One doesn’t need to know anything about search engine marketing (SEM) or search engine optimization (SEO) to know that it is popular. SEM is one of the hottest buzzwords in business right now and for good reason. I think that solid, well-managed SEM is incredibly valuable to any business or entity in the digital space and that the lack of SEM is and will continue to become increasingly detrimental to any business hoping to have a successful, rich web presence.
The increasing popularity of SEM is not surprising. Nowadays, it is hard to find any business (especially a successful business) that does not have some sort of web presence. Most businesses not only have a website – they have a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, a LinkedIn, a company blog, a consumer community forum, a Pinterest account – the list goes on and on. Solid SEM provides visibility and reach for all the different web presences modern-day businesses must maintain by managing and optimizing the way that the business’s websites are processed by search engines – the online behemoths that the majority of web-goers rely on to find content online. Through managing, testing and optimizing keywords, links, meta-data and certain parts of a website’s code that search engine crawlers take into account – a business can bump themselves above their competition and other websites in search query results. Why is this important? This graph from the Internet Systems Consortium, which shows the growth of unique hostnames on the Internet over time, should provide some insight.
There are more websites available to Internet users today than ever before and millions of new ones are added each day. How are users then able to sift through the countless millions of irrelevant sites to get to the few that they are looking for? The answer lies in search, which is why SEM is so crucial and so popular today. The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by SEOmoz states that “the percentage of Internet users who use search engines on a typical day has been steadily rising from about one-third of all users in 2002, to a new high of 59% of all adult Internet users.” If businesses are not taking the steps to manage and market their websites in terms of SEM, they are most likely failing to reach their demographic since such a large portion of Internet users use search to navigate the web.
The Beginner’s Guide to SEO also spells out another reason why SEM is so popular today with the statistic that “the total average CTR (click-through-rate) for first ten results was 52.32% for Google and 26.32% for Bing.” If a business’s website isn’t in the top ten search results for relevant keywords, it is unlikely that potential customers are going to discover and click through to that business’s page as the result of a search query. If a business does not show up on the first page of a given search query, the chances of a potential customer clicking through are abysmal (A 2011 study by ChiTika Insights – an online advertising network – showed that only 6% of people click through to a link showing up in the second page or later of a Google Search result…http://www.gravitateonline.com/google-search/2nd-place-1st-place-loser-seriously)
Sure, SEM and SEO may be popular buzzwords and marketing practices now, but how will they fare in the future? My bet is that SEM will continue to become more and more necessary for businesses, but that the field will change quickly as technology advances. One big change that I think we are guaranteed to see will be increasing competition within the search industry. Google currently has a corner on the market but I think that will change in the years to come as social networks venture into the arena of search. The rapid expansion and increase in popularity of social networks like Facebook and Twitter has resulted in these companies having massive amounts of data on their users. Facebook alone has over one billion users and processes over a billion search queries a day. I think that these sites will develop more advanced search mechanisms and that search will become more important to their business models.
Here is a very interesting article that discusses Facebook’s recent hashtag integration and the implications it will have on search and SEO: http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/how-facebooks-new-hashtags-will-change-the-seo-game/