One of the comments on our last blog post had a good point. “The thing is, the people this article helps the most are inexperienced peeps, experimenting with early landing pages + offers. But will they see it? When I was starting I didn’t even know what to Google to come across this, y’know?” (Thanks, Jason) Of course, this begs a question that may very well end in a paradoxical answer:
How do we reach the inexperienced in search if they don’t know what to search for in the first place?
Wow. What a mind-bender. It’s hard to imagine someone in this day and age that doesn’t know at least the basics of how to use a search engine. From our perspective, it’s also hard to imagine that a person may not know the basics of search marketing, either. We’re immersed in this stuff; isn’t everybody else?
Selling Online: A Beginner’s Overview
If you’re an old hat at selling online, you don’t need this primer. However, we have some excellent articles on content strategy and development, branding and social media that may be more your style. We’d love your feedback, so feel free to drop a non-spammy comment in the appropriate area.
If you’re interested in selling products or services online but don’t want to learn how to do it, we just happen to be in the business. We encourage you to visit our main site, check out our services, see a brief list of our clients, read about us and – somewhere in all that activity- contact us to discuss your project.
For everybody else:
This is not, as you might think, an entire blog post on how to sell your products or services online. Instead, this is a “bookmark” post, designed to give you tons of links to follow and read more about the topic. Why? Because, as Jason so rightly pointed out, you may not know how to find this information on your own. We do, so we’ve done it for you.
How Search Engines Work
We’re firm believers in “informed decisions”. In other words, the more you know, the wiser your decisions are. This is why you should have at least a minor idea of how search engines (SEs) work if you’re going to turn them into a marketing medium.
Without search engines:
Your website is an online business card. The only people who can find it are those you give the address to. In other words, without search engines, your website will not bring many new customers.
With search engines:
Your website is an online storefront. The search engines crawl your site, find out what’s on it, and put it in their database. When someone searches for a relevant topic, your site may (or may not) be displayed to the searcher. The chances of you receiving new customers (at least to the site) are much higher, simply because your possible visibility is much higher.
Yaseen Dadabhay: How Search Engines Work [Blog Post] – is a non-geek overview of how search engines work. From the blog post:
“So basically, when someone does a search (which the engines call a query) and the engine then checks the index for all the web pages associated with that search, the engine needs a way to rank the pages it finds in an order that is useful to the searcher.”
Search Engine Watch: How Search Engines Work [PDF] – is an excellent, in depth, somewhat geeky document covering information retrieval to a large degree. If you have the time, even if you wouldn’t consider yourself “technically minded”, it’s well worth reading. From the document:
Once you understand what it is that search engines themselves are trying to achieve and how they go about it, it will be easier to understand the results as you see them appear on the page following a keyword search. This will help you to rationalise and then optimise the way that you create web pages to be indexed and gain a better understanding of why it’s essential to do it.
Once you know how they work, it’s time to find out how to use them to sell online.
Selling Online: What Is Search Engine Marketing?
Search engine marketing (SEM) isn’t “marketing to the search engines” anymore than TV advertising is “advertising to TVs”. It’s using search engines as a marketing platform. The job of search engine marketing is to bring more visitors (i.e. traffic) to your site.
SEMPO.org defines SEM as:
Acronym for “Search Engine Marketing.” A form of internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs).
Almost everyone who looks at selling online through his or her own website (versus other methods such as eBay or Etsy) will eventually turn to search engine marketing. When they do, they’ll have two choices:
- Through editorial, organic, natural listings: SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Through paid search inclusion: CPC (Cost per Click), PPC (Pay per Click)
SEO Term Glossary: define SEM (Search Engine Marketing) – provides an overview of SEM, as well as the differences between SEO and Paid Search.
SEM is said to allow for more targeted marketing because it involves the marketer reaching out to the seeking consumer. It is thus a two way process, in which the consumer seeks out his/ her need, and the marketer, through SEM, is ready to provide the need of this consumer.
Points to Remember
There are many places to read about SEM. There are many places to read about SEO and PPC. Many times, the differences between the two will be described as “paid” and “not paid”. When you come across this description, remember:
You pay the search engine for ad placement. You may also pay a marketer. When you quit paying for ad placement, the ad stops. Period. It’s advisable to hire a marketer and not perform PPC yourself. Because of the pay structure for PPC, it could get quite expensive before you learn how to use it.
Search Engine Watch (PPC) – focused on all things search, SEWatch has an excellent PPC section of articles to help you learn.
You pay the marketer. It may take longer than PPC to show a strong positive trend. Having said that, organic listings are generally visited more often than ad listings. SEO can be learned and performed by the business owner, if you have enough time to dedicate to learning a new trade. If you need results, it’s advisable to hire a marketer.
SEOMoz: Free Beginner’s Guide to SEO –is a good resource for those just learning the ins and outs of optimisation.
As we mentioned in the beginning, this is just a brief overview for those getting started with online selling. There is so much it doesn’t (and can’t) cover in this short post. For instance, content strategy and development, branding and social media are important parts of your online presence. You’ll need to know about marketing psychology and the psychology of color. You’ll need to learn how to market to your target audience.