Advertisers in North America spent close to $6 billion on search engine marketing, or SEM, in 2005. And, analysts expect a whopping double-digit increase in 2006. Now that SEM has a high profile in the corporate marketing budget, the pressure is on to get results. Here are seven ways to maximize your investment this year:
1. Think small. Local search technology made tremendous strides in 2006. Since purchasers buy close to home when given the opportunity, advertisers should shift dollars from “scatter gun" SEM to geo-targeted pay-per-click, or PPC, campaigns. Aside from increased conversions, local search delivers new customers who, being nearby, remain loyal.
2. Think beyond. While the power of local marketing is undeniable, products and services traditionally sold locally or regionally now can be sold globally via the Internet. Top search marketers think outside the box, testing PPC programs in new markets; promoting toll-free phone numbers; and, developing online partnerships that expand service areas. The cost and risk of online market development are modest compared to brick and mortar expansion. However, the payoff can be enormous.
3. Get on the phone! Although we operate more and more in a Web-based marketplace, many consumers prefer talking to a real person. Pay-per-call advertising fills the need by displaying ads that invite consumers to phone-in rather than click-through. With a widening variety of service providers to choose from, pay-per-call is expected to become a $3.75 billion business by 2010.
4. Analyze and maximize. Tools to analyze consumer behavior on the Web became more robust and less expensive in 2006. Google™ Analytics, for instance, provides the in-depth, easy-to-read data marketers need to assess how consumers respond to SEM campaigns and e-commerce Web pages. Careful analysis focuses ad placement; sharpens keyword selection; strengthens content; and perhaps most importantly - adds sales.
5. Optimize and economize. Effective SEM balances paid and organic search activities. If a company Web site is poorly optimized, it will be nearly invisible to Google™ and the other major search engines. Fortunately, the cost of search engine optimization, or SEO, is fairly modest, and the result — higher search engine page rankings - is monumental for attracting new business.
6. Blog. Business blogs are poised to explode in 2007. Why? Because a blog is perhaps the most cost-effective SEO tool available. Blogs rank high on search engines because of plentiful keywords, hypertext links and fresh content. Beyond improving SEO, blogs create reader dialog that builds customer satisfaction and loyalty.
7. Videocast. Business embraced videocasting in a big way in 2006. Relatively inexpensive to produce, short online video clips attract traffic, hold consumer interest and motivate further action. For that reason, one excellent placement for video is on a PPC landing page. Many companies offer video downloads for a fee, creating a sizable new revenue stream.
And here is a bonus tip: Partner, plan and prosper. SEM options will continue to multiply, thanks to evolving technologies, more-sophisticated advertisers and ever-increasing consumer reliance on search engines. Profitable search marketing demands careful long-term planning and reliable SEM partners to bring the best options to the table.
Aaron Wittersheim is president of Whoast Inc. , a Chicago search engine marketing firm. For more information, visit http://www.whoast.com