Understanding Digital Marketing
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Understanding Digital Marketing

A Complete Guide to Engaging Customers and Implementing Successful Digital Campaigns

Damian Ryan

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eBook - ePub

Understanding Digital Marketing

A Complete Guide to Engaging Customers and Implementing Successful Digital Campaigns

Damian Ryan

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About This Book

Gain essential grounding in SEO, email marketing, social media, content marketing, performance marketing and much more, with this practical and essential guide to digital marketing. The world of digital media is constantly changing, as technologies continue to transform the way we interact and communicate on a global scale. In this climate, Understanding Digital Marketing provides a practical, no-nonsense guide to digital marketing, from strategy and digital transformation to best-practice basics and trends, packed with clear and informative case studies and examples.This fifth edition of the bestselling Understanding Digital Marketing is fully updated to reflect the latest global developments in the industry including martech, consumer data and privacy considerations, influencer marketing and voice marketing. Complete with first-hand accounts of what success in digital marketing looks like, this book is an essential resource for practitioners and students alike. It is now required reading for more than 100 universities and colleges, and has received endorsements from Harvard University, Hult Business School and the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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Information

Publisher
Kogan Page
Year
2020
ISBN
9781789666021
Edition
5
Subtopic
Marketing
04

Search: Being found online

Our chapter pledge to you
In this chapter you will discover answers to the following questions:
  • Why is search important?
  • What is a search engine, and how does it work?
  • How big is search?
  • How do I optimize my website for the search engines?
  • What is paid search marketing and how does it complement SEO?
  • What is black-hat SEO and why should I avoid it?

Search: still the online marketer’s holy grail

When the first edition of this book was published in 2009 I called search the online marketer’s holy grail. Back then search was essentially the panacea that, if harnessed effectively, would drive sustainable waves of targeted traffic to your website and, ultimately, generate more revenue for your business. For many businesses it still is.
Our digital consumption habits are constantly evolving. When writing the previous edition of this book in 2016, social media was driving an impressive amount of overall traffic to sites, but just a year later Google passed Facebook as the top referral traffic driver, and search once again overtook social (Protalinski, 2018). According to Search Engine Journal, around 93 per cent of all web traffic comes from search engines (Davies, 2018).
It is important to remember that visitor volume is only part of the equation when it comes to choosing an effective platform for marketing your business. When it comes to getting your information in front of a highly targeted audience at the precise moment when they are looking to buy your products or services, search engines still reign supreme. To discount their importance to your online business based on the fickle barometer of online ‘buzz’ would certainly be a mistake.
In Chapter 3 we discovered how your company’s website forms the hub of your digital world. Your website is much more than a shop window to a huge and growing global marketplace: a well-designed and implemented website is a place where you can interact with your customers, a virtual meeting place where you can do real business, with real people, in real time. The commercial potential is, quite simply, unparalleled.
But if you are going to realize even a fraction of that potential then you need to make sure that people can find your site. Even in this age of rampant online engagement, peer recommendation and reviews, the way that the vast majority of people find the things they need online is by typing a phrase into that little empty box on the home page of their favourite search engine.
On the internet there is really no such thing as passing trade. The chances of a potential customer stumbling across your site while randomly browsing the web are approaching negligible. That means your visitors have to learn about your site from somewhere else: by word-of-mouth recommendations (online or off), through conventional advertising and branding channels, by following a link from another website, or (and still by far the most likely scenario) by clicking on a link in a search engine results page (SERP).
Think about the way you use the internet. Where do you go when you are looking for information, products or services online? If you are shooting the virtual breeze with your friends you head for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but if you’re trying to find something specific you are much more likely to head for your favourite search engine.

About the engines

Why is search engine marketing so important?

