Ever wondered what all the fuss over SEO, SEM & SMM (dangerously close to SNM) is? Well, we’re here to give you the low-down so you know your Search Engine Marketing from your whips and chains…
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is, in short, about getting the most out of search engines – specifically results pages. When we’re talking about SEO and its marketing potential, we’re referring to how well a company/business’ website matches up against its competition where search engines are concerned. A website with a heavy focus on SEO will rank higher on results pages than websites that pay little or no attention to the system. SEO is a form of what we call “organic” searching, whereby the results are general websites that haven’t paid for their results page ranking.
How does SEO work?
It’s a relatively simple concept – but with complex rules and regulations. Search engines, such as Google, filter through millions and millions of websites every time a search is conducted by a user, before it reveals what it believes to be the most suited matches. Using the keywords entered into the search bar by the user, Google attempts to locate articles that use those specific keywords a suitable number of times – not necessarily how often they’re used. Google uses a number of complex algorithms (over 200) to decipher how relevant a page is to the search engine user, so although a lot of attention is paid to keywords, other attributes do come into play – for example, algorithms are in place to work out how probable it is that a site would be randomly stumbled upon by web surfers.
Getting the most out of SEO
When search engines first began (it’s hard to imagine a time without Google isn’t it, but it did exist!), their targeted information was pretty vague and keywords played an even bigger role than they do now. Originally, the number of keywords that appeared in a website’s content, URL and related links would rank that website higher among search engine users than it does today. Google revolutionised search engine systematics and introduced all of those complex algorithms that are common practice in today’s search engines. As such, webmasters, content writers and general search engine optimisers have had to adapt to these changes in order to get the most out of SEO. Search engine optimisers use various methods to reach and maintain a higher ranking on results pages, this includes: writing relevant content to keywords and phrases used by search engine users, updating content regularly to keep the website alive and finally, most importantly, sticking to the rules and regulations that Google have implemented over the years. By abiding to these rules and increasing the weight of your content when compared to competitors, your website will sit snugly near the top of relevant results pages.
Goolgle’s rules and regulations
As I previously mentioned, Google revolutionised search engines and as such, introduced a whole array of rules back in 2004, which websites will need to abide by in order to retain a higher ranking. Most of these rules are in direct relation to site content and have been updated regularly since first appearing. Some of the bigger updates include ‘Google Instant’ which meant that sites with regular, fresh content would rank higher than sites who had previously dedicated years to ensuring their long-term stay atop of rankings. Google released the ‘Panda’ update in 2011 which penalised websites who duplicated content from other sites and sources in order to leech off of their popularity. In 2012 Google revealed the ‘Penguin’ update which penalised websites that used “black-hat SEO” techniques to manipulate their positioning, including the excessive use of links that directed users to their site and spamming of keywords. Websites are regularly removed from Google rankings because of their breach of rules, for some companies this can have devastating repercussions.
What is SEM?
Search engine marketing is all about using search engines to increase your website’s popularity, generating greater traffic and in turn, better revenue. It sounds awfully similar to SEO, but they are mutually exclusive, where SEO focuses on “organic” methods, SEM deals with all aspects of search engines, including; Google Adwords, Bing Ads and Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that SEO is simply just a form of SEM.
Pay Per Click advertising
PPC is the primary money-maker for search engines, as such, it’s valued and websites that use PPC will find their websites at the forefront of searches. How does it work? Simple. Advertisers either pay a fixed-rate for an advertisement slot, or, as is more popular with search engines are required to bid on a keyword or phrase, whereby the higher you bid, the greater chance you have of attaining a top-spot. From there, every click that redirects a user from a search engine to the advertiser’s website will cost the advertiser – meaning PPC can be an expensive marketing tool if not used correctly. However, with extensive research and budget restraints, advertisers are generally able to turn PPC into a profitable marketing strategy.
What’s Google Adwords?
Adwords is Google’s answer to online advertising, using the PPC method to place advertiser’s websites at the top and right-hand side of results pages. Since its introduction in 2000, Adwords has become Google’s primary source of income because of its ever-growing popularity amongst advertisers desperate to increase their websites traffic. Adwords uses the bidding system, allowing advertisers to bid on both keywords and ad positioning, again, as with stand PPC systems, the cost of using Adwords depends on a variety of factors including the potential profitability of the website featured. Much like general SEO marketing on Google, Adwords also has its own set of rules in place to prevent advertisers from manipulating the system. One of which is the ban on certain keywords, for example, you can’t use a keyword that’s a registered trademark and any word that can be linked to hacking is also prohibited. Google have also banned websites deemed immoral from advertising through them, for example, student essay-writing services have been banned.
What is SMM?
Social Media Marketing (SMM) is rapidly becomming the most popular form of online marketing. Harnessing the power of Social Media Networks such as Facebook, advertisers are now able to spread their messages and ads to millions of consumers instantaneously. In its most basic explanation, SMM can be described as the modern form of word of mouth advertising; in fact, it’s even been dubbed as electronic word of mouth (eWoM).
How it works?
In short, it’s a snowball effect. Advertisers and companies begin by breaching out to their loyal followers (those who have liked their Social Media page), from there they’re relying on eWoM to get their message spread quickly and efficiently. With Facebook, a particular advert or message could have become widespread through user’s desire to “share” the content with their peers, before long everyone is talking about it – that’s what we call “going viral”. Similarly, Twitter allows its users to “retweet” posts and comments that advertisers have made – generally speaking it’s the more creative Twitter posts that maximise on eWoM. SMM the most cost-effective way of advertising and is little wonder that more and more businesses are integrating their brands and websites into Social Media Networks.