From a company looking for a new technology supplier to an individual hunting for a new pair of shoes, the vast majority of buyers now begin their purchasing research online. A 2007 study by Kelowna, B.C.-based Enquiro Search Solutions, which provides search-engine optimization (SEO) services, shows that 85% of buyers go online when making a business purchasing decision. That’s why search-engine marketing, including optimization and the placement of paid ads beside “organic” search results, is one of today’s essential sales boosters. If you don’t help search engines find your website or use an ad services like Google Adwords, most of the planet’s billion Web users will never find your site — or your product.
Organic search-engine optimization is the process of designing your website content in such a way that users will find it through their search-engine queries. Optimized websites have descriptive and accurate title tags (i.e., the name on the top of each page), a site map and rich content that users don’t have to register to read. They use the same language that customers might use to search for it and, ideally, are linked to by lots of other websites.
But avoid using nefarious SEO tactics such as “cloaking,” “hidden text” or “doorway pages.” Google, for instance, has removed companies that use these tricks from its index. Get the boot, and “it can take months to get traffic back,” says Gord Hotchkiss, president and CEO of Enquiro.
Paid placement or “pay per click” (PPC) marketing can be as effective as it is economical. With PPC, your ad appears alongside the organic search-engine results when someone searches for keywords pre-selected by you (on Google, for instance, the PPC ads appear down the right side of the page), but you pay only if the user clicks on your ad. (Prices range from a few cents to more than $1 per click, depending on a keyword’s popularity.) Because keywords are purchased on a pay-for-performance basis, marketers can easily control their search-marketing spending.
It’s not impossible to do yourself, but Forrester recommends outsourcing all search-engine marketing, as it takes too much time and money for most firms to dedicate internal resources to manage volatile and complex search-marketing tools, technologies and ad formats.
Speakers’ Spotlight, a Toronto-based speaker’s agency, took the plunge two years ago, enlisting Enquiro to optimize its site. Since then, Speakers’ Spotlight’s total organic search engine-referrals have increased by 976%. Unique visitors to the firm’s website jumped by almost 300%, and hits by repeat visitors jumped by 106%. CEO Farah Perelmuter says her company’s newly optimized site has boosted her global business opportunities. “We have found that the massive growth we’ve experienced online has impacted our sales tremendously,” she says. “We now book our speakers for events in numerous countries around the world, and for all different types of organizations. We have even generated media attention overseas and are approached with opportunities we would never have expected.”