search engine marketing

SEM, SEO, PPC, CPC..please define

by Jeff Kershner 

I had a nice conversation with someone the other day and we were talking about how it’s so easy to get all these acronyms mixed up. You read an article in one magazine that talks about SEM and the next article you read refers to what seems to be the same thing as SEO. I myself have even been guilty of using different acronyms but not necessarily clarifying with the right terms.

So, I thought I would put together a few of the common acronyms to help clarify. I know these might seem elementary and obvious to many of us but it’s easy to get confused or just forget sometimes.

So lets review;

Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

The term used to describe the technique of preparing your dealerships website to enhance its chances of being ranked in the top results of a search engine once a relevant search is undertaken. A number of factors are important when optimizing a website, including the content and structure of the website’s copy and page layout, the HTML meta-tags and the submission process. This can also be referred to as Search Engine Positioning (SEP). Some companies commonly include SEO under the same umbrella as search engine marketing (SEM).

Search Engine Marketing (SEM):

The act of marketing your dealership website via search engines, whether this be improving rank in organic listings (search engine optimization), purchasing paid listings (PPC management) or a combination of these and other search engine-related activities (i.e. local listings, the new Google local coupon or link development). SEM is not always include SEO, so be sure to clarify this when you are speaking with an SEM vendor.

Cost-per-Click (CPC) or Pay-per-Click (PPC):

This is where an advertiser (or you the dealer) pays an agreed amount for each click a consumer makes on a link leading to your dealers web site. This is also known as “Paid Placement.”

Organic/Natural Listings:

Listings that search engines do not sell (unlike paid listings, CPC and PPC). Instead, your dealer’s website appears solely because the search engine has deemed it editorially important for your web site to be included. There is where your dealers’ website SEO comes into play.

There you have it. If anyone would like to share some thought or comments, please do so.


How will Flash alter the SEO landscape?

By Michael Estrin
News of Adobe’s decision to work with Google and Yahoo to make Flash searchable spread like wildfire. But so far, agencies aren’t sure what this change really means.

When John Romano, a senior web developer for marketing firm Capstrat, sits down to build a website for a client, he worries about a lot of things. But one concern foremost in his mind is whether anyone will see the cutting-edge work his team is tasked with creating. While Romano’s work is the kind clients pay handily for and users love, it’s not the sort of content that is search engine friendly. But that will soon change, as the two leading search engines and Adobe, which makes the tools Romano uses, have joined forces to help make his work more accessible by indexing the web for rich media files. 

For Romano, and many like him, the problem can be summed up in a word: Flash. Adobe’s powerful multimedia tool has become the instrument of choice for interactive agencies eager to deliver fully immersive online experiences that do more than simply hurl text at today’s fickle users.

But while 98 percent of internet-connected desktops have Flash Player installed, few users are likely to find a website rich in Flash.

“Getting Google [and other search engines] to connect users with specific Flash content has been a real problem,” Romano confesses, “and it’s been something the industry has been struggling with for years.”

Since the beginning, search engines have been fixated on text, rather than images or other forms of reach media. The result has been that pages heavy in images and rich media don’t rise to the top of the natural search results, even when they are more relevant than their text-based counterparts. To counteract this problem, digital agencies have employed an array of cumbersome solutions to help users find the more dazzling sites employed by major brand clients.

But the solutions — a patchwork of proprietary fixes designed to boost SEO efforts for Flash-heavy sites — have been far from ideal. Often developers find themselves duplicating efforts in both Flash and HTML, which can be both expensive and time consuming. The announcement earlier this month from Adobe, Google and Yahoo could change all that. At least, that’s the plan. But as is often the case, a barrage of questions followed from the agencies charged with leveraging the latest technology development on behalf of their clients. 

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So how much does Flash weigh?
Mention the words “SEO” and “change” and you’re bound to get the attention of a lot people working in interactive. Little wonder. Being found is the name of the game for anyone working on the web. But the decision to begin indexing Flash has raised the web’s constant question: what does this mean for my business?

