SEM and it’s components can help your online business become more successful.
The Vertical Consulting Approach to Search Engine Marketing
When it comes to website design, it’s not enough to design a site that looks good, it also has to function effectively for the site’s intended users. But even that isn’t enough: the site also needs to be constructed in a way that makes it easy for potential users to find it. That means a site must also incorporate design principles that facilitate search engine marketing, or SEM.
Search engine marketing is a broad category or umbrella term that comprises a wide range of different elements, all of which contribute either directly or indirectly to how well a web page or site ranks in search results.
Elements of SEM
The Vertical Consulting SEM approach emphasises the client’s return on investment, which means two things: first, we use a wide variety of SEM techniques to get results; and second, we can design a custom package that’s tailored to a client’s unique needs. For example, while pay per click advertising is often an integral part of an SEM campaign, some clients prefer to avoid it: in such cases, we can incorporate SEM strategies that focus on other elements.
- Technical website optimisation: web design that uses efficient HTML and incorporates effective architectural elements, to ensure that a website loads quickly and that all parts of the site work correctly.
- Pay per click advertising: in this online-only advertising model, an advertiser pays the owner of a search engine or another website to host their advertising, generally paying a fixed amount for each user who clicks the ad.
- SEO: search engine optimisation, which includes choosing and incorporating key words, key phrases, and meta information into the design of a website and into its content.
- Content and content marketing: designing and creating website content, including landing pages, blog posts, and other content forms, that is well written and engaging and incorporates SEO principles.
- Social media marketing: using online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to build and engage an audience and drive website traffic.
- Mobile optimisation: the practice of designing a website to look good and function optimally on mobile devices. Hand in hand with this is responsive web design, which emphasises creating sites that look and function the same on all devices, from desktops to laptops, and mobile devices of all sizes.
Optimisation Starts with Website Analysis
At Vertical Consulting we typically start a new project with a full website analysis, but it’s not just a starting point: analytics continues to remain important in the long term. That’s because analytics tells us where to start in terms of optimisation, and also provides ongoing information about the results of that optimisation. We analyse a wide range of parameters, including the following:
- Current marketplace, target market, website traffic
- Search engine rankings and keyword use
- Website design and structural elements
- Copywriting and images
- Mobile optimisation and responsiveness
- HTML efficiency and architecture
- PPC review of your current campaign
- Social media, and content strategies
The Pay Per Click Campaign
The most commonly-employed form of pay per click advertising involves the purchase of listings on search engine results pages. Take a look at the first page of results on any Google search, for example, and you’ll see that the top three results are paid links, as are the listings on the right hand side. Ads are sold auction style, with buyers bidding what they want to pay per click. The highest bidder for a particular keyword typically wins the top listing for paid results, and all those who win paid advertising slots pay the amount they bid for each click they get from the ad.
This form of advertising is an excellent way of getting potential customers to visit your website, but like any advertising campaign, it’s only effective when properly designed and managed. For example, virtually any pay per click advertising campaign can generate site traffic, but unless that advertising specifically targets your intended audience, the rate at which you convert clicks into sales is likely to be low. The costs of pay per click advertising can add up quickly, and a poorly-managed campaign can end up being very expensive, with little to show for it. The upside is that this kind of advertising can generate web traffic quickly, and if the campaign targets the right key words it can be highly cost effective.
If you’ve invested part of your marketing budget on pay per click advertising, it’s important to continually monitor the results of your advertising efforts and refine your advertising strategy when it becomes necessary. This kind of advertising seems simple, but it’s more complicated than it appears, because while you’re only paying each time someone clicks on an ad, a click doesn’t automatically mean a sale. When the Vertical Consulting team audits pay per click advertising, we take a very close look at your current conversion rates, and other relevant details, to determine the most effective advertising strategy for you.
Integrating SEO Strategies
Pay per click advertising requires spending money to generate website traffic. On the other hand, search engine optimisation, or SEO, relies on what’s known as organic or natural traffic, which is derived from search engine results. Search engines rank search results based on how relevant they consider each individual listing to be: the coveted number one ranking is, according to that particular search engine, the most relevant result for the search terms used.
Like most things, however, it’s not that simple: a large number of parameters is considered by search engine algorithms to device what constitutes relevance, including but not limited to key words and phrases used in website text, meta information included in the site’s HTML, the number and placement of internal links, and the frequency with which the site is updated. These are all on-page ranking factors, meaning those that are specific to the website itself, and happen on it. Off-page ranking factors contribute too, including external links from other websites and mentions on social networking sites. And what this means is, your company’s presence on Facebook and other social platforms can actually influence your website’s search engine ranking.
