I see you there, Small Business Owner. You’re the first one in and the last one out. You’re working hard to keep your employees and customers happy. You’re constantly perfecting your product or service and promoting it whenever and wherever possible. You’ve gotten very good at squeezing budgets and making things happen behind the scenes, doing all you can to increase customer retention and company profitability.
Yes, I see you, and I have good news: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is going to be your new best friend. If you’ve already dabbled there, I’m going to tell you why you should up your game. If you’re completely new to SEM, you’re going to wonder why you waited so long.
SEM: The What
There are two major advertising efforts you can make online for your business: You can use keywords for organic search engine optimization (SEO) or you can use paid advertising tactics (Pay Per Click campaigns, ads, etc). Both, in varying degrees, can help bump your placement on search engine results pages (SERPs). When you combine the two, you get SEM.
SEM: The Where
The SEO side of SEM happens on your website and elsewhere within your dealings online (think social media channels, directory listings, etc.). If you can control the content, you control the keywords you use. Optimizing with keywords will determine what is referred to as your “organic” or “natural” search results placement. Paid advertising techniques happen in conjunction with outside companies, such as Google AdWords. You could also hear the term PPC come up on the paid side, as well.
SEM: The Why
Earlier, I mentioned that great SEM can lead to great placement on SERPs. If you’re saying “so what,” you need to think again—a high search engine ranking is like the holy grail of visibility for your brand. To illustrate, Google recently reported that four out of five consumers use search engines to find local information, and they are often quick to purchase. In fact, 50 percent of smartphone searchers who visited the store made a purchase that same day. If your business is not visible in those search results, you’re not getting those customers, and you’re not getting those sales.
SEM: The Who
Great SEM casts a wide net. Anyone who searches for the product or services you offer is a potential lead, rather than just those who know the name of your business at the start. If you’ve never embraced SEM, doing so can open your eyes to a world of new customers—literally—as your exposure could be global. Never discount, though, the value of local search. If you can offer value to the customers near you quickly and on their terms, you’ll have the opportunity to earn their loyalty and return business (and maybe that of their friends, too, because word of mouth still counts for a lot). Note that Google recently reported that 72 percent of consumers who searched for local information on a smartphone visited a store within five miles of their location—so, it’s safe to say that being there still matters. You just need to be sure you’re found.
SEM: The How
Now comes the age-old question: How can you fit SEM into your budget? With the benefits explained above, it must be expensive, right? Not necessarily. The average SMB already spends roughly 50 percent of their total marketing budget which is just under $5,000 annually—on some form of digital advertising. Like these companies, odds are that you already have some funds set aside for this purpose.
Perhaps you could consider reallocating what you spend on digital marketing to encompass more paid search options. Maybe you’ll decide to hire (or outsource the job to) someone with spectacular SEO skills. SEM is a very affordable marketing strategy for small businesses for good reason—a little here can go a long way, and you don’t have to spend too much to get started.
SEM: What Now?
Now you know all about the “secret weapon” for your small business marketing that really is no secret at all. There’s more, though—did you know you can use your social media platforms to help your SEM efforts pay off even more?
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