Turning to the Internet for Success during a Recession – Part 3 – Online Advertising

As with all typical marketing programs, companies feel that they must advertise in every medium to get the word out about their product. With the Internet, this is all done through online advertising.

What exactly is online advertising? Well, you have your typical Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and banner advertising, and there are some other forms as well, including email marketing at times. However, for this post, we’ll focus on SEO and SEM.

On Online Advertising

In an eMarketer.com study conducted during 2008, $13.5 billion was spent on online advertising with a bulk of it spent on search engine marketing. Just how much? Well based on the research, 88% of money spent went to paid search and 11% went towards organic search (SEO). Should these things change in the future, especially during a recession? As budgets tighten and everyone seeks to save money, I would imagine that while search marketing efforts will increase, the focus should not be on throwing out paid search ads. Instead, concentrate on your content and truly understand how search engines notice your site.

As part of an integrated campaign, search marketing should play a crucial role, especially now during the recession. With more people getting online and using search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN Live Search, having your site appear near the top of the page when certain keyword phrases are typed can generate tremendous traffic to your website and can often lead to conversions/purchases. So what steps can you take to make the most out of this?

To navigate the online landscape effectively, start by having a search engine audit for your website. A consultant, based on my past experiences, reviews your site to identify its strengths and weaknesses from a search engine perspective. Afterward, they analyze suitable keywords for your site and assess their competitiveness. The consultant provides valuable insights, including statistics, trends, and reports, to guide your next steps.

There are a few companies that would conduct this audit for you so look them up. The beauty lies in the fact that you can use these keywords for both SEO and SEM placements.


But let’s look at search engine optimization for a second. When attempting to promote your site, the first step is to examine this aspect rather than immediately resorting to search engine marketing and essentially “spraying and praying” that your text ads will resonate with someone and lead them to click on your site.

The debate over whether paid search generates more traffic/conversion than organic search persists. However, it’s logical to ensure your “house is in order” before promotion. This involves ensuring your content aligns with your expectations. Is it specific enough for someone searching certain keywords? Does it provide ample information, or might users be compelled to click further, which is undesirable? Additionally, confirm whether your site adheres to search engine optimization best practices.

The more care you put into your content and your website design/development overall, the better your search results will be.


However, search engine advertising/marketing should not be overlooked. The technology supporting it has evolved in recent years, providing ways to ensure you get value for your money. A key strength of SEM lies in its geo-targeting approach. For instance, if your target audience is on the West Coast of the United States, you can have your text ads displayed specifically for users with IP addresses in that region. This prevents your text ads from appearing for users outside your target area, avoiding unnecessary expenditure on untargeted audiences.

Something else to think about when you’re managing your campaign is the time and effort (and possibly cost) associated with managing this SEM campaign. Unfortunately, you can’t simply choose a keyword, insert your ad and let it run for the duration. Why? Because the keywords are done through an auction-like process. The higher you are willing to bid on a moment’s notice, the greater your frequency of being seen (impressions).

It’s always a state of constant monitoring, but you don’t want to break the bank to be seen all the time. That would cost thousands of dollars (depending on the keyword). One option is to check out a web marketing management solution that may wind up saving you some money overall, like Yield Software. These companies will help you monitor your campaigns and allow you to manage them on your own. So they give you the tools, and you shape its path.

It should be important to note that when you’re looking at the keywords and the bidding price if you have enough content on your site relating to that keyword, you should focus on doing organic search or SEO. The less competitive the word or phrase you’re targeting, the more you should go with SEM.

I once heard an analogy “SEM is like renting your home while SEO is owning your home”. This holds. With a strong SEO strategy, your website/landing page can be the leading “authority” on certain keywords but if you’re only focusing on a temporary campaign or not sure about the effectiveness of a specific page, then you might want to also consider SEM.

However, do NOT think that these are mutually exclusive. These should be woven together to help form a cohesive strategy in driving traffic to your site and when done correctly, can help bring you success during these times.

This is a cross-blog post from Network Solutions’ Solutions Are Power website that I guest wrote. Originally posted on SolutionsArePower.com on April 27, 2009.

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