Search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are terms that are thrown around digital circles a lot these days. While there is much overlap between the two fields, they are not one and the same.
Both will be important for businesses and brands that need to improve their visibility and an understanding of their role is vital in scoring a leg up over the competition. Yet to achieve those lofty goals and targets, it is worthwhile examining what each practice consists of, understanding their similarities, differences and relationship to one and other.
Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are often tied into SEO campaigns and exist under that banner. However, in the purist sense of the word, social media marketing really is the domain of SEM specialists when we factor in the paid element of the promotional push. From an organic standpoint where content is published and links are produced, social media is a boost to SEO efforts, but when posts are artificially promoted and broadcast on people’s timelines, they become part of a wider SEM strategy.
The inclusion of pay-per click advertising is something that is totally foreign to organic search engine optimisation techniques, both logistically and philosophically. Here is where SEM becomes a broader church that incorporates all elements that can be considered online marketing endeavours. It is seen as a major player in online performance as it allows users to target their demographics much more surgically than simple SEO efforts. While that will score traffic in the long-term, it is that injection of targeted advertising through Google Adwords and Facebook advertisement spots that really begins to generate momentum for a brand.
If we were to conduct a construct of what SEO and SEM would be, then SEO would be a category under the field of SEM. That is how vast search engine marketing is when we factor in all of the elements discussed. Needless to say these are terms that should not be bandied about together haphazardly because they are two distinct disciplines all unto themselves.
Companies that begin a process of building their online portfolio should see their work through the prism of SEM rather than SEO as it incorporates the PPC world, mobile, social media and anything else that helps this cause. Yet the greatest asset any SEM professional can have is a working knowledge of an SEO campaign and how to execute that, paying off more than any other technique in the long-term.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a practice that has extended from the power and reach that Google can boast. Part science and part art form, this activity has branched out to become an integral part of the modern marketing endeavour.
Yet the very nature of this discipline makes it an evolving organism that is never static and always adapting to the habits of the consumer. Here is where technology plays a pivotal role in its development. It also gives us a gauge as to what to expect in the near future beyond 2018.
Technology and SEO will be forever linked and here is why the two are so compatible.
Wider Access To WiFi, 4G & Cloud Technologies
The reality is that society has a greater capacity now to tap into technologies that connect to the internet. In years gone by it would be a home or office modem that gave users the opportunity to tap into the world wide web, now that is essentially open to the community at large so long as they have a device to utilise. From WiFi to the cloud and 4G networks that are operational across city centres, suburban and rural areas, there has never been a better time to be online and searching.
Reliance On Search Engine Power
Not only do search engines like Google give us the ability to search what we want, they also not guide us as to what we want to search. This little advantage courtesy of the related search term bar and autocorrect field has since transitioned to a reliance on this powerful algorithm whereby consumers are handing back the initiative to these enterprises. Perhaps it is unhealthy, but our addiction to digital technology has branched out the SEO practice to incorporate a broader searching spectrum for keywords and phrases.
With the iPhone, Samsung and Blackberry smartphones venturing further into the marketplace to become mainstream, the manner in which we search and the data we are looking for has changed. That desire to have instantaneous product information and opening hours on our mobile has shifted the priority for Google who has forced businesses to have these categories broadcast through their platform.
Local SEO is a practice all unto itself and a direct result of the boom in the smartphone market. By 2019 the domestic use of mobile devices is expected to soar past the 20 million mark, a statistic that ensures optimisers must cater to active smartphone users.
By its very nature, SEO is a practice that will always be on the move. New technologies are introduced every year and the way in which people interact with search engines will be altering even faster. Google’s algorithms merely reflect the internet habits of society after all.
So what have been the landmark events in technology that has flicked the switch on search engine optimisation? There have been macro and mico examples throughout recent history, yet there is a handful that standout as major events. Since these took place, nothing has been the same for online marketers.
There is no doubt that Google’s expansion of their operating model has shifted how the platform works for the end user. What started out as a means to search for links and data on words and phrases has blossomed to be an enterprise of truly global reach. With that growth has come a capacity to instigate and extrapolate search terms related to one and other, image and video inclusion, local listings, advertisements and more. Each category is fluctuating by the minute as Google’s system adapts to technology and the end user.
Video has proven itself to be the most powerful media outlet anywhere on the web. Next to static images and text that struggles to gain the same cut-through, video is the tool for the modern marketer. This has affected how SEO professionals go about their business because they have the ability to tie in their campaign to YouTube videos that are simple to integrate on websites, emails and social media accounts. From the URL to the headline, meta tags and descriptions, YouTube’s operating system makes it simple to transition the same principles across to the online video world.
Search engine traffic is no longer an exercise conducted purely from a big, hefty desktop at the office. It is on the train, on a bus, in a taxi, during dinner or walking down the street. Smartphones have changed the game for SEO professionals who must change their perception and execution of an optimisation endeavour.
Now that smartphones, tablets and virtual assistant machines have the ability for the user to conduct a search simply by making an audio request, the SEO practice has become more conversational as a result. Phrases that begin with “how did this start” or “where can I find” are commonplace to the point where web content has to cater to this new normal.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) can be a daunting process from the outside looking in. Should you be uninitiated to the science behind elevating a website to the top of the web rankings, then it can appear to be a practice that takes years to master.
