Posts Tagged ‘ SEM ’
One of the most important qualities of an SEM (Pay-Per-Click) strategy is the ability to convert site visits into actual lead opportunities. After all, besides the branding lift associated with site traffic, your most valuable visit is the one that turns into an action that benefits your agency’s bottom line. When it comes to paid search traffic, the desired action is to either:
1) Complete an online quote request form, or
2) To contact your office via dedicated SEM phone number
Both have a bigger impact on your policies activated than a simple click.
Of the myriad metrics that are available to us in SEM to determine performance, the one that tracks our ability to transition clicks into leads is called conversion rate. This ratio is simply the total number of contact points over the total number of site visits, and looks like this:
Conversion rate = (SEM phone calls + SEM quote forms completed) / total SEM visits
To that end, I am always tracking the SEM department’s performance at converting traffic into leads by comparing our client’s performance to industry-specific benchmarks. A recent study shows just how effective the Astonish SEM program is at driving valuable traffic to your agency’s site.
Pay-Per-Click vendor Wordstream just finished a study on SEM spending and conversion rates amongst some of the more competitive markets in the search landscape, and it highlighted some interesting findings.
First of all, to no one’s surprise, the Finance vertical (which includes and is heavily influenced by insurance-related searches) was the most competitive landscape in paid search advertising. The top two advertisers amongst this group were State Farm and Geico (again, unsurprisingly). The costs and conversions were the highest amongst the industries, highlighting the importance of having a dedicated SEM program to help you navigate this important, but crowded, marketplace.
Second of all, and something that I found most interesting, was that this presented a couple of benchmark metrics for Astonish to use in assessing our own client’s performance. The one that sticks out to me is the average conversion rate (the % of people who completed an action after clicking on a PPC ad) across the entire industry is just over 6%. I’m pleased to say that Astonish PPC conversion rates are exceeding that industry benchmark. In 2012, 10% of all paid search visitors (to Astonish clients’ sites) are converting to a quote request form completed. This means that Astonish SEM campaigns outperform the industry by a whopping 66% when it comes to converting everyday traffic into leads.
Author: David Osowa is the Director of Search Engine Marketing at Astonish. He manages and optimizes hundreds of PPC campaigns on behalf of Astonish clients to get them the best possible lead opportunities available.Continue Reading »
Have you ever done a Google search, looked at the paid search advertisements on the top and right side of the search results, and thought … “What does that advertisement have anything to do with my search?”
Obviously, this is a poorly placed PPC advertisement. The advertiser didn’t want to appear in results for the highly competitive and highly searched term “insurance”. The obvious mistake is that the advertiser (either intentionally or not) targeted the misspelling of their brand name “Assurance”. The advertiser will not be happy when it realizes that a large percentage of their paid search budget is eaten up by clicks that come from a keyword that isn’t relevant to their business at all. Inevitably, search engine users will see this ad, click through (perhaps by mistake) to the advertiser’s site, and quickly exit, obviously with a poor user experience. The advertiser has potentially just paid $25-$30 for each click on this mistakenly placed advertisement. That is an expensive mistake.
This is an extreme example of poor ad copy construction, but it got me thinking about three common PPC ad copy mistakes that advertisers often make.
Mistake #1: Using your brand name in the ad’s headline
The “headline” in a PPC advertisement is the blue bolded line at the top of every text ad. It is the attention-grabber, the first thing that your audience sees when your ad comes up in search results. One hint: don’t waste that space on introducing your company’s name. Chances are (and I’m sorry to break the news), your small company doesn’t carry enough brand recognition to become an asset in text-based advertisements. If someone searches on the term “auto insurance quote”, they’re not necessarily looking for a specific company (like yours), they’re just looking to get a quote. So, instead of mentioning your company in the headline, why not focus on what is going to be most effective in drawing in the audience? The first thing that searchers should see is the benefits of your “product” — such as “Free Auto Insurance Quote”. Don’t waste valuable space on your company’s brand, unless you’re a company with strong brand recognition (like Geico). Besides, if someone is actually looking for your company by name, you’ll show up in search results regardless (because you ARE advertising for your company’s name … aren’t you??).
