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Search engine marketing: all the leads you could wish for, and more.

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It’s that time of the year again when you wish friends, family and loved ones a good health and godspeed. But what should we wish for in business? If I am to believe – and how can I not – the economic press, we are facing a recession. Seems to me it makes sense to wish for an abundance of new leads. New business that can hopefully compensate for the decrease in expenditure with existing clients, that will most likely happen during a recession.

The year 1220

In the old days things were simple. Marketing and selling products was the result of craftsmanship and genuine word-of-mouth. Craftsmen with ambition with the intention to sell a lot went to the market to find a bigger audience.

In doing so, they experienced that being there was one thing. Making a living out of it was something else. It depended on the market you chose (type of products, location, people attending), the competition (fierce or not, nearby or not, and the quality of their products) and your talent for storytelling (drawing attention, demonstrating, tasting, convincing). It is where the term ‘marketers’ was born and where business was done.

The year 2012

“The world has changed” … it’s probably the most frequently written sentence in today’s sales and marketing literature. Unrightfully so, because in terms of sales and marketing, it really hasn’t. In essence, if you want to sell a lot you still have to go to the market. Today the marketplace is called Google – and its peers. It’s where you’ll find the biggest audience looking to buy things. And much like in 1220 success still depends on your type of product, the people attending – or targeted, the competition and your ability to draw attention, drive consideration, convince and make a sale. Moreover, when done right  ‘going to the market’ is the most effective and efficient way for lead generation in 2012. That’s just what the doctor prescribes for your business during a recession.

I wish you the biggest and most effective lead generation channel

In Belgium, people looking for commercial information or people looking to buy stuff search for it online. More than 50% use search engines on a daily basis and 9 out of 10 use them on a weekly basis.

Grafiek1

So, the biggest market you could ever imagine can be found online. Meaning 97% of consumers out there is finding what they are lookingfor. An effectiveness score that will further increase the use of search engines in 2012 and beyond, as rewarded behavior tends to grow into a habit.

Grafiek2

I wish you SEA results for effective lead generation

When you invest in search engine marketing you have two complementary options. The first is called Search Engine Advertising or SEA. Those are the small text ads you find above or at the right-hand side of your search results. Granted, they do not look very appealing and we don’t always pay attention to them. But when you bother, as a marketer, to look into it a whole new world opens up, filled with endless possibilities for smart targeting.

Then again, why should you bother when - on average - less than 10% click on it? I’ll give you two good reasons. Firstly: if they don’t click on it, you don’t have to pay anything. So you have nothing to lose. Secondly, you decide for whom you want to pay, and even how much they are worth to you. Come again?

With SEA you have the possibility to target a precise target group and analyze the effect on traffic and conversion of specific keywords or search strings during each phase of the consumers purchase decision phase. (Attention – Interest – Desire – Action) – You can even analyze what your competitors are doing and determine what you are willing to pay to attract new customers. By now, advertising has stopped being a black box and has evolved into a form of science. It deserves your attention, especially if you are looking for immediate effect.

An extreme example: 

Pretend you are a 60-year old dentist living in Overijse. Come 2012, you decide to open up your practice exclusively on Tuesday and Thursday. His ideal patient would be someone with a toothache who lives or works in the neighbourhood, but only on a Tuesdays or a Thursdays.

SEA lets you target him/her specifically. Your ad is not shown to people who live too far away to make the trip to Overijse. It isn’t shown to people looking for toothpaste, … Only to people who use the word(s) ‘toothache’ and/or ‘dentist’, that are than a 15 minute drive away, on a Tuesday or a Thursday. And if you want to finish up early, you can even decide not to display your ad after 2 PM that specific day. How’s that for media planning? And remember: if they don’t click, you don’t pay.

I wish you SEO results for efficient lead generation

When you invest in search engine marketing you have a second option, it’s called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. When people look for commercial information using search engines the first natural search results on the first page get the most clicks. The lower you find yourself in these results, the less attention or clicks you’ll get. Not on the first page? Get your act together!

So how do you make sure you get up where you belong?

Findability. First of all, make sure search engines can find your online content easily. It’s not difficult, it doesn’t cost you more, and it’s an absolute conditio sine qua non in getting you a top ranking. To do this, carefully map out your site structure, apply clear rules in your coding and make sure that you use technology that can easily communicate with the different search engines out there.

Relevancy
. When people can find all of your content, and when you’ve structured it in a SEO-friendly way, search engines will be able to locate and index it. Then the game really starts, much like it does with SEA. You’ve mapped out the consumers purchase decision phase, matched it with the most relevant keywords people are using and factored in what your competitors are doing. Now’s the time to decide on which search strings you want your content to appear. Those keywords need to be incorporated into your website and other digital content. As a meta tag on a certain webpage for instance, but make sure that the most important keywords are also found in your navigation structure, sitemap, images, … as these are considered more important by Google.  Good keyword analysis is the second biggest leverage for success. Some keywords could drive a lot of traffic to your website, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will all convert into the next step of the sales cycle, let alone buy your product. Some keywords might draw less traffic, but convert to higher sales more easily.

Remember our dentist?

‘Toothpaste’ is a relevant keyword with a higher search potential than ‘toothache’ and will draw more traffic to the dentist’s website. But only the latter will have the man sat in his chair before the end of the day.

Authority & trust
. Once your digital content is found easily, and you’ve decided upon which keywords you want it to be found, you can use a number of strategies to make it more important than other similar content and thus influence the ranking in the overall results. The last leverage for success is called link building. In short, the more web pages that link to your content, the higher you’ll turn up in search results. Digging a little deeper would reveal that it is not only the amount of links, but also the quality (page rank), whether or not keywords are used in the url (anchor text) and the overall relevancy of the referral pages.

SEO complements the previously discussed SEA. With the latter you’ll notice an immediate effect on site traffic and conversion, but you’ll have to pay for it. With SEO you’re building for the future. It doesn’t cost anything (but time) but takes a while before it kicks in and is thus very suited to develop a base traffic on your core keywords.

I wish you a SEM strategy for lead generation in 2012. You’ll need it.

It seems we might be facing a recession. But even during a recession some companies perform better than others. Some companies might even beat the recession on their own P&L. I’m convinced that those companies will have focused on lead generation in a cost-efficient way, among other things. Hope you do to.
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I wish you LUON (*)

LUON provides a free of charge SEO site analysis along with complementary recommendations to get you started or keep you going with Search Engine Marketing. It may be your first step towards successful lead generation throughout 2012.

(*) Pardon my bluntness, but if you’re facing a recession chances are we are too.

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