Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What to know about Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing or also known as SEM, is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs).It is often used to describe acts associated with researching, submitting and positioning a Web site within search engines to achieve maximum exposure of your Web site. According to the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, SEM methods include: search engine optimization (or SEO), paid placement, and paid inclusion. Other sources, including the New York Times, define SEM as the practice of buying paid search listings.

In 2006, North American advertisers spent US$9.4 billion on search engine marketing, a 62 % increase over the prior year and a 750 % increase over the 2002 year. The largest SEM vendors are Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter. As of 2006, SEM was growing much faster than traditional advertising. As the number of sites on the Web increased in the mid-to-late 90s, search engines started appearing to help people find information quickly. Search engines developed business models to finance their services, such as pay per click programs offered by Open Text in 1996 and then Goto.com in 1998. Goto.com later changed its name to Overture in 2001, and was purchased by Yahoo in 2003, and now offers paid search opportunities for advertisers through Yahoo Search Marketing. Google also began to offer advertisements on search results pages in 2000 through the Google AdWords program. By 2007 pay-per-click programs proved to be primary money-makers for search engines.

Search engine optimization consultants expanded their offerings to help businesses learn about and use the advertising opportunites offered by search engines, and new agencies focusing primarily upon marketing and advertising through search engines emerged. The term "Search Engine Marketing" was proposed by Danny Sullivan in 2001 to cover the spectrum of activities involved in performing SEO, managing paid listings at the search engines, submitting sites to directories, and developing online marketing strategies for businesses, organizations, and individuals. In 2007 Search Engine Marketing is stronger than ever with SEM Budgets up 750% as shown with stats dating back to 2002 vs 2006.

Paid search advertising hasn't been without controversy, and issues around how many search engines present advertising on their pages of search result sets have been the target of a series of studies and reports by Consumer Reports WebWatch, from Consumers Union. The FTC also issued a letter in 2002 about the importance of disclosure of paid advertising on search engines, in response to a complaint from Commercial Alert, a consumer advocacy group with ties to Ralph Nader.

There is a lot involved with search engine marketing. In fact, it can be a bit overwhelming, even for those with a great deal of experience. The good news is that by taking it one step at a time, it is not hard to learn. And once learned, search engine marketing can provide an effective method of driving highly targeted visitors to your web site. The first step is to learn about the search terms that your target audience is using when using search engines. These search terms are the keywords and keyphrases that will be used to market your web site.

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