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Search Engine Marketing Tips
by MyPrimeTime

Search engine marketing (SEM), that is making your website more accessible to potential customers who are using search engines, is by far the hottest trend in marketing spending today. We interviewed Dan Skeen, the lead SEM advisor for Quarry Integrated Communications, about where all this search stuff will take us.

Expert Profile: Dan Skeen
Search Engine Marketing Advisor
Company: Quarry Integrated Communications
Headquarters: Waterloo, Ontario

Why are so many companies obsessed with search marketing?
One of the many benefits for small business is that small to medium-sized companies can compete against larger companies very effectively in an online environment. In the offline world, it’s easier to size up a company’s clout by the usual bellweathers: office size, number of employees, annual revenues, etc. But in the online world, your presence is limited to the viewer’s monitor resolution size. By ranking well within very targeted search results, you can establish a brand presence and drive new sales, even though you may be a small fish in your category.

What activities does it include?
Usually it breaks down to three things: Website optimization, that is modifying the site so that it is highly relevant to search engines based on very specific keyword phrases that you’re targeting. Good SEO copywriting is important here. Pay-per-click advertising involves buying targeted ads on search results pages or relevant websites. The third component is link building, which is the process of acquiring as many relevant inbound links as possible. When you’re site is frequently linked to, it can help with your search results.

A lot of this work is outsourced, but many companies are taking this in-house. Are there any potential hazards for those new to it?
I do think that a good SEM agency will have some clever programs or ideas that would be tough to stumble across elsewhere. And, in a sense, the most common hazard is spending a lot of time and getting poor results.

From an implementation standpoint, there’s a lot of devious tricks that can get you well positioned in Google, but can also get your site banned from Google. Don’t do it. Also, be sure not to neglect the building blocks that make SEM successful – good information architecture and interaction design, insightful usability testing, sound development practices and graphics and copy that resonate for your target customer.

Aside from that, I think too much attention is paid to traffic rather than actual conversion rates. It’s nice to have people browsing your site, but it’s far better to have them taking a desired action such as purchasing a product or contacting a salesperson.

What benefits have you seen SEM deliver?
I’ve seen SEM have a huge impact on traffic. Once a site is optimized and re-indexed, we’ve often seen a huge bump in traffic. Research has shown a logarithmic relationship between search results pages, that is the second page is 10 times less likely to be viewed than the first, and the third is 10 times less likely than the second. Getting a bump to the first page of results for a targeted search term is a huge boost.

But how do you know what people are searching for?
There are some database-driven tools that we use. Some, like Google’s keyword matching tool, are available for free. But the trick is matching keywords to the amount of competing sites out there. And then building landing pages that address their needs and entice them to take the relationship one step further.

Dan Skeen can be contacted at or via . True to his link-building comments, Dan recommends we link to Quarry’s free search engine marketing assessment, where you can get a free custom report on your site’s search readiness and download a free search marketing whitepaper.

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