As an internet marketer, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to the methods that you can employ to advertise. There are scores of them and each one has its own set of pros and cons. But it’s important that you have an overall picture of the marketing environment because it helps you categorize the options available and understand the strengths and pitfalls of each before you draw out your marketing strategy.
Let’s examine the two major areas namely, Search engines and Social media.
Search engines are unarguably the primary marketing avenue due to their sheer global reach. It is the first stop for people looking for anything under the sun. The global coverage of search engines is 92% which means that 92 out of 100 people on the web use them. This market is dominated by Google (65%) followed by Yahoo(12%) and Microsoft Bing(10%). Digging further, marketing options on the search engines are broadly two – SEO and PPC.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
These are the organic results based on the user’s search keywords and is based on a number of factors both on your site as well as off your site. Though it takes considerable effort to get your site optimised for search engines and get on top, nothing gives better exposure to your business if you achieve this. You’re not paying the search engines to get this listing since you’ve reched there on merit so to speak. The best part is this can be used to laser target your market based on geography and timing.
PPC (Pay Per Click)
The faster way to get on top of search engine listings is to use sponsored advertising in which you pay for your Ads. This could be either PPC where you pay everytime a user clicks on your Ad or PPM where you are charged for a specified number of times your Ad is shown on the search enigne’s content network. PPC is far more effective than PPM since it is targetted to an audience who is actively looking for products and services. PPM Ads are placed on websites which have content related to the Ad that you have and so the user might not be actively seeking for them.
Which brings us to the next big marketing medium which is literally exploding the web and giving a serious challenge to the search engines in the battle for marketing medium supremacy. Yes, the booming world of social media.
Statistics show that people frequent and spend more time on social media than search engines or even their emails. But have this translated to them being a viable alternative as a marketing medium? The answer is a resounding yes. The attraction of social media is that it provides a platform for like-minded people to gather which generates a sense of community. The viral nature of the connection between individuals and groups gives this medium an incredible amount of power. Added to this is the possibility of targeting the market based on demographic factors like age, gender, likes and dislikes, company or even social status is something the search engines cannot claim to.
Facebook with over 500 million users worldwide is head and shoulders above the comptetition in this field. Other big players in this niche are MySpace, Twitter (micro-blogging site) and LinkedIn (more targeted to professional networks). Most of the social media do have paid advertising (PPC/PPM) as well but it works more like the content network attached to the search engines. But this is rapidly changing which is why it presents such a potent challenge to the search engines.
Blurring of boundaries
That said, the distinction between the search engines and social media are getting more and more blurred as the respective players are filling the missing gaps in their portfolio. This is exemplified by Google’s acquisition of the video sharing site YouTube which broadens their video search capabilities and the Web 2.0 features plus their venture into the social media with Buzz.
The key is to coordinate your search engine optimization and social media, creating the maximum synergy between the two through an integrated approach. Not only does search engine optimization help you promote your website, it also helps you promote your social media content. Your website and your social media together constitute your web presence, and search engine optimization helps you to market your overall web presence. And conversely, social media helps your search engine optimization efforts with the off page factors discussed earlier. To conclude, both search engine and social media are indispensable to your internet marketing strategy and you’ll be missing out on a huge market if you overlook either of them.
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