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Insights from Sam: When Is The Timing Right For a Business to Invest in Online Marketing?

By Erin  |   Online Marketing

Profile Of A Mind

In our “Insights from Sam” blog post series, I ask Sam (our online marketing expert here at Followbright) a question or two about, you guessed it, online marketing. These questions are the most common ones about online marketing that we’re asked here at our web strategy agency.  Each time, Sam shares his insights through simple, easy to understand responses.  Enjoy!


Erin: Is there any way a business can know if they would be a great candidate for search engine marketing? Can they easily tell if the timing is right?

Sam: There are a few things that make search engine marketing viable (or not) right off the bat: budget, competition and existing infrastructure. If the budget is so small that it's negligible in a company’s industry, that could mean that it's not worth jumping in. For each industry there is a certain threshold for being competitive using search engine marketing and the client should be aware of that.

Let's just make up a number and say it takes $2500 worth of advertising for a company to show up against their competitors. If they come in under that amount they will still be able to buy traffic, but maybe those dollars can be spent better elsewhere. If they are working with a smart online marketing agency, their account team should be able to answer that question. Is there a barrier for entry and where are we in regard to that number?

Competition is the second factor. ‘Competition’ can mean you have one competitor and there is plenty of room in the marketplace, or it can mean you have a ton of competitors and they are incredibly aggressive. Mortgages and real estate are examples where a company needs to expect to fight tooth and nail for every lead that they are going to get. High competition industries will face higher cost per lead and the return may be low.

Existing infrastructure is the last major factor in deciding how viable SEM is to a company. Buying traffic in one form or another can be valuable, but it’s only as valuable as where the users are sent. If the overall online presence of a business is in really bad shape, a good agency or a trusted adviser for online marketing needs to be honest about that. Not all websites will convert users at the same rate, and if a client is going to invest time and budget in paid advertising, their agency needs to be clear about whether or not the traffic they are buying is headed to a website that is going to convert users into leads.

So the existing infrastructure that a client brings into the conversation could be a real clear "yes" or "no" search engine marketing is a good idea for you. And again, those may not be questions that a client can answer themselves without the help of a SEM professional.

These are all questions that they can ask very quickly and easily of an existing or potential marketing partner and they should be able to answer them in a straightforward manner.

Erin: Sam, when it comes to Search Engine Marketing, there are A LOT of terms that are thrown around. We’ve got…. SEM, PPC, AdWords, display ads, retargeting, etc.  It can be a bit overwhelming for businesses. Can you share very quickly what the differences between all of these are?

Sam: These terms are all separate, very different things, and it’s important for companies to feel confident about not just whether which one(s) are right for them but if any of them are a good option for them. All of those different products you mentioned fall under the umbrella category of “Search Engine Marketing”.

Pay Per Click, also known as PPC, is, generally speaking, text based ads and when someone is talking about Pay Per Click they are usually talking about Google AdWords, although Bing, Yahoo and plenty of other platforms offer Pay Per Click as a service.

Other Search Engine Marketing tactics, like Display or Retargeting (which is also called Remarketing) are a little bit different. Display ads can be text based, but usually when people talk about Display they are talking about image based ads that are usually shown on content-based websites like blogs, ecommerce or news sites.

Retargeting is a little bit of a hybrid ad offering where companies use technology to anonymously track users who have been to a specific website and show them ads relevant to that website. Those ads are generally image-based, similar to Display ads.

There are nuances to all of those online advertising options, but those are the basic distinctions. Finding out which product is the right solution really depends on what the goals of the business are; how much budget they have and what resources are available to them.

There are cases where Pay Per Click might be a really great fit because it's generally less expensive than the other two options. Display can be great for raising awareness or announcing a new product or service. Remarketing can be a great way to get a second impression or float a promotion in front of a prospect.

It IS important that a business understand the distinctions and gets help deciding between those platforms if they are not 100% comfortable making that decision on their own.

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