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The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Search Marketing

Harsha Potapragada
February 14, 2022
June 10, 2024
Table of Contents

In This Article:

1. What is Search Marketing?

2. Why is Search Marketing Important For You?

3. Types of Search Marketing

     - 3.1 Organic Search Marketing

           - 3.1.1 SEO

           - 3.1.2 How to get started with SEO?

           - 3.1.3 Advantages and Disadvantages of SEO

    - 3.2 Paid Search Marketing

           - 3.2.1 Pay-per-click(PPC) or Paid Advertising on search engines

           - 3.2.2 How to get started with PPC?

           - 3.2.3 Advantages and Disadvantages of PPC

What is Search Marketing

As its name suggests, search marketing refers to that segment of digital marketing that focuses on marketing through Search. This involves improving your online presence on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and more. 

Search marketing improves a brand’s presence on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) using techniques like brand building, SEO, and paid marketing. Simply put, the higher you rank on the SERP, more are the potential users who notice your content, and are thus likely to click on your content. This translates to increased traffic on your website, which in turn influences conversions positively.

Why is Search Marketing Important for you?

Around 80% of consumers conduct their product and service research online. Resultantly, search marketing should have a big role in your digital marketing strategy.

Search Marketing is intuitive in nature. The targets of your search marketing practises are individuals looking for your brand,  your competitors, your category, your use-case, the pain points you solve for, and so on. 

Ranking high on the SERP is easier said than done. As is expected, users click on the first few links on the search results page after making a search query. More than 90% of user traffic only visit websites that appear on the first page of Google’s search results page. However, as important as appearing on the first page is, it is even more important to show up high enough to catch the user's eye. Paid search marketing has better luck on this end. Further, considering that there are over 200 factors that impact your ranking on Google’s SERP, carefully planning your SEO and PPC marketing can help rank your website and content in the upper echelons of the SERP.

Search Marketing is of two types

1. Organic Search Marketing

As the name suggests, this comprises organically improving the website’s position on the SERP without any payments made to the search engine. Organic comprises Search Engine Optimisation or SEO.

2. Paid Search Marketing

This comprises PPC aka pay-per-click marketing. It involves placing ads on the SERP and paying each time the ads are clicked. 

Organic Search Marketing

Organic listings refer to links that appear on the search engine’s results page after a user has entered their query. These typically depend on the type of query: 

Navigational queries

where the user is searching for a specific website but does not enter the URL. Here, it is important to ensure that users are able to find your website with the simplest of google searches. 

Navigational queries

Informational queries

where the user is trying to find more information about something like a term they haven’t encountered before, a problem that they are facing and want to understand more about it, a tool or category that they wish to learn more about, etc. This is also called the learning stage where the user might not be ready to buy a product but they are learning more about the use-case and the problem solved by that product. Exposure of the users to the brand at this stage of the customer journey through content marketing can steer the users towards the brand. 

Informational queries

Transactional queries

Where users are looking for specific products in a broad category. For example, if I feel like my company has scaled up and I need an ABM tool to improve my marketing and efficiency track all my accounts, I go on Google and search ‘ABM Tools for B2B SaaS 2022’. This would count as a transactional query. 

Transactional queries

Search engines crawl the internet and review all the text, downloadable whitepaper, documents, media and all other content on each website. This data is used to rank websites on various quality signals like quality of content, how useful the content is for a user using their search engine, site speed, links to other websites, etc. The goal is to ensure that users are getting the best results for their search queries.

This is what determines the ranking of the websites on the search engine’s results page. SEO comes into the picture as the tool that helps you improve upon all the various factors that help Google and other search engines determine the quality and ranking of your website. SEO helps you optimise your website by including keywords and help you ascertain authority over the domain or area that your product or service caters to by creating high quality content. 

How to get started with SEO

SEO is a skill that takes time to learn. However, the fact that the learning curve is gradual does not mean that you cannot get started. SEO is a skill that gives returns at every phase of learning. 

As you improve, your ROI will increase but a good place to start with SEO is with these three important concepts:

Keyword research

This is the process of researching and analysing keywords and search terms that users enter into their search queries. Keyword research helps figure out what search terms your target audience is using while searching on Google and other search engines. It also helps figure what queries the target audience is using, popularity of search terms within queries, etc. This can help in ensuring that your content reaches the right audience and increases your traffic. The idea is to target the searches that your target audience is bound to make. Keyword research can help with getting your content in front of your intended audience.

Link Building

Link building or building links from external web pages to your webpage is another method of improving your website’s validity and authority in Google’s eyes. Backlinks, not only from other websites, but from sites with authority, improve rankings and visibility on the SERP. Since backlinks often connect websites with similar content, it is a way for Google to ensure that relevant content is being delivered to the users. 

