“If you do nothing else online, optimize your website using search engine optimization. SEO is Internet Marketing 101. It’s the first thing businesses should invest in if they plan on competing in their market.”Michael B.MacDougall, CEO, The Darwin Agency

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and How It Works:

Search Engine Optimization, or more commonly known as SEO, is an “organic” or natural form of search engine marketing. It’s called organic because of the natural process it takes to get a website to rank highly on a search results page, such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.

The organic Search Engine Optimization process takes time; three to six months or more. There is no easy way to short cut the process unless, of course, you are the only business in your niche and you don’t have any competition, which is not very likely.

There are three main benefits to Search Engine Optimization :

1. It enables you to be easily found. Think in terms of how your target audience would find your business or service. Think of common yet specific nouns that describe what you offer. These are called keywords (but are not limited to single words) and they are what search engines use to find you. When people search for something online, they enter the keywords. The more keywords you use on your website, the better and the higher your ranking in the search results page will be. The goal is to be on the first results page and listed in the top three.

2. Just like going to the gym, the results of Search Engine Optimization compound over time, bringing more and more potential customers to your site each month. The good news is that even though Search Engine Optimization takes time, it also compounds over time. It’s an investment in your online future. The more content (material) you put on your website, the more potential for Search Engine Optimization and the greater volume of keywords, which then increases your search engine ranking.

3. And because Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is organic, you don’t pay for traffic volume, which means you can achieve an extremely high return on your investment. With Search Engine Optimization, it doesn’t matter how many times someone “clicks” on the link to your website, you don’t pay a thing. And while generating traffic to your website is the goal, your cost per customer should be a major consideration. That is why Search Engine Optimization is critical to the success of your search engine marketing campaign.

Search Engine Optimization is probably the most critical piece of your Internet Marketing campaign because it is the first tool in your marketing belt that will get you ranked on search engines and therefore draw traffic to your website.

There is also another form of search marketing in addition to Search Engine Optimization. PPC, or Pay Per Click Advertising, is an Internet advertising model that is used to direct traffic to your business’s website.

"In the results-oriented business of Internet marketing, it helps to utilize a tool such as Pay Per Click Advertising that only charges you for the results you’re actually looking to achieve." -- Michael B. MacDougall, CEO, The Darwin Agency.

Local online search technology allows you to spend your marketing budget only on the people who are actually looking for the product or service that you offer. It’s called Pay Per Click because you only pay each time someone clicks on your ad.

Developing a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising strategy is the fastest way to drive quality traffic to your website and generate leads. As the name suggests, you only pay when someone clicks on your advertisement and your ad only shows up on the results page when someone types in a keyword phrase that relates to your business. It’s targeted and specific.

We typically work with PPC providers Google AdWords and Bing, which are the largest network operators and both operate under a bid-based model. Cost per click (CPC) varies depending on the search engine and the level of competition for a particular keyword.

One of the benefits of PPC as part of your marketing mix is that you determine your budget. It’s perfectly fine to spend $500 one month and $2,000 the next. Most businesses start with a small budget (between $500 - $1,500 per month) and then increase their PPC spend as they refine their style and message to create the most effective strategy.

In addition to generating traffic and leads, PPC is also a great way to stay ahead of your competition. With a little research, you can not only find out what your competitors are using as keywords, but add new keywords to your site, increasing its SEO value.

PPC is a low-risk way to split test different messages and styles of advertising. Vary the content and design of your ads and measure which ones are clicked upon the most.

As is true with technology in general, and the Internet specifically, strategies and tactics are ever changing. To stay on top of what works the best, consult with a professional familiar with Internet marketing and the myriad ways of driving consumers to your website.

Author's Bio: 

Sue Reddy Silverman is a Marketing Director at The Darwin Agency, and can be reached at sue@thedarwinagency.com.