According to Google and Adobe, developers using Flash won’t need to make any retroactive changes, and they won’t need to do any special work to make their files accessible to the search engine spiders. But finding the Flash content is only the beginning, according to Ivan Todorov, CEO of BLITZ, an interactive agency that has worked with clients ranging from FX Networks to Lincoln.

“In the long-term, we think this will have a huge impact for the future of interactive,” Todorov says. “But right now, the primary concern is how Flash will be weighed by the search engines.”

Unfortunately for Todorov, that question isn’t one Google or Yahoo is likely to answer because it would mean sharing proprietary information related to their algorithms. While Todorov and others say they would like to be part of that conversation — presumably to argue for giving Flash maximum value — agencies are likely to be kept in the dark where SEO is concerned.

But according to Tom Barclay, senior manager, Flash Player at Adobe, all parties fully expect the Flash developer community as well as SEO experts to develop best practices for optimizing rich media content under the umbrella of an Adobe/Google/Yahoo collaboration.

“Existing Shockwave Flash (SWF) content is now searchable using Google search and, in the future, Yahoo search, dramatically improving the relevance of rich internet applications and rich media experiences that run in Adobe Flash Player,” Barclay explains. “As with HTML content, best practices will emerge over time for creating SWF content that is more optimized for search engine rankings.”

But in the meantime, Andrew Lovasz, director of search marketing at Moxie Interactive, says the change is likely to reorder natural search results where smaller operations were benefiting because their competitors were relying almost exclusively on Flash.

“This is definitely going to raise the barrier to entry,” Lovasz says, pointing out that big brands that are more likely to have Flash-heavy sites can expect to see a rise in their natural search results.

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The devil in the details
While searchable Flash raises the immediate and obvious question of “weighting” rich media as a content category, the truth of the matter is that the search engine ranking debate will always rage, whether the topic relates to text, Flash, video, audio or any other format. But behind the question of how all this newly ranked content will be integrated into natural search results, agencies will still have to grapple with the mechanics of developing for Flash.

“The headline was really nice to hear,” says Cheryl Haas, VP Fleishman-Hillard. “Hearing that Google, Yahoo and Adobe are all working together is a great start, but I think we’re still a long way off.”

What looks like the proverbial flip of the switch — Adobe’s decision to partner with the two leading search engines — in reality raises a slew of technical questions.

According to Lovasz, and many others, Yahoo, Google and Adobe have been long on excitement, but short on actionable details.

As a simple administrative matter, Google has said that it will take several weeks to index the vast amounts of Flash strewn across the web. Yahoo will begin indexing the web for Flash at an undetermined point in the near future. But while the indexing process is underway, Haas says her team has concerns that neither Google nor Yahoo will be able to crawl JavaScript, which is used to execute Flash content. That’s true, according to Google, but the search giant says it’s working on remedying that, and officials at Adobe say they’re attacking that problem as well.

But Haas’ concerns may highlight a larger problem for Adobe and its search engine partners. While agencies have uniformly praised the news, many have expressed concern that the Flash developer community remains largely in the dark regarding the establishment of best practices for building the Flash sites of tomorrow.

For its part, Google admits that there is no established best practices guide that is endorsed by all three companies. However, Google has its own online resource for developers, as does Adobe.

But a lack of communication — perceived or real — could slow the development of a Flash-friendly web, Romano says, and points out that it will be up to the armies of disconnected developers to figure out the mechanics of this latest tool.

“Our technical people have punched a lot of holes in this, and that’s not surprising given the fact that matching Google’s technology with Adobe isn’t easy,” Romano explains. “This is only the beginning of the solution, and it is likely going to take years to solve because it will require developers to ultimately build Flash sites differently.”

But that doesn’t mean that Adobe is operating independently of all developers. Stephen Jackson, CEO of Smashing Ideas, the largest independent developer of Flash in the U.S., says Adobe works hard to communicate changes with a core group of companies that use its products.

