Search Engine Marketing: The Alchemy of Our Age
Practitioners of alchemy strove to turn common metals into gold. It was a magical effort to achieve wealth. Unfortunately for its adherents, no compound was ever discovered back then to create such a reaction. Today, however, there exists a tool that can help entrepreneurs realize fortunes -- Google.
In the past, growing your customer base took significant time or money – often both. Yet, in a digital world where most purchases begin online, Google search results can funnel large amounts of interested prospects to small operations – quickly and inexpensively.
That's because people trust Google to serve up the most relevant and authoritative sites. Currently, Google is the most popular search engine online with 68 percent market share. It processes over 3.5 billion searches per day.
While only a tiny sliver of those searches relate to your business, it nonetheless can deliver massive volume. What's more, Google provides the needed tools to transform more searches into sales. With Keyword Planner and AdSense, you can literally learn and listen to what people search for online. For an entrepreneur looking to fine tune their business, that's real "gold."
Take for instance the local dog walker. Search results may reveal a volume of searches in the area for pack walks. A business can take advantage of insights like that to modify its services and give people what they want. Competitors not listening lose out on real money.
The power of insights like that can fundamentally change how business is done. In the past, entrepreneurs relied on their gut to determine everything from concept to inventory. But with digital trails out there, today's startups can use data to accurately predict what will resonate with consumers and ring cash registers.
Just as important as what people are searching for, though, is how people are searching for it.
There are many ways you may describe your product and what you sell, but Google measures by a different yardstick: finding the site that best matches the words people search by. This part of the science can't be overlooked. About 94 percent of clicks are on the first page of results. Google has convinced the world that all life's best answers are on Page One. Put another way, if you miss Page One, you don't exist.
Getting your site to rank higher is about having it tightly match popular and relevant search terms. Exactly. Consider a customer we once had: a die cast car model company. People may search for die cast as two words – or one. They may hyphenate the words or misspell the first (dye). The point is that on search sites, it doesn't matter how you describe your product. It matters how people search for it. After looking at the analytics, we rewrote the entire site to reflect how people searched online. Business more than doubled.
Another example: When we started Vitals, we were building pages to help people find cardiologists. Yet, on Google, five times more people search for the term "cardiology." By optimizing our pages for that keyword instead, we generate more traffic, allowing us to monetizing those pages accordingly.
Another way to take advantage of Google is to ride the "long tail" of search. As consumers decide what's best for them, we move away from the 80/20 rule of business that dictates that 80 percent of your profits come from 20 percent of your products. For instance, local bookstores line their shelves with bestsellers, knowing they can move the inventory quickly. But online, Amazon kills every independent bookseller by being able to carry every book in print. Every. Book.
Amazon doesn't have to go after words like "buy books online" because people find the site by searching for the title of a book instead. Similarly, when we built Vitals, we made a page for every doctor in America. Then we added a page for every city. And neighborhood. And specialist. And health plan. And specialists by health plan. Millions and millions of distinct pages, so Vitals had the "perfect" answer to every search.
All told, Vitals is a site with tens of millions of pages. Our traffic flows from various searches: Doctor name, doctor specialty, doctor location, specialty location, etc. It's counterintuitive, but instead of having a single front door for business (the "Home Page"), you can build millions of doors into your site, thereby increasing revenue by several orders of magnitude.
The best part about Google is that – even a decade later – most businesses aren't using its magic to their advantage. That means there's still ample opportunity to outwit many of your competitors. An awful lot of business owners still think of search engine marketing as voodoo. Trust me, it's not. What it's really, is free gold.
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