Friday, 15 February 2013

Free Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tutorial


The following search engine marketing beginners tutorial is designed to bridge the many aspects of internet marketing into a concise and easy to follow guide. The tutorial, which is divided into eight sections, starts directly below the following table of contents:

I. Search Engine Marketing 101
   Benefits
   Search Engine Marketing Defined
   Search Engine Optimization Defined
   Paid Search Defined
   The Search Engines
   Basic Search Engine Marketing Terminology

II. How to Improve Your Search Engine Ranking
    The Good Old Days
    Keyword Research
    Analyzing the Competition
    On Page Factors
    Content
    Linking

III. Your Site Is Optimized - Now What?
     Landing Page Persuasion
     Grow Your Email List
     Affiliate Programs
     Monetizing Your Site

IV. Becoming an Authority in Your Field
     The Social Web
     Blogging
     Podcasting
     Vlogging

V. Paid Search (Pay-per-Click)
    Pay-Per-Click Basics
    PPC Ad and Landing Page Strategies
    Spend Less and Earn More with Your PPC Campaign

VI. Search Engine Marketing Myths and Gimmicks
     Myths and Gimmicks

VII. Search Engine Marketing Tips and Strategies
      Tips and Strategies

VIII. Search Engine Marketing Glossary
       Glossary


Benefits
If you have a website, or intend to have one, and want it to be highly visible on all of the major search engines, you need to incorporate a search engine marketing program into your exiting business structure.

Without one, you website will not be able to compete in the ever growing and ever changing cyber world. There was a time when the phrase, "build it and they will come" was true, but in today's competitive marketplace, it no longer exists.

The following search engine marketing guide will help you achieve your online goals and desires.

Search Engine Marketing Defined
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is comprised of two main categories, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search.

Search Engine Optimization Defined
Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, improves a websites rankings and visibility on all of the major search engines and can be compared to public relations for a website. Search engine optimization is not push button technology, whereas the results are not immediately evident.

It may take a few months, or longer, for a website to move up in the rankings. But it is well worth the effort and wait, as statistics show that when a website ranks high in the search engines, it will outperform a paid search campaign.

Paid Search Defined
Paid search consists primarily of pay per click (PPC). The top tier PPC engines areGoogle's AdWords and Yahoo's Search Marketing Program. The benefits of a paid search campaign are immediate results, but the downside is paying for every click and dealing with click fraud. A paid search campaign can also be live immediately and when combined with search engine optimization (SEO), it can triple your ROI (return on investment).

The Search Engines
  • The major search engines are Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK (formerly Ask Jeeves). AOL search results are currently provided by Google.
  • The latest research compiled by Nielson NetRatings shows that Google leads the market when it comes to the volume of searches with 46.3%, Yahoo has 23.4%, MSN has 11.4%, AOL has 6.9% and Ask has 2.3%.
  • Although Google is the market leader when it comes to search frequency, they are not the leader when it comes to conversions (a desired action - example: a sale).
  • According to WebSideStory.com, a web analytics company, AOL leads the market with a 6.17% conversion rate, followed by MSN at 6.03%, Yahoo at 4.07% and Google at 3.83%.
  • These results are probably due to the fact that the majority of Google searches are more informational based, whereas AOL searches are more ecommerce based.
  • All of the search engines use different algorithms (a formula) for website ranking purposes, and each search engine will rank your website differently.
  • If you become an algorithm chaser, one that tries to game the search engines, you may achieve success in the short run, but not in the long run. All of the search engines continuously update their algorithm and when they do, a site that ranks well due to gaming a search engines algorithm, will likely disappear and possibly never recover in the rankings.
  • The idea is not to game the search engine algorithms (which changes regularly), but to create a solid long lasting business model that will ensure your websites continued success.
Basic Search Engine Marketing Terminology
1. Targeted Visitor: Someone that is actually looking for what you sell or offer. 
2. Spider: A search engine component that scours the web. 
3. Conversion: A desired action. An example is a visitor purchasing an item. 
4. Algorithm: A formula that the search engines use for ranking purposes.

Click here for a more in-depth search engine and internet marketing glossary 


The Good Old Days
In the not so distant past, there were only a few key elements that were required for a website to rank high. First, desired keyword terms were chosen. Second, these terms were incorporated into a website. Third, links were obtained from relevant websites. Fourth, the search engines spidered your website. Fifth, your website would rank higher. Sixth, your traffic would increase and hopefully lead to an increase in sales.

