In the era of digitization, one just can’t escape from using Google, Yahoo, Bing or any other search engine. Well, not unless you live in North Korea or in social isolation. Can you imagine living without google! Search engines have become a very important part of our daily lives, not just a tool but a basic necessity. Now, you can literally say search engines are the solution to your every question (almost) and it’s right at your fingertips.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a powerful and effective way – when done and managed right – to get your clients, campaigns and content covered by the media. Like any other web user, the first place journalists look for information about a company or product is via a search engine. More often than not, from a PR perspective, the reason your pitch gets attention is due to you or your client showing up at the top of the search results. But first things first, let’s get to down to the basics.
Within the umbrella of SEM is another term often thrown around in digital marketing and PR discussions. It’s what’s known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO and SEM are often confused and mistaken, one for the other. Knowing how they work – together and independently – can make the difference in generating traffic to your website and capturing your target audience and potential clients.
The free way… SEO
These days, SEO has become more “open” and user-friendly such that almost anyone can work on it for free. There are tons of software and tools that can kickstart your SEO journey. SEO in PR is referred to as a process for generating organic traffic to your content from search engines. Organic traffic can be achieved by making them search engine or Google-friendly which gets your web page higher on the list of search results.
Making your content Google-friendly
The easiest way to get that top spot on a list of search results is through the right keywords and backlinks. When you search for a word or phrase on a search engine like Google, it scours the internet for web pages with keywords and metadata containing and/or are related to the searched term.
Backlinko’s What are Backlinks?
Start by identifying the important and expert keywords to your content and remember to check them off a list. Researching for the right keywords can be done with a simple and easy search engine keyword finder like the Free Keyword Tool. The software not only provides you with suggested keywords but also negative keywords, which you would want to avoid!
Wordstream’s free keyword finder
Metadata is another term in SEO that sounds super technical. But it just refers to meta titles and descriptions, packed with relevant keywords to inform Google as to what the web page is about and what the content contains. These are also the first things users see about your company, client or content on the search results page. So, take your time with the keywords to get that first impression right.
Edmonton Community Foundation Metadata on Google’s Search Result
The right and expert keywords can increase the likeliness of your page being shared on your readers’ social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Google and other search engines reward these backlinks by bringing your content up the search results page.
Vox’s backlink to their article on their Instagram Story.
The other side of SEM
The bad news with SEO is that it takes time. Getting your web page to move up the list of search results can take up to six months. This is where SEM, specifically pay-per-click (PPC) ads can save the day. These produce more immediate changes and measurable results to traffic – but at a cost.
SpyFu’s Keyword Tool Ad on Google
Almost all search engine platforms like Google have dedicated advertising spaces, usually at the top. The tech giant earns 95% of its revenues from online advertising spaces which highlight the effectiveness of SEM for businesses and web pages.
SEM for PR?
Unlike SEO, SEM allows businesses and PR teams to bid for these spaces such that they no longer compete with the long list of search results. From a business perspective, SEM drives a cycle of sales where previous consumers can conveniently make repeated purchases while motivated readers become potential consumers. Similarly, in PR, these paid ads make your content jarringly visible to journalists who are researching for a story and are running short on time.
The sales and leads that SEM immediately produces provide you, the PR team, with measurable results which helps in developing and brainstorming processes for future campaigns, budgets, etc.
SEO and SEM are ultimately like Batman and Robin. Batman alone is amazing, but his dynamic and chemistry with Robin makes them unstoppable. Likewise, PR and marketing strategies should be crafted and executed using both SEO and SEM, complementing each other, especially since they target distinct goals and audiences. Only then can you effectively bring in traffic and media attention to your content, a client’s campaign or product.