How to Leverage Search Engine Marketing for Your Website

by Ellen Keeble

Smartphone showing Google Search page with results from entering the keyword "analytics"
Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

What do you do? Why should I hire you?

How to answer these questions and use them to make an effective website was the basis of a panel I co-hosted with Raya P. Morrison at the February program meeting.

Whether you want to boost your visibility online, market your services, or write web copy, search and search queries are powerful tools to help you achieve these goals. Providing the answers to the questions your clients ask when searching online can help you build targeted marketing campaigns and craft compelling copy for key pages of your website.

The good news is search strategy is 90 percent word-based (editors and indexers, rejoice!). There are back-end solutions that can amplify your campaigns and websites, but if the thought of digging into code and HTML makes you uncomfortable, focusing your efforts on your copy will go a long way. Understanding how real people find your website, how they use it, and what makes them stay (or leave) will help you land your ideal clients.

I’ve included most of the slides I presented at the program meeting and added notes based on questions from participants. The insights gleaned from search are useful no matter what stage you are at—whether you are planning a website, revamping an old one, or finding new clients for an established business.

Is search engine marketing the same as SEO?

SEO is a component of search marketing. SEO helps boost your ranking in search results, which should lead to more visitors landing on your page. Search engine marketing (SEM) is a broader strategy that combines SEO, paid search, advertising, and other marketing tactics.

The search industry talks about search experience optimization rather than search engine optimization. Too often, people get so caught up trying to write their copy to suit an algorithm that they forget the end user is a person. To use search engine marketing effectively, you need to understand the intent and behaviour that led the person to search. This puts the focus back on the person and their expectations.

While SEO might get you a lot of visitors, effective SEM helps ensure those visitors are potential clients you can engage. Search engines, such as Bing and Google, are constantly adapting to what users need and want, which is reflected in how the search engine displays results.

Here’s an example: Remember when getting directions online involved visiting a site and filling out a form? Think about how you search for directions today. Maps and addresses are built into search results and info panes. Mobile applications introduced the phrase “near me” for those searching on the go.

How can I leverage search for my website or marketing?

This is where words come in. Get ready to brainstorm. What words and phrases do clients use to find you? What words and phrases describe what you do? What kind of documents do you work on? Dig into your niches and remember you are more than your job title. Talk to your existing clients and mine your correspondence. What have clients asked about in the past? Find them in their communities: What are they asking each other? What are their concerns? Note the words they use. These are the words and phrases you want to research in keyword tools.

Your goal when marketing is to create answers to their questions. Your website should be the solution to their problems, whatever those may be. (The slides go into greater detail and provide some sample structures.) The more relevant you are to a client when they land on your page, the better. You want your site to be the destination that offers the perfect blend of expertise and information, that makes the client comfortable, that tells the client, “Hey, this person gets me and what I need.” Otherwise they will bounce to the next stop.

But won’t my website or post be the same as xyz website?

If you’re a copy editor, search marketing doesn’t mean you have to clone Grammar Girl. Is the service you provide the same as most copy editors? Probably. But how you present yourself and your business won’t be. A website is an extension of your brand and your business—make it your own.

Search engines and the AI that powers them are being programmed to understand us (people) better. The more relevant your content—the more directly you speak to your potential clients—the more likely clients will consider your services. Researching how people look you up and why will help you understand your clients and tailor your content to them.

Ellen Keeble is a Toronto-based journalist and editor. In her current role as Trends Editor for Microsoft Bing (English Canada), she creates and curates comprehensive landing page experiences for users. She also volunteers regularly for Editors Canada national committees as a print designer.

This article was copy edited by Kathryn Willms.

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