eMarketing for the IT Professional

Hand At KeyboardeMarketing Requirements for Search Engine Marketing – Printed with permission from Frank Fiore.

A little over a year and half ago, I wrote an article for InformIT entitled “Is Your IT Staff Giving You the Business”. Briefly, the article took the position that the online channel should be treated like any other marketing channel; it should be planned, designed, and marketed by business people, leaving the building of the infrastructure to the IT staff. Not the other way around. The article created quite a stir and the discussion board was hot with debate. Business people and IT professional took sides and had at it.

At the end of the article I proposed that both business people and IT professionals learn to speak to each other about the needs of each and the limitations that technology may have in meeting those needs. This eleven part series is a first step toward that goal. As a business professional, I hope to show you, the IT professional, the challenges of eMarketing today – positioning the organization, and acquiring, retaining and monetizing traffic – and what you need to know from the business point of view to properly implement the eMarketing needs of your organization.

By reading this series you would not only be able to understand the challenges of the business side of your organization when marketing your organization’s digital presence, but you might even get ahead of he game – know even before they do what’s required of your IT department.

SEM vs SEO
As an IT professional, you’ve probably experienced this from your marketing department at least once in your life. A marketing manager appears in you office and shows you an email they received that reads something like this.

“With ‘Fast Listings’ we will guarantee TOP PLACEMENT in major search engines for your web site for just $29.95!”

You know that getting top placement in the search results of major search engines is hard work and requires a lot of professional knowledge. So you politely – I hope – take the email and say you’ll look into it.

But you can’t fault the marketing person too much. As soon as they see the words ‘search engine’ think anything connected to hem is an IT function. This is also goes for a fairly new form of site promotion called search engine marketing (SEM). By the very nature of its name, marketing people think that SEM is an entire IT function. In fact, the reverse is true. This is a mistake and stems from a confusion between SEO and SEM by your marketing department. The two are very different. One is a programming function, while the other is a pure marketing one. And here again, more so in the case of SEM, it’s your marketing department’s responsibility to give you the information you need to perform your job successfully.

The only thing that both SEO and SEM have in common is that both need diligent follow up.

Briefly, search engine marketing consists of two types – paid placement and paid inclusion. An example of paid inclusion is Google. Look at a page in Google’s search results and you may see at the very top of the list, above all other search results, up to two listings that have a tinted background. These organizations have paid to be listed in the top of the search results when a particular search term is used.

For an example of paid placement, look at just about any search results page from major search engines like Yahoo!, Alta Vista, AOL and MSN. The paid placements appear near the top of any search results page above all regular search results. They usually have a designation over them like ‘Sponsor Matches’, ‘Sponsored Sites’ or ‘Sponsored Links’. But unlike paid inclusion, the advertiser does not pay for these link listings to appear.

They only pay when the listing is clicked on.

This is called pay-per-click marketing (PPC) – or pay-for-performance marketing. With PPC marketing you choose a search term and bid on the term – that is how much you’re willing to pay if someone clicks on your listing. The higher your bid, the higher your listing appears in the search results of those search engines who use PPC search engine services like Overture.com and Google’s AdWords. Like SEO, this form of search engine marketing will require both your IT and marketing staff to work closely together to ascertain that the money spent delivers an adequate ROI (return on Investment).

Choose the Correct Search Terms
Before your IT staff can execute a SEM program, a whole lot of work has to be performed by your marketing department. They have to to provide your IT staff with the following:

  • 30-60 keywords and keyword phrases
  • Listing Title of required length
  • Listing Description of required length
  • Designate a web page on your site to point to from the listing
  • Make that web page relevant the keywords, Title and Description in the listing

Let’s take them one at a time.

First, your marketing staff should by now have some experience choosing targeted keywords and phrases when they picked those words for your web page meta tags. But a half dozen keywords that target your organization’s message are not enough for a strong SEM campaign. Choosing your keywords – or in the language of SEM ‘search terms’ – is the first and most important step in establishing a PPC marketing campaign. There are 3 key issues related to the search terms that your marketing staff must use in your SEM campaign:

1. The Number of Searches for the term
2. The Relevancy of that term in relation to your product or services
3. The Cost (the bid amount) you will be required to spend for that term.

