In 2008, US Internet use as a percentage of population was 72.5% up from 44.1% in 2001. Over 220 million Americans are using the Internet on a regular basis. There were only 108 million homes using TV in the US in 2008.
Using Internet Search Engines to find products, services and information is increasing in popularity and is gaining widespread adoption across all business sectors as a way to market to consumers. According to a recent study, Internet local searches were up 58% in 2008.
The statistics show that budgets are being diverted from traditional marketing and even from other types of online marketing and directed toward Search Engine Marketing (SEM) at a dramatic rate. SEM is a form of Internet marketing that promote websites by increasing their visibility in Search Engine Result Pages – fondly nicknamed SERPs – through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion.
Singling out the newspaper industry, statistics are easily found to illustrate the diversionary trend taking place. According to a report in the July 4th, 2009 issue of The Business Insider, 105 newspapers were “shuttered” in the first half of 2009. More than 10,000 newspaper jobs were lost. Print ad sales fell 30% in just the first quarter of 2009 and 23 of the top 25 newspapers reported circulation declines between 7% and 20% as more and more consumers shift their consumption of information to the Internet.
In a five-year research window that was launched in 2008, SEM was tracked and projected as follows:
2008 SEM spending – $13.5 billion
2009 projected SEM spending – $14.7 billion
2010 projected SEM spending – $16.7 billion
2011 projected SEM spending – $19.8 billion
2012 projected SEM spending – $23.1 billion
2013 projected SEM spending – $26 billion
These projections represent the root cause of the decline in newspaper revenues and circulations previously noted. Online venues such as Craigslist are also growing at a rapid pace, by providing an Internet-based classified ad platform.
Telephone books, which thrived for many years with their Yellow Pages section, have seen steady decline for the past 10 or more years. People in record numbers are putting down their phone books and jumping online.
Part of the success of Internet local search, in particular, is that people can now access the Internet anywhere and at anytime. With the core of newspapers’ audience landing in the over 50 age range, it is obvious that the future’s consumer base is utilizing the Internet and mobile devices as part of their lifestyle. After all, if you produce an Internet-connected computer desktop, laptop, PDA or cell phone, you can look up businesses that are right around the corner – or located anywhere in the world.
Keys to SEM Strategies: SEO, Context Management, Local Search, Alerts
Finding a dentist, a hardware store or a place to have pizza for lunch is as simple as an Internet search on your device of choice. Google local search has maps to the business location, driving directions, descriptions as well as photos and videos. It is no wonder that marketers are abandoning other advertising methods and investing advertising and marketing budgets in SEM.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key element in SEM strategies. SEO are processes used to improve the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from Search Engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Connecting Internet searchers with neighborhood businesses is what local search is all about. For businesses whose client base is local consumers, targeted local Google search is a very effective and cost-efficient way to reach consumers.
Context Management is a method used to target searchers. It has emerged at the forefront by the popularity of mobile devices. Employing Context Management enables your campaign to reach your potential customers at the very moment that they need what you’re selling. The soccer mom waiting in the pick-up line may search for a drug store that is on her route home. A businessman traveling from the airport to his hotel may be in search of a clothier that can supply a sport coat needed for a spontaneous presentation. A lunch crowd may be in search of a new restaurant to try.
Context Management, working in tandem with a local SEO campaign, can drive powerful results for businesses with a geographic focus.
Facebook and Twitter alerts are utilized to push information out to contacts. Text message campaigns can be pushed out to call lists. By timing your marketing to reach contacts just after moms drop off or pick up children at school or just before workforce lunch times, you apply context management to Facebook and Twitter alerts and effectively land searchers on a website or in a store – immediately.
SEM supports a variety of goals.
There are several reasons SEM is used. Goals vary for businesses and relate directly to the type of products or services they offer and by the way they reach their customers.
A very popular use for SEM is Lead Acquisition.
In fact, 54-58% of those using SEM campaigns do so to acquire or generate new leads for building customers and revenue. Interest in this particular use of SEM is growing as business people gain a better understanding of how the Internet works and the devices that we use impact consumer habits. Not being found on the Internet today is a negative reflection on your business and your brand.
Direct Marketing for e-commerce is the predominant purpose of SEM for 61-63% of SEM campaigns.
This is the most direct monetization method for SEM. By driving relevant traffic to an e-commerce shopping site companies boost sales and turn real revenue. Internet search traffic is among the best quality available, primarily because a person searching the web has expressed a specific goal through their search query, and when this matches a product or brand carried by the web store, conversion rates are often extremely high.
The e-commerce market for 2009, totaling $134.9 billion, showed a 14.4% increase over 2008’s totals according to the U.S. Census Bureau News, February 10, 2010. With so many dollars flowing over the web, its little surprise that e-commerce focused SEM and Search Engine Optimization campaigns are among the most competitive and popular applications of the practice.
SEM is also a tool for Mindshare/Brand Building.
58-63% have Branding as their predominant SEM goal.
This application of the practice helps a business create awareness, develop mindshare and build the familiarity of its name. Bloggers, social media websites, content producers, news outlets and dozens of other web publishing sites have found tremendous value in appearing at the top of search results and using the exposure to boost their brand recognition, authority and validity as a product of choice. The process is fairly simple – much like traditional advertising – online marketers’ goals of ad repetition place a website’s pages consistently at the top of search rankings around a particular subject. The result is positive impact on traffic, and perceived authority and value.
SEM strategies help companies with reputation management.
Those who’ve dealt with negative or non-existent web information about themselves or their businesses, frequently desire to populate the search results with positive company links and mentions. SEM enables this process through content creation and promotion. While reputation management is among the most challenging of SEM tasks.
Use of SEM continues to proliferate the marketing landscape. Creative minds identify new ways to drive value through its processes and apply them to marketing strategies for many types of companies and organizations.
Contrary to some assumptions, SEM is not a method that only Fortune 500 companies can afford to implement. These methods don’t have to consume every dollar you allocate toward marketing. It is quite easy to target SEM initiatives and SEO campaigns so that budgetary parameters can be respected and very often focused goals produce the best results.