Is your store harnessing the power of online search engines?
The Internet has opened up a whole new world of connecting with customers, and one of the most important facets is Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM aims to increase traffic to your website by increasing its visibility in search engine results. When someone types “tire shop Your Town” into Google, you want your website to come up in the first page of results.
Successful SEM uses a combination of paid and free tactics to help you accomplish that, including SEO (Search Engine Optimization), a term with which you should be familiar. You can help your SEO for free by having relevant content for certain keywords. But SEM involves other aspects as well, such as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, in which you pay a fee every time someone clicks on your ad. In either case, your keyword strategy is vital.
Think like a consumer
You need to first identify the keywords that are relevant to your business and that your customers are likely to use when searching for the products and services you offer. Fortunately, there are free online tools to help you—try searching “free keyword tools” and you’ll not only get results you can use, but a good example of who’s doing it right, as evidenced by their appearance on your first page of results!
Beyond industry-specific words like “tires,” don’t forget to include in your plans some general purchase-friendly terms as they apply to your individual business, such as “discount” or “free shipping.”
In PPC advertising, your keyword strategy should also include “negative” keywords, which doesn’t mean words that have negative connotations, but rather those that exclude anyone unlikely to actually be looking for your services. For example, if you sell high-performance tires, you don’t want your ads to appear to buyers searching for “discount tires.” They’re not your customers, even though “tires” itself might be one of your words.
Bidding for eyeballs
Once you’ve established highly relevant keywords for your business, you’ll need to bid on them. Bidding involves deciding how much you’re willing to pay each time a potential customer searches a given keyword and then clicks on your ad that contains it; this is your maximum “cost-perclick” or CPC amount. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool is a great resource.
You should by now be convinced that your SEM campaign can’t wait another day. But even if you’re well down the path, many business owners forget that just launching a campaign isn’t enough—to make SEM really work for you, you need to be tracking results and evaluating what is or isn’t working. Google Analytics (GA) is the best platform for that. It will let you know how effective your strategy is including, most importantly, if you’re achieving sufficient ROI.
GA offers a ton of information, which can be overwhelming. As with most things, education is key. There are numerous inexpensive or free online sources to help you make the most of GA, but my favourites are the courses offered by LinkedIn. Hiring a professional consultant is always an option, and can be a good one especially for bigger shops or chains with the budget for it. But there’s always a risk associated with delegating responsibility, as you’re now dependent on the information they provide.
That’s your homework for this issue: if you haven’t embarked on a comprehensive SEM campaign, get to it. If you have, delve into Google Analytics and see what’s available to help you figure out what’s working.