It’s somewhat common knowledge that when someone performs a search, there will be a box of “Sponsored results” to the left, above, and sometimes even below the organic results. Bing has a paid service, as does Yahoo and Google has their AdWords which proved a business in search can be profitable. There’s a discussion lately surrounding paid search advertising and the big 3 search engines, and if you’re not careful with how you read it, you may walk away with the wrong idea.
Compared to this time last year, the CPC for Google has fallen again, for the second quarter in a row while Bing and Yahoo’s CPC have continued to climb. On the surface it’s a statement which can make it sound like Bing and Yahoo have been managing to grab ad space from Google. The point closer to the truth however is more to the tune that Google has become an even better choice to advertise with, as opposed to Bing and Yahoo. Search engine marketing via the AdWords platform or one like it, has to be measured differently than the organic results, you can’t take positioning as the end goal.
When you begin to break down the numbers involved in SEM and SEO, there are some key differences that you need to understand. They both depend on conversion rates, because without converting your traffic, you’re wasting time and money. One of the largest, and most important difference however is the click through rate of your positioning. You could be ranked at the very top of the AdWords results, but if you have a poorly written ad, or a poorly built website, chances are your conversions will be limited.
Another major point you need to keep in mind is cost per click, or CPC as was being discussed earlier. Where paid advertising is concerned, CPC is a literal interpretation of how much it is costing you to have someone click on your listing. Organic SEO is more difficult to define, as you’re not paying each time someone clicks your organic listing, but after a few months you can more easily break it down. A high cost per click for your search term can mean that there are many people in the same space, or, it can mean that one of your competitors is driving up the bid on the keyword to try and gain dominance. A declining average cost per click isn’t necessarily a bad omen, it can point to reduced competition, it can also mean an improved conversion rate.
Online marketing has been shifting for the last 18 months or so towards a more social environment. Facebook, Twitter, company blogs and games are even making an ever growing impact on the marketing world. As the social aspect of the web continues to gain momentum, you’d be foolish as a business owner to turn a blind eye.
Just one aspect to keep on your business radar would have to be the growing usage of online economies and digital currency. I’m not speaking of using credit cards to make online orders, the currency in question is like a Facebook credit. Micro transactions using a websites own marketable credit is a direction the social sites are currently using and one which will continue gaining headway in 2012. Facebook has it’s 800 million users and more than half of them play at least one of the social games found on the site. Just like the Air Miles program which rewards points for using their card at select retailers, social sites are getting in on the act in much the same way. Play a game or use an online product for a certain amount of time can earn you points or virtual currency to use on theirs or an affiliates site.
Also tieing into the micro economy and transaction realm, is the ever growing use of turning the world of business into more of a gaming atmosphere. Not in the sense that meetings will be comprised of blasting away zombies or taking out an enemy force, but issuing challenges and giving bonuses and rewards to successful completion of tasks. To further expound on the idea, all of the little tasks you complete each day help contribute to a greater overall company score which in turn grants you a position on your divisions leaderboard. This positioning may influence things like when your turn comes to book vacation days, helps drive you to a higher raise or perhaps even a promotion further into the company. It can help give instant gratification to workers and also long term growth as an employee as it can give everyone a visual of just how they’re doing in relation to their peers.
And of course, as the social scene continues to grow as we add +1 and Like buttons to our websites, sharing your ideas, opinions and tastes helps you and your website if you take the time to notice those metrics. Every new product you launch, new page you add to your website or blog post you submit with information about yourself and your company can, and will be scrutinized by the never sleeping eyes of the web. As scary as it may sound initially, it’s actually an incredibly powerful tool if you track the positive and the negative feedback you receive.
The social side of the web won’t slow down or stop growing anytime soon, with more and more people coming online everyday to share their likes and dislikes you’d be foolish as a business owner to shy away from it. After all, the people who grow the social web, are the customers you want coming through your door everyday to pick up your products.