What to Expect from Search Engine Marketing

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You may be at your wit’s end trying to get some decent visibility in search engines.  You’ve tried doing everything yourself: added the site to directories, written some useful and keyword-directed content, gotten some link trades with some relevant and high PR sites.  Still, you rank on the 20th page or more for a relevant keywords.  Maybe you’ve even poured some money into a PPC campaign, which has worked somewhat and led to some sales, but you’re paying out more than you’re taking in.  What are you going to do?

All of the above are pretty common scenarios, especially considering that the Internet is getting more and more crowded.  There’s good news and bad news that people can cheaply create a functional and well-designed website.  The good news is that anyone can do it.  The bad news is that anyone can do it.  These days everyone and their mother are clouding the internet with a web-based business or affiliate marketing site trying to cash in on the growing goldmine that is the internet.

So what’s this mean?  It means don’t get angry at your search engine professional, if you plan on outsourcing SEM.  You might be pouring in hard-earned money into outsourcing SEM and figure that because you’re paying for it you’re going to get instant results.  This often isn’t the case, no matter how pro an SEM outfit you choose to hire.  Search engine optimization takes time, and more time than it did a couple years ago, when SEO became an increasingly-screamed buzzword.

The SEO Process

With SEO you’re looking at two things: traffic and conversions.  While an SEO operator can definitely help with the former, the latter is a bit more difficult.  Really, a conversion rate depends on the quality of the product you’re selling.  And if you’re selling a sucky product (a professional SEO term) than there’s not much a SEO consultant can do about it.  You could get a million hits a day, but if you’re selling designer tinfoil hats, an SEO consultant can only do so much.  Come to think of it, designer tinfoil hats aren’t such a bad idea.  Note to self.  But you know what I’m saying.

So if you are selling a product to a very niche group, you should be happy with the amount of traffic and a 3 to 10% conversion rate is very good territory.  Just because you’re paying a search engine marketer doesn’t give you license to be greedy.  3%, though it seems like a low number, is actually pretty good.  In this world of the cluttered web, you’re actually lucky to be selling a niche product because you’ll probably have a higher conversion rate in relation to hits.

On the other hand, if you’ve devised a website of which there are a thousand others like it, you’re going to have a tough time bringing in visitors and converting those visits.  However, if an SEM is able to drive a fair amount of traffic to your site, this is a net positive (pun intended) because it can take a while to build an online brand.  People might not buy something from a site until the fifth time they visit, so increased traffic should eventually convert.  Just don’t expect conversions to happen overnight.

The Importance of a Site’s Longevity

But even that can be a longshot.  Truly, if you sign on with an search engine marketer who promises top-ten placement and then does nothing of the sort, it’s time to move on.  Generally, older sites index better.  Take a look: the sites that rank highly often were put online in the 90’s and early 0’s.  You’ve got to expect a few years of dedicating updating of content and link trades for a site’s ranking to take hold.  That’s years, not weeks, which is what some newbie site owners expect.

Age is an important part of ranking and there’s nothing a marketer can do to instantly make your site older.  I’ve written here before how Google can red-flag a site that gets too many links too quickly – which is why it’s not a good idea to blanket the web with new directory links; you should unload these a few at a time.  The age of your incoming links is as important as the age of your site itself.  Google just trusts a site that’s been around for a while.

What SEM Can Do

That said, there’s plenty a search engine optimizer can do: if you have a decently-designed website and a quality product:

  1. Helps build backlinks in both directories and other sites, ensuring that none of the links you have coming in or going out are for tainted sites.
  2. Provides fresh, relevant, and updated content and markets that content throughout the web, using Web 2.0 technologies.
  3. Helps restructure content and layout so it’s better monetized.
  4. Develops keyword lists that cast a wide net for potential queries.
  5. Fixes metatag and title information for each and every page.
  6. Tracks how the site is performing for each page on the site.

Basically, SEO is a mandatory part of running a website.  But a part of a marketer’s job is to manage expectations.  With this post, I’m trying to say there’s no get-rich-quick scheme for SEO.  Yes, there are stories of major overnight success, but you should really just be looking for steady progress.

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