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Top Ten Tips for Search Marketing

As I moderated the American Marketing Association’s Listserv recently, I was asked what the top ten tips are for search marketing. If you’ve already bought our book, Search Engine Marketing, Inc., the list may not surprise you, but I suspect that others would not guess at least a few of the ten.


Here are the top ten tips for search marketers:

  1. Know your goals. First, define the goal of your Web site and know how much it is worth to you. Co-author Bill Hunt and I call them Web conversions—they could be e-Commerce orders, but they could also be reading a white paper or downloading software or filling out a contact form. Start by making sure that you can measure the value of your Web site so that you know what each incremental success is worth.
  2. Decide your keywords. Do your homework to identify the “just right” words for your site. If you pick words that are “too hot” (such as a local physician trying to rank #1 for “doctor”), then you won’t get the attention you need. If you pick “too cold” keywords (such as that same doctor expecting people will type “doctor” along with his name) you won’t get any searches. Choose keywords that exactly match your site and are used often by searchers (such as “doctor” and the name of the town, or “orthopedist” and the name of the state).
  3. Identify missed opportunities. If you know what keywords are just right for you, then you can use keyword research tools to find out how many searchers use those words and how many of them are already coming to your site. The difference is your missed opportunities.
  4. Make your case. Use the measurements you took above to value the missed opportunities in search marketing. Estimate a conservative increase in referrals based on your missed opportunities and use your conversion rate to value what each incremental referral is worth. You can then take a shot at your business case by toting up the improvement and subtracting estimated costs to get it done.
  5. Convince others. Take that business case around and get your peers to see why search marketing is important and what they each need to do to make it succeed. Do the same with your executives. Show them the value and they will likely invest to obtain that value.
  6. Get your pages indexed. Once your plan is approved, you must get your pages into the search index. You must create spider paths and remove traps in its way. If your pages are not indexed, then they can never be found in organic search.
  7. Optimize your content. Once indexed, you need your pages to rank well in organic search. Use the keywords you targeted in titles and throughout your copy. You don’t have to “chase the algorithm” to get good search rankings. Write your content for people first and then think about search optimization—your searchers must convert when they read the page after all. Artificially high rankings from tortured keyword-stuffed prose won’t help you.
  8. Attract links. Get attention to your pages from other sites. Go after links to drive traffic all by themselves, and be happy that they help your search rankings too.
  9. Optimize paid search. Use the measurements you saw above to choose the right amount to bid on cost per click ads. Remember that highest overall profit, or lifetime customer value, is far more important to optimize than highest click rate, lowest cost, or highest profit margin.
  10. Make search operational. Every day, you must watch your numbers. Check that your pages are still indexed. Ensure that no new keywords are emerging that you are missing. Test your content for keyword richness and proper tagging. Make sure that all of your inbound links are still working. Carefully analyze profitability of paid search. Do it every day and share the results with executives and peers. Celebrate what is working and fix what is not.

A lot of hard work lies between these tips and search success, but these are the basic ideas that you must execute.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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