It doesn’t stand for science, entertainment and opinions or something extraordinary. It isn’t about simian mind melds or strong elemental metals. We are overloaded with acronyms and for the most people, these are just 3 more in an alphabet soup designed to make everything seem more important and mysterious than they actually are.
Many consultants use this tactic to confuse and confound so they can justify the high prices they charge for services you are not supposed to fully understand. After all, when you can’t get sky high fees based on the facts it’s time to baffle them with BS and that for many, is what acronyms are meant to do.
In this not so short article I am going to pull the curtains back and show you what the wizard and his bag of tricks look like and what they actually do. I’ll also offer some advice on what skills you should look for when hiring a consultant for any of these functions
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
The internet is vast and finding anything useful would be impossible if we didn’t have search engines to help us uncover the best of what’s available on any subject we’re interested in. Google, Bing, Yahoo and others troll the net, indexing every page they find so when asked, they know exactly what each of those pages is all about.
Once they know what the pages are about they rank them based on relevancy so if they find a million pages related to English as a seconds language, they can deliver a list of all the pages they found that for that subject. But it doesn’t end there.
Having a million pages rated to any given subject doesn’t mean all of those pages are relaying good information. It doesn’t say anything about which pages are doing the best job answering specific question about that subject. For that the search engines apply unique algorithms that allow them to define which pages are delivering the best (most authoritative), information.
This is where search engine optimization comes in. The object of the exercise is to develop pages that are clearly focused on a specific subject and to then provide the search engines with all the information they need about that page to determine its relative value. You then need to promote and share your expertise with many others so you become recognized as an expert. This is typically referred to as back linking. The combination of these tell the search engines that your pages are more valuable than most and that’s how they get to the top of the search results.
The SEO Bag of Tricks
The bag of tricks for SEO starts with research tools. It is critically important to understand how people search for information on the subject(s) you are covering and this is where the genuine experts really shine. They will uncover the keywords and phrases that are most often used to find the information you will deliver and then help you focus in on those.
Next is the on-page optimization that helps define what each pages is delivering. The expertise in this case is being able to write short and concise descriptions of the page content that is unique to each page and that incorporates the keywords and phrase the page is focusing on. This is also where images and other media are optimized so they too can be effectively indexed by the search engines.
Finally, your pages need off-site optimization. This really is little more than sharing your content across a wide range of other sites that are specifically related to your subject matter. All of these pages then link back to your site, thus the term back linking. The key to doing this well is in matching the relationship of each of these sites to your subject. It does you no good at all to share content about creative writing on a site that focuses on soccer or online games. Your SEO expert will know where to find these sites and how to get you accredited so you can share your content.
Who should you hire?
Beyond the research, none of this is particularly complicated. It is rather tedious though and having skilled assistance can help get it done properly and fairly quickly. Look for someone that has experience in the area you work in. It will be helpful when it comes to writing good content and getting that content shared with the right off-site outlets. If you are going to pay a premium price for this service be sure your consultant has exceptional research skills.
SMM – Social Media Marketing
Let’s start with a quick definition of what social media is. Many people imagine this is Facebook and never think beyond that platform. The fact is, there are dozens of social media platforms and it could well be true that Facebook is not the right platform for your product or service.
Here’s a quick example. You sell home and business security systems. You need to reach both home owners and senior business executives. Facebook is a great place to find homeowners but finding senior business executive there would almost certainly prove fruitless. For the business executive you probably need a platform like LinkedIn. So, the first and most important task is to find the right tool; in this case the right social media platform.
No matter which platform is right for your product or service, the process is the same. You need to identify and connect with your target audience. Engage them in conversations. Earn their trust through your expertise and willingness to provide unfettered assistance. Become a trusted resource rather than are relentless vendor and you will sell them far easier and they will buy more and more often.
Finally, don’t make the mistake of assuming you have to spend advertising dollars to reach your audience. While doing so can add value in your marketing plan it is normally not essential and certainly not the only thing SMM is all about. If all you are is an advertiser you will have missed a major opportunity to build real relationships that become profitable.
The SMM Bag of Tricks
Like SEO, the first and most important tools relate to research. You need to find the right platform first and then you need to identify how to best reach your audience on each platform. This is not a trivial task since failing to get either the platform or the audience right will do nothing more than waste significant time.
Unlike SEO, this research digs into interest areas that become groups or communities on these platforms. People using social media often gravitate to other people and groups that share their interests and it’s those gravitational pulls that need to be uncovered.
It also requires looking beyond the obvious. Someone that might be looking for home security products may also be interested in gadgets or home decorating ideas or even work at home opportunities. Be willing to engage them in areas that are beyond your limited scope and you can create relationships that allows you to introduce those same people to your security products at some point down the road. Be patient – invest in the relationship – you will be rewarded.
Once the research is done you now need to engage your audience and here, the tools are actually the right human resources. Just be aware that you are asking someone to speak (write), on your behalf so they better be the right resource. It requires someone that can be sociable and can represent you in the right light. That resource must do this consistently and they have to be engage in a timely manner. They have to be knowledgeable about your product or service so when it does come time to present what you are offering they can initiate the conversation confidently.
