Originally published at “InsideSEM.com” in March, 2007.
Talking with clients, reading countless posts in forums and blogs, and discussions with others within the search marketing world has revealed a fairly common story about rankings in search engines and search marketing. This story illustrates a surprising comparison between search engine marketing and good health and weight loss… “I want to be healthier and lose weight… but I don’t want to have to exercise, I want to be able to eat whatever, whenever and as much as I want… and I want all this by tomorrow.”
Unfortunately, just like dieting, there are people who are ready to answer this call for immediacy in the SEM world with guarantees of overnight, effortless success. And like dieting, most if not all of these “solutions” aren’t worth the time invested in considering them, nor the money spent on them. The reality is, there are no SEM pills that you can simply pop that will jump your website to the top of the search engine ranks or drive tons of new business through your website.
The good news is that there are steps you can take when it comes to SEM that can help you to achieve your goals. There are also plenty of professionals in the SEM world who share this belief as well… and you’ll find that there is probably far more agreement in SEM than in all the dieting crazes. Best of all, the fundamentals are true wherever you are… from South Beach Miami, Florida to Atkins, Iowa to Beverly Hills, California and beyond.
Long Term Outlook
Like dieting, SEM is best approached from a long-term perspective. It just isn’t practical to expect to rocket to the top of the search results overnight… at least not for relevant keyword searches or in hyper-competitive markets. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible or doesn’t happen, but it shouldn’t be a critical part of your plan. It is far better to plan on a 3 to 6 month process and consider yourself blessed if it happens in less time. The goal should be for improvement over time that can be sustained for the long haul.
Most experts will agree, when you begin a health or dieting program, you need to have a set plan to follow. SEM is no different. Tackling this without a program will probably leave you running around with lots of busy work but little results or the ability to track those results.
You need to determine your goals from the beginning and you should try to break those goals into smaller goals, or milestones, spread out over your timeline. This way you create mini-plans to work toward that you can also measure against on weekly or monthly timeframes to judge your overall progress toward your main goals. Just like any other project, these smaller goals help you identify more actionable tasks and help keep the project from being too overwhelming.
Before you even begin taking action though, you also need to determine the metrics associated with your goal and take benchmarks. For example, if you decided that there were 5 crucial keyword phrases that you wanted to get into at least the top 3 ranking spots within Google, Yahoo! and MSN, you should locate your current ranking for each phrase within each of those search engines. Now you have your starting and, hopefully, ending points to map your progress against.
The other critically important reason for having a plan in place is to make sure that you are continually moving toward your goals. Without a plan, you are more likely to find yourself doing less and less everyday of what it takes to achieve your goals, either because these are new activities that you aren’t in the habit of doing or all of the other day-to-day work will simply continue to bump everything else aside.
Good health is about more than just dieting and watching what you eat. Sure you need to monitor what you eat and include food from all of the food groups, but this is only one area of focus. Those who are in the best of health tend to agree that they have achieved this through positive improvements in mind, body and soul. SEM is no different and it is very easy to get too focused on one specific area at the detriment of all others.
By incorporating many different elements into your SEM program, you’ll increase your chances of not only obtaining your results sooner, but also sustaining them over time.
Good, high quality, relevant content – this should be at the foundation of any website and SEM program. Without it, why would anyone else want to link to your site? Why would any search engine want to return you at the top of their results? While you may be able to drive a lot of traffic through a PPC (pay-per-click) or other ad campaign, why would anyone want to follow through and take action on your site if the content isn’t relevant or is low quality? Good quality content is not only about satisfying your visitors it’s about building trust and rapport.
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process just like content development. SEO should be incorporated into your content development plan in addition to running separately on its own. On page and site optimization is one of the largest areas within SEM that you actually have considerable control over, so there is no reason not to exercise that power.
Even with a small budget, pay-per-click can play a valuable role in your SEM program. Especially if you need to drive traffic early on, PPC may help to do so even before getting top results in organic search. PPC may also help reveal keywords that would be good to focus on for content development or SEO, test alternative page copy or layouts, and even test conversion or product interest.
There are many approaches to link building, far too many to detail here. The important concept though is that this should be a part of your SEM plan, and just like everything else, is best as an ongoing approach, focusing on building links over time from relevant, high-quality sites.
Measuring your progress over time should be a part of your program. Not only can it help you identify trends and measure your progress, it may play an active role in your program as well. You may identify new keywords to target and new sites that are referring traffic to you.
These are some of the fundamental areas that should play a role in any SEM program. Excluding any of these may greatly hinder your progress. Everyone’s plan will be unique depending on current needs and goals, and your program needs to be flexible and adapt to changing situations and needs. Take some time to put together your own SEM diet and get your website on the road to health, happiness and success.