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A Brief Overview of Search Engine Marketing
Marketing a website is generally divided into two categories called Paid Search (aka PPC, CPC, Pay Per Click) and Organic (aka SEO, Search Engine Optimization, Natural Listings).
Paid Search is basically buying positions on the search engines for specific search terms, like “medical malpractice”. You set a price your willing to pay each time someone clicks on your ad and comes to your site. Your position (top, 2nd, 10th, etc) is based on the amount you bid relative to other bidders for the same term. To get a Paid Search marketing campaign to pay off, you need to manage these keyword bids very carefully so that you don’t over-bid and waste money, but also so that you don’t underbid and simply get nothing in return. The entire system is pretty (no, very) complex typically requiring daily, hands-on management.
The quality of your website has a direct impact on how well a Paid Search campaign can do. A well designed site will have a much higher rate of “return” (more people will call you after coming to the site), so that the actual costs leads you get from the clicks will be reduced. In essence, you will save money because your advertising is much more efficient. That goes back to my argument that a well designed site will save money in marketing because it does a better job turning marketing dollars into real clients. Using poorly designed sites on Paid Search campaigns will waste a lot of those advertising dollars.
The amount you decide to spend on Paid Search is very controllable and measurable which can be changed at a months notice.
Organic is a completely different approach. Every search engine will show two categories of results: The Paid sponsors and the regular listings. The goal of Organic is to “convince” the search engines to list your company, for a given search term, at or near the top of these free listings. They are free – you don’t pay the search engines for them – and they bring in a lot of traffic. However, there is no direct method of getting your site to those coveted top positions. That is where SEO/Organic marketing comes in.
The way search engines work is that they send out these programs called “spiders” that visit every website in the world, and revisit them, on a continual bases. These programs collect the information they find on the websites and store that information in a database so that when a user does a search on a term, like “medical malpractice”, the search engine can then just query its database and display all the websites that contain information about those words. The complexity comes into play on the “ranking” or the order in which the search engine decides to display these websites. Their goal is to present the most relevant, or “on topic” sites on the top. They keep their algorithms under tight wraps so no knows exactly how to get their website on top.
However, through experience and trial and error, SEO experts have figured out how to design websites, position the sites and manipulate the organic search results to get their listings ranked high. This processes is called Search Engine Optimization and is an on going process of manipulating things under our control to get higher rankings (which are not in our direct control).