Mistake #2: Don’t be too broad in your ad copy
Make sure that your ad is as close to the search query (the term that search users choose in Google) as possible. Be as specific as possible. In keeping with the insurance example from above, imagine that you are an agency looking to attract new customers for home insurance, auto insurance, and flood insurance. Make sure that your ads for each category are specific to that search as possible. When someone searches for “flood insurance”, make sure that the ad they are served doesn’t reference a broad and generalized “insurance company”. Instead, make sure that you include language specific to “flood insurance”, otherwise your competition will have a leg up on you.
So, tailor your ad copy to each type of keyword search that you are targeting – don’t run a homogenized “insurance”-based ad copy for each type of insurance, make sure you speak to the search engine user’s intent with specific language in your ad.
Mistake #3: Target the audience that is at the end of the buying cycle
In other words, we want to attract search engine users who are ready to perform a specific action – such as “get an insurance quote” or “buy auto insurance”. These people are the most qualified audience out there, those who have signaled their intent to purchase with their keyword search. Not only do we want to show up on keywords like those I just mentioned, but we want to emphasize those behaviors in our ad copy.
Too many advertisers use broad language in their ads, with the hope of attracting as many users as possible. I’ve actually seen some ads with the headline “Curious about insurance?” – an attempt at generating visits to the advertiser’s web site, no matter what the user is looking for. Instead, make sure that you don’t waste your PPC budget on people at the top of the sales funnel (those who are just browsing, or are curious) by offering ad copy that speaks specifically to those who are close to purchasing. Use language like “Buying auto insurance?”, “Need a home insurance quote?” , or “Get a fast and free business insurance quote now”. Not only will you appeal to those who are near the end of their search, but you’ll actually dissuade those who are just browsing (and thus saving your PPC budget for more serious shoppers!).
The lesson, when constructing paid search advertisements, is to speak to your audience as specifically as possible. It will benefit your campaign by providing just the traffic that you are searching for.
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It’s that time again – a time when we are reminded to be thankful for what we have, and look forward to things (and gifts!) yet to come. Most people, this time of year, are asking for jewelry, clothes or video games to satisfy themselves this holiday season. But you, the savvy marketer, know better than that. What you want, what you REALLY want, is an optimized and profitable SEM campaign. This blog post is here to give you some hints as to what you should be asking for from your successful SEM campaign. If you’ve been on digital marketing’s “Nice” list, your campaign might demonstrate some of these characteristics.
Wish #1: A high conversion percentage (conversions/clicks)
Too many marketers focus on click through rate (CTR, clicks/impressions), when the more important metric is conversion percentage. With pay-per-click advertising, maximizing your visits is the key to a successful campaign. After all, the campaign that produces 100 clicks but no conversions is a very expensive branding effort, but the campaign that produces 1 click and 1 conversion provides a positive ROI.
Do these two things to maximize impact of your paid search traffic:
Detailed ad copy should not only persuade search engine users to click on your ad, it should also dissuade unqualified visitors from clicking. If a user is looking for a red widget, but you only sell blue widgets, detailed ad copy will be attractive to blue widget seekers who are hit with a targeted advertisement, and red widget buyers will be directed away from your ad before they waste your money with a click on your PPC ad.
A landing page, for paid search campaigns, should focus on your conversion point. Don’t waste space (and your visitor’s attention span) with too much content or too many links pointing away from the page. They’ll have no choice but to focus on your conversion point (contact form, “purchase” button, white paper download). That focus will translate into a higher percentage of visitors who convert into potential customers.
Wish #2: A decreasing cost per lead
Digital marketers are often focused on a revenue (or potential revenue)-based metric. Cost per lead (CPL) is often a great way to measure your campaign’s performance. Often, CPLs are at their highest at the inception of your SEM campaign, but gradually decrease with constant monitoring and optimization. Generally, the longer your campaign runs, the lower your cost per lead (ideally!). Keep in mind that clicks (and subsequently, conversions) are more expensive during certain parts of the year (lower search volume during the summer leads to greater competition amongst advertisers), so it is best to take a year-over-year view of your campaign’s performance. But in general, you should see some efficiencies in your campaign as time goes by.
