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Search engine results pages (SERPs) are looking a lot different these days.  If you’ve been around in the digital world for a while, you might remember the old days of the “ten blue links”, when Google had standard all-text search results that displayed to anyone who used the relevant keywords. The indexing was updated about once a month, so that it was actually possible to claim at least for a few weeks that your organic (unpaid) listing was number one, number two or number three, etc., and that would have been true for anyone doing a Google search.

Nowadays, the SERPs are crowded with multiple formats, including the usual organic (unpaid) and pay per click text links, but also potentially with news items, videos, knowledge and answer boxes, shopping results, maps and local business listings.  Results are now also personalised to match users’ perceived needs based on factors such as their individual search history and geographic location, so each person may see quite different listings for the same search.

With this amount of competition for visibility in the search results, it’s no longer easy to get your pages into the top positions or onto the first page (at least without paying to advertise).  You should be wary of anyone who guarantees that they can do that – especially if they’re hoping that you’ll hire them!

However, search engines are still very important for businesses that are looking to increase their awareness and customer base.  Trillions of searches are done every year across the world (Google alone processes over 75,000 queries per second), and the vast majority of online buying decisions start with research that involves search engines.  Studies have shown that improving your listing’s position by one placement spot can increase the clickthrough rate to your website by over 30%.  So you can’t afford to ignore search as a marketing tool if you want to be found by people who haven’t already heard of your business, or if you want to stay top of mind with current or past customers when they’re looking for new products or services that you provide.

Of course, there’s quite a bit that goes into successful search engine strategy.  Whether you’re optimising for organic search or paying for sponsored links, you need to have a deep understanding of your customers, and particularly of the words that they might use to find your business or the different pages or content of your website.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that your customers use the same industry jargon or “geek speak” that you do because you’re so familiar with your own terminology.

You also need to pay close attention to the experience that visitors will have when they first see your website after clicking on a search engine link.  People doing searches have many different motivations and needs, but buying something immediately is not often one of them. More likely, they’re in the initial stages of considering their purchase, they’re looking for ideas, information, reviews, or other options.  In these cases, if your page screams at them to “buy now”, they’re likely to be put off and leave quickly. Equally, they may be looking for something very specific that isn’t readily found on your page. Again, they’ll leave – and a lot of fast “bounces” can count against you in the search engines’ estimation of your site.

So there’s much to think about in successful search engine marketing, and many pitfalls to avoid.  But don’t worry - our new lesson has you covered. We’ll explain how search engines work, how to understand the mindset of your customers who use search, and how to balance organic and paid marketing.  We can’t promise you a number one slot, but we can help you on the way there.

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