Search Engine Marketing

Using Search Engines and Directories to Market Your Home Business

SEO, SEM, Search Engine Marketing
••• Search Engine Marketing is an effective marketing strategy. Alex Slobodkin | Getty Images

Search engine marketing is the practice of marketing or advertising your website through search engines, like Google, Yahoo or MSN. Search engine marketing (SEM) may consist of one or more of the following components:

  • Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Search engine optimization is the practice of applying techniques to maximize your ranking in organic, or natural search results. Organic search results are the rankings of web pages returned by a search engine when you search for a specific word or phrase - a "keyword" or "keyword phrase".
  • Local Search - If your business caters to locals, you can get listed by city in search engines (i.e. Google) and directories (i.e. Yahoo) offer a way for area residents to find your business online, which is ideal since many people don't use the phonebook anymore.
  • Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) - Ads you place for your website with a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo. You bid the amount you are willing to pay per click. The more you bid, the higher your ad will appear in the search engine results. Google AdWords ​has implemented an additional factor in where your ads rank that is based on the relevancy or importance that Google places on your site, which is very difficult to manipulate.
    • You can also use pay per click advertising to your advantage on your own site. For example, you can make money with Google AdSense and other similar programs.
  • Pay For Inclusion (PFI) - In addition to search engines, like Google, Yahoo and MSN search, numerous directories also exist on the web. These directories may be general in nature or related to a specific topic. You can get free listings in some online directories, like DMOZ but most directories now charge for a listing. Verizon's SuperPages is an example of a PFI directory. Subject-based directory listing websites in a wide range of topics, from arts, entertainment, and society and culture, to science, education, and health.


    Why is Search Engine Marketing Important?

    You may or may not decide to make search engine marketing part of your marketing and advertising strategy. If you don't have a Web site for your business and don't plan to ever have one, you certainly wouldn't need search engine marketing. However, in today's business climate, nearly all business are expected to have a website and most do.

    Search engine marketing can help deliver traffic to your website, which in turn can lead to new customers and increased home business revenues. Compared to other means of marketing and advertising, search engine marketing can be very cost effective. For example, it costs nothing to use search engine optimization techniques if you do them yourself. Organic search rankings are free, so if you can help search engines find and rank your business, your traffic should increase

    Similarly, Pay Per Click Advertising can be very inexpensive, as long as you do it right. You can set limits on how much you pay per click and how much you pay per day, which allows you control costs. Likewise, some Web directories - like DMOZ - allow free listings, and others can cost as little as $30 per year.

    How to Measure SEM Effectiveness?

    How you measure the effectiveness of your search engine marketing program depends on what your objectives are. If your intent is to increase the number of visitors to your Web site, you determine if your SEM are successful by comparing your Web traffic statistics before and after you implemented search engine marketing.

    Be patient though, search engine marketing efforts may take considerable time to boost traffic. Although you can instantly get your PPC ads running, if you're aiming at improving traffic through SEO, it can be several months before you see solid results - especially through Google. Likewise, if you request a directory listing from DMOZ, your listing may not appear for 6 months to a year. DMOZ is staffed by volunteers and, because DMOZ listings can have a positive effect on your organic search rankings, it is arguably the most popular and valuable free Web directory listing to get.

    In addition to site traffic, you need to track your conversion rates. For example, if, as a result of your search engine marketing efforts, your traffic doubles from 250 to 500 visitors per month, how many new customers did you acquire from the additional 250 visitors to your site? Do you now have twice as many customers as you did before? Probably not. If you picked up 5 customers your conversion rate would be 2 percent of the new traffic (5 divided by 250) and 1 percent (5 of 500) overall.

    Find ways to increase the number of visitors to your website, and then find ways to increase the conversion rates of those visitors, and you'll know exactly what it takes to make your search engine marketing program successful.

    Search Engine Marketing is Just One Piece of the Puzzle

    Although you don't want to ignore search engines in your marketing strategy, you don't want to rely on them solely for website traffic. Search engine marketing (SEM) is just one of the many marketing tools available to home businesses. See the Online Marketing Guide for additional ideas for promoting your business online.

    Updated Oct. 2015 by Leslie Truex