A Startup’s Guide to Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing
The Startup Coach | Carl Reader
It’s no secret that I’m a big social media fan, and believe it can be a valuable marketing tool for a business. It’s important to remember, however, that social media is only a part of the whole. Social media is a fantastic tool which, used effectively, can make a huge difference to a business’s online presence, but is only part of the bigger online marketing picture for a business.
Once you have your website and social media platforms set up, you will, of course, still need to attract visitors to your sites. You are more likely to get more hits on your sites if you are higher in search engine results. I often get asked how to improve your ranking (position) on Google – the leading search engine - but unfortunately there is no easy answer. The practice of SEO (search engine optimisation) did have an entire industry devoted to it, focused on building sites and little tricks to get to the top of a specific search term. There were a variety of techniques that you could use to improve your “ranking”, the leading search engine, including link building, keyword inclusion, domain name management, meta tag development, and various other tricks. However, no more.
This went against Google’s aim of being a valuable search function for its end user. They prefer for a site with relevant content to be listed above a site that has merely paid someone to manipulate the results. Therefore, the search engines have become wise to many of these techniques and search engine optimisation is less effective than before. Google also changes their algorithms regularly, which makes it even more tricky, and the way these algorithms analyse and view a website can significantly affect its ranking. Therefore, I recommend recruiting a web development team who are up to date with what is happening with regards to search engine visibility, but be wary of becoming a slave to it!
Search engines such as Google and Bing also offer sponsored links at the top of their results. These are offered on a “cost per click” basis, meaning that in theory you only pay for results. The cost is calculated on an auction basis, with the highest bidder paying for the prime positions. I say in theory because in fact, you do not generate any business from a click through to your website – you only generate business from the subsequent conversions.
As with email marketing, you need to monitor your click through rates and your conversion rates on the landing page. It is also worth monitoring your “quality score”, which is a score that the search engine will give you regarding the relevance of your site compared to the advert. This will impact on your ultimate cost per click, and it will depend partly on both your conversion rates on the search page (in other words, what percentage of “impressions” result in a click), and the bounce rate (early exit rate) of your site.
There are a number of companies that will offer to manage your pay per click campaigns for you. I believe that this is often a wise investment in theory, as the companies have invested themselves in bespoke bid management software and the knowledge needed to generate lots of cheap clicks. I would just say that you need to consider the management cost divided over the total number of clicks, to give you an effective click cost, as if you have a low search keyword this can increase the cost to you significantly.
Finally, bear in mind that the majority of the work performed by these agencies is in the first month or so, as they build and develop your campaigns and keywords. Once this has been done, you might find that you can manage the ongoing bidding and account settings yourself.
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