Domain Page Authority 

Domain authority determines how your site compares to others in terms of how relevant it is within your category or industry. A site with a high domain authority ranks higher on the SERP as search engines identify these sites as having authority and therefore relevance over the information that the user is seeking. Domain authority is also scored by google based on those 200 factors that we mentioned earlier. So there is no set way to know how your website is being scored. However, there are ways to compare how strong your website is, compared to other websites that have similar content.

Advantages of SEO

1. SEO is free if you’re doing it yourself or internally with your marketing team.

2. The ROI is more long term with SEO, as compared to paid. If you have cracked your SEO and Google identifies your website as an authority, traffic increases and in turn, the increased traffic makes it easy to retain a higher ranking. 

3. Organic growth is a better judge of brand awareness. Increased organic traffic and ranking higher on organic queries is a sign of a strong brand. The brand gets more consolidated when people find you ranking high on their search results.

Disadvantages of SEO

1. As mentioned, learning SEO takes time. Even though any amount of SEO can improve the strength of your website, SERP rankings are highly competitive and it takes time to actually show up on the first page of the SERP. It is important to remember that many websites are creating the same content as you and these competitors are also continually improving their SEO.

2. SEO can be hard to scale, especially within small organisations where the team has to focus on improving the product, strategy, outreach and even on other aspects of marketing. Converting your entire website, existing content and incoming content to excellent SEO is a long task.

Paid Search Marketing

Pay-per-click or paid search marketing involves paid advertising where you pay for each click on the adverts placed on the search engine results. The amount spent per click is the cost per click or CPC. Search engines determine where to place the advertisement based on keywords and search terms that potential users are going to go to. The main platforms for PPC are Google Ads, Image Pack and featured snippets. 

But there are several companies that may be using the same keyword groups and search terms. And as with organic, the goal of the search engine is to show the most relevant content to the user, even for advertisements. Resultantly, search engines need to also rank ads that are placed on the first page of the SERP.

A Few Factors That Affect Your SERP  Rankings:

1. PPC bids

Also known as keyword bids, these are bids that online entities place on various keywords or keyword groups to secure ad space. This is commonly used by entities like Google AdWords where auctions are held on various keywords and search terms.

It is important to ensure that you are bidding on keywords that will bring in relevant users. Common keywords are usually more expensive since many people are bidding on them, plus they target a larger audience, a large chunk of which may not have the intent level for your product. On the other hand, niche keywords may be harder to research and figure out, the cost is lesser and the intent of the targeted users is higher.

2. Landing page experience

The landing page or the page that is linked to the ad plays an important role in how Google ranks your ad. Site speed, user experience, ease of navigation, etc are important factors that search engines take into consideration because a website that takes too long to load, is hard for the customer to navigate all spell bad customer experience and search engines won’t want to direct their users to such pages. 

Ad Quality: Apart from the landing page experience, search engines like Google also determine a quality score for your PPC ads. The other two components are 

CTR or the click-through-rate, which determines how likely it is that your ad is  going to be clicked when shown to a user.  

Ad Relevance, which determines how closely your ad matches the intent of the user’s search query.

Advantages of PPC 

1. PPC is easier to figure out than SEO. This is because the level of control that you have to ensure that your ad shows up on the SERP is higher than the control you have in SEO. The level of uncertainty regarding what works and what does not when determining factors that improve ranking on the SERP is also lower for PPC. The results are instantaneous and you can also A/B test your ads to see which ones perform better.

2. PPC is suitable for new companies. PPC is better for scaling up as you just have to pay more money to get more listings and more exposure. 

Disadvantages of PPC

1. Paying for each and every click can be expensive. Moreover, it is important to remember that each click simply re-directs the user to the website and does not guarantee conversions. Therefore, even if it is easier to scale with PPC than with SEO, there are budget constraints that may limit your ability to scale. 

2. The gains with PPC are more short term in nature. As compared with SEO, where the gains are more long term and the ROI increases as your organic reach becomes better, the gains for PPC are relatively short term. The ROI at each instance is dependent on how much you paid for the ads and how many conversions came from those ads. Once the ads are discontinued, they stop bringing in visitors to the website.

3. Issues with the steep learning curve. Although figuring out PPC and getting results is faster than SEO, issues can crop up with how steep the learning is. With SEO, even if the learning and growth is gradual, you get improved results at each level of learning. However, if you jump into PPC without learning the ropes behind keyword bidding, customer research, etc, you may lose a large chunk of your budget bidding high amounts of money on keywords that may not be bringing in conversions. This can lead to a wastage of money.

In conclusion, both PPC and SEO have their pros and cons. But rest assured they are really powerful tools that can scale up your marketing efforts and have a positive impact on website traffic, leads, sales and most importantly, revenue. If you want to learn more about this, you can check out Episode 7 of The Factors Podcast where we discuss both the organic first approach as well as the paid first approach for a company that has just found its product-market fit.

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