Whether you have a traditional brick-and-mortar business or an enterprise that exists only in online space, your Web site is literally your front door. It’s the first place potential customers or clients will look, and what they find (if they find you) can make all the difference in converting those leads into sales. When it comes to effectively managing and marketing your company’s Web presence, how do you decide which direction will yield the best results? Moreover, which methods provide the greatest return on investment (ROI) and offer analytical tools to measure results?
There’s a lot of confusion these days about the differences between search engine optimization (SEO) strategies and which tactics are the best investment of your time and your marketing dollars. While there is no “secret recipe,” prevailing opinions favor a comprehensive, balanced approach between organic optimization and proactive marketing.
First of all, there is a distinct difference between SEO and pay-per-click (PPC). SEO is the practice of optimizing the content and structure of your site to influence a higher page ranking in organic search results. This is accomplished by employing current best practices that make your site more favorable than your competitors' when your pages are visited and indexed by search-engine spiders. Selection of relevant keywords, creating contextual links throughout your site, using style sheets (CSS), alt tags and flat directory structures are just a few steps that can be taken to ensure better search-engine compliance. There are also plenty of free testing tools available on the Web to validate these efforts. With search-engine algorithms being adjusted on a regular basis, SEO by itself can be a very time-consuming practice and literally a full-time job.
PPC refers to advertising programs offered by major search engines that provide higher rankings through paid inclusion. These paid listings appear as “sponsored” search results or within pages of sites that subscribe to advertising content networks. Each time a visitor clicks through to your site your account is charged a fee. This CPC or cost-per-click amount is determined by you, the advertiser, because the program is based on setting “bid” amounts for selective keywords or search terms. These programs allow setting daily limits and monthly budgets and can be continually monitored and adjusted to maximize your marketing dollars. While the concept of paid inclusion has created enormous controversy since its introduction, it is the current reality we have to live with and does have benefits if managed correctly.
But creating a comprehensive Web strategy is only half the battle. These efforts would be fruitless without a set of tools to help you analyze the data. Continually monitoring traffic sources, top landing pages, average time on site, and highest producing keywords and search terms will be vital to maximizing your investment.
With more than 100 million active Web sites worldwide (growing each year), and search-engine dominance as the primary means by which customers find your site, it’s important to develop a disciplined plan to stay ahead of — and rank higher than — your competition.