Due to the simplicity of this process, the search engines were bombarded with websites that were gaming their algorithm and providing no real value to the end user, aka the web surfer. The search engines are still being gamed, but those days are numbered.

In today's marketplace, a quality website is required. It doesn't need to be a fancy one, just quality driven. It is not uncommon to see page one listings for websites that are "one person operations" in competitive fields.

How do they do it? It all starts with keyword research.

Keyword Research
Your keyword choices are the terms that someone will type into the search engines to find you. The key to higher rankings on all of the search engines begins with keyword research. A keyword research campaign can make or break a business. Choosing keywords just because they are popular, because you like them or because they are searched frequently, does not mean that you should use them.

Step One
The first step is to make a list of phrases that best describe what you do and what your website is about (for example: the products or services that you sell). The idea is to come up with as many relevant keyword phrases as possible for your home page (they will be narrowed down based upon further research later). Why phrases and not a single 'keyword'? Because keyword phrases convert at a better rate than single keywords do and they are less competitive.

Your most important keyword phrases should always be used on your home page. Also note, every single page on your website needs to be optimized for their own keyword phrases, based upon what those pages are about.

If for example, your website sells "Microsoft's Xbox" (a popular video game system). You would want to use your most important keyword phrases for your home page, which in this case is "Microsoft Xbox". In this example, do you think someone searching for "Microsoft" would be your best customer? Possibly, but not likely. This term is too broad for this sites product line, but perfect if you were the Microsoft Corporation.

How about the term, "Microsoft Xbox Cheat Codes" (which happens to garner over 2,000 searches a day on Yahoo alone)? It is much better and more inline with what this website is about, but it still is not on target. If the searcher is looking for "cheat codes" and receives information on how to buy an "Xbox", the searcher will continue searching elsewhere until he/she finds what they are looking for.

Now if a searcher types into a search engine the phrase, "Microsoft Xbox" and your site is displayed, it is an exact match and exactly what the searcher is looking for.

This example is of course overly simplified, but it is designed to show the importance of your keyword selection process.

Step Two
As a rule of thumb, it is also a good idea to add qualifiers (if they apply to your business) to your keyword phrases, such as the words free, tips, help, info, city, county, state, region, etc. and be sure to also optimize for both the singular and plural. Please also note that the qualifiers do not need to be added to your home page, they can be added to any page.

It is also a common misconception that the search engines can tell the difference between a singular and a plural search term. Sometimes they can, but as rule of thumb they can't, so optimize for both.

Step Three
Once you have decided on your keyword phrases, it is time to start the research process. A handy tool to use is Overture's Keyword Selector Tool, which is also free:

Just type in your desired keyword phrase and you will receive a search total from the previous month. This is the number of times that this phrase was searched for. Once you come up with terms that have a decent amount of searches, you are ready to proceed to the next step

Step Four
The next step is to go to Google and type in the phrases that you desire and write down the top 3-5 web pages (ex: http://www.domain.com) for this term. Please note that you can write down the entire top ten if desired. Repeat this process for all of your keyword phrases on Google and as an indicator, you can also repeat this process on all of the other major search engines; Yahoo, MSN and Ask.

Step Five
You will now check how many backlinks (aka inbound links or links that point from one webpage to another webpage) each of the above results have. Google is notoriously inaccurate with their backlink reporting, so for this part of your research you will type the web page address (from step four) into Yahoo's search box with the following command and then hit enter:

link:http://www.domain.com

Just make sure to replace the word domain with the real web page. The returned results will give you an estimate as to how many links that web page has pointing to it.

Step Six
Now go back to Google and type (or paste) the web page address (from step four) into Google's search box and hit enter, then click on the link that says, "Find web pages from the site". This will give you an estimate as to how many pages Google has indexed from this site in their database.

Step Seven: Analyzing the Competition
Please Note: The previous steps that proceed this one are also important to review.

Before analyzing all of the data, there is one more basic function to perform. This function will show how many other web pages are using the exact same keyword phrase(s) in their title tag (see page six for more information on the title tag). To perform this, type the following into Google's search box:

allintitle:"your keyword phrase"

Please replace "your keyword phrase", with your actual keyword phrase. The number of web pages that are competing for this phrase (on Google only) will be displayed.

Now that you have all of this data, what does it mean and what do you do? First and foremost, a realistic approach must be made. If your competition has 10,000 pages indexed in Google's database and has 10,000 inbound links, which also include .edu's and other trust worthy sources, you need to be realistic in your approach based upon budget, time and research.