How can your marketing staff choose good search terms – and how many?

The strategy is to find the search terms that web surfers already use. There are two keyword tools that your IT Staff should keep in its bag of tricks that can help your marketing staff. The first is <a href=http://www.goodkeywords.com/>Good Keywords</a>. The other is <a href=http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/>Overture’s Search Term Suggestion Tool</a>. Both are free to use. Using Overture’s keyword tool, you enter a search term related to your site and they will show you both the related searches that include your term, and how many times that term was searched in the previous month. Good Keywords is a free Windows program that help you find the perfect set of keywords for your web pages.

Overture’s web page tool is quick and easy to use and does not require a download or installation. Good Keywords does require you to download and install their free software but Good Keywords is more than just a search term suggestion tool and goes far beyond what Overture’s tool provides. Good Keywords helps your marketing staff think like a customer, analyze the competition, and monitor the progress of your SEM campaign. Very useful for both you and your marketing staff.

Once your marketing staff has these tools – or any others like them – it’s time to choose those search terms. Here are some tips to give them.

  • Focus on specific terms that are pertinent and specific to your market. Using broad based terms like ‘software’ or ‘office supplies’ could bring in a large unqualified audience that may or may not be looking for your particular product or service.
  • If your marketing staff finds that the primary search terms they want to use are outside of their PPC budget (that is, the bid amount for the term is too high), build your list of search terms using as many secondary terms that reflect your product, service or market niche as possible. For example, instead of just ‘software’ which is a very popular term and very expensive, target your search term by closely matching it to your product or service like ‘accounting software’ or better yet, ‘accounts receivable accounting software’, ‘accounts payable software’, and ‘professional accounting software’. You should be handed 30-60 search terms from your marketing department for the PPC campaign. The composite traffic of many secondary terms could match or exceed the traffic of the most popular term for your market niche. In this way you get the same or more traffic as the most popular and expensive terms while paying – on average – far less.
  • In the major PPC search engines, your PPC listing should appear within the top 3 positions. The top 3 positions are the most important with Overture because they feed most major search engines and directories as sponsored listings and appear at the top of the search results. And being ‘above the fold’ on the search results page of Google’s AdWords will give you the most visibility. Does that mean if you’re not in the top position, you will not garner substantial traffic? Not so. If you must bid on a term, it isn’t necessary to be in first position to attract profitable traffic. Being second or third can be just as effective and sometimes far less expensive.

Writing Titles and Descriptions
Once your marketing staff has chosen their search terms, they need to write the Titles and Descriptions of the listings. Now this is important. You should check to make sure that the search terms chosen by your marketing staff are mentioned in the Titles and Descriptions of the listings while at the same time keeping the message simple yet packed with benefits.

Have your marketing staff keep these tips in mind.

  • Before attempting to write the first copy for your search terms’ Titles and Descriptions have your marketing department visit Overture and other search engines to check the competition for the terms. Your competition’s approach to writing their Title and Description for the search terms you chose could be a great help in writing yours.
  • The PPC search engines do not accept superlatives. For example, at Overture, you are not permitted to use words like best, most, cheapest – or any words that ends in ‘est’ – in Titles and Descriptions. If you use them your listing will be automatically rejected. Google has a similar policy.
  • Overture and other PPC search services limit the number of characters that can be used in the Titles and Description of listings. But even more important is that the search engines that use your listings can and do cut off the length of the Title and Description in the search results of their search pages. That means your marketing staff should strive to make your selling point in the first few words of the Title and Description.
  • Make sure your marketing department writes their Titles and Descriptions copy accordingly, qualifying the visitor while setting up the expectations of what they will find once they get to your site. Your titles and descriptions should entice a viewer to click on your offer.
  • A PPC campaign is not a ‘write once and forget’ type of marketing. The Titles and Descriptions written for your PPC listings can and should be changed to reflect any changes with your business, product and or service – or to improve your click through rate.

