Search Engine Marketing 101 For Corporate Sites

When most people want to find something on the web, they use a search engine. Millions of searches are conducted every day on search engines such as: google.com, yahoo.com, msn.com and many others. Some people are looking for your website. So how do you capture people searching for what your site has to offer? Through techniques called search engine marketing (SEM).
This tutorial is foundational information for anyone looking to implement search engine marketing. This tutorial will also help you understand how the search engines work, what SEM is, and how it can help you get traffic. What is a Search Engine?
All search engines start with a “search box”, which issometimes the main focus of the site, e.g. google.com, dmoz.org, altavista.com; sometimes the “search box” is just one feature of a portal site, e.g. yahoo.com, msn.com, netscape.com. Just type in your search phrase and click the “search” button, and the search engine will return a listing of search engine result pages (SERPs). To generate SERPs the search engine compared your search phrase with information it has about various web sites and pages in its database and ranks them based on a “relevance” algorithm. Search Engine Classes
Targeted audience, number of visitors, quality of search and professionalism is what determines a search engine’s class. Each search engine typically target specific audiences based on interest and location. World-class search engines look very professional, include virtually the entire web in their database, and return highly relevant search results quickly.
Most of us are familiar with the major general search engines; google.com, yahoo.com, msn.com. A general search engine includes all types of websites and as such are targeting a general audience. There are also the lesser known 2nd tier general search engines; zeal.com,ask.com,whatyouseek.com. The primary difference is that 2nd tier engines are lesser known and generate significantly less traffic.
There are also several non-general or targeted search engines that limit the types of websites they include in their database. Targeted search engines typically limit by location or by industry / content type or both. Most large metro areas will have local search engines that list local businesses and other sites of interest to people in that area. Some are general and some are industry specific, such as specificallylisting restaurants or art galleries.
Many other targeted search engines list sites from any location but only if they contain specific types of content. Most webmasters are familiar with webmaster tools search engines such as; webmasterworld.com, hotscripts.com, flashkit.com and more. There are niche SEs for practically any industry and interest. Search Engine Models
There are two fundamentally different types of search engine back ends: site directories and spidering search engines. Site directory databases are built by a person manually inputting data about websites. Most directories include a site’s url, title, and description in their database. Some directories include more information, such as keywords, owner’s name, visitor rankings and so on. Some directories will allow you to control your website’s information yourself others rely on editors that write the information to conform to the directory standards.