At the same time, just because a website does have thousands of inbound links and indexed pages, doesn't mean that you can't compete for this term. You just need to be realistic in your strategy, budget and time frame.

Step Eight
For testing purposes, a paid search campaign (PPC or pay-per-click) should be incorporated. A PPC campaign can give immediate feedback for the effectiveness of your chosen keywords and desired call to action.

Step Nine
Test, test, test and test some more. This can't be stressed enough. Finding the right keywords is a process of proper research and can ultimately make or break your online business down the road.

On Page Factors
On page factors include such aspects as your websites coding (the behind the scenes factors that produce your website) and copy (ex: your sites content, articles, etc.).

Title Tag
One of the most important parts of you websites 'on page factors' is your title tag. Your title tag is the phrase, or phrases, that you see all the way on the upper left corner of your web browser in the blue bar above the words, "File", "Edit", "View", etc. The title tag, along with other factors, tells the search engines what you are saying your web page is about.

This is where your most important keyword phrases should go (no more than 1-2 phrases) and it should be formed as a sentence and not as a bunch of words. Your title tag is also the clickable line that is displayed on the results page when you do a search on any of the search engines. It should encourage the surfer to want to click through to your site.

It is best to format your title tag so that it answers, and sometimes asks a question and draws that person into your website. It is also best to keep your title tag length between 50-80 characters, including spaces because each search engine varies. Yahoo will cut off your title after about 80 characters and Google after about 60.

Meta Description
The description directly below the title on the search engine results pages is either your Meta description (from your websites Meta description tag, which should also be no more than 25 words and no more than 160 characters including spaces) or a description that was grabbed from your site.

Another pointer is to include some of your most important keywords towards the top of your page, as that is where the search engines normally grab some text to add as your description, when they don't use the Meta description tag.

Keyword Density
There was a time when keyword density, or the amount of times your keyword phrases were incorporated onto your web page, was important. You should still incorporate your keyword phrases in your copy, but it is not as important as it once was. Tip: Always place your most important keywords towards the top of your page, right after your H1 tag.

H Tags
Your H tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) are basically the outline headers for your web page and should be incorporated onto all of your web pages. Tip: Your title tag and H1 tag should match.

Organizing Your Website
  • Always ensure that your websites navigation is optimized for your visitors ease.
  • Never make any of your desired call to action links hard to find.
  • Always try to ensure a smooth, comfortable visit.
  • Always have a contact link, or your contact information, displayed on every page.
  • Always create a navigation hierarchy for sites that are growing and/or for sites that are large to begin with.
Create a Site Map
For better navigation and for better indexing, always create a site map which contains all of websites pages. If you are not sure how many pages you have on your website, you can use this free tool to create the sitemap for you:


Once you create a sitemap, it should also be converted into an XML format and submitted to Google to ensure that they crawl and index your entire website.


Content
Content is king! In this case more quality content is always better and is a major factor for higher rankings. Websites with more quality content and quality links win in the rankings when all else is equal.

The more web pages that your site has with original non-duplicate content (content that is not being used by anyone else) the more entry points your website will have. This is due to having more optimized pages, which also increases the chances of receiving one-way links. Tip: if you aren't a good writer or if you don't have the time, outsource your article creation to ghost writers for a small fee.

Linking
Linking is still an integral part of ranking and will continue to be. Quality links are more important now than ever before. Outside of content and some of the important on page factors (as noted above), quality anchor text links are second to none.

An example of an anchor text link is as follows. Let's say for example that your website is http://www.yourcompany.com and the top keyword phrase that you are optimizing your home page for, from the above example, is "Microsoft Xbox". It would be more advantageous for your rankings to have a link pointing to your site that says Microsoft Xbox, instead of http://www.yourcompany.com.

With that said, it is also important to note that if you have too many anchor text links pointing to your site, with the same anchor text, you can be penalized by the search engines due to the unnatural pattern. In real world linking, anchor text is always varied up (usually at the webmasters discretion and is also based upon your home page title tag).

A good linking strategy can increase your website traffic exponentially and should contain links from varied sources and preferably from related trusted sites in your field, but should also include quality directory listings and article syndication.


Landing Page Persuasion
What happens after someone enters your website is just as important as how they got there in the first place. Landing page persuasion is the next most important attribute for achieving online success. To demonstrate the importance, let's return to our original "Microsoft Xbox" example.

