As a business makes its debut in online marketing, it is immediately presented with an alphabet soup of choices in channels and media. “All businesses are after bottom-line results, and depending on the competitive landscape they face, different online tactics will have different effectiveness in delivering those results.” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “Implementing the right initiatives can make the difference between creating a marketing expense or achieving a return on marketing investment.”

Smart Business spoke with Kevin about how to evaluate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid Search, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) online advertising to get the best mileage from your marketing efforts and dollars.

How do I choose the right approach?

First things first—create goals and a timeline. Define what results you expect and when you expect to achieve them. Are you aiming to boost sales during a holiday season or to double your online leads year-over-year?

Once you have a clear list of goals and a timeline for them, do some competitive research. Look at your competitors and review their strategy. Simply “Googling” the product or services keywords will help illustrate who and where your competitors are on the web.  There are a number of tools available (such as Keyword Spy and Spy Fu) to see if they’re running PPC ads and which keywords they’re bidding on.  Browse their websites to understand which keywords they’re optimizing for.

Then do some Keyword research on these and similar relevant terms. This will give you a gage of the online competitiveness you will face and an estimated cost per lead. Comparing this with your average sale and margin data will help you make decisions about the right Internet marketing strategy including a more accurate budget for achieving the results you expect.

Finally, before structuring your web tactics, you’ll need to Create an Online Marketing Plan. Now that you’ve done the homework on your specific business and competitive situation, you can better select the right tactics to leverage in your plan.

How will I know if PPC or SEO is the better choice?

Comparing pay-per-click (PPC) advertising with search engine optimization (SEO) is an “apples vs. oranges” scenario.  Both are a type of online tactical “fruit” and depending on your situation, one may be easier to pick or better match your taste.  PPC and SEO are similar in their logistics of selecting keywords, optimizing website pages and measuring conversions, but they are each unique in specific ways.

PPC is like renting a house while SEO is like paying into a mortgage.  Paid Search can be a quick and easy way to land traffic and generate leads and sales, but it only works for as long as you fund it with ad-spend. Much like owning a home, SEO is a commitment and a long-term investment of time and effort to build your website’s organic search engine “equity” of strength to attract traffic.

Real estate professionals suggest that when purchasing a home, you should be willing to live there for at least 5 years. While implementing proper SEO doesn’t take 5 years to reap results, it is not instant (like PPC can be).  It is not uncommon that it can take 6 months or more to build the SEO strength needed to sustain a high-performance business website.

Matching these attributes to your web marketing goals as well as your business requirements of urgency, resources and skills will guide your strategic decision for which tactics to deploy.

What situations indicate SEO or PPC?

Implementing an SEO strategy has several benefits and should be executed to advance goals of:

  • Brand positioning
  • Long term positioning
  • Increasing visitors
  • Ranking higher in search engines organic results
  • Increasing the number of keywords driving traffic to your site

Once a website begins ranking “Organically” via SEO, it should continue to do so, with proper maintenance measures. SEO is an ongoing effort that needs attention to maintain relevance and competitive strength. Hiring or partnering with a search engine optimization expert will decrease the time you spend on this tactic, as well as provide the most profitable ROI.

PPC ads are a short term infusion solution. You’ll get results more quickly than with SEO methods but paid search has a hard-cost that you may not be willing to incur over the long haul. Unlike SEO, which can take months before ranking on the first page, PPC immediately offers the option to rank at the top for the right price.

PPC campaigns are great for:

  • Seasonal campaigns
  • Special offers and promotions
  • New product launches
  • Geo targeting

Investing in PPC advertising can be a very effective strategy for generating results from your site. But take into consideration that the investment includes ad spend in addition to the cost of an experienced PPC professional either in-house or an external partner to manage it correctly for best performance.

For many businesses the optimal strategy is a blend of both tactics.  PPC can be effectively used up front, while the strength of your SEO is building.  When SEO results show this established presence, it is common to find that dialing down the PPC tactic somewhat can provide more cost effective leads and sales. Ongoing experience will also reveal which keywords are better organic versus paid search investments for your business.

Your online marketing plan may include both PPC and SEO.  Knowing how each contributes to your goals and best compliments your specific situation will help you strike the right balance for powerful and cost effective online marketing.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/Method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.bayshoresolutions.com.

Published in Florida
Friday, 18 February 2011 13:56

Time to optimize

Studies have shown that 90 percent of all Internet sessions start with or include the use of a search engine. This means that it’s likely nine out of 10 visitors to your company’s website probably typed a few keywords into Google, Yahoo, Bing or another search engine and stumbled upon you.

Directing search engine traffic to your site is not a simple one-step solution. In fact, a good search engine optimization strategy, also known as SEO, requires a variety of tactics and frequent maintenance in order to continue appealing to unique visitors.

Many SEO tactics can be done in-house at little or no expense to your business. All it takes is time and talent and a little bit of know-how. Affordable search engine marketing tactics are a great way to augment your SEO and win the competition for visitors. That can mean the difference between your website being an expense or a sales engine for your business.

Here are some things for you to keep in mind.

Content is king

In order for your website to be ranked by search engines, you need well-written, relevant content that includes the usage of a set of keywords or keyword phrases. These are words that identify your business, products or services and come up when users type them into a search engine. Tools for establishing which keywords are most relevant to your business include Google’s Keyword Tool and Wordtracker’s Keyword Questions. These keywords should be used throughout your website as often as possible.

Each product or service that you offer should have its own page of content. For instance, if you are a retailer, you should create a Web page for each product. Try to avoid copying and pasting the descriptions that come from the manufacturer. Every other retailer selling the product is doing the same thing. Instead, write your own description and be sure to use your keywords and keyword phrases.

Put in the time

When used correctly, meaning updated frequently with relevant and recent posts that include keywords, a blog can push your content to the top of search engine results pages and introduce your company, products and services to those who are seeking them.

It takes time to develop keyword strategies, measure the impact those strategies have on conversions and build authority with Internet users and search engines. Marketers must allot the time and have a measured, purposeful strategy to ensure long-term positive results when it comes to organic search. The ROI is incredible, but it’s not a silver bullet. It takes effort, consistency and resources.

Not all good things are free

The pay-per-click Internet advertising model is an effective search engine marketing tool to help you get noticed. Advertisers bid on keywords or phrases relevant to their target market’s search habits, such as Google Adwords, and pay only when their AdWords are clicked and the user is directed to their company site or landing page. Pay-per-click allows you to influence the user experience, control your message to a specified audience and PPC typically converts at higher rates than SEO efforts alone.

Be cautious

Just because a website has a good ranking doesn’t necessarily mean it will generate a click and deliver engagement or produce a sale. SEO is a tactic that makes your business easier to recognize in a vast marketplace of products, services and ideas — which can give you a decisive advantage over your competitors. It is not, however, a magic spell that ensures the success of your company. You still have to have desirable products or services, reasonable prices, exceptional customer service and the other attributes that are common to successful businesses.

Jim Jay is the president and CEO of TechPoint, a statewide initiative to grow the tech sector and entrepreneurship in Indiana. To learn more about TechPoint, please visit www.techpoint.org and for more information on Indiana’s Measured Marketing Initiative, please visit www.indianameasuredmarketing.com.

Published in Indianapolis