If you are reading this article, chances are you’re either an entrepreneur or a marketing professional in a small or medium company who realises the importance of Internet marketing today; You are looking to grow your business and understand that traditional marketing methods are becoming both ineffective and expensive; and you know that by neglecting to market your business online, you are missing out on the fruits of an effective internet marketing strategy.
Fish where the fish is!
Did you know that Indians were spending more than half their waking hours on the Internet? Yes, a survey by Norton India reveals that desi netizens are spending on an average, 58 hours a week online, which works out to more than 8 hours a day. David Hall of Norton further goes on to say that Indians spend 12.9 hours every week browsing the web and 9.7 hours every week on social networking websites, which adds up to whopping 39 percent of Internet usage time. So what are the implications for small and medium businesses?
Yes, you can catch the attention of this fast growing group of netizens; and the quickest way of doing this could be through Search Engine Marketing or SEM as it is widely known.
Challenge small & medium enterprise (SME) owners face:
The biggest challenge facing SME owners today is the need to generate revenue from the word ‘go’. While most of them find brand building an expensive proposition, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), allows you to generate leads easily on a small budget, that translate into revenue from a particular geography. SEM also permits you to scale up your business by increasing your ad budgets, as revenue starts flowing in.
Search marketing crucial for small and medium companies:
Search engines account for more than 80 percent of all web traffic for small and medium websites. It’s a no-brainer that search marketing (search engine marketing and search engine optimization) has become the most important marketing tool to drive traffic to your website and a critical part of your overall marketing strategy. Have you employed it yet?
How Search Engine Marketing (SEM) scores over newspaper advertising:
SEM is more cost effective than newspaper advertising – while you pay for a newspaper advertisement even if a person doesn’t notice it, in SEM you pay only if someone clicks on your advertisement! For the same product or service, the customer acquisition cost is much higher in newspaper advertising compared to Internet advertising.
The same budget can last for an entire month in Internet advertising, as compared to what you would spend on just one newspaper advertisement – the shelf life of a newspaper is not even a day.
You have greater control – SEM allows you to decide on a daily budget, the geography where you want to target your advertisements; and choose the days of the week and hours of the day to advertise. You even have the flexibility to scale your campaign up or down depending upon your results.
It’s easy! You can advertise even if you don’t have a website, just by creating a landing page.
What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?
It’s simple. All you have to do is place your paid or sponsored advertisements alongside the results of popular search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. They appear either at the top of the search result page or on the right side of it as shown in the screenshots below when people do a search or a query on these search engines. When a person clicks on your advertisement, he/she is taken to your landing page or your website for more information. And if your offer is good enough, you have a sale!
Search Engine Marketing, a 4-step process:
Create a keyword strategy – Research your product and industry before choosing relevant keywords that would trigger display & text advertisements. More and more consumers are finding businesses online through keyword search. You can take advantage of this consumer habit by selecting keywords that are relevant to your business. Keyword research is an ongoing process; it gives valuable insight on industry trends and product demand and can improve the efficiency of your pay-per-click campaigns. For small and medium-sized businesses, your keywords are not your brand name. Instead think of words and phrases that get to the core of what your product or service is about.
Create text ads based on themes – You have to create text ads (see picture alongside) based on themes revolving around your product or service. For example, if you have a preschool to promote, the different themes can be based on its features:
If your school has a daycare facility, the text ads can be created on the facility.
If your preschool has a montessori method of teaching, the text ads can be created on the method of teaching.
If your pre school specialises in placing its children to certain top schools of the city after they pass out, then the text ads can be created on the placement achievements.
Create landing pages based on relevant keywords – The landing page (see picture alongside), sometimes known as the lead capturing page, is where your website visitors arrive after they click on your Internet advertisement. This is where they come to know of your product or service and fill out a form to receive your offer. The goal of your landing page should be to convert visitors into sales leads. And this can happen only when your landing page has been created well enough to have a high quality score. The quality score of a landing page is high when it is a logical extension of the text ads, where a visitor finds his expectations fulfilled. If visitors find something else on the landing page, which is not to their expectation, then its quality score goes down resulting in higher bid values for the keywords. You can determine the success of your advertisements by analyzing the activity (click-through rates and conversion rate) on the landing page.
Target your advertisements well – Select relevant search networks and bid for keywords in these networks, where your ads should appear. You should select these networks on the basis of the profile of your prospective customer and where he would be found generally. If you are a manufacturer of sports goods, obviously you should be targeting websites and networks related to the sport. A not so well targeted campaign can lead to poor results and wastage of your precious advertising budget.
While you can do search marketing yourself if you are a startup, small & medium size business owners have the option to employ a Google certified search marketing professional. But for a comprehensive internet strategy for your organisation, which would include social marketing, search engine optimisation, analytics and content writing, I suggest you hire a professional agency as each of these disciplines need specialised skill sets.
Madhumita Banerjee, an MBA from Faculty of Management Studies, (FMS), full time, Delhi University, heads Ebony & Ivory, an advertising agency accredited with the INS. She is also the founding director of Abhiyan Marketing Services (P) Limited, an associate communications design and marketing services company. She worked at key positions with The Times of India and HCL Groups before venturing out on her own in 1994.