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Some background

Information retrieval Search Engines in the form of electronic card catalogues, Lexis/Nexis, travel reservation systems and private search databases have existed long before the Internet.

Even before web browsers came into existence, in the early years of the Internet, there were search engines running a variety of programs and protocols. Developers, thanks to their sense of humour, gave their programs and protocols comic character names like Archie, Veronica, Jughead and the like. When the browser was invented as an interface for search, information could now be displayed in graphical form.

The concept behind Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

The concept is a pretty simple and straightforward one. When a use searches the Web through either a text box or by clicking through a directory hierarchy, they are in “hunt mode.” This mode is an indication that a user is looking for relevant information regardless of whether it is of a direct or indirect commercial value.

For marketers, this mode is indicative that a searcher is somewhere in the buying cycle ranging from researching a product or service to satisfy either an immediate or a future need. In essence, search engine results are complementary to targeted traffic no matter whether that traffic originates from organic searches or through paid advertisement listings such as Pay Per Click Advertising.

Marketers must understand how to best leverage the benefits contained within this targeted traffic source. To that end they must learn the varied methodologies of both paid and organic SEM to successfully secure their marketing objectives.

Search engine traffic is unique in the following ways:

Search engine traffic is a non-intrusive method of Internet marketing. The majority of online and offline advertising intrudes on the audience creating a “push” that interrupts. Search marketing on the other hand is unique in appearing before a searcher at the precise moment they are seeking knowledge, information or a solution. Searchers are on a mission – it’s “just-in-time marketing”.

Search engine traffic originates from a voluntary, audience-driven search. From there the searcher selects a link from the search results which you and your peers are listed. If your adoption of both paid and organic search marketing is consistent and active, your website listing would naturally be found most times when a search related to your business is made. That in essence gives you an important edge over your peers.

Search engine traffic results from a fixed inventory of searches. To truly qualify as search engine traffic (or pure search traffic), the search must be one that the searcher initiated as a search, either by clicking a search link in a directory style portal or by filling out a search query box.

“Organic” search engine marketing (Organic Search Listings) combines the best practices of technology, usability, copy/linguistics and online PR. This is because many search engines base their relevancy algorithms on a combination of the text they see on a page or site, combined with external elements such as links and user behaviours/preferences.

Marketers appetite for high value search traffic have increased many folds. Search engines, on the other hand are in need of alternative revenue sources. These factors have fuelled the explosion in popularity of paid search advertising on search engines.

Unpaid (otherwise known as organic or algothimic) search engine traffic was once fairly easy to garner. But with the more than three billion documents residing in search engines competing for attention ranking on a search engine to attract search traffic has become fiercely competitive. An alternative to this dilemma is to go the paid search route.

Some marketers believe that there are “tricks” that will improve the relevancy of sites within the search engines that are spider (crawler) based. Not only do most of these not work, many of them can result in negative relevance penalties as the search engines take measures to punish search marketers who seek to manipulate ranking and relevance.

There are many compelling reasons to put legitimate efforts into organic SEO optimization, particularly of in areas of web design, HTML formatting, contents copy optimization and server platform adjustments.

Since the past few years, paid listings have grabbed an ever-increasing role in most marketers’ minds, due to their increasing screen real estate (some search engines now display more paid listings than free!).

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