As a VP candidate once famously said, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m Rick DeJarnette, and I’ve been with the Live Search Webmaster Center team since fall, 2008, learning the ropes, helping with writing and editing work on both the tools Help system and the blog. I have a long and advanced technical writing background, focused on both IT Pro and end user topics. I’ve been involved with web technologies since the mid-1990s, and have always had a particular passion for helping people get more out of technology to improve their lives. I was recently given the opportunity to develop a new series for the blog, oriented toward search engine marketing (SEM) for novices, with a particular focus on search engine optimization (SEO) topics, and I immediately ran with the idea!
My goal for this series is to help folks who suddenly find themselves responsible for promoting their organization’s website. I’ve seen many visitors in the forums who ask basic questions, so I know there is an audience for this line of articles. I personally know many folks in my life outside work (there is such a thing, right?) who manage websites for their businesses but know little-to-nothing of SEM. Here are a couple of examples of my intended audience:
- Small business owner. Think of someone like a long-time bed and breakfast owner, who knows her business inside and out. She understands that her business today is greatly dependent upon a successful online presence. Perhaps she once had decent web development skills from a prior career, so she understands basic web technologies. Most of her successful, local competitors have websites, but she can’t understand why she is not getting better value, higher ranking, or more business from her own site.
- Business professional. Then there’s the guy who was initially hired to be a marketer/writer, but was then asked to improve the visibility of their corporate website. This employee knows basic HTML coding, and certainly knows how to write a good press release. However, knowledge of SEM had never previously been a requirement, but now success in his job requires this skill.
These sample personas actually represent everyone who delves into SEM for the first time. The particulars of this audience will be diverse in origin, but they all share the same issues and questions. What do I do? How do I start? What’s helpful and what’s not?
When people first look into SEM, they are usually overwhelmed by new concepts, new jargon, new technologies, and the fact that there is usually an assumed level of technical knowledge that they don’t have and lack the time to learn (they’ll often tell you they’re too busy trying to run their business to devote time to the website!). As a result, they either hire a consultant to “make it work,” or if they are DYIers, they spit out some basic HTML code and call it a day. But unless the person doing the work knows the right strategies and tactics, these efforts are often only marginally successful. Let’s change that.
Topics to be covered
I want to orient these folks and others in similar situations (that would be you, my dear reader!) to what SEM is and why it is important. I will show you the particular steps you‘ll want to take to improve your website’s structure and content, and discuss other technical details to make your site more usable and more compelling to users. As a result of these optimizations, your site will also become more visible to users by showing up earlier on relevant search engine results pages (SERPs). This increased visibility will help it draw more qualified visitors, whom you can convert, with the aid of strong, compelling content, into new and repeat customers.
I’ll also go into successful search engine marketing strategies, such as relevant Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising campaigns, that can bring an even higher number of highly qualified visitors to your site, which usually translates into more customers. Lastly, I’ll touch on the concerns about over-zealous optimization techniques and why, in the long run, they will be more detrimental than helpful.
To enhance this new blog series, our forum is has added a new section dedicated to SEM issues. This new forum, called Search Engine Marketing and Optimization, is intended to be a place for a community of users to exchange ideas and strategies on what works, what doesn’t, and even suggest topics of interest for future SEM 101 columns (although I already have a long list of topics to cover!). Be sure to check it out!
There’s a lot to talk about. Look for new SEM 101 blog posts on a regular basis. Coming up next: What is SEM and why does it matter? Until next time…
– Rick DeJarnette, Live Search Webmaster Center