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Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) - What is it?
Search Engine Marketing is essentially an art of being able to achieve two things for a web site:

1) Deep indexing of the site. This is simpler terms means being able to get as many pages of the site into the search engine database.
2) Better Ranking of the site. This essentially is the craft of making the site/page rank well for specific user queries.

Are there different types of SEM ?
Yes, essentially SEM is of two types.

In the first, the consultant will have to change the web site ( called search engine optimization or SEO for brevity) for doing proper SEM work.
There after the site has to be continuously interlinked with best of other online resources. This will ensure good editorial listings for the site.
Typically this work takes 6 to 8 months to produce stable & lasting results.

A shorter yet paid way of promoting a site with search engines is Pay per Click(PPC). In this SEM campaign, you can bid on your search phrases & when those phrases are searched, your advertisement will appear on the results page. Once some one clicks on your ad, the bid amount is deducted from your account.

Does SEM help?
A good SEM campaign is a means to an end. It can get your site to rank well for your business search terms. However the sales & revenues on your site are driven entirely by the user experience & the business merits.
SEM gets the traffic. Site has to sell.

What does SEM entail?
To achieve deeper indexing & a better ranking the SEM starts at the level of web design. When one is conceiving of creating a business presence online he has to keep two factors in mind:
User experience in navigating the site.
Spider experience in navigating the site.
These two users will see different pictures of the same site. The human user will see the browser supported, colorful front end. The spider( software, search engines send to crawl the web for information) will see only the text on the site.
So different strategies need to be adopted for each set of users. As web designers are engaged for formulating the site for end users, simultaneously, SEM consultant should figure in to optimize the site for spiders.

What are SEM tools?
The elements that SEM consultants play with to achieve their ends are:
" Text ( most crucial as spiders are image blind)
" Tags( HTML tags are important components in the SEM tweaks)
" Internal linking (The site navigation & links effect the sites indexing & ranking)
" External linking( A site is also known by the company it keeps).

Then there are hundreds of do & don'ts that should be implemented within a site. However, bear in mind that there are no set rules for SEM only 'Best Practices'. This is a very experience specific domain. So your site is promoted as good or as bad as your consultant is.
Another characteristic of this domain is the fact that Search engines keep tweaking around on their ranking criterion as well as technological prowess. Hence an SEM consultant has to be always on his toes with his ears to the ground. A difficult posture to adopt in any part of the world.
This is because there is a very short gap between him & obsolescence. If you are not keyed in, the industry would have moved on, in as short time as a quarter.

When to start SEM
Ideally SEM should commence along with the plan for the web site construction. This is because the results of SEM will be best, if the site has been built base up keeping the SEM principles in perspective.
However most of the businesses come to the SEM mindset almost as an afterthought. This is when their sites have languished in the search engine indexes for a while that they realize the need to start promoting their wares online.
So if you have not undertaken SEM at the start of the web design process, start as soon as possible, for it is not a short sprint but a marathon The results start to show up after a good length of time. Hence the opportunity cost( in terms of lost sales) for a delayed SEM campaign can be huge.

Do all businesses need SEM?
No some sites automatically would rank well. For example .edu, .gov domain sites are given a preference by search engines. Hence most of them would not need SEM Also all non commercial sites which are authorities in their respective domains will fall in this category as well.
SEM is most important for the businesses who sell good/services online or who have a offline delivery model, yet source their inquiries online. Another category are businesses who intend to establish an online brand or beat competition.

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