Through my mere six months working in the field of Internet marketing, I have learned a large amount of information and become familiar with an assortment of new software and tools. I have a much better understanding of the role of an Internet marketer, as well as a growing comprehension of the task of Search Engine Optimization. As an emerging member of this field, I have noted a few aspects of higher education Internet marketing that share a level of importance that far exceeds what I previously assumed.
The following are four factors of Internet marketing that I find noteworthy, mainly due to the fact that I was previously unaware of their significance and influence in the field. In this blog entry, I will only briefly explain each of the four, where as each factor has tremendous depth and technical aspects, which will be explored at a later date.
1. The Power of Google in Search Marketing
The continued large-scale use of search engines by consumers has caused a push for a strong online presence by businesses. As businesses strive to be listed on search engine result pages (SERPs), search engines work hard to give their users the most relevant and reliable results. The three main search engines are Google, Bing, and Yahoo, with the market share of Google far outshining the other two.
Search engine rankings report that as of March 2013, Google holds 67.1% of the market share, Bing at 16.9%, and Yahoo only at 11.8%. With billions of searches taking place on Google monthly, it is easy to understand its power in Internet marketing.
Google may have started as strictly a search engine without advertisements, but it has turned into a massive business offering many forms of marketing. Google’s main source of revenue, Google Adwords, consists of a variety of forms of pay-per-click advertising, offering businesses a chance to be placed in front of large numbers of potential new and returning customers.
Another tool, Google Analytics, is used by many businesses to track the actions of visitors on their website or websites. So Google is not only the main search engine used in the U.S., but it also has its own massive system of paid advertising, as well as uses its power to track the movements of users across the Internet. The power of Google in this industry is immense, and this influence can make or break businesses depending on whether a specific set of rules are followed.
2. Search Engine Ranking and Website Strength
Aside from paid advertising, websites also need to rank well in Google’s organic results in order to be seen by the large numbers of potential visitors. The statistics behind what a company ranks in Google’s search results and how many people visit the site are astonishing. Here is a breakdown of the top ten.
Rank – Average Click-Through-Rate
As you can see, if your website is ranked #3 as opposed to #1 for certain keywords, you are missing out on a drastic amount of traffic. If your website doesn’t make the first page of search results, you can imagine how many potential customers will never get the chance to view your business.
Now let’s take into consideration Google’s paid advertising, which is the highlighted links seen above or to the side of the search results. The average click through rate of these paid spots is between 1-4% depending on a variety of factors. Although paid for, this is significantly lower that the 36% we see for the number 1 organic spot. This statistic clearly explains the importance of SEO in Internet marketing.
Now you may be wondering how you get your website to the top of search results, which is exactly what Search Engine Optimization deals with. Google has a complex algorithm, which they apply to search results to determine the order. This algorithm is a big secret in the industry, just as the exact recipe of Coca Cola is heavily protected. If the exact Google algorithm got out, marketers and business would do everything in their power to make their website fit perfectly, ruining the natural and honest search results that Google strives for.
Although the exact formula to Google’s rankings is not known and is constantly changing with each Google update, there has been much experimentation and research into this question. A website’s ‘strength’ seems to be based off of variety of factors, including the size of the website, the amount of natural links pointing at the website, its social involvement, etc.
Before entering this industry, I was aware that Google was a major player in Internet marketing, but I did not know to what extent. I now have a strong awareness of the importance of ranking highly in search engines, and am conscious of the marketing tactics used across the Internet to gain high rankings on the SERPs.
3. The Importance of a Well Designed Website
My first two insights dealt mainly with ranking high on search engines to get potential customers to your site, but what happens when they arrive? It is almost as important to have a clean and well put together website as it is to drive in extra traffic.
When a visitor arrives at a webpage, if they are overwhelmed by excessive text or a poor website, they may simply leave without doing anything. A website needs to be designed to catch as many visitors as possible, without the chance for confusion. We may like to think that people are patient enough to click through a few pages to get to their desired location, but with each page they must go through, you lose more and more visitors.
A way to measure this is by reviewing the Bounce Rate found in Google Analytics, which simply is the number of visitors who visit your website and either leave right away or leave without doing anything. If you are seeing a high bounce rate, you may not be an appropriate site for the keywords the visitor searched. This is especially important when working with paid advertising, since you are paying for each one of those clicks.
Web pages need to be optimized for relevancy in regards to searchable keywords and well designed in order not to lose potential clients. As Robert explained in a previous article, Launching an Online Degree: Where Should I Invest My Online Degree Marketing Budget?, landing pages should be used in order to focus the attention of the visitor and gain as many leads as possible. A landing page is simply a page that is free from large amounts of distracting text and links, and offers the visitor some form of call to action.
4. Continually Changing Nature of Internet Marketing
Over the past six months, I have gained a deeper understanding of how this industry is constantly changing. This is why it is referred to as search engine optimization, because as Google’s algorithm shifts and other factors change on the Internet, we can only continue to optimize websites to rank highly in search results. Anyone who claims to know the future of how this industry in going to change in the next six months is simply guessing. Internet marketers have drastically different tactics today than they did a year ago, and I am interested to see how this industry develops in the next year.
As marketers, we react to the changes, optimize as best we can, and work to stay in line with Google’s rules. The environment of the Internet is exciting due to the fact that it is constantly evolving with new websites, forms of social media, information systems, and tools to help keep individuals organized, informed, and entertained.