When it comes to search engine optimisation, the goal at Vertical Consulting is to align an SEO strategy with the SEM goal of the project, taking into account the various on-page and off-page factors we can make use of improve the website’s ranking.
Content Marketing Strategies
A content marketing strategy has two main elements: first, the creation and publication of content that drives traffic to your website, or performs a similarly useful function; and second and most important, the use of that content to create a narrative about your company and your brand, and engage your target audience. Although the content itself is a vital part of the plan, however, the content marketing strategy itself is less about creating content and more about how you plan to use the content you create to promote your brand and enhance your reputation.
To create a content marketing strategy, we first consult with a client to decide what it is they want to accomplish. Typically, a content marketing strategy is about engaging your target audience, and meeting their specific needs in relation to your products or services. For example, an audience often wants information relating to a particular product, such as buying guides, or how to use, maintain, or repair a product. Content might include press releases, blog and social media posts, case studies or white papers; each type of content can serve a particular function and target a different kind of audience.
A typical Vertical Consulting content strategy, therefore, takes into account the particular needs of a target audience and the functions of each type of content, to create a plan for creating content that gets the desired results.
Social Media Marketing
Social media already plays a big role in the personal lives of a huge number of people all over the world, and it’s playing an increasingly large role in peoples’ professional lives too.
While the most popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are free to use, they do require a significant time investment for businesses looking to use these sites to get an edge. And remember that social media activity is one of those off-page factors that can influence your search engine ranking. That means it’s just as important to plan social media marketing strategies as it is to plan pay per click advertising and content marketing strategies. As with other SEM strategies, there are plenty of variables that go into determining what makes a good social media campaign: choosing the best platform to use, creating and marketing content, and building and engaging with an audience.
Vertical Consulting looks at all of these factors, and others, to determine the best direction for a social media marketing campaign, to design and implement effective strategies for any business.
Mobile Optimisation and Website Responsiveness
Once a novelty, now a must-have item owned by the majority of UK adults, smartphones and other mobile devices are here to stay. In 2015, the so-called mobile tipping point was finally reached: the point in time at which more people access the internet using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets than people who access the net on desktop or laptop computers.
And that’s not all: also in 2015, Google rolled out a series of search algorithm changes that prioritise mobile-friendly websites for users who access Google on mobile devices. As well as this, late in 2014, Google had already made initial changes to help mobile users identify mobile-friendly sites, by adding a small text label to verified mobile-optimised sites in search results.
Finally, there’s the simple fact that people use their mobile devices to help them make purchasing decisions. Of people who use their mobile devices to search locally for a particular product, eight out of ten will end up making a purchase. If a website doesn’t function well on mobile devices, that site is losing sales opportunities.
The ubiquity of mobile devices, combined with Google’s algorithm changes, means that one of the most important aspects of getting the best ROI out of a website design is ensuring that the site works on as wide a range of devices as possible. And ideally, that the site will continue to operate on new iterations of current devices.
Basically, mobile optimisation is no longer an option, it’s a requirement. It’s no longer enough to create a fully operational site for computers and a second, pared-down iteration for mobile devices: it’s crucial to create websites that are fully functional on computers and mobile devices alike.
Responsive design is the key. A responsive site is one that provides the user with an optimal viewing experience on any device, with text that’s easy to read, and site features that are easy to use with minimal adjustments required.
That means you have one website with one address, that’s accessible, usable, and fully functional on all kinds of devices, allowing your site to stay competitive no matter how it’s being accessed. And with one site serving all your online needs, it’s a much more cost-effective approach than designing alternate sites specifically for mobile use.
Putting it All Together
Effective SEM is all about synergy: while each of these elements is important and useful on its own, their true power lies in the way they’re combined. For example, great content is important for engaging an audience, but great content is a lot less likely to get read if it doesn’t include the right keywords. Similarly, optimising website architecture is an effective measure for making a site more user-friendly, but if the website isn’t also optimised for responsiveness, it means mobile users won’t be as likely to find the site or as likely to have a good user experience.
The synergistic approach is what defines Vertical Consulting.
We can design a website from the ground up, or assess your existing site for all the key elements of SEM, including website optimisation, responsiveness, PPC advertising, SEO, website content, and social media campaigning. Vertical Consulting can provide you with a website that ensures your target audience can both find it, and use it effectively, to get the results you want.