lets you pay for the visibility you can’t get organically. It also lets you focus more specifically and aggressively on segments of your target market that you especially want to reach or develop.
However, don’t use pay-per-click unadvisedly. You can advertise under any keyword you want, but you should only advertise under keywords that you really think are relevant to what you offer. If not, you’ll end up paying for lots of unqualified, poorly targeted leads. Also, if you advertise for keywords that are inappropriate for your business, your click rate will be low and you’ll have to pay a higher and higher bid amount even to stay in the listings. It’s really a waste of money to do misleading pay-per-click advertising.
Also, don’t completely ignore the actual content of your website and just focus on pay-per-click. First of all, people who click on one of your paid ads will be disappointed if they get to your site and it stinks. They’ll leave in disgust, and you’ll have wasted your money on getting them to your site. Second, it never hurts to put some resources toward working your way up in the organic listings – after all, they are free!
My customers mostly come from the local area. How can I do pay-per-click advertising in a cost-effective way?
Online searches for local offline services are becoming increasingly common, as more and more people substitute the search engines for the phone book.
However, if you have a local business and most of your customers come from the nearby area, it just doesn’t make sense to pay for pay-per-click ads that will appear all across the country. Instead, you’ll want to make sure that your ads only appear in the towns where your customers live and work.
To make pay-per-click advertising attractive to regionally-based businesses, search engines have developed “geo-targeting”. If you geo-target your pay-per-click ads, your ads will only appear when your local area is included in the search phrase, or when the search engine identifies the user’s computer as being in your local area (not hard to do). That way, people in Columbus Ohio won’t waste your money by clicking on ads for your Vermont plumbing business.
iMarket specializes in geo-targeting. It’s why we are so good at dominating local markets on behalf of our clients.
How does online marketing complement the traditional marketing I’m already doing?
Most conventional and email marketing are “push marketing” techniques that build consumer awareness and creates interest and demand. The Yellow Pages and search engine marketing are the opposite: they are “pull marketing” that captures the demands the consumer feels and expresses (i.e. by looking up a type of business in their local area by opening a book or typing something into a search engine).
While the two types of marketing complement one another nicely, the exact proportions in which you use them will depend on the particular nature of your business. When you are selling a necessity for which consumers have a natural demand (i.e. emergency heating service calls in January), you might want to focus on pull marketing to capture that demand. When, on the other hand, you’re selling something that you’ll have to get people excited about before they feel a need to buy it (i.e. a new high-efficiency heating system), or you want to build brand awareness, you will probably want to focus more of your energy toward push marketing.
How do I decide what mix of techniques to use?
As we have said before, marketing is an iterative art and science. By this we mean that the way to be good at it is to use your common sense (plus your knowledge of your target audience, any previous history you have, etc) to come up with an initial strategy, try the strategy out, and then refine it based on what happens. In other words, your marketing plan will have many iterations, and you’ll never really get a final version of it, because conditions will always change.
Here are a few ideas to help you integrate your online and conventional marketing efforts:
- To come up with an initial strategy, review your lead tracking data and your web stats. Which of your current advertising yields the best response? Do you notice a spike in demand from certain types of ads or ads placed in certain media or venues? Which pages on your site get the most visitors? Does that increase after certain ads are run? What are your best-selling products?
If it seems that your current marketing efforts don’t make much immediate difference in demand for your products, try focusing more on “pull” techniques, which are an inexpensive way to capitalize on the demand that’s already out there. You might also want to add some email marketing to the mix, which is generally the least expensive and most targeted form of push marketing.
If, however, a little analysis makes it clear to you that conventional push marketing has a strong impact on demand, then you might want to keep at it, using online pull marketing techniques to complement rather than replace what you’re currently doing.
- After the initial round of integrated marketing, evaluate the interaction of push and pull techniques. Do you notice a correlation between certain ads and an increase in visitors to your site from certain search engines? Do you notice that the search terms people use to come to your site match the message you’re sending out via your ads? Based on your observations, you can combine push and pull marketing ever more consciously to both create and capture an increased demand for your products and services.
- Maintain your integrity. It’s good for your karma, and good for your business. Both your online and offline marketing efforts should express who you really are, and should seek to promote your business to people who are genuinely interested in it. Don’t use misleading online advertising to build up a subscriber list of people who won’t ever really buy from you. Your messages to those people will annoy them and cost you extra money. Any brand exposure you get from pestering these people with misleading information will be negative. Likewise, don’t promise people special online offers and then just recycle your offline offers. Special online offers need to be truly special, or people will feel that you’ve tricked them.
- Don’t forget the opportunities provided by your competitors’ “push marketing” campaigns! You may be able to capture some of the demand your competitor is spending so much money to create. For example, if your competitor is running lots TV ads promoting new high-efficiency systems, chances are that some viewers will look online to find out more. You can run some paid search ads to take advantage of the free leads your competitor has provided for you!
- Include your web team in your marketing brainstorming sessions. They will be able to help you tie your conventional marketing ideas to complementary online marketing strategies.