Here is where many third party companies step into the breach to take this burden away from various enterprises. However, there are a few basic principles at play that can see your own ranking rise up the results without having to invest thousands of dollars of revenue.
The ease of the YouTube application is handy for a number of reasons, but it should not be seen as just a luxury item. Video is head and shoulders the greatest means of attracting new traffic and keeping their attention, so tapping into short videos that are either entertaining, instructional or both will be a great means of driving your ranking. Google perceives video as a major element to boosting a site’s optimisation capabilities, so utilise it for your niche.
Speed Wins The Day
To be a genuinely optimised website, you have to be running an efficient machine. Think of this department like any quality mechanic would for a car – the parts all have to be in working order and it has to run when the driver puts the foot down. Speed ensures that content is not overloaded and helps a consumer base that is demanding given a shorter attention span.
Maintain Regular Content
Whilst there is a need to focus on quality over quantity in this new SEO era, there is no doubt that the best operators in the business are those that can keep the numbers ticking over. Even on those slow Wednesday afternoons in the middle of the year when news and announcements are lagging, it is paramount to continue a content strategy that sees your website tick over. This informs the search engines that you are active and provides value for the end user.
Have contacts within your own niche? Do you enjoy a fruitful partnership with other brands or peers online? Leverage that network because the more backlinks you can generate from others on the web that have some authority, then that will help your cause and inform Google that you are worthy of a higher rating. Social media also happens to be a great source for backlink generation, but the best results derive from other websites who reference your brand and include your URL.
Before Google entered modern culture to the point where the brand name became a verb, the marketing landscape was very different. Yes we still had the early incarnation of the internet but the Yellow Pages and business directory was still our main source of getting the name out there to rank ourselves against peers and competitors.
Today, Google’s influence is far reaching and it is those companies who understand its power who often have the highest rates of success. So how powerful is Google in the current landscape and what lessons can we take away from the operating platform?
Popularity in Numbers
Google’s own statistics are staggering if you stop to consider the sheer volume for one moment. Their data from 2017 told its own story with 40,000 individual searches occurring per second, 3.5 billion per day and 1.2 trillion over the year. Google’s influence on marketing can be explained by a series of intricate points, but the one fact that stands head and shoulders above the rest is its popularity. Ignoring Google today is the equivalent of ignoring television, print and radio advertising combined before the age of the web.
Google’s partnership with YouTube is a bold and strategic play on their part as it happens to incorporate another media form that dominates the landscape. For marketers, video is the most powerful engagement tool to attract viewer attention and maintain it for longer periods. The streaming service passed the 1 billion active monthly users mark in 2013 and that figure has only been rising. Combine this with an ease of application to include YouTube in online marketing material with a powerful search engine capacity, and this has been a tool for good in the field of commerce.
Our searching behaviour has changed and so has our shopping habits. The boom in smartphone use across the globe has seen us buy more products and order more services with our Samsung or iPhone more than any other time in history and this expansion is influenced by Google’s model.
Not only have they introduced their own smartphone into the market but their search engine algorithm changes has shifted how brands perceive their web presence, something that is dominated far more by mobile compatibility than just through the lens of a tablet or desktop. Google were not at the forefront of the mobile phenomenon, but their alterations have had a major hand in how we behave as a society online and through the marketing prism.
Digital marketers don’t require the most intricate or advanced technology out there. Just by adapting some key software from the largest search engine on the planet, you can take your brand to the next level on optimisation.
Many business owners will throw good money after bad hoping that they can crack the code and rank highly without going through the necessary steps. The reality is that the enterprises that master the basics see a much healthier return on investment, and they can achieve that all with free online outlets.
If you happen to be a business with a physical postcode, then it is a great idea to utilise Google Places. This will allow you to establish a map and control the domains that are vital for your consumers to know. That will include the phone number, the website, the opening hours and the address – all vital elements to seeing online traffic convert into actual sales.
Being aware of topics that are trending is not for every niche, sometimes there won’t be any breaking news in your field that will be relevant. Yet for winemakers who see a spike in exports to Asia or computer technicians who are operating while an online scam/virus is spreading, then why not take advantage? This search term data can work as a healthy short-term boost to your branding visibility.
Google Keyword Planner
Riding solo on your keyword campaign is a recipe for disaster. Simply guessing what your consumers are looking for is a fool’s errand and this is where the Google Keyword Planner can prescribe some order to the chaos. It will issue the marketer a comprehensive and up to date spreadsheet of information on keyword volume, relevance and competition to help you decide on which terms are ideal for your endeavours. The same principle can be applied to the pay-per click world too.
How do you know if a digital marketing campaign is successful if you have no means of analysing it in the first place? This is where Google Analytics acts as a platform that should be mandatory for all users as it provides a real time gauge on clicks and ranking points over the course of days, weeks, months and years. It is the type of insight you would normally have to pay dearly for through a third party, but this gives the information at your fingertips.