5 Reasons to Use SEM as a Business Strategy and Why
COMMON PROBLEM FOR BUSINESS OWNERS
While talking with business owners and department managers over the years, I learned that a lot of us have a common problem. The problem is really a question. What is the best way to let customers know about changes in my company?
There has never been a singular answer, even when back in the day the only answer was offline marketing (think newspapers, magazines, billboards, TV commercials, and radio spots).
But in the modern digital era, there are so many online marketing variables to consider you might go broke trying to figure out the best way (think pay per click advertising, social media marketing, banner ads, influencer marketing, and blogging).
Now multiply each of these and other online marketing methods by thousands of possible platforms, and you will quickly realize finding a needle in a haystack would be easier.
I am here to tell you the answer is really simple. The answer is Search Engine Marketing, or as it is better known, SEM.
ORGANIC SEM WINS THE DAY
SEM in itself is a wide reaching approach with many variables to consider. But let’s keep thing simple so you can take action after reading this article. I am going to focus on organic search engine marketing right now, and then list 5 business situations you should lean towards SEM to get the job done right.
You should know by now what a search engine is, basically it’s like a pair of glasses for legally blind questions-askers to wear while surfing the Internet. Google is main player in search engines, but others like Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo play a significant role.
People ask questions and expect answers. Over the last 20 years, they have largely depended on one resource to find answers to their questions - search engines. Need a local plumber to fix a leaky faucet? Google it. Trying to find a basketball court nearby? Google it. Want to sell on Amazon, but not sure how to get started? Google it.
The best answers are the organic listings, meaning, natural links that Google and other search engines produce on the first page of results not including paid ads. The algorithms that sort out all this information are designed to sort through trillions of web pages and display the best possible answers.
Now, your next question as a business owner is ‘How do I reach my customers with search engine marketing?’ Good question. Let’s talk about that for a second.
5 DIGITAL MARKETING PLATFORMS YOU NEED
If you own a business, there are a few things you must have. These are all critically important and it really doesn’t matter how big your company is, how many employees you have, or how much annual revenue your business earns. They are intricately woven into the way nearly all businesses operate in the world today. While nothing lasts forever, it’s pretty safe to say these digital marketing platforms will be around in one form or another for a long, long time. If your company sells a product or service (or both), here’s a list of what you need;
If you own a business in the United States and still don’t have a website, then it’s time to wake up. I hate to be overly blunt, but there’s no other way to say it. One of the top reasons prospective customers skip out on calling a business is because they don’t have a website.
It’s worth repeating. Customers associate a website with a company’s credibility, intelligence, and reputation. Not owning a website, or nearly as bad, flaunting a poorly built website does more to damage your reputation than help it. And each year that passes, this phenomenon continues to become more and more of a determining factor for who is willing to spend money with you.
Now that we have established you need a website, one of the core elements needed on your website is a blog. Most small business owners mistakenly overlook this critically important piece of the search engine marketing puzzle.
Blogs are not just for professional writers any more. They are forums in which businesses can interact with people online, be them prospective or existing customers. People research the Internet before they call on a business, and a large portion of this research is achieved in the form of reading blog articles.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS
For any local business, a Google My Business listing is just as important as flipping the sign on the door from closed to open each morning. Google My Business (GMB) is the single most important business directory on the planet. It identifies and lists businesses by category, location, reviews, and several other factors.
There are also a few amazing tools in the GMB dashboard to help you communicate with your customers, many of which are overlooked by your competitors, leaving a huge opportunity to stand out. This is also where business reviews are stored by Google, and poor reviews can severely damage your company’s reputation if not managed correctly.
BING PLACES FOR BUSINESS & YELP
Again, local businesses have to be aware of the powerful local directories that serve them. Next on the list is Bing Places for Business and Yelp. Bing Places for Business is the little brother to Google My Business, but not something business owners should overlook because Bing is a powerful and regularly used search engine.
Yelp is equally important but for slightly different reasons. Yelp is the most popular business review site on the Internet, enough said. But it’s also good to know that Bing Places for Business integrates Yelp reviews in its listings. So both platforms should be on your radar.
Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. Sure, the platforms may change but the appeal of connecting with each other in a digital space using text, images, and video is as good as gold. But here’s why it’s important for business.
Facebook is one of the Big 3 when it comes to business reviews, the other two being Google and Yelp. Did you know a Facebook page may already exist for your business, no matter whether you own and operate it or not? If you have a business, it’s likely it has already been indexed by Facebook and there is a placeholder page where people can sound off.
