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Introduction: Buying Your Way to the Top to Increase Sales

Introduction: Buying Your Way to the Top to Increase Sales

My experience using the Internet as a marketing tool began with a class at UC San Diego in 1994. I learned how to use email, build a web site using HTML code, and conduct research online at other university libraries. My interest in the Internet grew when I discovered how to find information by typing words into the WebCrawler search engine. How clever! The search engine's logo of a spider was the perfect visual for relating to this new experience of “crawling the web.” It was fast-moving, fun, and way cool.

Search engines were key research tools in my post-college internships for a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, and a telecommunications company in France. Although there weren't as many documents on the web as there are today, what was available saved me countless hours of contacting companies, or traveling to the library to read publications. The web also enabled these organizations to publish information on a global scale faster and more cost-effectively than ever before, by building a web site. The challenge, of course, was figuring out how to drive people to it.

When I returned to the United States, I led the online promotions division of a web agency that performed “search engine submission” as part of its monthly management program for corporate clients. This task was one of my responsibilities. The good news—often within days of submitting a web site's page (also referred to as a Uniform Resource Locator [URL]), search engines gave it a top ranking…for free. The bad news—clients didn't understand why this was important, or the growing efforts that later became required to maintain high rankings.

A lot has changed. Search engine marketing has evolved into a complex process. It's a moving target with ever-changing rules. But it's also finally gaining recognition as one of the most cost-effective online marketing methods today. Companies need a search engine strategy to grow their business.

Optimization Versus Advertising: What's the Difference?

Search engine marketing is the umbrella concept. It's also referred to as search engine positioning or promotion. Optimization and advertising are two methods within search engine marketing.

Optimization focuses on designing pages within your web site to attract search engine spiders (the automated robots that crawl the web to include documents in the search engines' databases). Web site design skills are required to optimize a site's pages properly. These days it's necessary to pay an inclusion fee to a majority of top search engines if you want specific web pages indexed. A high ranking is not guaranteed through paid inclusion, but it's a start.

To the search engines most marketers associate with advertising, your web site design has no impact on your position. You have control over your position, keyword choice, ad listing copy, and the landing page (the web page people arrive at when they click your link in the search engine results). Paid placement advertising guarantees instant visibility.

Because optimization and advertising require fees, both are covered in this book. But the focus here is not on the comprehensive techniques for designing a search engine-friendly web site for paid inclusion programs, although the basics are discussed. Instead, this book helps you create a cost-effective marketing strategy and choose the tools you'll need for buying your way to the top. Additionally, a few potential pitfalls and profit-enhancing tips are revealed to help experienced marketers achieve new levels of success.

Why I Wrote Search Engine Advertising

The most significant change in the search engine field is the shift to a “Pay-For-Placement” model. Several years ago, getting a top ranking was based solely on search engine optimization. Submitting a web site to search engines was also free. Good web site design remains key to attaining some high rankings, but now search engines allow marketers to buy specific keyword positions in addition to, or instead of, programming their way to the top.

When I talk about this opportunity with people, it's as though I've revealed the truth about the Tooth Fairy. As search engine users, they're disappointed that companies can influence their search engine positions. Some are even appalled to learn that search engines don't magically find the best sites on the web in an unbiased fashion. But, by the conclusion of the story on how search engines work, the lightbulb has turned on. “You mean I can get MY web site a #1 position?” they ask. Yes, you can. And that's why I have written a book on buying your way to the top.

All levels of business managers can participate in search engine advertising and see results…often within days. My goal is to share the common principles that are proven to work for both entrepreneurs and large corporations.

And by all means, be creative! The best (and most challenging) part about this process is that you can modify your campaigns at any time. You know your business better than anyone. By experimenting with your campaigns, you'll discover which specific techniques boost your sales and profit margins.

How This Book Is Organized

This book provides insight into buying one of the top positions on the major search engines and directories. It covers the advantages and challenges of the various types of programs. It also offers tools and resources to help you better manage the campaigns you implement. My goal is to help you increase your sales volume at the lowest cost-per-customer.

Part I, “Planning a Successful Strategy,” provides an understanding of how search engines impact your business. It explains how search engine advertising supports optimization, and the relationships among the search engines. There are relevant statistics and case studies in here, but if you're not new to search engine marketing, then you can skim through Chapter 1, “Why Is Search Engine Advertising Important?”

You'll also learn in Part I the step-by-step process to creating the fundamental components in your campaigns—from keyword analysis to ad listing copywriting to converting site visitors. You'll want to refer back to this section at several stages of your advertising, because these guidelines are the foundation for running a successful campaign.

Part II, “Paid Placement Programs,” reveals the two main programs that will grant you a #1 position right now: Fixed Placement and Pay-For-Placement (PFP). Often the same search engines offer both programs; one or both may fit your needs based on your resource allocation and competitive strategy.

Part III, “Paid Inclusion Programs,” reviews Submit URL and Trusted Feed. You'll find mandatory web site design optimization techniques to ensure that your site is ready for an inclusion program. As in Part II, I'll address top advantages and challenges for these programs.

Part IV, “Specialized Search Engines,” explores new breeds of search engines such as shopping bots and vertical market engines. If you're looking to promote your company overseas, you'll find information on the international search engines here as well.

Part V, “Tracking Your Return on Investment,” is written to take your campaigns to the next level of efficiency. You may find that a tool you're already using for another online marketing application can track search engine advertising at no additional cost. This section points out software and services that have multiple uses for your business, thereby reducing your search engine advertising costs.

Part VI, “Protecting Your Profits,” deals with a few key business and legal problems that cost companies a lot of money. By addressing these issues early in a campaign, you'll be spared hours and dollars trying to resolve these inefficiencies later. Many companies are already experiencing the pain of profit loss and will find resolutions they can implement right away.

This book does not address specific advertising tactics for each search engine, or the technical features within a given tool. Because the only constant in search engine advertising is change, I've created a companion web site at www.searchenginesales.com that includes greater detail on particular topics. In my free e-zine, I share tips every month responding to the latest industry developments. If you have a tool that you love (or hate), a case study you'd like to share, or questions about the material covered in this book, I welcome your email. Good luck with your search engine advertising strategy, and I'll see you at the top!

—Catherine Seda

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