An Introduction to Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of online marketing that involves the use of search engine result pages to promote business websites. Search engine marketing increases the visibility of websites through search engine optimization (SEO) or through paid advertising with the intent of increasing traffic to the website.

SEM is a broader term than SEO. SEM refers to all marketing activities that use search engine technology for marketing purposes. These include SEO, paid listings and ads, and other search engine related services and functions that will increase reach and exposure of the website, resulting in greater traffic.

Search engine traffic consists of consumers who are interested in and searching for a particular term that is associated with the website. To leverage this tool and draw traffic to a company’s website, marketers must understand how to effectively use both paid and organic SEM and determine the potential exposure they can gain through both approaches.

Advantages of Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is advantageous in the following ways:

  • Unlike other major sources of online marketing, SEM helps businesses connect with consumers at a time when the consumer is interested in purchasing the product or service. Email marketing, for example, involves sending emails to a database of consumers with the hope of inciting some of these consumers to purchase. However, the consumer receiving the email may not be interested in the product or service being sold, or the consumer may be interested in the product or service, but he or she may not be interested at that precise moment. Furthermore, email marketing can be seen as invasive to some customers and may lead to a loss in reputation. SEM catches the consumer at a time when he or she is actively looking for the product or service, resulting in a more engaged consumer and typically a more receptive response.

Various Types of Search Engines

The Internet has become the primary source of information for the majority of consumers. Keywords and phrases are typed into a search engine on a computer or mobile device, and a vast volume of related content is presented to the consumer.

Studies suggest that when using search engines, most people do not go beyond the listings mentioned on the first couple of pages of the search engine results list. It has been noted that 90 percent of all users do not look past the first thirty results. This means a high-ranking website has a much higher probability of getting traffic from search engines than a lower ranking website.

Search Engine Optimization involves a number of activities and initiatives that businesses can implement to achieve high search engine rankings. Such activities address both on-page and off-page ranking factors that can affect a website’s or web page’s search engine rankings for specific search terms, resulting in a high placement in a search engine’s “organic,” or “natural,” or “unpaid” search results.

Most search engines can be divided into two common groups:

1. Spider- or Crawler-Based Search Engines

This refers to an Internet-based tool that searches the index of documents or web pages for a particular term, phrase, or text specified by the user, and produces results that are collected, sorted, and automatically indexed based on a defined algorithm.

A software program known as a “robot,” “spider,” or “crawler” scans web pages, follows links between pages and sites, collects information about websites, and indexes this information. This index is a large database of all the websites the crawler has scanned. When a search is performed using a spider-based search engine, the results are provided based on the information in the search engine’s index.

To rank high in search engine results, businesses need to optimize their websites and web pages to ensure that they are being properly indexed by the search engines. Several activities can be initiated in order to influence the information gathered and indexed by robots, spiders, or crawlers. There are many crawler- or spider-based search engines available on the Internet. Some of the popular search engines are Google, Baidu, Bing, and Yahoo.

When a search is performed in a spider-based search engine, the results show both unpaid “organic” listings and paid listings, if any, for the keyword searched. Search engine optimization affects only organic search results. Paid or “sponsored” search results are not affected by SEO. Sponsored results are ads purchased through search engine services such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads. These figures show the anatomy of Google and Bing search engine results.


2.  Human-Edited Web Directories

These directories are Internet search tools that search for information by subject categories. Rather than “robots” or “spiders,” which create directories automatically, human editors create these web directories. A short description along with the URL of the website is submitted to the directory for approval. The search directory then assigns the website to a category enabling the URL to display in search results for that category.

With web directories, the HTML page coding and content of the website seldom directly affect the listing. Directories often provide more targeted results than spider-based search engines. Some examples of popular human-edited web directories for businesses include Dmoz,, Best of the Web Directory, and Starting Point Directory.

For SEO purposes, a website should be optimized to gain high ranking in spider-based search engines. However, listings of the website in human-edited web directories also help in the overall SEO ranking.

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Know your Market to Market your App

Marketing research must be carried out to understand the mobile usage patterns of intended users, to segment the target market and further identify different user personas, and to create use cases based on personas and their mobile usage patterns.

Understanding mobile usage patterns include analyzing many factors including the following:

  • The location of mobile device usage—at work, at home, and while traveling
  • The type of mobile internet used—wi-fi (home, work, or public) or mobile data (2g, 3g, 4g/LTE etc.)
  • The primary reasons for mobile device usage—checking e-mails, playing games, interacting on social media, browsing information, reading e-books, making purchases, and so on
  • The mobile platform used and corresponding operating system version
  • The mobile device used—tablet or smartphone
  • The most frequently used apps
  • The frequency and duration of usage
  • Interaction with other electronic devices—pcs, laptops, projectors, tv’s, and so on

Marketing research may also be used for gauging user response to a prototype or final mobile app or site before it is launched. Marketing research can also help identify the most popular or most promising mobile app development technologies to help the digital marketing team decide on a particular development method.