The basis is to ensure that your visitor gets exactly what they are looking for based on a link, search engine result, an ad, etc. If a visitor clicks through from an ad and does not see what they were led to believe they would find, the chances of them staying longer than a few seconds is remote and unlikely.

On the other hand, if a visitor clicked on your link from a search engine that said "Microsoft Xbox" and immediately upon clicking through saw a picture of an Xbox with additional information, this visitor will likely dig deeper.

Remember to always keep your linking structure simple and user friendly. Do not create extra work for your visitor, whether by having to search for information or by clicking levels deep on your website to find what they are looking for.

Grow Your Email List
Every single visitor to your website is either a current customer or potential customer, and must be viewed that way if you are to have long term success. If you do not have an opt-in email program incorporated into every page of your website, you are throwing your money away.

There are some really great automated email management programs that will capture your visitors name and email address and will automatically keep you in touch with them as frequently as you would like - daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

Not knowing what to send someone is not an excuse for not growing your database. You are spending money on web hosting, on advertising and on growing your business. Ensure that you incorporate a true opt-in email capture system for long term success. Contacts are everything, especially when they want to hear what you have to say.

Affiliate Programs
Another great way to grow your online business is via an affiliate program. An affiliate will sell your product and/or service for you, in exchange for a commission. With the latest software integration and affiliate service professionals, your involvement can be minimal to virtually non-existent.

Affiliates can also provide your site with backlinks and can really bolster any type of online business. The most time consuming aspect is bringing your site up to speed and having a quality product and/or service that will attract the most talented affiliate marketers.

Monetizing Your Website
Once your website is optimized and growing, you may decide to monetize the content through various forms, such as with Google's AdSense.

Google AdSense is a program for publishers (web publishers) where you insert some code on your website, Google spiders your page to make a determination as to what it is about and then places ads (based on your style selection), which pay you every time some clicks on them. There are no guarantees with your earnings, as there are website owners making a few cents a day to thousands of dollars a day.


The Social Web
The Internet is a dynamic instrument that is forever changing and quickly growing. There are websites that have twice the traffic of Google and these types of sites are growing everyday. The one thing in common with these types of sites is the social aspect that they share, such as bookmarking, blogging, podcasting and Vlogging to name a few.

Some of the greatest success stories are due to the social nature of the internet. Other than quality content sites that are trusted due their size, age and quality of inbound links, the other way to become an authority or trusted source is to create it through the following social methods; blogging, podcasting and vlogging. If these words look foreign to you, you need to learn them and jump on board now. If you know what these words mean and are not taking advantage of this technology, you will be left behind.

Blogging
A blog will incorporate an XML (Extensible Markup Language)/RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed into your site. Why is this important? A XML/RSS feed can automatically notify your previous and potential customers that your site has an update and at the same time provide a link(s) to the updates on your site.

Becoming active in the blogging community will also increase your inbound links, thus improving your search engine rankings and at the same time, increasing the traffic to your website.

Podcasting
Podcasting is similar to having your own private radio program, with the perks of storing your shows in downloadable packets that anyone with an mp3 player (an iPod for example) can listen to on the go or without one online.

Vlogging
Vlogging incorporates the social nature of blogging with podcasting and transforms it onto a video platform that Google can even host and market for you. The costs are very minimal to start and the rewards through networking, joint ventures, increased inbound linking and trust that is passed to you, are worth their weight in gold. There truly are no other means, without a large budget, for a small website owner to compete with large corporate entities on this type of level since the .com boom.


Pay-Per-Click Basics
Pay per click is dominated by Google's AdWords and Yahoo's Search Marketing Program (formerly called Overture) and truly deserves its own tutorial due to the complexities of paid search. But for simplicity purposes, there are a few solid tips to ensure a more profitable PPC campaign.

PPC Ad and Landing Page Strategies
If possible, each keyword phrase that is being targeted should have its own landing page that is optimized and enhanced for Landing Page Persuasion. The title of the ad should contain your keyword phrase and it should also be incorporated into the ad description.

Some of the best performing PPC ads use a question and answer format. The title asks a question and the description answers or solves the problem, thus initiating a click through.

Spend Less and Earn More with Your PPC Campaign
The higher your click through rate on Google, the lower your ad price will become in relation to your ad position. It is not uncommon for the top PPC ads to cost 50-75% less because of the ads click through rate.

