Now that we’ve got your viral engine revving by fueling it up with both traditional PR and unconventional publicity stunts, let’s kick things into second gear with an even stronger form of non-viral marketing. Namely, search engine marketing.
These days, appearing in the organic search results for major, high-traffic keywords can be pretty coveted real estate. It can take a lot of time and effort, some tremendously strategic architecture, quite a bit of writing, and tons of caffeine, but the payoffs for a high page rank can be very lucrative.
So don’t make the mistake of thinking it is too expensive to try.
SEM: You’ve Gotta Pay to Play
Once upon a time, I owned an online fitness company called WorkoutBOX. To its credit, we crushed most of the industry juggernauts in organic search results. We were #1 for terms like “workouts” and “exercises” among dozens of other major keywords. As a result we got nearly half a million people on the site every month for free. All of whom were proactively searching for exactly what we had.
Search engine real estate is SO coveted that Google and other smaller search engines started to make nearly all their money by selling ads above and alongside their organic results. This created a new marketing channel called search engine marketing.
These days, those ads get quite a bit more priority on a search page. Specifically because it’s in the search engine’s direct financial interest. Though admittedly these ads are actually pretty solid by themselves in most cases, and not just wasted real estate. As more users click on those ads, the search engines see those ads as more relevant to the users searching for those terms, and they serve that ad more frequently.
In this way, the saying “you’ve gotta pay to play” is what runs the show in today’s world of search engine marketing (or SEM).
“Steal” Your Place at the Table
By paying either a fixed, or fluid, amount of money per click on those search ads, advertisers can “steal” traffic away from the folks who have done a lot more work to get there organically (e.g. via SEO).
Before you start saying “that’s unfair” and throwing tomatoes at me, relax for a moment. It’s not only fair, since one person is paying for those clicks and the other one isn’t, but search engines have bills just like every other company. Ads are one excellent way to pay them.
That’s just business. And SEM not only powers their business, but it can power yours as well.
SEM and Virality
There are four ways that SEM can be a great asset for feeding your viral loop:
- Organic or not, showing up as an option for users searching for a solution to their problem is incredibly powerful. Specifically because it allows you to segment your audience into the users you want to target. For example, if I do SEM for key phrases like “viral marketing” to promote Viral Hero, I only pay for the clicks of people who are proactively searching for information on viral marketing. Which is exactly who I want landing on my site and entering my own viral loop.
- Having your brand appear next to other major brands, or in the top spot of search results, can boost your perceived “social proof” in the minds of visitors. This lends trust. The more those visitors trust you, the more likely they will do what you want them to.
- If your organization has room in the budget, SEM is a far bigger win than SEO (i.e. the process of ranking for keywords organically). Especially if you lack the time or expertise to implement the latter. Even if you rank well for many keywords, you likely don’t have full coverage over all the relevant keywords you want. SEM can help get you that coverage. For a price.
- Search engine marketing scales very well. So many people use Google that brands like eBay spend over $250m each year on SEM. Obviously being a diverse marketplace, they have the luxury of casting an incredibly wide net without over-saturating. You likely won’t be able to scale to this level, but very few companies on Earth really need to.
In a nutshell, search engine marketing can help throw gas on your non-viral marketing fire and become the catalyst for your early growth.
The catch to search engine marketing is that it isn’t always the most cost-effective long-term strategy. As we continue to examine other non-viral sources that can feed your viral engine, we will progressively find methods that increase this effectiveness, both in the short and longer term.
So let’s keep chugging, and fuel up with an advertising platform that’s even more powerful than SEM.
Do You Know Why Social Media is So Viral?
To say virality and social media go hand in hand is an understatement if there ever was one. But do you know the real reason why? And how it can be used to skyrocket your non-viral marketing. Head on over to the next chapter to find out.
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- Viral Communication Marketing – How Apple, MailChimp and Hootsuite Used Hotmail to Inspire Explosive Growth - June 25, 2015