Here are two examples of Marketing Research:

  • Online meeting, web conferencing, and video conferencing companies have now created mobile and tablet apps to add value and enhance user experience when attending meetings on-the-go. Effective market research on various factors including technology, mobile Internet requirements, operating system versions, and so forth, has helped these companies create apps that are well suited for this purpose. As a result, user experience, as well as feedback on these apps, is positive.
  • The increase in the usage of mobile technology has forced newspapers and news channels to create mobile sites or apps to update consumers on the latest news items and provide up-to-date information on-the-go, such as changing weather forecasts, traffic updates, or current local events. Market research was carried out to identify different persons and to create use cases to understand customer mobile usage patterns. This research has helped these companies to adapt to this changing market trend using apps or sites to enhance the customer experience.

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Can an Effective Website be responsible for Critical Success?

An effective website is a critical component of a company’s overall online success. Company’s website serves as the central hub and foundation for its online activity. With a plethora of available website designs, the digital marketing team must determine the appropriate and optimal design and message.

Besides having a basic understanding of the technology on the website, the digital marketing team must also consider the following facets of creating a website.

Consumer Perspective

  • Relevancy—Age, cultural nuances, geography, and other demographic factors of the target audience will influence the type of content on the website.
  • Usability Design—The digital marketing team must take into consideration how technically savvy its target customer is. If the target customer does not generally have the appropriate comfort level with technology, the team should design a simple, text-based layout with easy navigation and basic features. If the target customer is comfortable and familiar with the Internet and computer use, a more intricate, interactive, and information-rich website can be implemented. The design of the site should depend on the expectations of both the users and the company. In some cases, the development might focus on consumer engagement, while in other cases, the design might be oriented toward supporting task-oriented behavior such as the ability to make changes to one’s account, purchase a product or service, and so on.

Site Development Perspective

  • Purpose—Companies maintain a web presence for a variety of reasons. While some companies use websites as their main method of selling their products, other companies have an online presence just to support their business, message, and brand position. There are companies that use websites as a public relations (PR) tool, to enhance brand value in the minds of their customers, or to evaluate product feedback from customers that may help in understanding customer needs, general communications, product updates, and sales. The digital marketing team is responsible for ensuring that the website is designed to meet the overall strategic objectives outlined in the Marketing Strategy.
  • Planning—The digital marketing team must work with the website development team to plan the execution of the website, beginning with creating a storyboard for the website; listing functional requirements; building the database structure; developing wireframes; and determining hypermedia linkages, search engine key words, graphical design components, user interface designs, audio/video sources, animation, and text requirements and formats.
  • Performance— The digital marketing team also must consider the logical design of a good website, compare the performance of competitor websites to identify best practices, check for effective performance across browsers and operating systems, and perform usability testing of the website to ensure that it is easy to use.
  • Maintenance—Websites create an online presence for a brand, so the marketing team must ensure that the website is maintained and tested regularly. Downtime on a website may adversely impact the direct online sales of products and may also taint brand reputation in the minds of consumers.

The brand messaging on the website has to be in-line with the overall brand message and must stay relevant to the target audience.

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Various Types of Social Media Channels That Can Be Used to Increase Reach of a Business

“Social media” is an umbrella term that includes web-based software and services that bring users together online and allow them to exchange ideas, discuss issues, communicate with one another, and participate in many other forms of social interaction. With the proliferation of different forms of social media, such as blogs, forums, audio-visual sharing sites, personal networking sites, and professional networking sites, consumers are constantly bombarded with many marketing messages

Social media is important to every business that has a web presence as it can help drive traffic to the company’s website and ultimately increase sales leads and conversions. As well, different social media platforms are more likely to reach certain target audience segments, and messaging can be customized for each platform.