The best parallel to a traditional role would be a sales support person. They are often personable, helpful and while not as knowledgeable as the sales person, they know enough to move the sales process in the right direction.
The final tool in the bag of tricks relates to advertising. With the right strategy, you can effectively advertise on all of the social media platforms in a cost effective manner. Just remember, advertising doesn’t lead. It follows and supports all of your other social activity.
Who should you hire?
In this case the right resource may well be a number of resources so it can be useful to find an effective agency rather than an independent contractor but even here, you do not need to spend fortunes to get the right results. And little bit of time and effort everyday can go a long way. Find a team that is personable, is able to write clearly and effectively, especially in short bursts and can be online and engaged frequently. Look for a team that is able and willing to learn what they need to know about your specific product or service so they can be effective advocates. Finally, look for a team that knows how to track and report both activity and results. Social media can be a time wasting trap when used improperly. Tracking and reporting is one of the best ways to avoid that pitfall.
SEM – Search Engine Marketing
In its simplest form, this is advertising directly with the search engines. You define a set of keywords and phrases that will trigger your advertisement. You define the optimum profile of your audience. You determine how much you want to spend to place that advert and you determine how long you want the campaign to run for. Now you just flip the switch and the search engines take over and begin running your Ad.
That all sounds fairly simple but don’t be fooled. Just being able to define the right keywords and audience is a real challenge. Fashioning an advertisement that will get noticed and clicked presents am entirely different set of challenges. So you are going to need some skilled resources to help you get this done cost effectively but before you set out on this path, a word of warning.
Most SEM programs fail to deliver!
Now that is a very bold statement and one many will argue is simply wrong (especially the folks at Google, Bing and Yahoo), but the fact is, you and I ignore these advertisements far more often than not. The truth is if we notice them at all we are more likely to find them annoying than helpful. We did not do a search to be presented with advertisements. We did the search to answer a specific question and that’s all we’re really interested in seeing. If you want proof of this, just think about your own search habits.
When did you last click on an advertisement you saw on a search page? How often do you notice them? When you can see them clearly marked as advertisements how quickly do you scan past them for the actual results? Are you so different from everyone else or do most people treat these Ads with the same indifference as you?
If you are ignoring them then it is safe to assume most everyone else is doing the same.
Now, let me take a minute to turn this argument on its head?
AdWords and other similar search engine marketing can be very effective. Recognizing that these advertising forms can be very inexpensive, it may not require very many sales to turn a reasonable profit. You simply need to be offering the right product, with the right profit margin, to the right audience and you can be successful. So, do not write off SEM. Just go into it with your eyes wide open and never stop tracking performance and testing alternatives.
The SEM Bag of Tricks
Like the others, this starts with and success is ultimately dependent upon great research. In this case though, it goes beyond simply knowing what the right keywords or phrases are. Like SMM, you need to know about your audience in detail. You also need to know how your competition is using this advertising outlet so you can bid for placement of you Ads without overspending and thus gain a measurable advantage. So, research tools are once again a key ingredient in building an effective SEM campaign.
Then there are the creative tools that help fashion your advertisement. These Ads are sort of like 160 character Tweets. They need to be short attention grabbing bits of copy that capture your audience in an instant and get them to click though to your landing page.
The next tool set helps build effective landing pages and please keep in mind; this is a key to a successful SEM campaign. The landing pages help you deliver a strong sales pitch that can close the deal while helping you track results more effectively.
Finally, you need tools that will help analyze specific results. It would be surprising to get an advertisement working perfectly in the first attempt. The campaign is likely to need some adjustments and you should always be testing even the best advertisements against alternatives. That can’t be done effectively unless you can dig down and understand how each advertisement is actually performing.
Who should you hire?
Let’s start this one with who you should not hire. This is not a job for the person that built your website. They may think they know what is needed, especially when you mention the need for landing pages, but they are unlikely to have the research and marketing skills you will need for this. Yes, you can use an agency where web development is one of their skill sets but do not hire a web development agency.
Do not hire anyone that leads with the statement that they are AdWords certified. Being certified means they have the technical skills to build a program. It says nothing about their marketing skills and that is really where the rubber meets the road.
You can find some very good independent contractors, with excellent track records, that can pull all of the pieces together on this and build an effective campaign for you. Use your web developer for the landing pages and you have the makings of an effective team.
Why Should You Care?
Without a doubt you are going to need the first 2, SEO and SMM, if you are going to turn your website investment into a viable online business. They help your site get found and unless it does get found it will be little more than an empty store.
You may not need to use SEM but it’s still important to understand what it does and why it exists. Even if you don’t use it yourself, it will be helpful to know what your competition may be doing.
So, turn these acronyms into useful tools and enjoy the entire process of building a profitable online presence.
Glen Giuffre is a marketer with 30+ years building businesses both in the real and virtual worlds. He founded World Touch Marketing and provides a leading e-commerce solution through www.e-storebuilder.com. Visit to learn more about him and what the group can do for you.