How to Turn the Coveted SEM Triple Play – The Little Known Integrated Approach to Success
By Gyutae Park
If you’re a baseball junkie, you know that a triple play is nearly impossible to turn in a game. It requires perfect conditions (at least two runners already on base and no outs), super quick reflexes from the fielders, and a little bit of luck. In fact, the unassisted triple play has only been executed 14 times in the history of Major League Baseball (from 1876-2007).
Now before you hit the back button, confused that Marketing Pilgrim has somehow transformed into ESPN, let me explain how this is relevant to search engine marketing.
Internet marketing, and more specifically search marketing, can be broken down into 3 major components: search engine optimization (SEO), paid search (PPC), and social media optimization (SMO). The problem that I see in the search industry is that many of the most influential players focus on only one of these components and shut themselves off from the others. Why dabble in PPC when I can be the best at SEO right? Wrong! The truth is that as the Internet matures, it will become increasingly important to integrate all three components into a marketing campaign in order to see success online. Rather than going for the single outs and double plays, it’s time we stretch ourselves and make triple plays common practice.
In this article, I’ll go over an entire search marketing campaign from beginning to end and show you how, why, and where each of the 3 components can be used to increase effectiveness.
Site concept – the very beginning
What value will your site offer users? Is there a strong demand? What’s your target market and why will they prefer your site over competitors’? How will you make money? All of these questions are important to ask before starting any online business. SEO, PPC, and SMO are great tools to test the waters and assess the potential of a site.
- SEO Keyword research is extremely important in this stage and will set the foundation for the search marketing campaign. It will enable you to discover the language that your potential customers are using and to optimize your site accordingly. This is also a good opportunity to perform competitive analysis. Who’s ranking for your targeted keywords and how many inbound links do they have? SEO is a long term strategy but doing it right the first time around will accelerate rankings and reduce headache later on.
- PPC Paid search is by far the best way to perform keyword research especially in the top search engine Google. Simply pop in your keyword variations into Adwords (obviously it’s more complicated than that), let the campaign run for a couple weeks, and then pick the best performing keywords in terms of traffic and conversions for your SEO efforts.
- SMO Believe it or not, social media isn’t just about useless MySpace pages and Facebook super pokes. Rather, social media sites provide the ultimate testing ground for your content, products, and services. For example, taking a look at the front page of Yahoo Buzz or Digg will give you a good understanding of what’s hot and what people want and are interested in. There are social media sites specific to thousands of individual niches and they are great tools for market research.
Site architecture & design
The structure and design of a site are undoubtedly important for every type of site – content, ecommerce, affiliate, etc. You may not realize this now, but site architecture and design impacts your success in SEO, PPC, and SMO.
- SEO SEO is probably the most obvious in this category. Not only does site structure need to be sound in order to maximize organic search traffic (with search-friendly URL’s, no duplicate content, good linking structure, easily crawlable pages, etc.) but a site with an attractive design is more likely to be linked to by others around the web. As we all know, the more links the better.
- PPC Google recently began incorporating load time into its Adwords paid search algorithm. Sites with superior structure are more likely to have better quality scores and thus lower minimum bids. Not only that, but you want to be sure that your site’s usability is top notch so that paid traffic and advertising budget are not wasted.
- SMO Similarly, what’s the point of a front page Digg if everyone who visits immediately hits the back button (due to your butt ugly design or excessive ads)? You want to build your site with social aspects in mind. Incorporate sections for user generated content and buttons for social media submissions. An optimized site structure can go a long way for SMO.
As they say, content is king and without it, a website is worthless. The focus of content changes depending on what it is used for. For instance, SEO, PPC, and SMO all require their own unique content strategy in order to be successful.
- SEO Content for SEO purposes is usually keyword-rich and informative in nature. The main purpose for this content is to garner links and provide value to readers.
- PPC Content for PPC purposes is usually keyword-rich and focused on sales/conversions. The main purpose for this content is to utilize a call to action and get the visitor to perform a certain action.
- SMO Content for SMO purposes is usually catchy and focused on viral distribution. The main purpose for this content is to encourage sharing through social media sites and through word of mouth. Much of SMO content is linkbait for SEO purposes as well.
Initial launch and promotion
Of course every site is different but in most cases, SEO, PPC, and SMO can be used to promote a site’s launch. In fact, they should ALL be used to maximize results.
- SEO It usually takes a couple months before a site gains enough authority and trust in the search engines to rank for keywords. However, that doesn’t mean you should slack off with on-page keyword optimization and link building. An active SEO effort early on will cement your site’s rankings in the search engines later on. Delayed gratification, my friends.
- PPC If you have the budget, PPC is probably the best way to promote a site early on. Experiment with different keywords, ad copy, and landing pages and determine what brings you the greatest ROI. Search is an extremely targeted form of advertising because users are looking for YOU and not the other way around.
- SMO Social media sites like Digg and StumbleUpon can potentially bring huge amounts of traffic to a site. If you don’t have the organic rankings nor the budget for PPC, SMO is an absolute godsend as long as your content is remarkable or grabs the attention of users. At this point you should be active in the social community and engaging in the conversations related to your niche.
Ok, so by now you’ve launched your site and are looking to tweak it, optimize it and grow traffic. What can you do? No surprise – SEO, PPC, SMO!
- SEO In this phase, you should be seeing some rankings for the keywords that you’ve been targeting in the campaign. When all is said and done, SEO comes down to developing content and links. Keep building while ensuring that your on-page optimization is top notch.
- PPC Once you’ve identified the top keywords, ad copy, and landing pages, you want to constantly monitor the campaign and tweak it to improve click through rates and conversion rates. Testing in PPC never ends.
- SMO Develop active profiles on all relevant social media sites and offer insightful comments and questions to the community. Your goal in SMO in this stage is to build your authority and develop relationships with the top influencers in the industry and to experiment with effective link bait headlines and stories.
After constant optimization, there should come a point in time when you begin to see some serious results. Optimization never stops, but domination comes after diligent optimization. Enjoy the victory and keep going strong.
- SEO I recently wrote an article on Search Engine Journal which describes 12 Steps to Complete Search Engine Domination – From Zero to Hero in Just 6 Months. A #1 ranking for your top keyword is the holy grail of search marketing and you will reap the benefits once you get there.
- PPC A perfect way to enhance your #1 ranking in SEO is to complement it with a top listing in paid search. Some may say that it’s unnecessary to invest in PPC if you already have the organic rankings but I would have to disagree. A top organic listing and a top paid listing seem to have a 1+1=3 effect. Test it out for yourself and see what your analytics tell you.
- SMO Once you plug yourself into the community, make hundreds of friends, and are perceived as an authority, you should have no trouble having your social media submissions “go popular”. Armed with effective headlines and link bait experience, front page Diggs and Stumbles are much more likely to occur. Maki of DoshDosh and Tamar Weinberg are great examples of this.
As you just saw, SEO, PPC, and SMO are all integral components of each step in a search marketing campaign. The industry likes to segment them into different categories, but in the end integration is the key to success. Turn that triple play, people!
This is an entry to Marketing Pilgrim’s 3rd Annual SEM Scholarship contest.