It is important to note that most directories include directory listings as an alterative to the search box for finding websites. A directory listing uses hierarchal groupings from general to specific to categorize a site.
Spidering search engines take a very different approach. They automate the updating of information in their database by using robots to continually read web pages. A search engine robot/spider/crawler acts much like a web browser, except that instead of a human looking at the web pages, the robot parses the page and adds the page’s content it’s database.
Many of the larger search engines will have both a directory and spidering search engine, e.g. yahoo.com, google.com, and allow visitors to select which they want to search. Note that many search engines do not have their own search technology and are contracting services from elsewhere. For example, Google’s spider SE is their own, but their directory is and Open Directory; additionally aol.com and netscape.com both use Google’s spider SE for their results.
There are a few other search engine models of interest. There are some search engines that combine results from other engines such as dogpile.com and mamma.com. There are also search engines that add extra information to searches such as Amazon’s alexa.com, which uses Google’s backend but adds data from its search bar regarding tracking traffic to the site. Getting In
One of the most important things to understand about the SE database models is how to get into their database and keep your listing updated. With a search directory, a submission needs to be done to provide the directory all the information needed for the listing. It is generally recommended that this be done by hand, either by you or a person familiar with directory submissions. There are many submission tools available that advertise they automate the submission process. This may be fine for smaller directories but for the major directories, manual submissions are worth the time.
Not all search directories are free; many charge a one-time or annual fee for review. Many of the free search directories have little quality control. For free directories you may have to submit your site several times before being accepted.
There are three different methods for getting into spidering search engines; free site submission, paid inclusion and links from other sites. Virtually all spidering SEs offer a free site submission. For most, you simply enter your url into a form and submit. Paid inclusion is normally not difficult, except for the credit card payment. For free site submission there is no quality control. The SE may send a spider to your site in the next few weeks, months or never. Typically with paid inclusion you will get a guarantee that the page you submitted will be included within a short amount of time. The other standard way to get included is to have links to your website from other web pages that are already in the SEs database. The SE spiders are always crawling the web and will eventually follow those links to find your site.
Once you are in a search engine database, you might change your site and need the search engine to update their database. Each directory handles this differently; generally each database will have a form for you to submit a change request. Spidering search engines will eventually find the change and add your updates automatically. Getting High Rankings
Getting into a search engine database is only the first step. Without other factors you will not rank in the top positions, a prerequisite for quality traffic. So how do you get top positions? You can pay for placement with sponsored links that is covered in the next section. To place well in the free, organic SERPs, you will need to perform search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization is one of the most complicated aspects of web development. Each search engine uses a different algorithm, using hundreds of factors, that they are constantly changing, and they carefully guard their algorithm as trade secrets. Thus no one outside of the search engines employ knows with 100% certainty the perfect way to optimize a site. However, many individuals called search engine optimizers have studied the art and derived set of techniques that have a track record for success.
In general, there are two areas to focus on for top rankings; on-page factors and linking. On-page factors mean placing your target keywords in the content of your site in the right places. The structure of and technologies used on your website also play a role in on-page factors. Linking, refers to how other website’s link to yours and how your site links internally. Search Engine’s Marketing Offerings
Search engines in the early days of the web were focused solely on serving the visiting searcher. They worked to capture as much of the web as possible in their database and provide fast, relevant searches. Many early website owners learned to reverse engineer the relevancy algorithms and to make their sites “search engine friendly” to get top rankings. They were the first search engine optimizers, manipulating the search engine’s natural or organic SERPs as a means of generating free web traffic.
Often times these optimized sites compromised the integrity of the SERPs and lowered the quality for the searcher. Search engines fought, and continue to fight, to maintain the quality of their results. Eventually, the search engines embraced the fact that they are an important means for marketing websites. Today most search engines offer an array of tools to balance website’s owners need to market while maintaining quality for the searcher.

You can generally break search engine marketing tools into free and for-pay. Realize these classifications are from the search engine’s point of view. Effort and expense is required to setup and maintain any search engine marketing campaign.
Organic rankings are still one of the most important ways to drive quality traffic. Search engines now seek to reward ethical, high-quality websites with top rankings and remove inappropriate “spam” websites. While organic rankings can produce continual free traffic, it takes time from an experienced individual to achieve optimum results. Additionally, organic placement offers no guarantees, it generally takes months to get listed and can be unpredictable once listed.
Some search engines offer services that add more control to your organic campaign. Most of these services will list / update your site faster or will guarantee that all essential content is listed. For integrity reasons, no major search engine offers higher organic rankings for a fee.
If you need top rankings quickly, pay-per-positioning (PPP) is the most popular way to go. PPP rankings appear in normal organic SERPs but are usually designated as “sponsored listings”. PPP listings use a bidding process to rank sites. If you are the top bidder, e.g. willing to pay the most per click on a given phrase, you will have top placement. The 2nd highest bidder is two; the next is 3 and so on. While most PPP works using this model, some search engines offer modifications such as Google’s AdWords where bid price and click-through rates are both factors for positioning.
Search Engines have many other marketing tools, such as search specific banner ads; listings on affiliate sites and more. Getting Started
The majority of websites have sub-optimal search engine marketing. Most sites have no effective search engine marketing and are continually missing out on valuable leads. Many other websites are too aggressive, wasting money on low value traffic or harming the functionality of their site due to over optimization. Too many sites are even paying money and receiving no results because they have trusted unethical or inexperienced search engine optimizers.
All SEM campaigns should start with a strategic evaluation of SEM opportunities based on return on investment (ROI). You need to assess how much each lead is worth for each keyword phrase and determine which SEM tools will achieve the best ROI for the phrase.
You also have to decide how much you want to do in-house vs. retaining an expert. A qualified expert will typically produce better results faster, but the high expenses may destroy the ROI. Often it is best to work with an expert as a team, the expert to develop the strategy and internal staff to perform implementation and ongoing management.

