Increasing popularity of search engines like Google and more recently social media, has seen businesses use many new types of digital marketing. Due to common misunderstanding, we wanted to break down the differences between the most common digital marketing types; SEO, SEM and SMM, then explain how they are important to your business and more importantly, how and when to use them.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
After over a decade of tackling Black Hat SEO spam, search engines have wised up and forumulated the likes of Google's SEO guidelines. No longer is SEO about manipulating page titles, meta tags and Wordpress blogs, no ... successful SEO is now back to the simple task of creating useful content in a highly readible format, plain and simple. Not a tool to improve page ranking in search results or short-cutting SEM.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
The SEM industry is worth billions of pounds, proving pay-for-placement and pay-per-click advertising to be a measurable ROI for businesses, recently including Social Media Marketing (SMM) as well as SEO. For businesses on a budget, SEO manipulation has proven a popular alternative, but the ROI is typically overrated in comparison and search engines have wised up to such Black Hat SEO.
Social Media Marketing (SMM)
Behavioural marketing is the next progression in business marketing. SMM can bring your business to the attention of your targetted audience through a growing range of advertising channels in addition to traditional SEM channels. Whislt not a replacement of SEM, SMM can really improve trust between your business and customers. It can also make or break your business reputation, so it is important to establish a positive presence and maintain a meaningful relationship.
New Business Opportunities
Good SEO can make your website content more visible to search engines generally, but it can also improve SEM and SMM. When SEO, SEM and SMM are strategically planned to work together, it will be easier and more natural for your business to take advantage of new business opportunities, beyond search engines. For example, mobile apps are effectively finding new ways to make use of microdata in web pages, doing away with the need for Black Hat SEO manipulation such as keyword stuffing page headings and titles.
In addition to giving your website content richer context, White Hat SEO means content can be more effectively written because it is essentially marketing the content itself. The obvious benefit of SEO design, is that it will increase the quality of your content for both your visitors and search engines alike. Instead of spamming your website by marketing keywords, SEO design ensures that your content is better and favourably received when it is written for readers (adding keywords within the natural flow of the content).
The king of search engines, Google, has a great SEO Starter Guide to help promote your business website in the right ways. If you want your website to rank well and get to the top of Google, then reading and following their own guide is the place to start. Best of all, the information is available for free and most of it can be achieved using your website Content Management System (CMS) assuming you have one.
In addition to the free SEO Starter Guide, Google Analytics is also available for free, providing quantitative and qualitative metrics from which business marketing strategies can be formulated. As with many tools however, knowing how to use them correctly is the key to success.
Black Hat SEO
Common ways to tell if your SEO specialist is unethical:
- Selling you automated content.
- Over-using keywords on links and anchor text.
- Stuffing keywords in headings, meta tags, page URLs, image tags.
- Encouraging lots of domain names with keywords in.
- Regularly submitting your website to search engines.
- Adding numerous feeds like Facebook and Twitter.
- Using Wordpress blog tools as a way to gain links.
Most of these techniques can be setup with very little effort and can commonly be considered part of SEO, yet marketing them as part of comprehensive SEO packages by today's standards clearly warrants caution. Outdated SEO information is a real danger, which is why it is important to use up-to-date and trusted sources like Google's webmaster help pages to weed out Black Hat SEO.
Understanding Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO can really help to protect yourself and your online business presence.
White Hat SEO
Quick ways to ethical and honest SEO:
- Create content of interest.
- Formulate descriptive, rich keywords from content.
- Link pages together in an easy and logical manner.
- Let people know about your content.
- Analyse how peope find and use your content.
- Revise and update content to reflect analysis.
It really is that simple. Like a book, the better the contents is described the more chance it will be found by people that are interested in the content. Manipulating the description might get more people finding the book, but that dosn't mean they will find the content any more interesting. Good SEO is about gaining and keeping interest, not just finding more visitors.
Tactics and Analysis
The hot topic in SEM recently, has been Social Media. Setting up a Facebook and Twitter presence can be a quick and easy way to market your business and there are endless articles to support SMM. Sadly, the con is that without regular activity or quality content, your business presence will likely go flat and actually hurt your presence in that community.
Only by analysing each new business marketing tactic, is it possible to determine how well they work or even if they prove harmful to your business. Take for example, Wordpress blogs, Facebook likes and Twitter followers, which have been recent opportunites to manipulate search engine rankings ... Google's Matt Cutts has made it clear that such tactics will not improve page rank. Another flag to identify Black Hat SEO specialists.
To reduce any negative backlash of new marketing tactics, SEO, SEM and SMM must be planned in advance where possible, but most importantly, analysis should be regularly carried out following implementation. Regular marketing might not be important to your business, but a regular relationship is important to customers.