After Facebook, there are several other social media platforms to consider like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus (although not for much longer), and SnapChat. There are benefits to all of them, but as a business owner you should make it a priority to actively take part in at least three. They represent a unique and personal way to interact with your customers and fans, and they also help establish reputation for small businesses.
5 REASONS TO USE SEM IN BUSINESS
At the outset of this article, I stated one of the common problems I hear about when talking to business owners is managing changes in their company. Keep in mind, this could be anything that changes for a brand new business or one with 100 years in existence. Nothing stays the same forever.
In fact, businesses who refuse to adapt usually end up going away. At the time of this writing, Sears is one of those companies. But in recent history, we witnessed corporate giants like Circuit City, Blockbuster, Hostess, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Radio Shack fail as well. This should serve as an alarm for you, the business owner. Fortunately, you can learn from the mistakes of the big boys in business.
So let’s talk about my top 5 list of reasons to use search engine marketing as a business strategy.
There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of starting a new business. It is a huge challenge for the entrepreneur willing to give it a go, especially when the odds are stacked against most startup companies. But at the very outset of a new brick and mortar business, there is inevitably a grand opening.
The grand opening is rarely the first day of commerce, but often the moment things are settling into place for a new business. After a some time in operation, you will have better insights on popular product lines or service offerings, and the target customer. With that, you are ready to break a bottle of champagne over the bow of the ship and set sail in business.
This is an incredibly important time window to put SEM to work. Considering a grand opening doesn’t typically happen on day 1, rather, day 60, 90, or even 365, that time window allows you the opportunity to start ranking your website for relevant keywords.
When we put any one of three available Local Business SEM service packages into motion for a client, we research high volume keywords that match up with your core business. Then, we use our proprietary blend of tools to create blog articles, align business citations, build links, and optimize business listing sites to incrementally rank your website for these keywords.
Over time, this can result in your business appearing in thousands upon thousands of customer searches for the product or service you sell. That means more website clicks, more phone calls, and more walk-in traffic, which means more sales.
2. NEW LOCATION
One of the big moves for local business owners to mull over is expanding into new territory. After all, when a good thing is working in one part of the city perhaps it can work in another - right? This leap of faith should involve a substantial amount of research and thoughtful consideration.
Start by asking your buying audience questions. Is there demand for your product or service outside your general operating area? If so, is the distance from your current location and the outlying customers great enough that they will shop with a lesser competitor in lieu of driving to you? These are only a few of the many questions you must answer.
Assuming you have done the research, allocated the funds to lease or acquire new retail space, stocked up with enough inventory to fill the shelves, and hired staff to take the plunge, then it is time for some good, old fashioned SEM.
One of the massively important benefits to our Local Business SEM service is alerting the search engine powers-that-be of your exact location. For brick & mortar retailers, it’s a no-brainer. Customers have to know where you are before they will spend money in your store.
Google My Business is of particular importance with new locations. You will need to alert them of your new location, verify it, and begin using the tools available to promote that new location just as if it was a brand new business.
This is not the time for arrogance. Just because your business is killing it in one location, does not mean it will in another location. In fact, this is how so many businesses fail. They leverage themselves into massive debt trying to expand too quickly without taking the steps to alert customers of their impending arrival.
3. NEW PRODUCT
This one is exciting. In all my years in retail, one of my favorite things to do was launch a brand new product. In our Internet connected global marketplace today it seems a little rudimentary, but before the days of the world wide web, finding a new, innovative product was not an easy thing to do.
To be completely honest, it wasn’t easy even in the early days of the Internet. During the 1990’s when dot coms dominated Wall Street Journal articles, small manufacturers situated around the country still didn’t understand how to leverage the Internet.
They might have a website, but for lack of a better descriptor, they sucked. The information was horribly insufficient, images were terrible, and video was nowhere near as prominent and functional as it is today. So, digging up a wonderfully awesome new product meant hours of research, then a purchase, then rigorous testing, followed by customer trials and feedback evaluation.
Today, life is much easier for the local retailer. A quick trip to Amazon to read reviews of the product you wish to sell will tell you most of what you need to know. But how will local customers know you sell the product? And what will prevent them from buying it on Amazon?
Once again, the answer is SEM. Your website must rank for keywords that relate to the new product. Sounds difficult right? It’s not as hard as you might think. If you are a local business and the only one selling this new product, you have a very unique opportunity to capitalize on your geographical advantage.
Keyword rank is based on geography when it comes to local businesses. Take, for example, where we are located in Northern California - Redding, CA to be specific. If BridgeHouse Marketing is ranking on page one of Google for social media marketing services in Redding, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are ranking well in Chico or Sacramento despite the fact we service clients in those areas too.
