Search marketing comprises both organic and paid channels for positioning your company’s website in search engine results pages (SERPs) within Google, Bing, and the secondary search engines. You may be fully aware of this, but regardless of your familiarity with these digital marketing channels, there are likely times where getting started or trying to work through a new issue you’re encountering can be difficult or overwhelming.
Search marketing can be a critical part of your strategy. Whether directly driving awareness, leads, sales, or a combination of specific conversion goals, it can help ensure that your company or website is properly found for the subject matter that you’re an expert for.
Importance of Goals in Search Marketing
Regardless of whether you’re new to search or a seasoned veteran, it is hard to get started or get too deep without established goals. Goals can include firm numbers for sales, leads, traffic, engagement, or ROI.
Goals are important to ensure the right level of investment in both organic and paid search. Without them, expectations can’t be set on what the return will be, how much needs to be put into the effort in time and money, and whether it is working or not.
Start with a planning or discovery process with your agency, consultant, or in-house team to make sure everyone’s on the same page and understands what success looks like.
Organic Search Process
SEO can be one of the most complicated marketing channels and practices. It doesn’t have to be though! While there are a lot of factors that go into how Google and the other search engines rank sites in the search results, by doing the things that matter the most and keeping them prioritized, you can see success.
There are three major areas of SEO: technical, on-page, off-page.
Before jumping into SEO activities and after you have defined your goal, you need to determine the right keywords and phrases to attract your target audience. You can perform research in tools like Moz Pro, SEMrush, and others that provide data showing trends in how many people are searching for specific terms of focus. These tools are also great for providing related terms and ideas that you might not think of.
Technical SEO includes the foundational things that are important for ensuring the search engines can find and properly index your content. If they can’t see pages or crawl and render them properly with their spiders and bots, then they can’t properly rank your website. The technical aspects include robots.txt files, XML sitemaps, settings updates in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, site speed, mobile friendliness, and other related factors. All of these have some impact on indexing and rankings. However, in and of themselves, they don’t influence relevancy or authority.
It is smart to start with technical issues and work through a checklist of factors before moving into content optimization, link building, and other aspects.
Once you’re in good shape with technical SEO factors or at least well underway in resolving issues, it is time to focus on on-page SEO. On-page literally means the things that appear on the HTML pages of your site. While no one aspect of on-page optimization will typically move the needle by itself, the context of all of the on-page factors together can have an impact of building context and relevancy for the subject-matter of a given page, section of pages, and even theme of an entire website.
It is important to put use focus keywords throughout the on-page factors on each page and across the site.
The on-page factors include:
- Page URL
- Title tag
- Meta description tag
- Heading tags
- Body copy
- Image alt attributes
Paid Search Process
Much like SEO, you’ll want to start with keyword research or leverage the research you have done for organic search for paid search.
Paid search through Google Ads, Bing Ads, and similar platforms feature a few different options and many different targeting choices for reaching your audience. Text ads, display ads, and remarketing ads are the most common and popular.
Once an account is setup and loaded with campaigns, ad groups, keywords, display ads (if applicable), conversion tracking, and it has been tested, then it is ready to go into management and optimization mode.
Running a paid search campaign is less phase-driven than organic search, but it still needs a disciplined process to make sure that someone is regularly monitoring spend pacing, bids, negative keywords, quality scores, ad performance, and working to fine tune. By putting specific tasks on the calendar and/or using automated tools, you can find the right cadence for ensuring that the campaign doesn’t waste money.
Keep in mind that the search engines are providing the avenue for you to reach your target audience, but it’s going to make its money whether you’re making any using it or not.
Measurement of search marketing efforts goes well beyond opening Google Analytics and looking at traffic stats. We have the power and ability to track search traffic from first impression in search results all the way through to conversion.
Being able to analyze the customer journey, understand personas, build funnels, and give credit to the right efforts through attribution, we can enhance our marketing efforts in search and across the board.
There are many tools and automated ways to integrate Google Analytics data and customize reporting to tailor it to measurement of performance against your goals. Embrace them and have your data work for you!
By using a process-driven and phased approach to organic search and by ensuring that you have a process for covering the important areas of paid search, you can make both much more approachable and goals attainable. Both can and should be long term efforts and investments that produce ROI. Crafting a plan and sticking to it while measuring and knowing what truly is happening is the recipe for success.
About Guest Blogger Corey Morris
Corey serves as the Vice President of Marketing for Voltage-a full-service digital marketing agency based in Kansas City, MO and will be sharing his expertise at the upcoming AMP’D Conference. He has spent 13+ years working in strategic and leadership roles focused on growing both national and local client brands with award winning, ROI generating digital strategies. In addition to his role at Voltage, he serves on the board of SEMPO as the VP of Cities and previously led the local SEMPO Cities initiative in Kansas City upon founding the KC Search Marketing Conference. He is currently a VIP contributor to Search Engine Journal, speaks locally and nationally on search and digital marketing topics including at SMX and SEMPO events, and formerly served as co-host of a monthly tech radio show in KC. He has a passion for learning and sharing knowledge in the search industry and seeing people connect and make meaningful relationships in our industry.