“I think a lot of the disconnect here is that there are millions of Flash users out there,” Jackson says. “So working with all of them makes it rather hard to conduct business.”

What will this mean for interactive?
Across the board, agencies do seem to agree that the decision by Yahoo, Google and Adobe to work together will be a good thing for the interactive advertising business. But just how good is hard to say.

What seems unlikely to some is the idea that improved search optimization for Flash will lead to more Flash development. As Haas put it: “You won’t see people building in Flash just for the sake of having Flash; there has to be a reason.”

But improvements in Flash should have an indirectly positive effect on the overall industry, according to Jackson, who says that getting cutting edge content in front of more users — especially from a Google or Yahoo query — should help drive impressions and clickthroughs.

“It all depends on impressions and clickthroughs,” Jackson says. “If this makes that happen, then you’ll see more advertisers increasing their online budgets.”


Yellow Pages and Search Engine Marketing

A couple of questions today. First, are you still running an ad in the yellow pages? Of course you are, right? And you’re also running an ongoing search engine marketing (SEM) program, right? No? Really?

Here’s the thing. Google is well on its way to killing the yellow pages. In my house, we tossed our yellow pages book the day we got a laptop and wireless internet. If you’re not spending twice as much capturing leads online as you are through the big yellow book, you’re probably missing the boat.

Let’s say someone finds you in the yellow pages. They still have to pick up the phone or drive out to your dealership (or visit your website – your web address is on your yellow pages ad, right?), but online they can be out on your site searching your inventory and completing a financing application in a matter of seconds.

It’s a sign of the times and it’s time to adjust your spending accordingly.

D. Jones
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
SmackDabble, LLC

Study: Auto Market Among Top Online Sales Categories

From Auto Remarketing
April 08, 2008

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Despite widespread retail declines across the American economy, a recent study projects an upswing in online shopping for 2008. This includes the auto industry, which analysts predict to be among the top three Internet sales categories.

The State of Retailing Online, a study conducted by Forrester Research, anticipates that online retail sales will increase by 17 percent this year to $204 billion. 

The auto industry is expected to account for $19.3 billion of those sales, which would make it the third-largest online segment behind apparel ($26.6 billion) and computers ($23.9 billion), the report highlighted. 

“From higher shipping costs to changes in consumer shopping habits, online retailers are not immune to the current economic climate,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of

“But the fact that online sales will increase substantially this year demonstrates the resilience of the channel and is a testament to the value and convenience most customers find when shopping online,” Silverman continued.

The study pointed out that as people become more comfortable with the Internet, online retailers must choose between two sales focuses: retaining current customers or attracting new ones.

According to officials, 53 percent of online retailers’ marketing budgets is devoted to finding new online customers, while 21 percent is for customer retention. 

But, many retailers have used search-engine or affiliate marketing as effective retention tools that not only market to existing customers, but bring in new shoppers, as well.

“What’s spearheading online retail sales growth is a tale of two shoppers that visit the Web for very different reasons,” explained Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research principal analyst and lead author of the report. “The casual shopper goes online to look for the best price, leveraging the transparency of the Internet to save money.”

“However, more affluent customers appreciate the convenience of shopping online and are not necessarily looking for the best deal,” Mulpuru continued. “Retailers would be wise to recognize there are significant opportunities within both audiences and should market to them accordingly.”

In order to find new customers, retailers have used search-engine marketing more than anything else. According to the study, 35 percent of sales have originated from that source.

Moreover, 90 percent of respondents stated they use pay-per-performance search placement. Seventy-nine percent plan to make it a greater priority in the coming year, officials stated.

Still, such offline strategies as catalogs and direct-mail have helped retailers convert shoppers to the Internet. What’s more, the study indicated that retailers tend to use those tactics more than TV or newspaper advertising.

According to the study, 65 percent of respondents said they would focus more on social networking resources, while 55 percent indicated they would devote more focus to widgets.

