I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on the topic
of search engine marketing (SEM) and more specifically, search engine
There are two common ways that businesses use search engines
to drive traffic to their websites:
Paid Advertising, usually
through programs like Google’s AdWords
Organic Search Rankings,
whereby their website shows up “naturally” when users search
for specific terms
Clearly, small businesses would prefer to be able to get
high rankings organically for several reasons, not the least of which is that
they don’t have to pay anything. However, the process of ranking
highly, particularly for competitive terms can take a fair amount of time and
is often non-trivial. Hence, paid advertising is a common way to drive
targeted traffic to a website.
The reason is that as bigger companies start shifting more
of their advertising spend online, they are driving prices up. Further,
larger businesses often have a dual benefit they can get from advertising.
The first is a direct benefit by driving qualified leads and thereby
increasing revenues. The other is the benefit of promoting the visibility
of their brand (which ultimately should result in improved revenues).
Small businesses often do not have this dual benefit.
They are generally expecting to get a direct increase in sales as a way to
recoup their investment in search advertising. Brand building is usually
not high on the list of priorities. As such, small businesses can’t
afford to pay the same price as a bigger business for the same search
So, what does this mean for you? Here’s what I
Getting organic rankings for
search terms relevant to your business is more important than ever.
Yes, it will take time, patience and some investment, but the
long-term payoff will likely be worthwhile.
Spend time finding the
search terms to focus on.
The best terms are those that have a combination of high search
volume (i.e. lots of users are typing the term into search engines) and
low competition from other businesses. [We’re building a
software tool to help identify some of these opportunities. This
will be like our very popular
, stay tuned.]
If you’re already
spending money on paid search advertising, make sure you monitor your
results closely. If you are in a competitive industry, chances are,
you’ve already seen an increase in the average price per click you
are paying. Make sure that the value you are getting from these clicks
warrant the increased price.
Start thinking harder about
your brand. Just because you’re small and focused on a niche
market doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from having a brand that
has credibility and authority in your market. Often, a small, focused
marketing investment in increasing the visibility of your brand can reap
long-term benefits. If you have a name that your potential clients
recognize on the web, you’re more likely to get the click-through
when you do show up on search pages.
What are your thoughts? Is the current trend in search
engine advertising prices temporary or do you think it will continue? Do
you have any other ideas on what small businesses might do to optimize their
marketing spend online? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Originally published Jan 15, 2007 12:35:00 PM, updated October 20 2016