Everyone is online. Virtually all of your potential customers are shopping online. If they are not shopping online, they are at least researching their purchases online. More and more online advertising opportunities are being created at the same time as time spent online keeps increasing year-over-year. The businesses that succeed in the future will be the ones that find online advertising opportunities that fit their business and take full advantage of them to improve their relationship with new and existing customers.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
The idea behind search engine marketing involves getting your website to appear as high as possible on the search engine result page (SERP) after someone submits their query on a search engine, like Google or Bing. The higher you rank and the more relevant your website appears in the results, the more likely someone searching will click-through to your website and become a lead or customer of your business.
The reason SEM is so powerful, is because people use search engines to find the answers to their questions. Many of those questions have what is called commercial intent. This means they are ready, or very close to being ready, to make a purchase. Imagine someone who searched for, “marketing agency st petersburg.” That person is likely ready to call or email one of the agencies they find based on that search.
You want to be one of those businesses that appears at the top of the search results when your potential customers are searching for your products or services. Search engine marketing is divided into of two totally separate paths to the top of the search results. The first and more straightforward method is paid advertising. The other slightly more intricate option is called search engine optimization or SEO. Either or both could be good options depending on your business, budget, and goals.
Paid Search Advertising
It’s very simple to understand the concept of paid advertising. Like the name suggests, you pay money to a company like Google, and they put an advertisement for your website at or near the top of the search engine results page for certain people and search queries. You pick the text used in your advertisement and it’s labeled as an “Ad” label so visitors know you paid to be at the top. Sounds dead simple, right? The reality is that it is that simple to give a search engine company your money. The difficult part is maximizing your return on that investment.
It gets tricky because Google and Bing provide you countless options to create and display your ads on the search engine results page. Buying ads with these companies is also really a live real-time auction, and you are bidding on the chance to have your ad appear. They offer the common advertising standard method of CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) for bidding and paying for ads. They also offer various methods other methods such as cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-action (CPA).
All of the options the search engines provide are all well-documented in the help pages of their respective websites. This is great news for anyone who wants to learn all of the idiosyncrasies of running ads, but it can also be overwhelming for a business owner who doesn’t have time to read all of this documentation and keep up-to-date on industry best practices.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The other way to appear higher on the search engine results page is to optimize your website using a variety of techniques that are collectively referred to as search engine optimization. This optimization works by making your website look more important and relevant to search engine companies.
Google, and other search engines, include many websites in the unpaid organic section of their search engine results. The organic or natural results generally appear after the paid ads. The search engines determine which websites and what order to display them based on many factors that can involve complex rules and algorithms. Some of the factors are public knowledge and very well known and understood by SEO experts. Other details, like the precise importance of each factor, is known only by certain employees at companies like Google and Microsoft.
Google has publically disclosed that the top two factors for ranking higher. They are links and content. Content should be self explanatory; it’s just the text, or content, that you include on your website. The more relevant the content is to a given search query, the better it is for your website. Links includes links within you website, but more importantly links from other websites to your website. You want as many links as possible from a variety of sources, but you also want to avoid links that search engines may consider spam or unnatural. They can actually penalize your website, and lower your ranking, if you are not careful about how you solicit links from other websites.
You need to be very careful when hiring someone to help you with SEO. Some companies that specialize in SEO take advantage of somewhat dangerous methods to quickly rank your website, but they don’t properly disclose the methods or risks ahead of time. It can be very easy in certain situations to rank a website very high in the results, especially for a short time, if you are willing to engage in activities that companies like Google frown upon. The risks can include a ranking penalty or removal from the search results entirely. For certain companies it’s worth the risk to take advantage of these techniques. With any SEO partner transparency is key, and you should always know what exactly what a vendor is doing on your behalf to rank your website higher.
Search engines are not the only game in town, you can take advantage of display advertising to place your ads on some of the hundreds of millions of other websites and apps on the Internet. Depending on the platform, you can show ads in a variety of formats. Banner ads are one of the older and more popular formats, but you can also have ads consisting of video, audio, or text.
When buying display advertising, you can purchase directly from a website owner. But what happens more commonly is that you purchase from a network like the Google Display Network (GDN) that has aggregated many websites together. For most small businesses this makes is somewhat simpler and easier to manage your ads. Like paid advertising on search engines, there are many options and extensions that can make maximizing your budget difficult if you do not have a lot of experience with display advertising.
Social Media Advertising
Within display advertising, there are also several large social networking sites that allow companies to buy ads on their sites. Facebook is the largest and most influential site in this group, but other sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat all have advertising options as well.
Keep in mind that users on social media networks are browsing more leisurely. You don’t have the same sort of commercial intent that you’d see with highly targeted keywords when advertising with search engines. Social networking sites are however attempting to condition their members to use their search features to find products or services. So this may change as time progresses, and people continue to spend ever increasing amounts of time on these sites.
While these sites often lack the immediate power of commercial intent, they make up for to a certain extent with raw data. Social media sites have an abundance of data on their users and can therefore offer extensive targeting options that make them a great place for certain small business advertisers.
Virtually all online advertising is also available as mobile advertising. In most cases this just involves targeting mobile devices users in addition to, or instead of, desktop computer users on whatever online advertising platform you are using. There are also many unique opportunities available with mobile ads that don’t have a non-mobile equivalent.
For certain local businesses, you may want to only target mobile devices or pay more for these people. First, people searching on their phones are more likely to be on the go and looking for a nearby business. And it has also been found that people searching on their mobile devices about local businesses are much more likely to make an actual purchase.
There are also several mobile-specific ads formats are available. If you have a mobile app in the in Apple’s App Store or the Google Play store, you can take advantage of click-to-download ads. These special ads automatically direct end users to your app in the appropriate app store on their device when they click on your ad.
If you have a salesforce or customer support reps in place, you can use click-to-call ads on mobile devices. When the end user clicks on this type of advertisement, they will be directed to their phone’s dialer with your number prepopulated. This is a great way to capture high-value customers who are ready to make a call and a purchase.
Kapok Marketing Can Help With Online Advertising
Kapok Marketing is here to help with your online advertising needs. Our team has overseen millions of dollars in ad spend over the past decade. We are a Google Partner and a Bing Ads accredited professional. We also have extensive experience advertising on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.