Designing a Search Engine Marketing Campaign

You’ve just finished your new website design and development project, and now need drive some serious traffic to your website. While social media can provide a low-cost opportunity to raise awareness of your new website, search engine marketing still creates (arguably) some of the best long-term benefits, if you’re willing to make the investment.

Here are five easy steps to get started.

1. Start With Your Audience

Like any great communications initiative, you have to start with your audience, and search engine marketing is no different. Who are you trying to reach? Define them. Define their needs and their level of awareness with your product, services or industry. In fact, you should have completed this step during the web design and development process, but it’s not too late to do it now if you haven’t.

You can’t do anything in communications if you haven’t clearly defined your audience.

2. Create a Keyword List

After defining your audience, brainstorm the keywords and keyword phrases they’re likely to use when researching your products and services. As with any brainstorming session, now is not the time to limit yourself. I prefer to use good ol’ pencil and paper to start with, and then try out a variety of free keyword tools to generate related and derivative versions.

This is the step to throw everything out on the table, so don’t hold back.

3. Narrow Your Keyword List by Popularity

Now that you’ve got an expansive list of keywords, it’s time to take a look at which ones are the most popular. At the end of the day, it’s no good to rank #1 in Google search engine results pages (SERPs) for a keyword or keyword phrase if no one in your audience uses it to search. There are a number of great tools out there, but one great free one is Google’s AdWords Traffic Estimator.

This tool provides a sense of how big the universe is, so to speak, for the keywords on your list and lets you segment by geography and language.

4. Narrow Your Keyword List by Competitiveness

Now that you’ve got a sense of which keywords will bring in the most traffic for your search engine marketing campaign, the next step is to get a sense of how competitive each keyword or keyword phrase is. Ideally, you’d like to find the sweet spot where a keyword or keyword phrase is both highly popular, but not very competitive.

Again, Google provides a great tool that allows you to get a rough sense of how many other companies are targeting a specific keyword or keyword phrase.

5. SEO versus PPC

Once you’ve narrowed your keyword list down to a tight list of words and phrases you’d like to target, the next step is to determine how you’d like to proceed: search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Both tactics have pros and cons. SEO provides more long term benefits, but it may take a while to ramp up and start seeing results. A PPC campaign, on the other hand, can you bring you immediate traffic, but you pay for every click, so you’re increasing your overhead as long as you advertise.

Ultimately, we recommend both, and have experience running them in tandem to create both short- and long-term value for our clients. Once you’ve decided on the right mix of SEO and PPC, you’ve still got some work to do to establish key performance indicators, create a calendar for both generating new content and monitoring your PPC efforts, and optimizing both efforts to maximize your return on investment.

But if you spend the time on the front end with the above five steps, you’ll have created a foundation for powerful search engine marketing campaign.

Matt Bigelow is Google AdWords Certified.