Being Visible: Sleeping Beauty, SEO and SEM

If you build it, they will come, or so the movie said. But with so much information out there, it’s important to be visible, rather than languish alone in the dark, like Sleeping Beauty, and wait to be discovered.

By Chastity West. Uploaded to Flickr by caseywest

I mean, it’s cool if that’s your approach to things, but the internet (and, with the above example, feminism), provide effective options other than sitting pretty on your behind.

Research shows that when people want information about a company, they no longer ask their friends. They don’t open a newspaper as their first resort. They don’t even go to the company’s website (a mere 11% might). The top source of information nowadays is online search, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual study identifying whom and how people trust all over the world. Search engines have become “reputation engines,” the study says.

The question is, how will people find you?

There are two ways to be discovered online: organic and paid. Many searchers never venture beyond page one of the results after looking something up online, so it’s important to be up high.

One way to be found is free, woo hoo! All you need is to provide quality and exciting content, have lots of visitors to your site (by promoting it through social media and keeping track of visitors and and trends through Google Analytics – and if an English major can understand it, so can anyone), use tags, and avoid awkward URLs if you can help it. This process is called SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.  Google has a description of how SEO works. This type of search is called organic. That’s a feel-good name for a feel-good process. Plus, a blog for your small or medium business will increase visitors by 55%, a study by Hubspot shows.

The second way to be found is through Search Engine Marketing, SEM for short (SEO is technically a subset of SEM). All it means is that you gotta pay for the sweet life.

With SEM, you can pay to appear very high in search results as a “sponsored search.” Or you can pay to appear in ads next to the search results. Google, for instance, uses AdWords. If someone searches for, oh say, “How can I stop my phobia of math?” then your amazing tutoring center, “We Help You Get Rid of Math Phobia Fast.com!” will appear, matching that person’s search words. Searching and advertising online go hand in hand.

We Google (or Bing, or Yahoo! or Duck Duck Go) to our heart’s content. So it’s more important than ever to be awake and out there when a potential customer is searching for your business or expertise – or for something like it.

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