Search engine optimization. SEO. Search engine marketing. SEM. Social media. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Blogging.
Welcome to the Justin Biebers of business. You may not know what these terms and names really are, or why they’re important. You may have even already decided you don’t care and you’re sick of all the talk. But it’s hard to get through even one day without hearing these names mentioned somewhere, and without realizing they’re making a whole lot of money for someone.
But should you be paying attention and getting them working for you? Can they benefit your company? Can they help you make some of that money? Can they really sing and dance without messing up their hair? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Whether your company is in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador or in Santiago, Chile, SEO and social media can propel your business into world markets. Even if your focus is strictly local, you can still derive lots of benefits from some strategic planning and activity. But before talking about any kind of strategy, it’s important to at least understand what the basic terms mean.
So let’s break them down to one paragraph each. These definitions are by no means complete, but they should quickly give you a good general idea of what’s included:
Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO optimizes your Website so that it places as highly as possible in search engine results pages for the keywords or search terms that people use when looking for your company’s services or products. This is done by making your Website content and page structure easy for Google, Bing and other search engines to analyze, so that they recognize you as having something of real interest to searchers. It also involves building links to your site from other Websites that the search engines trust, which gives credibility to your status as a Website worth finding and trusting. Generally, the more traffic you bring to your Website, and the more trusted and plentiful those linking sites are, the more credible and highly rated you will be. Again, hey that’s a very basic definition, but it gives you a good starting point for understanding what search engine optimization is.
Search engine marketing (SEM)
Everyone differs on how to define SEM, but at its simplest, it includes the optimization practices mentioned above, plus pay-per-click (PPC) ads and sponsored placements. To help make the difference more clear, and at the risk of oversimplifying, SEO is a company’s efforts to make its listing appear in the regular or “organic” results. SEM, on the other hand, is those efforts, as well as the purchase of any ads at the top or to the right of those organic results. Again, we’re leaving out quite a bit of detail here, but this should give you a decent overview of what people mean when they use these terms.
This is a general term to cover Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, MySpace, and the hundreds of other places out there where you can create your own space and share content. As opposed to traditional media, where millions of us sat and watched, listened or read what the media was saying, we can now become the media, creating content that others can watch, listen and read. Even better, we can all share back and forth, commenting and building on what we each create, making this a very social media. Never before in history could a student or senior sitting in St. John’s or Shanghai make a video or write a blog that could be instantly seen around the world, for virtually no cost at all. Social media can make broadcasters of us all, and opens each of us up to the world’s marketplace.
For centuries people have kept journals, or diaries, or logs. They could be just personal thought and reflections, or daily summaries of work accomplished or the results of experiments and efforts to create something new. As the Internet or “Web” came into being, it was inevitable that many people would start publishing those logs online. They gradually went from being called online journals to Web logs, and eventually blogs. With the added ability for people to comment and then spread the word to others through Twitter, Facebook and other social media, blogging became increasingly valuable as a means to promote ideas and businesses, and draw traffic to a Website.
So there you have the basic definitions. One more very important point to know though is that these marketing vehicles really work. My home territory is St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. St. John’s is a small city by global standards, with a population of about 250,000 people within an hour’s drive. It’s a nice little market. Amazingly, a St. John’s SEO and social media initiative can make a company here visible in world markets for the same or less money than traditional print, radio and TV advertising could take them into just our nice little market.
It’s a whole new show, as Justin Bieber himself will tell you. He was discovered not by hiring an agent or a promotional team. He just created his own videos and put them on YouTube. With no money or training and no special equipment, this teenager became a social media player, a global marketing success story, and very rich. A quality product or service, and the right SEO and social media activity, make it possible for you to be a player too.