Positioning Your Business for Search Success with SEO and SEM

We know the telecoms industry has plenty of its own jargon, but it pales in comparison to the unending acronyms thrown up by online marketing. Thankfully we can now Google anything that's unclear. So much so that search engines themselves now have dedicated strategies all of their own. SEO and SEM are two of the most prominent, so it's these that we'll examine today to make more of your online marketing spend (and ensure that customers can find you in the first place!) [caption id="attachment_1808" align="aligncenter" width="400"]1-800-HURTNOW Google listing vanity number Your SEO and SEM strategy determine how visible your business is online.[/caption] 

The Difference Between SEO and SEM

Both terms revolve around search engines, but that final letter distinguishes between optimization and marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) involves a set of techniques used to refine company sites and online assets to improve search ranking results for the major search engines, including Google, Bing, and Yahoo. If that kind of talk makes your head start to thump, you're not alone! Optimization is a cottage industry of online marketing in its own right. It's a great way to get recognized and increase business in the long term (though it's not nearly as affordable as a Optimization is a cottage industry of online marketing in its own right. It's a great way to get recognized and increase business in the long term (though it's not nearly as affordable as a vanity number!) You do need to focus on SEO to increase online visibility, however, in much the same way that you need to make your contact details more memorable. Just as you can build your brand with a custom number, a targeted web address and social networks are necessary to expand your reach and increase brand awareness online. Both areas influence how search engines judge the popularity of your web presence and, more broadly, what you offer to the digital world. With more than 200 estimated ranking signals, however, this can be a tough task to navigate.Thankfully, SEO advice can be found all over the web and with a concerted effort you can lay the foundation for your brand online. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the bigger picture, within which SEO paints some important sections.  Another important facet of search engine visibility is paid search, which includes advertising solutions like pay per click, display ads, video, and many more. These can be equally complicated but have a higher chance of success because of the paid element. By creating a few simple text ads, targeting relevant keywords, and providing an effective landing page for potential customers, and then paying the required amount (based on a variety of factors) your business can appear top of any search engine for your chosen terms. SEM focuses on both organic (unpaid) and paid search engine strategies. This means a holistic view of all the search real estate your business could occupy (including directories, social networks, and secondary find functions like image and video search), so that you appear organically in key areas wherever possible and add visibility via paid advertising when you don't. Fully formed and Fully formed and finely-tuned, search engine marketing can be a valuable way to attract new customers and build awareness of your brand. search engine marketing - sem tilesBalancing Marketing and Optimization Online

Despite the constant obsession with Google and the massive potential for its search algorithm to impact your business, it's important not to allow SEO to dominate your content creation. It's an overused observation of marketing and branding experts nowadays but it still holds true: the focus of your online marketing strategy should always be to create great content. Many other factors (on-page time, interaction/engagement with page etc) matter to Google when considering the value of competing sites. Making visitors cringe or distracting their reading flow is guaranteed to negatively impact those ranking factors, flipping your optimization efforts on their head from the get-go. Recent algorithm changes have all focused more on more general context and relevance, as opposed to exact matches for target terms. Stuffing in keywords and hoping for the best has been abandoned, as have low-quality content strategies that used to achieve rankings but now see only penalties. Balancing your paid and organic SEM boils down to doing the best you can to serve your target audience, rather than focusing solely on the search sites they use.  Demonstrate relevance with targeted, well-written online content. Keyword-cramming no longer cuts it and your long term investment in providing value to your customers will eventually pay off, with more web trafficis required and reduced fear of being hit with one of Google's notoriously destructive penalties. 

The Art of Effective Writing for Search

SEO tricks come and go, but good writing is forever. Even if your current optimization ideas hit a sweet spot, it's always possible that Google or the other search engines will alter an algorithm in future that could sink your site, if it doesn't play by their rules. An informative, educational or amusing article will always offer value to your visitor, which means it also offers value to Google to serve it up as a high-ranking search result. Essentially your content should feel as natural and relevant as possible, without pandering excessively to search engine trends. If your early drafts feel forced and tough to read because you've based them on bots, ditch it and rewrite for a real reader. For starters, try to follow the digitally updated composition adage: write for readers, edit for search engines. Give yourself the freedom to construct a first draft free of keyword constraints or second-guessing reader search queries. Make those early drafts rough but relevant, then sweeten them up for search with the checklist below. An Optimization Checklist

Editing is an analytical task, which is a similar discipline to writing for search engines.Once you have your relevant, engaging draft, factors such as search terms, keyword ratio and word count can all be thrown into the pot. Work your way through this checklist for an efficient, effective search editing process:

  • Cross check your target keywords and phrases against an initial draft of each content piece. Find places into which you can add relevant terms without breaking up the flow of your writing.
  • Scan for section breaks that occur naturally in your content and add in sub-headings to guide the reader. This is a dual benefit, as it makes reading easier and you can use the <h1> and <h2> tags for your section break titles, providing a great place to slot in extra keywords that relate to the following content.
  • Research related terms - also called LSI keywords - that can be added to your priority target terms. Your priority terms should always hzve a higher search volume to attract more traffic, but related terms that receive less traffic can still be valuable. They might also be easier to fit into your writing naturally and add context for both your readers and the search engines crawling your website.
  • When you're struggling to integrate an important keyword, look for alternative phrasing or restructure your sentence in a way that makes it fit more naturally. If it simply won't work with your article, consider targeting a different keyword and start a new piece for the term you were previously working on.

This is far from an exhaustive list of SEM advice and SEO techniques, but understanding the difference and training yourself to write for readers rather than search robots is an important skill to master.

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