Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the process of optimizing content and paid growth loops for better visibility in search engines.
You can roughly split it into two parts:
- Search Engine Advertising - creating and optimizing search engine ads (such as in Google, Bing etc.) - i.e. optimizing ad loops;
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - optimizing websites and other content for search engines (and therefore potential customers) - i.e. optimizing mainly content loops.
What Most People Don't Know?
SEO work is optimization work on growth loops. When you stop seeing SEO content and start seeing growth loops, you're halfway there to figuring out how to grow traffic by 100x.
The Most Common Mistakes
The three most common mistakes I've seen companies do is:
- Relying too much on Google AdWords - it's a necessary evil but not a viable long-term way to grow your business (it's auction-based, so, over time everything will get more expensive and your share will increase);
- Not looking at the full loop (funnel) - search ads promise one thing, the landing page another and the product something else;
- Hiring agencies (outsourcing) when you don't even know how to scale a single market.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO consists of making sure that pages can be discovered by search engines (crawling), that the content on the pages is recognized correctly (indexing) and that the content is relevant to the users (ranking).
You should first start by identifying whether there are any technical issues and then move on to content quality and linking (as the content and links are useless when the content can't be read neither by the search engines or humans) which are part of ranking.
Technical SEO Checklist
The cycle should go like this:
- Crawling (page discovery)
- Is there a sitemap?
- Is the sitemap submitted to search engines?
- Can the different languages be indexed as well?
- Are there any crawl errors?
- Are there any 404 errors?
- Is the robots.txt correct?
- Indexing (content discovery)
- Is the meta info there for all the pages?
- Is the structural data (such as rich snippets) there?
- Are the image there together with alt tags?
- Are the headings set correctly?
- Do the HTML and CSS validate?
- Is the content unique to every URL?
- Ranking (competition)
- Is the side loading fast enough?
- Is the site mobile-friendly?
- What's the ranking for the chosen keywords?
Sites such as Ahrefs provide tools for monitoring your (and your competitors') content performance.
If you'd like to have a quick overview of what Google shows without much technical knowledge or any setup then try googling: site:yoursite.com. This will show you the list of indexed pages along with the meta information (such as title tags and page descriptions).
Some of the most common "tools" used are also content and link audits.
- Choose keyword targets (keyword research)
- Divide them to broad categories
- Divide them according to the interest state / intent (awareness, interest, consideration, decision, post-purchase)
- Check for bad links
- Check for incoming links
- Check for outgoing links
- Check links on the competitor sites
Search Engine Advertising
It's a topic of its own and best explained by specialists such as KlientBoost.