These type of campaigns, however, are thought to be more useful in brand-building versus driving revenue or sales conversion, officials indicated. 

Instead, officials stated, the report recommended that e-mail marketing and free shipping promotions be used to boost sales.

Integrated Paid Search Makes Dollars and Sense

from iMedia Connection
March 31, 2008
by Lisa Wehr

A Record Year for Paid Search Marketers

In uncertain financial times, marketers return to the basics — accountability, flexibility and cost efficiency. These, more than any other online marketing strategies, typify paid search marketing. They also explain the remarkable growth of paid search (pay-per-click, display and other contextual ads). According to AdAge, during the recession of 2001, online paid advertising increased more than 175 percent and another 210 percent the following year.

Paid search has continued to grow and will be particularly active during the next downturn.

Here’s why:

1. Measurable results
Unlike traditional media, paid search marketing can be closely and easily tracked. A click on a paid search ad is a digital event that can be recorded, analyzed and compared to benchmarks and goals. A robust conversion analytics tool helps marketers quantify their goals and see what’s working and where, while looking at trends and the competitive landscape. Advertisers can see at a glance what the return has been on their investment and what factors are affecting these figures.

2. New competitive opportunities
Paid search allows marketers to buy their way onto the first search engine results page for selected keywords with what potential customers might be searching. Research conducted on our company’s clients found a likely increase in site traffic per keyword of more than 500 percent after two months and an increased conversion rate of more than 190 percent. In other words, it levels the playing field with competitors whose sites have established better natural search positions on the search engines.

3. New creative opportunities
Since the advent of Universal Search from Google in 2007, and similar changes from other major search engines, consumers are seeing some very different looking search engine results pages (SERPs). The SERPs might include images, videos, press stories and maps. To help advertisers be seen in this new search environment, Google and others now accept a new generation of PPC ads consisting of more than text, and incorporating a variety of media such as video.

4. Delivering a targeted audience
New geo-targeting and contextual advertising opportunities offer marketers a chance to define and deliver their messages to those they want to reach. Geo-targeting — such as a Midwest ski resort advertising on SERPs related only to Midwest winter travel — makes it possible for marketers to deliver paid ads based on location. There’s little waste. In similar fashion, contextual ads on sites of known interest to a market provide a more targeted and effective approach.

 More for the year ahead

5. Tailoring the message to behavior
The latest generation of online ads can match ad placement and content to an individual’s online search behavior. People who search for restaurants late in the work week might find coupon ads for local weekend dining placed on sites they routinely visit on Thursdays and Fridays. Another person who searches for tennis racquets and later travel bargains might find a free tennis travel case as an incentive in an ad for a tennis resort.

6. Affordable entry into new markets
Expanding into new markets, especially during difficult economic times, is a particularly effective way to stay competitive. For small and mid-size businesses, this type of expansion is critical. Many seeking to expand their reach, as traditional outlets for their goods and services are constricting, have effectively turned to new markets through paid search.

7. More media flexibility
With most traditional media, once an ad is printed, aired or otherwise published, there’s little to be done except watch how things play out. With paid search, keywords, creative and copy can all be adjusted quickly before and during a campaign, if necessary. And paid search can be an effective asset when coordinating traditional media strategies. Test promotional offers, ad copy or creative in PPC ads, then translate the most successful into a traditional advertising campaign.

8. Quick results
There are few online marketing tactics that offer quicker results than PPC ads. In the case of text ads, the turnaround from creative to placement is a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. With good analytics installed, the feedback can be analyzed and the ad creative modified again and again if necessary. And in very short order, the most effective version of the ad can be generating tangible results.

Examples of effective integration

In most cases, natural (SEO) and paid search campaigns perform better together than they do separately. Individually, SEO campaigns frequently prove more cost effective over the long haul, while paid search can provide a more immediate, but less permanent boost in performance.