Targeted Web Page Relevancy
The URL that a PPC listing points to is the final – and most important piece – of a successful PPC campaign. It is extremely important to make sure your search terms are mentioned not only in your Titles and Descriptions, but that the web pages the reader is directed to contain relevant information about the search terms or search term phrases your marketing staff is purchasing. Not only will this build confidence and credibility with your potential customers but it will help you to get listed easier on Overture and Google.

Web page relevancy to search terms is very important. One of the worst things that an organization can do to a visitor is to mislead them. Your organization doesn’t want to give the impression to a visitor that you tricked them into clicking on your offer. Especially after all the work your IT staff has done in designing, building and optimizing your web site.

Your marketing staff must understand that they have about 5 seconds to grab a visitor’s attention from their PPC listing, take them to your site and then you have another 5 seconds to get them to be excited enough to lead them through a process of performing an action. (Whether your site’s objective is to sell a service or a product or have them fill out a form or join a mailing list, the process is still the same.) If you mislead them, the chances of them visiting your site again are slim.

Overture has a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to site relevancy. When your marketing staff lists with them they must follow them to a ‘T’. To help avoid rejection of your submission, first read Overture’s rules carefully at http://www.overture.com/d/USm/about/advertisers/relevancy.jhtml. So study their guidelines carefully and do not attempt to list your search terms without preparing the targeted web pages you’re going to send to them. And even if you don’t use the PPC services of Overture, their rules should be followed no matter which PPC search engine you use to make your PPC campaign a success.

A Checklist

PPC Campaign Tips – Description

  • Finding Good Search Terms – Use two free keyword tools. The first is Good Keywords. The other is Overture’s Search Term Suggestion Tool.
  • Choosing Search Terms, Focus on Specifics – Focus on specific terms that are pertinent and specific to your market. Using broad based terms like ‘software’ or ‘office supplies’ could bring in a large unqualified audience that may or may not be looking for your particular product or service.
  • Choosing Search Terms, Use Secondary Terms – Build a list of search terms using as many secondary terms that reflect your product, service or market niche as possible. Generate 30-60 search terms and the composite traffic of many secondary terms could match or exceed the traffic of the most popular term for your market niche for less the cost of one primary search term.
  • Choosing Search Terms, Buying Position – In the major PPC search engines, your PPC listing should appear within the top 3 positions. If you must bid on a term, it isn’t necessary to be in first position to attract profitable traffic. Being second or third can be just as effective and sometimes far less expensive.
  • Writing Titles & Descriptions, Overview – You should check to make sure that the search terms chosen by your marketing staff are mentioned in the Titles and Descriptions of the listings while at the same time keeping the message simple yet packed with benefits.
  • Writing Titles & Descriptions, Check the Competition – Have your marketing department visit Overture and other search engines to check the competition for the terms Your competition’s approach to writing their Title and Description for the search terms you chose could be a great help in writing yours.
  • Writing Titles & Descriptions, Don’t Use Superlatives – The PPC search engines do not accept superlatives. Do not use words like best, most, cheapest – or any words that ends in ‘est’ – in Titles and Descriptions.
  • Writing Titles & Descriptions, Character Count – Overture and other PPC search services limit the number of characters that can be used in the Titles and Description of listings. That means your marketing staff should strive to make your selling point in the first few words of the Title and Description.
  • Writing Titles & Descriptions, Qualifying the Customer – Make sure your marketing department writes their Titles and Descriptions copy accordingly, qualifying the visitor while setting up the expectations of what they will find once they get to your site.
  • Web Page Relevancy – It is extremely important to make sure your search terms are mentioned not only in your Titles and Descriptions, but that the web pages the reader is directed to contain relevant information about the search terms or search term phrases your marketing staff is purchasing.

Lon Safko
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