The various models of social media-enabled sharing are of the following content types:

  1. Blogs—Blogs are content created by individuals, groups, or companies to express their opinions, or provide information or insights on specific topics of their choice. The most popular blogs choose topics that are of interest to a large community. However, niche blogs catering to a certain targeted audience can be successful if they dominate the share of voice in that particular subject area. Successful blogs have something interesting, useful, or creative to share, and do that sharing with an engaging style. Blogs may contain images, infographics, or videos in addition to text. In most cases, they are also open to comments from readers. From a company’s perspective, a blog or Rich Site Summary (RSS) feed is an effective means for updating actual or prospective customers of happenings related to the company or the company’s products. RSS feeds use standard web feed formats to publish blog posts and syndicate data automatically. RSS feeds benefit users who want to receive timely updates from favorite websites or to aggregate data from many sites.
  1. Discussion Forums—These are websites used for discussing issues related to a specific topic. Participants in such forums may be asked to register. They are encouraged to ask each other questions, answer questions, and share information. Many forums allow participants to rate each other’s contributions, enabling contributors to build their reputations over time. Some discussion forums may be hosted and moderated by the company, in which case, the company would have some influence on the content of the discussion. In other cases, discussion forums are independent of a company; however, companies should be aware of popular discussion forums in which their products may be discussed and make an effort to respond to customers within those forums.
  1. Professional Networking Sites—These sites relate to people, groups, or companies sharing professional updates, content, and discussions generally related to an organization, a company, a product, or a profession. These sites are used to build an individual’s personal brand as well as to raise awareness of businesses’ brands and their products or services within the online community. Companies share such professional updates for various purposes, such as sharing product launch information, communicating offers and discounts, announcing changes in policies, and sharing media coverage. Relevant and engaging updates can help companies build and retain a loyal base of customers.
  1. Social Networking Sites—These are posts that pertain to people or groups sharing personal updates about themselves or about a topic. These updates are generally shared with friends, relatives, or acquaintances, but they may also be shared with the general public. A company needs to create content or share updates that are relevant, interesting, or entertaining enough for people to share with their personal network, and the content shared should also align with the marketing objectives for a product or brand. Therefore, businesses should focus their social networking site updates on useful and interesting information on subjects related to the company’s product or brand. This channel provides the opportunity for companies to share their brand personality and advertise company events, sales, and discount coupons. The focus of these updates should be on fun and engaging shareable content. Also, companies that have a high level of brand loyalty and where customers relate to the brand strongly may find customers voluntarily creating content or experiences related to the brand, or sharing the brand’s updates.
  1. Video Sharing Sites—This activity relates to sharing videos, audio, infographics, or images with other people. Such content can be shared with any person or group. In most social media channels that are focused on sharing such content, people can vote on or rank audio-visual content or add their comments. Thus, these channels integrate the discussion forum element into audio-visual sharing. For example, on YouTube—a social media channel for sharing videos—users can “like” or “dislike” a video, comment on the video, and reply to each other’s comments. Companies can use such channels very effectively as videos, images, and audio can have a much larger impact on the target market than text updates. Many companies invest in creating engaging and interesting videos about their products, which sometimes become extremely popular and drastically increase brand visibility. Some also create melodies around their product, which can become as popular as songs in their own right or as ringtones for mobile phones.

The features and functionality of social media platforms are constantly evolving as lesser-used functionality is removed and replaced by new functionality. It is critical for the digital marketing team to be up-to-date on the latest trends in social media and to understand how other organizations use social media to their advantage. Marketers also need to be aware of paid opportunities within social media marketing such as sponsored updates and ads, as well as earned opportunities to disseminate marketing messages by organically building followers. Often, a combination of paid and earned campaigns yields the best results.

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Benefits and Importance of Email Marketing

E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses e-mail as the delivery medium for communicating a marketing message to a group of people. E-mail marketing can have many different styles or levels of personalization, but any e-mail sent to existing or prospective customers can be regarded as e-mail marketing.

Specifically e-mail marketing is used to support customer loyalty and encourage repeat business with existing customers, as well as to deliver information and offer promotions to both customers and prospects via newsletters and other forms of communication

Good e-mail marketing software is a key component of a successful e-mail marketing system. The software should enable the company to manage its e-mail subscription lists, allowing recipients to easily subscribe and unsubscribe; send e-mails to subscribers or to recipients on a purchased list successfully with minimal delivery issues; provide predefined templates to enable streamlined e-mail creation; and, provide an auto-responder to manage recipient replies.

The software should also track the effectiveness of e-mail marketing campaigns and provide regular reporting to measure various performance criteria including messages delivered, click rates, and bounce rates.

Companies that have the in-house technical expertise and resources may prefer to develop their own system rather than rely on a third-party provider for this service.

If a company chooses a hosted service provider, it should perform due diligence to ensure the provider has the right expertise and a good track record with its customers.

When choosing a service provider, it is important to consider many factors: a successful deliverability rate, features and tracking capabilities, available support, and the overall cost of service.

Reputable e-mail marketing service providers try to ensure that customers’ e-mails are not blocked by major ISPs. However, it is sometimes difficult to control whether or not the e-mails arrive in the recipient’s inbox or the spam box.

