Every day more and more Kiwis are turning to the internet to research goods and services. Their number one port of call is the Google search page. And businesses looking for new leads and customers should take notice of this trend.
A successful search engine marketing (SEM) campaign can attract new customers in their droves and raise a brand's profile.
Search engine marketing encompasses a number of different strategies to get customers to visit a business' website and make contact. The two most common tactics are:
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
The goal of SEO is for a business to appear high up in search results on Google. Businesses that succeed at SEO enhance their website content to include key words that are picked up by web searches, improve their meta tags, which explain the content of the site to search engines, and build links to their site from others. The theory is that the higher up the search results a business appears the more likely it is to gain the customer.
Joe Bloggs Ltd appearing on page three of a Google search has a far lesser chance of acquiring the same customer. It's becoming increasingly common as well to attract customers and leads through social media marketing on sites such as facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Businesses can advertise on the Google search page by buying what's called AdWords. When an internet user searches using terms that match a business' AdWords its adverts appear above or beside the search results. These AdWords may be individual words such as "perfume", or phrases such as "lawn mowing services in Matamata". How often the ad is displayed depends on how much a business is willing to spend. Well-targeted ads are clicked on more often and recognising this, Google gives greater prominence to the targeted ad.
Both strategies go hand in hand, although the right AdWord campaign can be like gold dust. Yellow's senior product manager Chris McNair says AdWords are the most measurable, targetable form of advertising available ? full stop. The strategy returns the three Rs of advertising: reach, relevance and return on investment (ROI).
The concept is relatively simple. Businesses choose their AdWords and then bid a certain amount such as 50c, $1, or $2 per click-through to their website.
Where the advert appears on the Google search page depends on a number of factors including how relevant the content of the business' website is, how many click-throughs there have been in the past, and the amount the business has bid to pay.
In simple terms, says McNair, a business which pays $1 per click on an AdWord but has a quality score of 10 out of 10 for its website would get a total score of 10, being the sum of 1x10. Another company that bids $2, but only has a quality score of 4, would get a total score of eight and appear in a less favourable position on the page despite spending more.
"What this means is that it eliminates completely irrelevant ads," says McNair. A small company with a great AdWord campaign can compete with a global multinational by having more relevant targeted ads.
AdWords can be used successfully by small, medium and large sized companies. For example a search for carpet companies New Zealand may return a small company such as Onehunga-based CarpetCall.co.nz high up on the same page as large manufacturer Cavalier Bremworth and a medium size business such as Harrisons CarpetOne.
Just how much a business is willing to pay per click depends on the cost per acquisition of the customer, says McNair. An insurance company that will get an $800 premium from a customer will be willing to pay more to acquire a customer than a company selling relatively cheap widgets.
There are tricks to making Google AdWords work better for your business says McNair. For its customers Yellow creates a landing page that funnels surfers to the contact information for that business.
While a lawyer might prefer email contact from a potential client, a fencing contractor who is out all day may want users to be directed to his or her mobile phone. Yellow also creates different campaigns for mobile search results on Google.
A growing trend in AdWords is what's called "ad?extensions", says McNair. The extensions give additional information when the business' ad appears such as business address, phone number, and website page links. These are new extensions currently in Beta testing such as a search box and clickable vouchers are successful at driving more traffic to business' websites, says McNair.