Using SEO and paid search together builds synergy and greater effectiveness over doing one or the other separately. Greater awareness of a website created by a paid ad can lead to more natural traffic. In similar fashion, people are logically more likely to click on the paid promotional ad of a brand they’ve seen listed in the results.

Recently, my company, Oneupweb, completed a white paper on paid search marketing. As part of this paper, we conducted some research, looking at three different companies and the results obtained by integrating SEO and paid search marketing. With the first client, we found that they were successfully able to extend their usual buying season by three or four months when adding a paid search campaign to their ongoing natural campaign.

A second client was able to increase natural and paid traffic during an already busy selling season by adding a well-coordinated paid search campaign. A third client, who already had a very successful SEO campaign, added a regular non-seasonal series of paid ads, and their combined site traffic showed a steady rise.

These three examples were taken from three very different marketers, in three very different industries. What they had in common was tangible success integrating paid and natural search.

The essentials of integration

So how do marketers go about integrating their natural search presence and paid search into an effective marketing plan?

Here are a few tactics to consider:

1. Use consistent strategies, themes and graphics
Marketing strategies should logically evolve from a marketer’s goals; campaign themes need to work together and, when necessary, effectively stand alone. Each component should share common graphic elements rendering a strong family resemblance recognizable wherever it appears. This is done by establishing and applying graphic and copy standards.

2. Establish a consistent message
Corporately, this message should already exist as part of a marketer’s branding strategy. Is it “the fast, affordable source,” or “the resource for customized work”? Each new campaign can have its own message, one offer building on the next and cross-promoting each by repeating messages and promotions that have proven effective.

3. Use similar keywords
A marketer’s website should include keyword-rich copy that has been optimized. Create and test new keyword phrases being used by customers. Wherever practical (i.e., the costs for these terms are not too excessive), use those same keywords for paid search campaigns.

4. Create a complementary media mix
Public relations efforts and website content should support ads and promotions announcing new products before the ad campaign breaks. Catalog promotions should dovetail with PPC offers. Even customer service email campaigns can support advertising messages by touting new product lines or services.

5. Make sure the media fits
A media mix should reflect a company’s marketing strategy and be appropriate to what it’s selling, its target audience and sales season. During the holiday gifting season, for example, it may be appropriate to sell computer games on some sites of interest to adults 40 and over; however, there would be considerable waste during the rest of the year when teens and younger adults are more likely to do the buying.

6. Coordinate campaigns offline
Look at tying paid online advertising campaigns to offline advertising efforts. Specifically, in print ads use similar graphics, headlines and offers to those used online; list landing page addresses where consumers can get specially coded coupons or product-specific information and promote separate phone lines leading into central call centers for tracking.

7. Be responsive to inventory
Coordinate promotions with the company inventory and sales calendar so that potential sales aren’t lost because the items referenced are not in stock. Monitor internal inventory and adapt promotions accordingly. For major seasonal sales promotions, plan campaign integration efforts a full six months in advance. There may be a large list of items that could and should be promoted, and each might have its own set of time and approval parameters.

8. Look for “upsell” opportunities
Marketers’ websites should include an “also purchased” or “related items” list of products frequently purchased with such products (i.e., the rechargeable battery pack with their mobile device, the color-coordinated sweater that goes with the blouse, etc.).

Overall, it should be a relatively good year for online marketers — particularly those who plan, use and integrate paid and natural search.

SEM increases as spending continues against gloomy economy

From Digital Dealer
Volume 3, Issue 13
March 27, 2008

Search engine marketing (SEM) spending exceeded projections in 2007 and, based on survey responses by marketers and agencies, the search marketing industry will exhibit continued growth, according to preliminary findings of the 2007 State of the Market survey by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) released at the Search Engine Strategies conference.

While the numbers appear strong and reflect a desire for marketers to continue to spend on search, the survey can’t estimate the result of a shortage of searches caused by a major economic downturn. However, a critical finding is that search marketing spending is increasing at the expense of print magazine advertising, Web site development and other marketing functions, as marketers shift the portions of their spending pie, following consumers as they increasingly rely on search engines to conduct pre-purchase research.

