What Is Search Marketing?
Search marketing is a marketing strategy. It entails many techniques and processes aimed at improving website visibility in search engine results. Keyword search, SEO, organic results or paid ads are all must-know terms when discussing enhancing website performance.
Which strategies should you include in a well-designed plan of action to improve your website’s ranking? What can search marketing do for your business? In this article we’ll answer the most important questions related to this popular term.
SEO: Search Engine Optimisation
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. As the name suggests, it refers to optimising websites for search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. In other words, it’s about making your website as easy for them to understand and appreciate as possible.
Some people think that search marketing starts and ends with SEO. It’s an exaggeration, but it’s true that it’s a very important part of it. Now, let’s have a look at the elements that you need to take into account when planning an SEO strategy.
SEO focuses on organic search results. These are the results that you can see below paid advertisements when you conduct any search. Appearing in these results is free, even though you may want to consider paying a specialist to optimise your website and rank better. Here’s an example of how organic results look like:
Search engines constantly crawl the web looking for new content, indexing it. They search for signals to provide the user with websites most relevant to their search. This is to make them satisfied with a given search engine and so they don’t look for alternatives.
You should know that the algorithms governing rankings are being tweaked to provide the best search experience. This means that you can’t optimise your website once and for all. You need to keep yourself up to date with best practices and use them on your website to see consistent performance results.
Naturally, it’s best for your website to rank on the first page of Google. As it takes a while to achieve such results and no one can guarantee them, many businesses decide to invest in paid advertisement. Here’s the deal, though, the moment you stop paying for such ads your position is gone.
This is precisely why you should invest in SEO to drive organic traffic for long term returns. It’s where the majority of your clicks come from.
Ranking on the first page of Google is great but not necessarily to see a difference in terms of visitors and conversions. Here are some important factors affecting ranking:
- Website Security
Your website should be secure and easy to access. It convinces search engines that they should recommend it to its users.
If you think that it’s enough to set your address as https, you’re wrong. Https is only one of the ranking signals. Look into this, if you’re serious about improving your visibility in organic search results.
- Page Speed
Have you ever been irritated with a page loading too slowly? You’re not the only one. What’s annoying for users decreases user-friendliness which means it negatively affects ranking. As far as we know, it’s not a direct ranking factor. However, it influences how long a person stays on the website, and by extension it certainly matters.
Page speed is equally important for the experience of both desktop and mobile users. If you’re unsure how fast your page is, use the Google Page Speed Insights tool.
- Mobile Usability
We may be stating the obvious here but people rely more and more on mobile searches. This is why your website should be mobile device friendly. If it’s not, you should optimise it as soon as possible as this may be affecting your ranking negatively.
This is one of the most important SEO efforts you should have a look at to remain competitive. Mobile searches will be only becoming more and more popular.
We’re also likely to see an even bigger increase in voice to text searches. Keep this in mind and put your website through a mobile-friendliness test to find out how much there is for you to do.
- Optimised Content
Content is what helps Google and its users find your website. It needs to be of high-quality, use relevant keywords and, yet again, be user-friendly. Informative content helps increase engagement and prolongs the time that users stay on your website. It may also encourage them to visit other pages apart from the one they initially visited. All these signals are great for your ranking.
These are by no means all things that you need to keep in mind in your SEO efforts. You can learn more about them with this list of 12 most important SEO factors.
If it feels like too much to handle, it may be a good idea to invest in professional services. You can find out more about SEO as well as Digital Assembly’s tactics and technologies, by clicking on the link.
Google Maps and Local SEO
So far, we have discussed general efforts aimed at making your website more search engine friendly and more visible in general searches. This isn’t the only SEO opportunity that’s worth keeping in mind.
Local SEO has been gaining importance over the years. Just think about it from the customer’s perspective - particularly when looking for a service you’ll use repetitively, you want it to be both trustworthy and close to you.
There’s no better place to find out about a local business than search engines. Did you know that 71% of people looking for local businesses do it online?