In 2019, over US $55 billion were spent on search advertising, with spending expected to surpass US $86 by 2023 (Statista, 2020a). Why spend so much?
Simple: because search engines give those businesses a prime opportunity to put their products, services or brands in front of a vast and ever-growing market of prospective customers at the precise time those customers are looking for exactly what the business is selling. That is a pretty evocative marketing proposition – especially when you consider the volumes involved.
Google accounts for the greatest share of the search engine market by a long way. In May 2020, it accounted for 92.6 per cent of all searches, while Bing accounted for 2.61 per cent, Yahoo 1.79 per cent, and Baidu 1.16 per cent (Statcounter, 2020a). It is estimated that Google processes approximately 70,000 search queries every second, translating to 5.8 billion searches per day and approximately 2 trillion global searches per year (Prater, 2020).
Some important points to note:
  • Since mid-June 2019 more searches have been made via mobile than desktop. Up until that point, they were more or less equal (Statcounter, 2020b)
  • The first five organic results of a search account for around 67.6 per cent of all the clicks for a search query. Results six to ten only account for 3.73 per cent of clicks (Sarcona, 2020).
  • 36 per cent of SEO experts think the headline or title tag is the most important SEO element (Dopson, 2020)
  • Updating and republishing (in other words, optimizing) old blog posts with new content and images can increase organic traffic by 106 per cent (Vaughan, 2019)
  • 45 per cent of internet users use voice commands or voice search each month, so it’s vital marketers think about the relevance of SEO for voice (Kemp, 2020)

How do search engines work?

It is important to understand at this point that search engines are interested, first and foremost, in delivering timely, relevant, high-quality search results to their users. The search engines are constantly researching, developing, testing and refining ways to enhance the service that they provide – looking to optimize the relevance and quality of the results they serve back to the user on every single query.
The rationale is simple: the better the search experience for the user, the better the reputation of the search engine and the more users it will attract. The more users a search engine has, the more alluring it is to advertisers, ergo the more ad revenue it can pull in.
Putting users first makes search engines richer… and that makes search engine shareholders happy. In that respect the internet is no different to traditional marketing channels like commercial television, radio and print publications. It is the viewers, listeners and readers that these channels look after first – because it is the audience that brings in the advertisers. Without an audience, they have no advertisers, and without advertisers they have no business.
From a marketer’s perspective the search engines’ constant quest to improve the search experience for users is something of a double-edged sword. Yes, it means that the best search engines have a bigger pool of potential prospects for your paid search advertising and your organic SEO efforts. But equally, the fact that things keep changing makes the process of optimization a continuous, uncertain and labour-intensive process.

Scouring the web

To deliver accurate, relevant, high-quality search results to their users, search engines need to gather detailed information about the billions of web pages out there. They do this using automated programmes called ‘bots’ (short for robots) – also known as ‘spiders’ – which they send out to ‘crawl’ the web. Spiders follow hyperlinks and gather information about the pages that they find.
Once a page has been crawled by a spider, the search engine stores details about that page’s contents, and the links both into and out of it, in a massive database called an index. This index is highly optimized so that results for any of the hundreds of millions of search requests received every day can be retrieved from it almost instantly.
It is a mammoth task. While no one knows the real number of unique web pages out there, and search engines typically don’t publicize the size of their indices, estimates do exist. To give you an idea of just how big the web is, in June 2020 the size of Google’s index is estimated to be around 61 billion web pages (WorldWideWebSize, 2020).
Search engines do not index every one of those billion URLs, of course. Many contain similar or duplicate information, or are not really relevant to search (think of a dynamically generated online event calendar, for example, with links to ‘next day’ and ‘previous day’ – in theory you could keep clicking forever, but only pages containing event information are of any relevance in search results), so some don’t make it into the index.
The list of results for any given search query, which often contains many millions of pages, is then run through the search engine’s complex ranking algorithms: special programs that use a variety of closely guarded proprietary formulas to ‘score’ a site’s relevance to the user’s original query. The output is then sorted in order of relevance and presented to the user in the SERPs.
Search engines process a huge volume of searches, scanning billions of items and delivering pages of relevant, ranked results in a fraction of a second. To the user the process seems quick, straightforward and seamless; but there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

Optimizing your site for the engines

To many, SEO appears to be something of an arcane art. It is a world that is shrouded in high-tech mystery, a complicated world full of secrets that mere mortals haven’t a hope of understanding. One of the best places to start for tips on improving you...

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