SEO. Paid search advertising. Search engine marketing. Whether you work at a company in a marketing role or run your own business, chances are these are all “buzzwords” you’ve heard at some point. In fact, you’ve probably even been subject to someone trying to sell you these services in one form or another. SEM became prevalent so quickly that a certain less-than-honest portion of the population tried to take advantage of webmasters who weren’t up to date with what was happening in the space (do emails or comments that promise to increase your web traffic sound familiar?). Given the significant amount of time it would take to understand all the information available, how are marketers or business owners really supposed to evaluate whether paid search advertising and/or search engine optimization is right for their situation?
How about we tell you our take on it?
Full disclosure: if you’re reading this, you’ve likely gathered that we are a search engine marketing agency. However suspicious it may be for us to dissuade potential customers from subscribing to our services, we actually take pride in helping the people we come across, regardless of whether it results in new business.
So, what’s the word? In short, no – search engine marketing isn’t right for every situation. At least, it’s not always what should be the highest priority in a marketing campaign. Even if it is, that doesn’t mean both paid search and SEO are necessary. It truly depends on the specific situation and the goals the business wants to achieve.
Shouldn’t every website be optimized? Yes – what’s the point of having a website if nobody can find it or if the user experience is poor? However, that doesn’t mean that every website needs an on-going SEO campaign. Businesses that don’t directly rely on their website to generate revenue or sales leads may be best served by a one-time website audit and the subsequent optimization of on-page content and technical elements like meta data.
What about paid search? Like on-going SEO, paid search is really best for particular situations. For example, if your objective is to drive more traffic to your website, paid search has a good chance of accomplishing that. What marketers and business owners need to remember is that, in most cases, driving traffic is simply an objective. Most often, the overall goal is converting that traffic into action. Paid search can only deliver part of that equation. If the paid search campaign is designed/optimized well and delivers relevant traffic, it is then the job of the website to convert that traffic into sales leads or revenue.
It seems like it always depends on the specific situation. Can you give some specific examples? The easiest examples to look at are e-commerce businesses because they rely on their websites to generate revenue. Whereas paid search can ensure that the website is included in the paid search results for practically any keyword they want to bid on, a website audit and an on-going SEO campaign can accomplish a number of similar but different objectives:
– streamline the user experience into one that is most conducive to generating sales
– ensure that the website is included in organic search results for keywords relevant to the website content
– provide the business owner with a content strategy that helps them produce valuable content that is likely to be shared and linked to by other websites
– provide the business owner with a strategy to compete with their rivals for prime search result rankings
If the e-commerce website also has brick-and-mortar stores, SEO and paid search can also include local optimizations targeted to the geographical area that can drive foot traffic to those locations.
That seems pretty obvious. Less obvious is the category of food and beverages or hospitality. Do restaurants, bars or catering companies need search marketing? Yes, but only to an extent is it absolutely necessary. It’s important for those businesses to have a website with a great user experience, beautiful images and rich media if possible. If someone is searching Google for a place to eat or to grab a drink in the area that you serve, you want your website to show up in the results and you want your website to coerce them to actually go. SEO and paid search can get your website in front of their eyes. An optimized website that is easy to use/navigate and a pleasure to look at can truly help with convincing them to make a reservation or simply show up.
What about a situation where SEM might not be the highest priority? Sometimes a business will have a website simply because they have to have one in this day and age. If not to sell, it’s at least there to be that 24/7 source of information. The pharmaceutical industry is an interesting one to look at in this case. Often times, companies developing these products may have a website that simply states information about the company like who they are and what they do. The majority of their sales and sales leads are generated from other means and avenues. In this case, it’s a good idea to do a basic audit of the site to make sure that it’s easy to use and that technical elements are in place. Beyond that, however, SEM likely may not be the highest priority.
So there you go. SEM isn’t for everyone, but in a lot of cases it can really help. Just think about how often you or the people you want to reach search for something. We obviously only covered a few types of businesses. However, it’s likely that you can draw parallels between your own situation and one of these examples. If you’d like to ask us about your situation in greater detail, send us a note!