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Search Marketing 101

Learn the basics of an essential internet marketing strategy.

How do you look for information? You search the internet, right? If so, you're not alone. According to Marketing Sherpa, almost 134 million people in the U.S. regularly use search engines when looking for information online. Of that number, 63 percent look only at the first page of results--at most.

And if you want your site to be there, you need to put a family of strategies called search marketing--a catch-all term for search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising--to work for your business.

Search Engine Optimization
SEO encompasses the strategies for earning top rankings in free search engines. These are called "organic" or "natural" listings. You can actually direct the way your site's listed--and improve your ranking--by giving the search engines what they're looking for.

The goal is to optimize your site so search engines will consider it relevant. Then, they'll place your site in the top results when people are searching for your product or service. Here are some key SEO strategies:

  • Find the hottest keywords for your market. This is the starting point for any search marketing campaign.
     
  • Plug keywords into the right locations in your copy and code. Your website is full of hot spots search engine spiders check regularly for keywords. Put your keywords in the headlines, subheads and body copy of your web pages. In your code, use them in anchor text, alt text, title tags, image tags and meta tags. But use them sparingly: The old strategy of loading up your meta tags with keywords doesn't work anymore.
     
  • Use keywords that relate directly to your content. If you sprinkle keywords like "guaranteed weight loss" through your site that sells shoes, search engines will ignore you. Your keywords will work best if they reflect what your site is about.
     
  • Keep the spiders coming back with frequent new content. The more fresh, relevant content they find, the higher the search engine spiders are likely to rank your site. Keep all the copy on your pages current, including any changes or updates to your business or products. And archive your newsletters or bulletins on your site. A blog or forum also keeps people heading back for daily updates and discussion.
     
  • Fine-tune your keyword density. Make sure you integrate your keywords as naturally as possible into your copy. You won't keep your visitors' attention if the text on your site is just a jumbled bunch of keywords. Aim for keyword density of 4 to 6 percent.
     
  • Collect links from other sites that are considered reputable and relevant. Natural, relevant inbound links are search engine gold. Focus your strategy on requesting one-way links from sites with high natural rankings in search engines. Also, put out "link bait"--quality content that contains a link back to your site. Distributing free articles and press releases is a great way to get quality inbound links. Learn more on this subject in "Write a Keyword-Rich Article to Increase Site Traffic."

    And don't forget the power of social networking. By taking part in online communities or uploading your video to a site like YouTube, you can drive new traffic to your website and get new sites linking to yours.
     
  • Use a site map to boost your ranking in Google, Yahoo! and Windows Live Search. Site maps help spiders find their way through all your pages. And with the new sitemapsformatting protocol, the three search titans are giving site owners more clues than ever about how to help index their sites.

SEO should be at the core of your overall internet marketing strategy. It's one of the most inexpensive and effective approaches available. In fact, much of what you can do to optimize your site for the organic search engines is totally free.

However, it can be slow. When starting out, you'll probably have to wait before you show up in search results. So here's something that'll get you targeted traffic faster.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Do a search on Google or Yahoo!, and you'll notice a different type of listings set around the organic results. These "sponsored results" are pay-per-click ads that appear when people search using the keywords in the ads. PPC has some tremendous advantages for online businesses:

  • PPC ads show up immediately. You can drive traffic to your site right away, even if you haven't been indexed by search engines yet.
     
  • You only pay for results. No matter how many times your ad is displayed, you pay only when someone clicks on it. And by watching your results carefully, you can determine how well each ad is converting and if it's worth continuing.
     
  • It's a great testing tool. With PPC, you can run several ads simultaneously, allowing you to see very quickly which ones work best. Test your keywords this way and use the best ones on your site to boost your organic search results.

    In fact, you can use PPC to test everything from your product offerings and price points to your ad headlines and sales copy. Read "How to Attract Visitors to Your Site" for more PPC information.

With a combination of PPC and SEO you can make sure your target market will find you. No other set of strategies offers you so much scope as search marketing. You can dramatically improve your search engine rankings and direct quality, targeted traffic to your website--often without spending a single dime.

A lot of the techniques here are basic, but some techniques come and go. What worked last year may fizzle this year. And discovering a great new search marketing trick could put you far ahead of the competition.

So have the basics covered, but also try new techniques and strategies. With ongoing search marketing, you'll be where your market can find you--front and center in the search results.

Derek Gehl is the CEO of the Internet Marketing Center, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses.IMC hosts a new Search Marketing Lab Forum, where members have their strategy questions answered by search marketing specialists.

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