SEO. SEM. PPC. SERP? An overwhelming amount of terms get thrown around in conversations about digital marketing. But don’t let that scare you off—understanding digital marketing, and specifically Search Engine Marketing, is invaluable for your business.
Ranking high in search engine results can have a major impact on the number of qualified leads coming to your website. Here are some numbers to know:
  • 80 percent of internet sessions start with a search.
  • Up to 33 percent of people conducting a search will click on the first organic result of a Google SERP, or Search Engine Result Page.
  • Less than 10 percent of searchers advance to page 2 of results.
  • Paid search drives at least 10 percent of traffic to websites, but leads from Pay Per Click (PPC) ads convert at a higher rate than organic.
  • Google fields at least 1 trillion searches per year, and Bing handles millions more.
There are a lot of prospects looking, but most of them venture no further than the top half of the very first search page—and that’s why your ranking matters.

The basics: What is “Search”?

To understand how search works, check out this clip from my recent conversation with colleague Duane Forrester on SEO:
Here’s a real life example: let’s say you need to buy boots. But which boots? If you’re like 89 percent of would-be buyers, you go to Bing or Google to search for information about boots. When you type in, “Where can I buy boots?” what comes back is a SERP – a Search Engine Results Page.
On the SERP, there are two kinds of results: organic and paid.
How websites are ranked in organic results is based on complex algorithms, but in brief, search engines like Bing or Google are constantly looking over websites to evaluate the content each site contains. They do this so when you ask for information on boots, the search engine can provide you with the best possible places to find answers.

Got it. Then what is “Search Engine Marketing”?

Search pages are a great point of intersection on your customer’s purchase journey. They’re looking for something that you can provide, and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) can get your website in front of them while they’re looking.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a component of SEM, but SEO is the art and science of convincing search engines that your content is so valuable, and your site will provide such a useful experience for searchers, that the search engine should list you at the top of relevant SERPs.
Let’s listen to Duane break it down further:

So, how do you use SEO & SEM to get found?

To get in the paid spots at the top of a SERP, and therefore be found by customers, you need to invest in paid marketing like PPC or Pay Per Click. Many of the ads you see on SERPs fall into this category; advertisers bid on key search terms to get their ad featured; they then pay a certain amount to Bing Ads or Google each time their PPC ad gets clicked on.
Get the most of your search marketing efforts by using both SEO and PPC tactics. SEO is the longer-term play that should always be on your mind and in your strategy. You may not always want to engage in PPC activity, but when you’re looking for a traffic boost or have a timely message to share, PPC ads can provide that extra exposure.
Here’s more insight on how it all works from Duane:
Don’t forget, successful SEO requires knowing what search engines are looking for and giving it to them. Here are a few more factors that matter most to search engine algorithms:
  • Keywords. Searchers use keywords to find what they’re looking for. Most of us wouldn’t search for “Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus,” but we probably would search for “SCUBA.” But do we want gear or a diving vacation? You need to know the terms searchers are likely to type into Google or Bing, then make sure those words appear on your website. A tool like Google Keyword Planner or Bing Keyword Planner can help you determine which words to include prominently on your site.
  • Title tags, meta-tags, meta-descriptions.These are keywords that are built into the coding of your webpage. While not generally visible to site visitors, these words and phrases are visible to search engines and can help you move up in organic ranking. The meta-description tag also shows up below the search result link on the SERP, so leverage it to be sure searchers understand your site will provide what they’re looking for.
  • Content. Varied content that meets searchers’ needs moves your site up in the ratings, so include lots of high-value content like blogs, videos, images, infographics, etc., and make sure users can easily share that content on social channels.
  • Internal links. Links to other pages within your site do two things search engines care about: ideally, they provide a smooth flow for users of your site to accomplish whatever task they’re there for. Also, they prove to search engines that you believe your own content is worthwhile.
  • Mobile friendliness. With more and more browsing happening on phones and tablets, being mobile friendly is more important than ever. Be sure your site loads quickly and is developed with a responsive design to enable the best user experience possible.
For more information on how to make SEM, SEO, and PPC work for you, watch the full part 1 and part 2 of my SEO conversation with Duane Forrester, and then download Bing’s SEO: Five best practices for success overview. Also, be sure to check out the Microsoft Partner Network’s Marketing Best Practices Getting Started Guide—SEO and SEM for even more resources and best practices to get you started.
Happy optimizing!