By focusing on local SEO you can improve your business’s online visibility in Google Maps. Google Maps displays three listings, ranked the highest for a given search, in the so-called Local Pack:
Of course, these three services get the majority of clicks. However, your business can still appear within the broader Google Maps listing. This happens when someone feels they haven’t found the right business within the pack and chooses to see more options.
Where does Google find the results it includes in the pack and in the more extensive Google Maps listings? On a platform called Google My Business (GMB). You should set up a free profile there. It’ll let new customers know about your business, allow you to gain reviews from customers and feature in Google Maps listings.
Creating this page isn’t complicated at all. Make sure that information included is accurate. You want to avoid confusing your clients and make a good first impression on new visitors. Tips from Google include: entering all relevant up-to-date details, going through the verification process, managing reviews (including responding to them) as well as adding photos.
Setting up a Google My Business page is a good start of your journey to rank well with Google for local searches. This isn’t where it ends, though. There are many factors that will influence your ranking but here are some of the most important ones:
- Google My Business signals (25.1%)
- Review Signals (15.4%)
- On-Page Signals (13.8%)
The algorithm at work here isn’t the same algorithm that drives organic search. You may want to learn more about the local algorithm to understand it better. In brief, what it cares about are factors such as proximity, prominence and prevalence.
Proximity is the most important category as it’s extremely relevant for a local query. Next in line is how good and popular Google thinks your business is. Last but not least, it’ll look at other signals and this is where, for instance, your on-page SEO will come into play.
A featured snippet is a special box in Google search results, which provides either a direct answer or a summary. Usually a snippet consists of only one listing.
It’s up to Google to decide whether something is an appropriate snippet. You can find more specific guidelines on how Google’s featured snippets work on its Help Center platform.
Below you can see an example of a feature snippet for a query “Australian constitution”:
The excellent positioning of featured snippets makes them a desirable place for your business to be. They appear below the paid search but above organic results. Due to their size, they stand out on the page and are eye-catching. This means that being featured could translate into an increase in the click-through-rate.
One thing to keep in mind is that since the update in January 2020 Google started to prevent content featured in snippets from also appearing in the organic results. It’s a part of their effort to avoid duplicated content.
This development means that your business may lose out on organic traffic. Of course, it all depends on factors such as the nature of your business, a specific query and many more.
A featured snippet looks differently, depending on a query. You may see a list, a table, a paragraph or an answer box. Other types of snippets you may want to consider in your strategy include videos and tools.
Such diversity allows Google users to find the best answers there but also gives more opportunity for websites to get featured within this box.
Tables, paragraphs or lists are all a good search marketing opportunity. For instance, if a user is searching for a recipe or a step-by-step guide, clicking on the link below the snippet is the fastest way to get a full answer.
How to optimise your content for featured snippets in search? As often with Google there’s no definite answer. It remains a secret how exactly Google chooses what to feature. There are some informed guesses to make based, for instance, on Google’s insistence on prime user experience. Here are some suggestions of what to focus on:
- Targeting long-tail keywords and turning them into questions
- Providing clear answers to such questions
- Using proper formatting for Google to be able to better scan your website for relevant content
- Including high-quality images as Google will include a relevant image in the box, if applicable
Targeting featured snippets should be a part of a bigger SEO strategy. Another factor that likely influences featured snippets is good on-site SEO. That’s because websites that rank well are often the ones featured.
You should also keep in mind that a positive signal for Google is a website’s authority. Don’t forget about building it through a wholesome back-linking strategy.
Competing with giants to be featured may be a counter-productive strategy. Do what you do best by creating and maintaining a quality website that’s informative.
Choose your niche and stick to it. With featured snippets, just like with SEO in general, the most important thing after applying best practices is patience.
Last but not least, you should remember that there’s a lot of luck involved. No search marketer can promise you getting into the featured snippet box. When Google compares websites performing similarly in terms of relevance, authority and quality, it’s not clear how it chooses the winner.