9 Search Engine Marketing Tips to Convert Your Website From the Ghost Town It Probably Is

A lot of people who have blogs or websites online know about search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. When it comes to search engine marketing (SEM), however, many people confuse it with SEO, and these terms describe two very different practices. Before telling you all about search engine marketing tips, let us first know what it is. “Search engine marketing” is a broad term and refers to marketing techniques or strategies used by website owners to advertise their site online, with an intention to increase their ranking in search engine result pages and drive traffic to their site. The marketing techniques employed for effective SEM include SEO, as well as paid techniques. We will cover many of these aspects for effective search engine marketing of your small business or non-profit website.

1. Create your online identity

There are many websites online that employ SEM techniques to catch the attention of both search engine sites and visitors, but not all websites are successful in achieving both these goals. This is primarily because they simply copy other websites, refusing to stand out from the herd. As a small business or non-profit organization it is all the more important for you to create and strengthen your unique identity. For this you need to have a good website design, with clearly defined content and goals. In addition to this, your website should be easy to navigate with relevant keywords embedded in the headings, description and tags. Use suitable images, metatags and titles with targeted keywords in it. All these things play a big role in making your website search engine friendly and driving traffic to your site.

2. Research relevant keywords

Researching relevant keywords in accordance with your work and product is a vital search engine optimization technique. “Keyword research” means focusing on words or phrases that visitors often enter in a search engine site to find information on a particular topic. If you are a small business, then it is imperative for you to research relevant keywords pertaining to your niche. While choosing keywords, take into account on how popular and competitive your keywords are (you choose less common keywords for common topics) and then spread them throughout your content. It is also important to remember that keyword phrases lose their popularity at regular intervals, so you need to check your targeted keywords periodically and change them whenever required.

3. Optimize your website

To optimize your website, you need to optimize the content of your website, the codes in it, as well as the anchor text used in links. Use relevant keywords in all areas of your website. To begin with optimizing your website, first target your homepage and then apply the same principle for other webpages. Whether you are a small business or a non-profit organization, consider using short titles and headings with suitable keywords inserted in them. Create backlinks, including your in-bound navigation links using keywords and place them in every page of your website. Also remember to name the images in your webpages clearly. All these points contribute to stronger website optimization.

4. Content marketing

For any SEM or SEO strategy to work effectively, content marketing is vital. The high quality of your content is not only important for attracting and retaining readers, but also helps drive traffic, increase online visibility and get leads and conversions on a constant basis. To have high quality and targeted content, you first need to know your target audience and then build your content-based on research. Optimize your website thereafter, while also including reader-friendly topics. Use traffic-tracking software to help determine what is working for you and what is not. As you continue to build backlinks to your site, release your content through different media channels to meet your search engine optimization strategies.

5. Link-building

Building links is another great organic SEO technique. Link-building means creating keyword-targeted links from other websites into your own website. Sure, this helps people visiting those other sites click your link and reach your website. Google also uses the quality of your link profile to determine your authority, which helps them determine where to place you in the search results. Because of this, backlinks are a great way to drive traffic and improve search engine rankings. To strengthen your link-building strategy, leave links in blogs and online community forums and consider buying highly powerful, trustworthy and quality links like.edu and.gov (both these links are highly-favored by search engine). Create quality articles, press releases and newsfeeds with quality backlinks pointing to your website and submit them to high-traffic websites and forums. You can also take part in discussions related to your niche on other sites and leave your links there.

6. Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

There are certain search engine providers that sell advertising space for a specific amount. This is another very popular search engine marketing technique that can be implemented to increase visibility of your non-profit organization and drive traffic to your site. By paying these search engine providers a fee, you get advertising space to promote your site on front result pages to anyone who searches for your targeted keywords.

Pay-per-click (PPC) is one of the most dependable search engine marketing techniques. Non-profit organizations and small businesses can use this technique to enhance rankings of their website. Pay-per-click means you pay only when a visitor clicks on your advertisement(s) and visits your website. Marketing through PPC permits advertisers to bid for specific keywords against their competitors. These advertisements can be placed within the search results as well as on featured and paid listings. Google AdWords is currently the most popular PPC platform.

Note: Only one issue here, however. Once you cancel your PPC campaign, your work and your prime rankings are gone. Better: Target improving your rank in the natural listings through proper search engine optimization. These results often linger for years after you’ve stopped your search engine marketing efforts; that is, if you ever stop.

7. Refresh your content regularly

If you are a business, it is vital for you to regularly update your webpage or blog to provide current and useful information to your users. Search engine sites like Google.com review sites and give higher rankings based on how frequently contributors make relevant and informative updates to their site.

8. Website saturation

The popularity of a website depends upon how many of its pages are indexed by search engines like Google and the quality and quantity of backlinks the site has. The more indexed pages and the better its backlink profile, the more effective a website’s SEM. This is primarily done to enhance the popularity of your site extending its reach into the marketplace. If you are a fundraiser, you can use both these things to your advantage.

9. Website analytics

Using SEO and SEM to market your website can be useful if you can gauge its effectiveness in driving traffic to your site and increasing your website’s online presence. For this, you need to be able to measure the amount of traffic flowing into your site. Your days and months of labor can now be gauged by using website analytical programs. Though many tend to overlook this SEM technique, it is crucial. Website analytical programs like Google Analytics, collect, measure and analyze statistical data for you. This helps you recognize your unique versus repeat visitors, the number of pages viewed, where they leave your site, from where did they come, how much time they stayed at your site and more. This information helps you adjust your current SEO/SEM strategy and makes it all the more possible to achieve your business goals.

All these search engine marketing tips-from website optimization to content marketing, and from link-building to PPC-are important keys to promote your non-profit organization and drive traffic to your site. Use them to breathe new life into your traffic-less website, and watch your site flourish!

Insurance Search Engine Marketing For Insurance Agent Leads

For many insurance companies and insurance agencies, insurance search engine marketing is a brave new world, filled with a litany of confusing terms and acronyms. Like any emerging field, what might seem confusing at first, is readily understandable after a quick review of jargon and basics. Let’s take a look at insurance search engine marketing and define terms and acronyms along the way.

For the time being, let’s think of insurance search engine marketing (insurance SEM) as it relates to the insurance business, as if we were talking about the printed Yellow Pages phone book of the not distant past. Fifteen years ago, if someone was looking for a business, product or service, they could take a Yellow Pages off the shelf and open the phone book to search for the given product, service or company, flipping pages until they arrived at the relevant phone book pages. For the purposes of this example, let’s say that someone wanted property and casualty insurance, and were looking for insurance agents that they could contact. The person who was searching for the insurance, upon finding the two yellow pages which listed insurance agencies, might scan the insurance agency names beginning with the letter “A”. This is roughly analogous to a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) from Google, Bing or Yahoo. A key difference here is that these search engines display their results by relevancy as opposed to alphabetically. The placement of the names on the SERP relates to organic SEO, or in this case, insurance search engine optimization.