This is precisely why we use a content marketing strategy to help search engines rank us for social media in Chico and social media in Sacramento. Our intricate knowledge of these markets is on display via blog articles, social media posts, YouTube videos, and landing pages that alert search engines of our willingness to serve clients outside our area with a new product.
4. NEW CATEGORY
This one is very similar to adding a new product, but represents a few more layers of difficulty. A new category of products or services is a lot like starting a new business. Owners and managers mistakenly assume their established reputation and core competency will overflow seamlessly into a new category offering.
In reality, failing in the new category offering can often have significant blowback for a company’s core competency. It sends a signal to customers that the company’s eyes may not be on the prize any more, and a diverted focus leads to poor craftsmanship all the way around.
Again, do your research. Is the new category of products or service offerings going to be better than your local competitors? If not, you are already setting yourself up for failure. Don’t expand just to expand. Think of expansion as the result of years invested into perfecting a product or service, and now the business can adequately promote and support the effort moving forward.
Effective search engine marketing is imperative in this case because a new category might be well outside your company’s core competency or prototypical offering. From a keyword standpoint, there are many variations to rank for considering just one product. When you multiply that by more and more new products, the number of keywords rises exponentially.
Competitor research will show gaps and opportunities for keywords, much like the process you went through developing the new product or service. Once you identify opportunities, it’s time to build out content and links to support them organically. Keep in mind that showing out consistently in page one of a search engine results page (SERP) for local businesses is like installing a turbo on an otherwise standard engine.
5. MERGER AND ACQUISITION
Last on my list, but still an important one, are mergers and acquisitions (M&A). When two companies engage in a merger, it typically signals some sort of aligned competitive advantage for each. It effectually removes a competitor from the landscape as well. But most importantly, it allows the companies to bring their core competencies together as one unified offering.
Similarly, acquisitions allow one company to inherit the infrastructure and core competency of another company. The difference is, an acquisition of companies doesn’t always signal a unification of company goals or resources. Instead, a larger company may need a single component from the smaller company like intellectual property, goodwill, or personnel. The remaining infrastructure might be liquidated to offset the buy cost. Acquisition is a great way to remove a disruptive competitor as well.
Now that you’ve gotten through my top 5 list, you can no doubt see the importance of search engine marketing in a merger or acquisition situation. Both companies are likely to have beneficial digital assets, such as websites that rank for relevant keywords.
But careful consideration must be given to corralling both groups of website traffic into one focused group. Think of each page of both company’s websites and the keywords they rank for as puzzle pieces scattered about on a table. The acquiring company will need to reassemble the puzzle in a meaningful way.
Perhaps the acquired company has a fantastic catalog of blog articles to support their free online tools. Those articles will need to go through a pruning and editing process to build out the internal and external links that fits the website architecture of the acquirer.
Yet again, SEM comes into play in a big way. The long lasting effects of ranking well for keywords relevant to the products, services, or IP connected to the acquired company will provide for solid return on investment. Customer loyalties are a delicate element here as well. You want current customers and those coming over in the transition to remain loyal to the new, larger company. Sometimes, that isn’t an easy thing to do.
SUMMING UP SEM STRATEGY
We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, which illustrates that speed does not beat out consistency. This is a great way to sum up search engine marketing.
It’s not to say that cutting corners here and there to speed things up is bad. There is a reason why business owners spend billions of dollars on Google Ads pay-per-click advertising each year. Because it’s a fast track to the top of SERP’s.
But millions upon millions of dollars are wasted on poorly constructed PPC ad campaigns, and let’s face it - nothing works 100% of the time. If you’re anything like me, you skip the ads at the top of the search engines purposely. There’s something to be said about being sold versus serendipity.
SEM is a broad strategy. Please don’t misunderstand this article as an oversimplification of a generalized strategy. SEM isn’t easy, but it works. It requires extensive research and a lot of work.
But the consistency wins the race. If you’re a NASCAR driver, you avoid the big wrecks and draft off the fast cars. If you’re a 400m runner, you pace yourself and kick at the right time. And if you’re planning to use SEM as a business strategy, you perform research, set goals, and incrementally knock them down.
The beauty of SEM is, wins are plentiful along the way. You don’t have to wait impatiently and suffer for long periods to hopefully hit the lottery. Instead, as keywords rank better and better, clicks and calls increase. Then, like magic, new keywords appear and start their ascent towards page one of Google to drive even more clicks, calls, and walk-ins.