The online survey by Radar Research was completed by 867 search engine advertisers and SEM agencies and administered via IntelliSurvey Inc.

Key Findings:

  • The North American SEM industry grew from $9.4 billion in 2006 to $12.2 billion in 2007, exceeding earlier projections of $11.5 billion for 2007.
  • North American SEM spending is now projected to grow to $25.2 billion in 2011, up from the $18.6 billion forecast a year ago.
  • Marketers are finding more search dollars by taking budget monies from print magazine spending, Web site development, direct mail and other marketing programs.
  • Paid placement captures 87.4 percent of 2007 spending; organic SEO, 10.5 percent; paid inclusion, .07 percent, and technology investment, 1.4 percent.

“The spending statistics show search engine marketing continues to prove its worth in the larger marketing arena. However, in light of the concerns about the overall economy, it’s important to note some of this spending is the result of shifting marketing dollars from other offline and online marketing endeavors,” says Jeffrey Pruitt, SEMPO president and executive vice president, corporate partnerships, iCrossing.


The 2007 survey showed an increase in North American SEM spending projections from $18.6 billion to $25.2 billion. According to respondents, the drivers behind this higher estimate are advertiser demand, rising costs of keywords and pay-per-click campaigns, an increase in the number of small- to mid-sized businesses using SEM, greater consumer participation in search and increased interest in targeting, such as behavioral and demographic targeting of searchers.

Fewer advertiser respondents in 2007 reported an increase in paid placement prices than the previous year – two-thirds compared to almost three-quarters in 2006. However, a key finding is that as with last year, approximately 75 percent said they could tolerate further rises in paid placement prices, and as last year within that 75 percent the respondents are approaching a spending ceiling – more than half want those expected price increases to be 30 percent or less.

“While CPC price inflation has slowed, marketers are finally beginning to recognize the value of search, and we expect search prices will hold and may even continue to move upward based on survey data,” says Gordon Hotchkiss, SEMPO chairman and president, Enquiro Search Solutions Inc.,b4TSprpk

Top Spots in Search Listings — Organic or Paid — Prove Key for Branding

From Marketing Vox, 12/11/07

There is significant correlation between brands’ appearing in the top organic search and sponsored placements, and consumer brand affinity, recall and purchase intent, according to results from a Google-sponsored eye-tracking study published in a whitepaper, reports MarketingCharts.

The study by eye-tracking firm Enquiro sought to determine how the placement of search listings and sponsored search ads affect consumer brand perceptions.

Using Honda as a test brand and “fuel-efficiency” as a brand attribute, the study focused on consumers early in the purchase process who had not yet selected a car model.

Among the key findings of the study:
Lift in brand affinity: Online consumers who saw Honda in the top ad placement and the top organic search result were 16 percent more likely to think of Honda as a fuel efficient car than when the automaker’s brand didn’t appear on the page at all.

Lift in brand recall: Online consumers were 42 percent more likely to recall Honda if the company appeared in both the top ad placement and the top organic search result, rather than just the top organic listing.

Lift in purchase intent: When Honda was featured in both the top ad and top organic listings, purchase intent for Honda increased 8 percent. However, other automaker brands absent from the page suffered a significant decrease in purchase intent – 16 percent.

Additional insights are available from the Enquiro whitepaper, “The Brand Lift of Search” (reg. required).

About the study: Using Honda as a test brand, the study sought to quantify the branding impact of differing Honda listing placements on the search results page. The experiment was conducted using subjects 25 years and older who were considering the purchase of a new car within the next year. Users performed a search for “fuel efficient car” and the search results appeared in five different variations: a Honda-branded listing in top ad position only, top organic position only, both the top organic and ad positions, side ad position only, and not at all (control group).

Enquiro measured eye fixation on the Google page and also surveyed participants to evaluate the search experience’s branding effect on each of the five consumer test groups.