Although most e-mail marketing service providers designate a quality score to help indicate the likelihood of the e-mail being delivered, getting whitelisted is the most effective way to ensure that e-mails get delivered properly.

Whitelisting specifically allows e-mails from a certain source or sender to be delivered into an e-mail inbox. Adding trusted e-mail addresses to a personal whitelist lets the e-mails from that source pass spam and junk mail filters. Different e-mail client and Internet security platforms have a variety of methods that allow users to create whitelists.

A company needs to collect the e-mail addresses of its customers to enable the company to run e-mail campaigns. A list developed in this way is commonly referred to as a “house list” and is derived from the company’s own database of current customers, previous customers, inquirers, responders, contest entrants, and so on.

One of the most effective ways of collecting prospective customers’ e-mail addresses is by having an opt-in subscription form on a landing page on the company website. Visitors to the site provide their e-mail addresses and agree to accept offers or information. Most e-mail marketing services provide functionality to integrate subscription forms on a website.

Growing the size of an e-mail list is important, but it is only valuable if there are engaged customers on the list. Companies need to build strong, trusted relationships with their subscribers. Repeated e-mail messaging that does not engage customers will be ignored and customers will eventually unsubscribe from the list. Sending high quality, relevant content is extremely important.

If a company always sends advertisements or promotional e-mails, subscribers may feel like they are being too “marketed to” and tune out the messages or unsubscribe.

When designing e-mail content, it is important to identify the key messages that the e-mail should communicate and the specific information that will move the recipient from his or her current perception to the desired perception, overcoming any barriers to conversion.

E-mail marketing has proven to be one of the most effective digital marketing channels. When well executed, e-mail marketing can benefit many types of businesses for many different purposes. Through e-mail marketing, a company is able to keep in touch with customers and prospective customers easily and efficiently. It is a cost-effective way to transmit valuable information relevant to a customer’s interests.

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Important links:
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Competitor Analysis: Stay ahead in the Game

A company must understand its competitors’ relationships with customers, so that it can identify and address gaps in its own relationship management processes, and incorporate the best practices being followed by competitors. In addition, this analysis provides the company with benchmarks against which it can measure its own relationship with customers. To analyze how competitors are building relationships with their customers through their websites, the company should monitor the following:

  1. Marketing Messages on Competitor Websites—These messages may include the benefits of competing products, special offers and promotions, demonstration videos, and product trials. All of these messages have an element of customer-centricity and help to build a relationship between customers and the business.


  1. Third-party Analytics Data about Competitor Websites—There are a number of websites that provide free or paid information on relationship-related metrics. This information about a company’s competitors is helpful in identifying what works well for the target audience. A company can choose from a wide range of metrics, but some of the most important metrics are as follows:
  • Bounce Rate—This metric measures the percentage of visitors who exit a website after visiting just one page. A high bounce rate indicates a low level of engagement with customers, implying they did not see what they expected to find, or the first impression of the site did not sustain their attention.


  • Time Spent on Site—This metric indicates the amount of time visitors spend on a website. A long amount of time spent on a site generally indicates that a website is able to provide a good customer experience and, therefore, starts to build a relationship with visitors.


  • Average Number of Pages Visited—This metric indicates the average number of pages viewed by each visitor to the website. A higher number can indicate that visitors are more engaged and browsing a large amount of content on a competitor’s website. However, it may also be the case that information has been split among multiple pages, thus requiring visitors to browse many pages to find the information they seek, which may be a negative indication. When evaluating a competitor’s website based on this metric, the business should try to gain a sense of the customer experience in order to fully understand the data. In some instances, a high average on this metric may not necessarily be a good indicator. A more reliable indicator, in such cases, may be the total time spent on the website.

  1. Marketing Messages and Promotions on Other Channels Directing Customers to Competitor Websites—Businesses should observe whether competitors send e-mail or SMS messages, advertise in traditional print channels, or use other channels to promote their products and services, attracting customers to their website with offers or promotions. These promotions may include invitations or updates regarding loyalty programs and special events. The company should actively monitor competitor use of all such channels to gain a comprehensive picture of all the relationship-building activities that competitors are engaging in with customers.


  1. Customer Service and Support—The company can also monitor the various ways competitors provide contact support on their websites. A wide choice of options indicates a high level of focus on building customer relationships. Similarly, availability of the customer support team (with twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week being the best) is also an indication of good customer relationship building. Other elements to monitor are the comprehensiveness of competitors’ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and real-time chat features, as well as the existence of a contact form or call-back option.

    The article has originally been posted at
    SMstudy is the global accreditation body for Sales and Marketing certifications. For more details visit
    Important links:
    Visit to download the Digital Marketing Body of Knowledge for free
    Visit for free Digital Marketing Associate certification and course