The acronym SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is all about being found, i. e. about the contents of one‘s published web site, idea, or work being available and accessible to a prospective person or party by means of modern search engines. Myriads of content providers establish platforms throughout the Web, and want to be found by prospective customers. Instead of solely relying on eventually being found by their clients, many service providers also direct their efforts towards acting proactively by attracting visitors to their respective honey pots. Once this goal has been achieved, they try to make the best out of the situation by keeping the visitor attracted, refining their marketing strategies as they go.
Customers: The Human Factor
Once upon a time, the Web, or rather the Net, was all about academic and military contents, routed and served by public infrastructure. However, that was a long time ago. Today’s global networks are dominated by commercial contents, and the underlying infrastructure is owned and maintained by companies and firms, the so-called global players. Not surprisingly, most contents that circulate the Net can be boiled down to dollars, euros, renminbi, and rupees.
As everyone – man, woman, and child alike – is busy and short in time, attention has become as scarce commodity. Companies that try to attract a netizen’s attention and that try to keep it for some time, are therefore hard-pressed, and find themselves in permanent competition with one another.
Types of Marketing: Courting the Customer
Viral- and guerilla marketing are very much alike. Viral marketing is based on the idea of spreading the knowledge of a product or brand in a very subtle, subliminal way. Ideally, the recipient of a message delivered thus does not notice (or mind) its immediate commercial background. Being stirred, entertained, or even amused, the recipient finds the message interesting enough to pass it on to further prospective parties, who, in turn, act likewise. Consequently, a message can be created and injected into the Web with only minimum financial expense, while being distributed quickly and efficiently to the sort of audience that is actually interested in its idea. Viral marketing, being a loan word borrowed from immunology, emphasizes the aspect of exponential expansion of a message, while guerilla marketing is mostly about the subtle display of the message injected into the network.
Newsletters, on the other hand, deal with a means well suited for reaching large amounts of people that are interested in a particular topic or product. Being a proactive means, a newsletter functions as some sort of ping performed by a company, informing its customers, clients and interested parties about news and changes of a certain matter without the recipients having to perform any research themselves. As such, a newsletter is a powerful means to jolly loyal customers. However, newsletters, much like e-mails, often reach people who are not in the least interested in the advertised product, having found their way into the list of recipients by questionable means. Receiving an unwanted message mediates a negative emotion not only about the inconvenience of the matter, but also about the brand or product that is to be promoted. Thus, newsletter senders are well advised to pick the right audience in the first place.
Once the prospective reader is subscribed, blogs and RSS feeds are very much akin to newsletters these days. Unlike traditional newsletters, it usually takes the reader an additional step, the actual subscription, to receive newsfeed messages, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Affiliate marketing makes use of third party advertisement and distribution service providers. For a certain fee, affiliates offer their platforms to redirect traffic to their clients, claiming that the redirected parties be interested in a specific commodity or product range. Various pricing models allow for various ways of charging the client, such as per redirected visitor or per actual conclusion of a contract with the customer. A prerequisite for a smooth course of actions is a proper selection of procurance criteria. In case of the affiliate being a search engine service provider, such criteria are specified as keywords, whereas providers of specific news platforms who set up links and banners to redirect to the client, would be chosen according to their theme, sphere of influence, or reputation.
Search Engines: On Being Found
Everyone is using them. Daily, often hourly: search engines. Although the term ‘search engines’ is given in plural form, this text is mostly about Google Inc., the most important and best known service provider for search engine technology. However, Google does not only provide a well-fed search engine, but also various complementary services, such as news and mail portals, all of which contribute to the ultimate goal of attracting and reaching people. Being a reseller, Google offers most of the information gathered about its users to third parties — for a price.
On the one hand, content providers must keep in mind how texts on websites should be written to satisfy the expectations of prospective readers. Writing as well as well-rounded web design are the key components of keeping a visitor attracted to a site, and are being dealt with in form the aspects accessibility and usability. Apart from formal aspects of composition, the central message of invoking interest in an audience is about trying to think the same way as the audience does. More often than not, website providers stick to their personal preferences and points of view instead of applying an open-minded, customer-orientated way of thinking. As a result, customers don’t stay on such websites for long, and associate the tedious appearance of the product presentation with the attributes of the actual products.
On the other hand, the general high aim of a website is to end up with a high page rank in Google, and must therefore follow certain rules with regard to its format and structure – and this is where the term ‘search engine optimization’ comes into play. Search engine optimization, the technique to optimize a site’s page rank, does not come easily, however.
First comes the wording. As a start, only terms that appear on the respective website are treated as candidates for keywords that can eventually be searched for. Next comes meta data, such as the meta tags of the page and the domain name of the site. Their contents provide additional information that can be treated as keywords. A domain name like ‘apple.com’ is likely to host information about Apple products, after all. Last but certainly not least comes external references. The more third party sites link to the respective site, the more people are effectively interested in the site’s contents, and thus yield a higher page rank than comparable insular competitors.
Words of Warning
The central measurement of success of marketing strategies, such as (but not limited to) the successful sale of a product, comes in form of the term ‘conversion rate.’ In the end, it is the conversion rate that determines whether a marketing strategy and a certain mix of applied factors paid off and resulted in the desired action on part of the customer. Analyzing and keeping track of the conversion rate allows a service provider to verify and refine the current strategy, feeding the results of the present back into future decisions.