Yahoo's Search Marketing program doesn't offer this option, but their program does offer an involved advertiser the ability to bid one penny below the highest bidder and then pay only one penny above the third place bidder to remain in second place. Ex: if the top bid is $5.00 and the third place bid is $2.00, you need to bid $4.99 in order to stay in second with a cost of $2.01.

Another important tip is to use the phrase or exact match feature, which will show your ads that have the phrase or exactly match the keywords that you're bidding on, instead of a broad match which will display your ad more frequently - even for unrelated searches. It is also important to use negative keywords, or words that probably will not equate to your desired call to action, such as the words free, etc.


Myths and Gimmicks
The desire to achieve top search results and increased website traffic, can drive many webmasters/website owners down the wrong road. The following is a brief list of some of the techniques to avoid.

1. Search Engine Submission
You do not need to submit, nor ever pay to have your website submitted to any search engine. The search engine spiders will find your site from your inbound links.

2. PageRank Guarantees High Rankings
PageRank does not guarantee higher rankings and should only be used as a guide in relation to a sites link popularity.

3. You Are Guaranteed To Be Number One In Google If...
Unless the person making this claim is an actual Google engineer in the search department and he/she owes you their life...don't believe it. There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to rankings and search marketing.

4. Deceiving SEO Companies
One of the biggest misfortunes are search engine optimization companies that rank a site, in the top ten, for such an obscure term and then tout that ranking as a success, when in reality it is a term that no one would ever search for in the first place.

Another true disservice is when an SEO company tells you that they have optimized your website, when all they did was forward traffic to your site. As soon as you stop paying them, or when they increase your monthly rate too high and stop paying them, your traffic also stops.

5. Submit Your Site to As Many Free Directories As possible
You should only submit your website to quality directories, free or for a fee. If the directory does not have an actual editor reviewing your site, then the chances are that they are not considered a quality directory by the search engines.

6. Reciprocal Linking is the Best Way to Achieve Top Results
This was the case before Google's major update. As stated earlier, if you are an algorithm chaser, you will be at the mercy of every search engine update. It is better to garner quality links from all sources, including reciprocal if they are deemed worthy.

7. Buy Your Way to the Top with Good Links
Purchasing links, high quality or not, will not guarantee your sites rankings. In fact, if Google or any of the other search engines (less likely with the others) detect that your links were purchased - they may penalize your website by dropping you in the rankings.


Tips and Strategies
  • Who you link to tells Google what kind of websites you want to be associated with.
  • Never point/forward a domain to another domain, the search engines may view both as duplicate content and penalize your website. The only safe way to point a domain is with a 301 redirect.
  • .edu and .gov links are golden links. If you can get them, do it!
  • Backlinks are updated monthly, but Google is notorious for never showing a sites correct number of backlinks, so check them with Yahoo.
  • SERPS (search engine results pages) fluctuate daily.
  • Pay close attention to Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves), they have a solid grasp on their search technology and are positioned to become a major player.
  • Reputation management is an integral part of the web, know who is talking about you, your product, services, website, etc. with a service such as,Google Alerts.
  • Search Marketing is all about offense when starting, but will need to incorporate a good defense to maintain your rankings once you start achieving your desired results.

Glossary
The following is a brief overview of some of the popular Search Engine and Internet Marketing terms:

Algorithm: A formula that the search engines use for ranking purposes. 
Call to action: A desired action that you want your visitor to take (ex: to buy something). 
Click Fraud: a term that describes clicks to your PPC campaign with malicious intent. 
Conversion rate aka conversions:The relationship between visitors to a web site and actions considered to be a "conversion," such as a sale or request to receive more information. 
CTR: Click through rate. 
Hits: A term used to describe the volume of traffic that a website receives, specifically a single request from a web browser for a single item from a web page. A web surfer visiting a single web page with four graphics would cause five hits to be recorded, one for the page and four for the graphics. 
Inbound Link aka Backlink: A link pointing to your website. 
Natural Results aka Organic Results: Search engine results for free listings. 
PageRank (PR): A Formula developed by Google to determine a web pages link popularity. 
PPC: Pay per click. 
ROI: Return on investment. 
SEO: Search Engine Optimization and associated with increasing a websites natural rankings. 
SEM: Search engine marketing - a combination of SEO and paid search (such as PPC). 
SERP: Search engine results page. 
Spider: A search engine component that scours the web. 
Targeted Traffic: A visitor that is looking for what you sell or offer.

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