Of course there would also be many advertisements interspersed within the two phone book pages of agencies, both small and large. These ads are roughly analogous to PPC ads (Pay Per Click ads) found today on the search results pages. One notable difference is that in the case of the old Yellow Pages phone book, your insurance agency would pay a flat fee for the ad, whereas with a PPC, your agency only pays when a user clicks on your advertisement. Just for purposes of clarity, there is also something called PPI (Pay Per Impression), where your business would pay for impressions, though for our insurance agency web website optimization discussion, we’re going to stick with our PPC ad analogy. The difference between organic insurance search engine marketing and insurance PPC ads is as simple as having your agency name listed in the Yellow Pages at no charge, versus a display ad in the Yellow Pages at a cost of perhaps $1,000 per month. Thus the appeal of organic web marketing, if your insurance agency can rise to the top of the organic SERP, you are very likely to direct web surfers (read that as insurance agency leads) to your website and reap the benefits without any PPC costs. Think of this in the same way as the old phone book listings with company’s starting their name with “AAAA Auto Parts” or “AAAAA Insurance Agency” to ensure their names would appear first. A SERP offers a better alternative than the printed Yellow Pages name game, in that the agency name is secondary to other, more relevant criteria. This criterion is determined by search engine algorithms which can have over 100 attributes they use to determine relevancy, and subsequently determine if your insurance agency website should be on page one or page ten (SERP Ranking).

A simple explanation of some key terms often associated with insurance search engine marketing (insurance SEM) include:

  • Back links – Links to your agency site from other internet sites and directories.
  • HTML – Code used to create many websites.
  • Keyword Density – The number of times, in terms of percent, that a keyword phrase is used on any given page of an insurance agency website. Divide the number of uses of that keyword, by the total number of words on the page. Experts disagree on the ideal percentage for optimization with all engines, but targeting a number around 5% as of this writing should be effective. An important note, some article directories only allow keyword density of up to 4%.
  • Keywords – Words typed into a search engine to return a list (SERP) of relevant sites and documents.
  • Long-tail Keywords – Longer keyword phrases, which yield more specific search results germane to your insurance agency. These long-tail phrases are three or more words bundled together. For example, “insurance agency marketing” is a long-tail keyword where as “insurance” is not.
  • Off Page Optimization – Content creation, directory submission and back link building used to improve search engine rankings (SERP placement).
  • On Page Optimization – Modifications made to insurance agency website content and HTML code to improve search engine rankings (SERP placement).
  • Organic SEO – Page ranking results returned by a search engine based purely on relevancy as opposed to a paid ad placement.
  • Page Rank – A gauge of the popularity of your site, typically determined by the volume of visitors and links to your site. This was once a preeminent performance measure, but for niche industries like insurance agencies and agents, other criteria is now more important than page rank and back links.
  • PPC – Pay Per Click where your business posts an ad on a search engine and pays each time a web surfer clicks on your advertisement. These ads are displayed above and on the side of many search terms. Another variation on this is PPI, which is Pay Per Impression, where you would pay a bulk rate for every thousand times your ad is displayed, regardless of the number of times your ad was clicked.
  • PPI – Pay Per Impression where your agency pays a flat fee per thousand of times your ad is displayed on the Google, Bing or Yahoo results pages.
  • Search Engine Marketing – The process which is used for insurance companies and insurance agencies to rise to the top of the organic SERP listings, or to place ads that will be posted on page results for selected long-tail keywords.
  • SEM – Acronym for insurance search engine marketing
  • SEM – Search Engine Marketing.
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • SER – Sometimes you may see the acronym SER used, which can refer to Search Engine Results, Rankings or even Relevancy.
  • SERP – Search Engine Results Page
  • Web Marketing – Insurance agency search engine marketing is a subset of an overall insurance agency web marketing plan.

The goal of insurance search engine marketing is driving qualified insurance agent leads to your agency website. Once these web prospects have arrived at your insurance agency website, you need an effective call to action, which in itself, is the topic for another insurance agency marketing article. Obviously, more qualified agency leads, combined with a compelling insurance agency website and call to action, should yield increased premiums and help grow your agency’s book of business.