EN Business Academy: What is Search Engine Marketing?

EN Business Academy helps eventers learn how to turn their love for horses into a viable business. Margaret Rizzo McKelvy, president of equine marketing and management company Mythic Landing Enterprises, writes this weekly series. Have a business question for the column? Email [email protected], and be sure to visit www.mythiclanding.com.

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From Margaret:

Do you have a website? If the answer is yes, are you utilizing your website to its full potential? As you can imagine, a growing portion of the population is turning to Google and other search engines for help when shopping for most anything these days. Need a new farrier? New feed store? New vet? Simply type in your keyword and location into Google and pages of results will pop up. But how do you get YOUR web site to pop up on the first page? This is where Search Engine Marketing comes in!

Search Engine Marketing’s purpose is to boost your online presence. To be more specific, “SEM” is the process of doing certain tasks to try and gain more traffic from the “free” or “organic” listings on search engines to your web site. SEM also utilizes paid tools like Google AdWords and Pay-Per-Click advertising when necessary.

SEM can be a long-term process to reach the top access on the search pages, as the “Google robots” are constantly searching for new content. Once a top listing is attained, it also takes consistency to maintain that position, as Google is constantly changing. Time to reach that position varies depending on the keywords targeted and the size of the market.

So does your business need to invest in Search Engine Marketing? If you’re in a service related sector of the horse world, I would definitely recommend it. We have had a lot of success with SEM for boarding stables, farriers, trailer dealers and even a therapist/life coach. If you’re trying to get people to sign up for your local schooling show series, I would recommend utilizing some of the tools of SEM along with a variety of other marketing tools that we can talk about in the future.

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The Google Analytics interface

If you decide that Search Engine Marketing will help build your business, you have two choices. You can either hire a professional, or you can do the research and try to do it on your own. Given the time commitment that proper SEM takes, my best guess is that you will want to find a professional to help you out. My only word of caution is to make sure that whatever company you go with not only understands your business model, but also understands that SEM is an ongoing process. There are a lot of companies out there that charge a large amount of money to integrate SEM into your website, but SEM isn’t just a one-time thing.

Once you have settled on a SEM company, you will want to work with them to come up with the best keywords that make sense for your business. Are you a boarding business with an open-door policy? Or are you more of a training facility where boarders need to be in a training program? This makes a huge difference in your choice of keywords. “Horse boarding Montgomery County” would be very appropriate for the first facility, but may attract a lot of unsuitable people for the second facility. “Eventing trainer Montgomery County” would be a more appropriate keyword for the second facility.

Just keep in mind that the more specific your keyword choices are, the smaller your audience will be. However, on the flip side, the more open-ended key word categories are often the most difficult ones to climb onto the first page of Google. By keeping a close watch on your Google Analytics, you will be able to gauge how well your key word choices are working.

So what exactly is Google Analytics? In layman’s terms, Google Analytics is a tool that allows you to see how many people have visited your website on any given day. And, more importantly, it shows you how many are unique visitors. While you may have had 137 visits to your web site, only 105 may have been unique visitors, meaning that some visitors viewed your site multiple times in one day.

And even more exciting, it will show you how many people are brand new visitors to your site versus how many people are repeat visitors. It goes into even further detail by telling you the average visit duration and how many pages each visitor opens before leaving your website. And, most importantly, Google Analytics will be able to tell you what keywords visitors are typing in to make their way to your website, as well as what web sites they clicked on that linked directly to your website (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Pretty cool, right?

Special thanks to Tara Shegogue, MLE’s SEM guru, for her help with this week’s column!

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