Posted by: Ryan on: 12 Oct, 2009
The food producer’s ultimate guide to doing business online – Chapter 3:
Search Engine Marketing For Food Producers & Food Products
by Ryan Montague – Founder and CEO
October 12, 2009
In the last 2 chapters, I talked about how the web should be used for food producers – as a tool for growing all channels of your business (online and offline), not just for online sales – and now I will touch on how to reach your target end-users through search engine marketing. I will outline the pros and cons of each type of search engine marketing (SEO and Pay-Per-Click) so that you can implement the methods that match your needs, budget, and goals. For reference, here is a quick glossary of terms and acronyms you may often encounter when considering and researching Search Engine Marketing:
SEM: Search Engine Marketing. The general form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization. Implementation of best practices and guidelines so that Search Engines will recognize and rank your website in the natural/organic listings according to site content, keyword rich content, links, and other website functions. These natural/organic listings are on the left hand side of search engine pages and are NOT paid for.
PPC: Pay-Per-Click. Listings that are on the right hand side and very top of search engine pages. These are paid ads or sponsored listings that only incur charges when someone clicks on the listing and goes to the advertiser’s website. Click rates vary by term and competitiveness of term. See CPC.
CPC: Cost Per Click. The price that you will pay each time someone clicks on your paid search engine listing. Only applicable to paid ads, not natural listings. See PPC.
SMO: Social Media Optimization. a set of methods for generating publicity through social media, online communities and community websites. Methods of SMO include adding RSS feeds, social news buttons, blogging, and incorporating third-party community functionalities like images and videos.
Impression: When an ad or listing is viewed but not necessarily clicked on or converted to a lead or a sale.
CPM: Cost per thousand (1,000) impressions. Certain ads may charge per thousand impressions, or number of times your ad was viewed by shoppers/visitors/browsers. This statistic is useful in determining the Click-Through-Rate of an online ad. See CTR.
CTR: Click Through Rate. The rate at which an impression results in a click, shown as a percentage. If an ad or listing had 1,000 impressions and 10 clicks, your CTR would be 1%.
For a small-to-medium size business with limited or no brand recognition, having your website positioned on the major search engines should be very high on the priority list. Improving your Search Engine Visibility can be a quick and cost-effective way to help build a successful brand and sales strategy. There are 2 primary ways to gain online visibility in the Search Engine Listings:
1. Search Engine Optimization. SEO can be a very frustrating and daunting task. There are no guarantees that anything you do, or a SEO company does will get you the natural rankings that you desire. Google, Yahoo, MSN (now Bing) etc all change their algorithms (the formula used to calculate rankings) from time to time, which can create a shuffle in rankings overnight. Hiring a good SEO company to do the work can usually help increase your rankings, but Caveat Emptor. There are plenty of companies out there that guarantee first page rankings, which should raise a red flag immediately. There are absolutely no guarantees, so if a SEM company guarantees anything, you should be very cautious when proceeding to hire them for your search engine marketing initiatives.
* SEO Pros: SEO almost always results in higher click through rates than PPC, and typically higher sales conversion rates. This is because the rankings are based on the relevancy of your site content and link partnerships rather than the price you are paying to be there. This usually instills more confidence in shoppers that they will find what they are looking for due to the relevancy of natural listings. Also, it is typical for humans to read from left to right, so the natural listings are what will get the first look from a shopper browsing the search engine listings. Finally, once you’ve made the time and/or capital investment for SEO, it continues to deliver visibility and traffic without future CPC charges (free).
* SEO Cons: If you have a small amount of SEO experience, it may seem like something you can do on your own with a little time, learning, and patience. In some cases, you may be able to do a few things to improve rankings, but it can be a very time consuming project that may lead to no results. By retaining an SEO firm to do the work for you (properly), it will typically require an initial investment plus an ongoing fee to maintain and monitor the results, which may be cost-prohibitive for small-medium size companies. If you are only looking for a short-term, quick way to gain search engine visibility, SEO is not the way to go.
2. (PPC) Pay Per Click: PPC usually is a great way to get search engine visibility in a very short amount of time without a large initial investment. Click rates are anywhere from $0.01 to $5 per click depending on the search term and how competitive the category is. A general rule of thumb in the Gourmet Food Industry is to expect to pay about $1 per click. If you are in a category that is less competitive than normal, you may be lucky and find much more affordable click rates.
* PPC Pros: First page rankings on Google, Yahoo, MSN etc can be attained within hours by setting up an account and selecting key terms, ad variations (creative), landing pages, and budgets. If you are a company whose website is less than a year old with no natural visibility, don’t waste precious 4th quarter time trying to get natural rankings by Thanksgiving or Christmas. You will be better off focusing on PPC so that you are guaranteed to be positioned online where shoppers can find you. It is too late in the game to get any kind of significant SEO results for the upcoming holiday rush.
* PPC Cons: Paid or “sponsored” listings typically have lower CTRs and Conversion Rates than natural/organic listings. PPC listings are significantly less trusted by online shoppers due to frequent irrelevant PPC listings. PPC can be very expensive depending on the category you are in, and therefore may not be a profitable source of marketing. For example, if you are buying the term “gourmet desserts” and it costs you $3 per click to get on the first page, then it may cost you $100-$300 to get a sale, depending on conversion rates. Proper analysis of product net margins, CPC, CTR, and average conversion rates will prove whether or not PPC is a wise business decision for your company.
Hopefully from this chapter, you will have a better understanding of what search engine marketing is, and what each type can do for your business (good and bad). Next chapter, we will talk about another form of online marketing, Social Media Optimization (SMO), which has proven to be nearly as effective as SEO and PPC marketing (think of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc).
Till Next time,
Founder and CEO
Gourmet Business Solutions
To learn more about Gourmet Business Solutions’ online marketing for food companies, including SEO, PPC management and SEM consulting, please feel free to contact us or browse the rest of our site for more information. We offer a wide variety of online and offline marketing services, consulting services, and business solutions at very affordable rates for small-medium size businesses