The PAA Box
What does the name PAA stand for? It’s an acronym for People Also Ask. It refers to answers that appear in different places of Google Search results. They suggest related questions based on experience with users looking for similar content.
Most importantly, each PAA position contains a clickable link. This is true for both mobile and desktop searches. Have a look at the example of how it looks like:
PAA doesn’t consistently display on the top of search results, but it doesn’t mean you should ignore it. In fact, people are very likely to consider these suggestions, when they’re not entirely satisfied with the initial results.
PAA suggestions are also seemingly infinite so a user can keep looking until they find what they’ve been looking for. Having said that, the initial box usually displays 4 questions with answers.
Content included in the PAA box remains the same. This means that once you make your way there, you’re there pretty much for good.
Unfortunately, there isn’t so much information about the click through rates for PAA. It’s likely a good place to feature your website, but you won’t find a confirmation of this statement. This is mostly because relevant data isn’t included in the Google Search Console.
The results of the SEM Rush’s PAA study point out a few reasons why you shouldn’t forget this SEO ranking opportunity:
- PAA’s are present in half a million search results in a million keyword dataset
- It’s a growing trend
- It’s possible to appear in the PAA box and in the organic search results page (remember that this isn’t true for featured snippets)
- PAA is displayed in different parts of the page but the majority of the time it comes after the first organic result
- Shorter is better - a displayed paragraph is on average 41 characters long
- PAA is 6 times more likely to appear within results than featured snippets
What mostly triggers PAA boxes are various wh- questions. You should analyse what queries could get your website and your business into this box.
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s an expanding feature. It has already grown more than 40% since its introduction in 2015.
If people are already coming to you as a result of a particular question, you should definitely consider optimising for PAA.
Remember that just like with featured snippets Google has its preferences. In other words, it pulls websites already appearing high in search and with good site authority. You can’t optimise for PAA only, without a proper SEO strategy.
Rich Snippets/Rich Results
Rich snippets or rich results appear in response to a Google query. They contain more information than regular results.
Apart from simply giving the user a link to follow to continue to a given website, a rich snippet shows more information such as rating or a picture.
Rich snippets are not only more informative. They’re also more visually appealing and therefore attract more attention from a user. This can increase the click through rate.
Below you can find an example of rich results for a query featured in top stories:
Depending on the product or service your website is trying to sell, its presence within rich results could look differently. They’d be featured on desktop searches too, but they’re particularly common for mobile usage.
This is something to remember, if that’s what you’re targeting. What’s more, visually attractive results such as rich content are a growing trend. In other words, the sooner you optimise for them, the better.
You won’t immediately get better ranking from being featured in rich snippets. However, as we’ve discussed, catching an eye of a user can bring you more traffic. Your general ranking may increase over time through a growing interest in your website.
An easy way to check whether your website supports rich results is using the Google Rich Results Test. If your page doesn’t support them, you should start with adding structured data. This means that your online content will be presented in a way that a search engine can understand. It can also make a decision to show it within rich content.
You’re the one who has to decide what types of rich results you’d like to be featured in. Google discusses in detail what kind of rich content your site could be displayed in.
Check out its search gallery to find which options would suit your business. They also offer a guide to search results features that should help you decide on the most appropriate type of feature.
As described in Unamo’s beginners guide to rich snippets, you shouldn’t expect immediate results. There’s a number of steps involved in the process. If you’ve done everything correctly, you should get a semi-permanent feature within rich snippets after about 8 weeks. You should do no tweaking before that as it’ll likely only cause further delays.
Being featured within rich results is something you should be able to achieve, provided you do enough reading. However, you should keep in mind that it’s only one of the many opportunities of SEO.
Does what you’ve learnt today about optimising your website feel overwhelming or technical? Perhaps it’s time to talk to specialists to make your business shine online. Check out what we have to say about our agency and get in touch!
Google Ads (previously Ad Words)
Google Ads is a paid advertising system owned by Google. The main difference between Google Ads and SEO is that there’s no way of going about it without paying. On the other hand, you can optimise your website in terms of SEO at no cost.
Perhaps you’re thinking that it’s a no-brainer to focus solely on an SEO strategy. Remember, however, that nothing is truly for free. Even if you opt for taking care of it without investing in a specialist, you won’t spend money but you’ll put time into it.
Apart from the time spent on learning SEO there’s the time needed to see the first results. After that, you'll likely need to do some tweaking to your strategy.
Now, Google Ads allows you to bypass the wait. By simply paying Google to promote your business you could see immediate results.
You’ll hear over and over again that Google loves brands. Of course, there are many reasons why it’s so and some of them are understandable. This doesn’t change the fact that it makes it extremely difficult for new and small businesses out there to make it to the first page of search results... Unless you pay for search ads, that is.
Then again, this should not be an encouragement to abandon your SEO efforts and solely go after Ad Words. The thing about Google Ads is that they only help you perform as long as you’re paying. If you stop, the traffic will drop and you’ll be back to square one. This is why the best thing you can do for your business is to invest in both things.
Search ads are a big part of Google ads services. They give you exactly what you’d expect - they feature your website above organic search results in response to related queries.
The best news is that this service is performance based. It uses the pay-per-click payment model. It’s also up to you to decide how much you’re willing to pay for each click. Here’s an example of what your ad could look like:
It’s not like that, that if you simply put more money in Ad Words you’re instantly winning. Google cares about the quality of such ads too. Yes, this service operates based on bidding but there are different techniques of doing it. You should decide on the best strategy, depending on your business goals.
In fact, as Neil Patel suggests, you shouldn’t put too much money into your Ad Words efforts immediately. It’s not as easy as it seems to use the service in the way best for your business. You should start with a smaller budget and tweak your strategy as you go.
To launch a successful search ad campaign you need to decide on a number of things apart from the budget. The most important include: target audience, keywords, negative keywords and style.
Of course, there are smaller decisions that you have to make too. The most important thing to remember is to plan your campaign carefully before the launch to avoid wasting resources.
Product Listing Ads
Using Product Listing Ads is a way of promoting your business with Google Shopping. In response to a relevant search Google features particular products.
The way such ads are presented is visually appealing. The user can see a picture of a product and make sure that it’s what they’re looking for. Another important detail displayed is the price of a given product.
If the user is interested, they’re redirected to the seller’s website where they can purchase a given product.
Advertising on Google in that way has some obvious benefits. This is, after all, where many people start their search.
Product Listing Ads are displayed above Search Ads and organic results. If you’re looking for a pair of shoes, for instance, you’re more likely to click on a product you see than on a text description.
This is why in many situations such listings are a great way to invest in ads to see the best return on investment.
Retailers are reportedly investing more money into product listings. This suggests they see better results. Just like with Search Ads, you’re charged for actual clicks.
Product listings are also less complicated to set up than Search Ads. You need to start by creating a Google Ads and a Merchant account. Then you prepare a listing, choose products to feature, select your bidding strategy and voilà!
Don’t forget to check your performance, in case your ad isn’t getting the expected results.
Considering all these benefits of Product Listing Ads, why would you ever go for Search Ads? It’s not as straightforward as it seems. Different businesses require different strategies.
An e-commerce business focusing on selling products where looks matter, may be better off with Product Listing Ads. However, companies offering services may benefit more from relying on text.
As you’ve learnt today, there are many elements of search marketing. SEO is an often-used term for getting your website the attention it deserves but there are many aspects to it. The same is true for the world of Google’s paid advertising.
There are countless resources available online in terms of search marketing. It’s definitely possible to do it right, when one has enough time to learn best practices.
Is time something you never have enough of? Would you like to make sure that your website will thrive rather than be harmed by the changes introduced?
If the answer to these questions is yes, you should consider hiring industry specialists. Check out our case studies and learn for yourself why you can trust us. Your website deserves the results that our clients have already seen. Don’t hesitate, contact Digital Assembly today!