Constant improvement of your CPL (which is directly impacted by your cost per click) is dependent on constant monitoring of your campaign’s keywords (and groups of keywords, called Ad Groups). Make sure that you change your keyword bids to reflect the performance of each keyword – increase your bids for those terms that have produced conversions at a tolerable CPL, decrease bids for those keywords that are driving traffic (and eating up budget!) with little return. Be sure to give your campaign enough of a sample size before making decisions, I usually like to wait for at least 100 clicks before I have enough data to make an informed decision.
Wish #3: More budget!
Okay, I get it. Every marketer has limited budgets, except, apparently, for these guys. And one of the beautiful things about SEM is that you can set your marketing budget to whatever you are comfortable with. But if you DO find yourself with some extra marketing budget at the end of 2011, be sure to put it in the right places. SEM campaigns will give you a detailed view of which pieces of your campaign are working most successfully, and you’re digital marketing team can help you allocate that budget in the right places. After all, it might be useful to put more budget to search marketing during a potentially slow time of year.
2011 has been a great year, as Search Engine Marketing Continues to be a vital part of your digital marketing strategy. Here’s hoping that, when you open your SEM stocking this Holiday season, you find more candy (conversions and customers) than coal (high CPC’s and no traffic!).
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Every industry has its own language – the Internet Marketing world is no different. For those of us who work in the industry, it can be so easy to get swept up in the jargon that we forget not everyone uses these terms on a daily basis. At Astonish Results, we’re constantly communicating with clients who do not have backgrounds in Internet Marketing, so it’s important that we stay away from the lingo we’ve become accustomed to and speak in plain English.
My goal for this post is to translate some of the terms we throw around most often into basic English. Here we go…
The practice of marketing products or services over the internet. It is also referred to as online marketing, web marketing, or digital marketing. Internet marketing includes websites, email marketing, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and social media.
Search Engine Optimization – The practice of helping a website show up in the search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Search engine optimization is an internet marketing strategy that analyzes web searches – from determining how the search engines are ranking websites in the search results to figuring out what people are searching for and what specific terms (or keywords) are being used.
Search Engine Marketing – also known as Paid Search – is the practice of increasing a website’s exposure through paid search tactics such as PPC (pay per click). In a very general overview, SEM involves paying to have a search result appear when a search is done for a certain keyword term. If someone clicks on your ad, you pay an agreed upon price. The goals are in line with those of an SEO strategy, but SEO involves organic results and SEM involves paid results.
Link building is the practice of getting other websites to link to your site in order to boost rankings in the search engines. Having a relevant, quality website link to your site is like getting a vote. If the search engines see that other websites want to share your information and promote your website, then they are more likely to deem your site worthy of a higher search ranking.
When we refer to search spiders, or web crawlers, we’re referring to the computer program that can browse the web to find search results. The search engines use search spiders to come up with a quick, up-to-date, organized list of what’s available on the web so the search engine can then determine how relevant the content is – this turns into the search results you see on Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
We all know about plagiarism and the negative consequences associated with it – providing unique content for your website and blog will keep you out of trouble. The search engines love fresh, honest, helpful content – doing so will make your site seem more useful. Every page on your website and every blog post should say something different. You cannot copy content from your website and post it on your blog – the search engines will recognize this as duplicate content and you could be punished. The best way to stay in the search engines’ good graces is to create unique content every time you write.
Search volume is the number of times a certain term is typed into the search engines on a monthly basis. When we decide which keywords should be used in your SEO strategy, we are comparing the search volume for hundreds of terms to determine which are the best fit. In addition to the search volume, we need to look at a term’s search competition before we decide to select it as one of your keywords.
A term’s search competition lets us know how many other sites are trying to be found for the term. If we find that a term has a search competition of 100% then we know it will be very difficult to rank for that keyword because a lot of other sites are also trying to rank for it. We want to find a term that has a high search volume and a low search competition when we are selecting your keywords.
There is much more internet jargon that we use on a daily basis, this was a peak at the topics we reference most often. What are some of the Internet Marketing terms you hear on a regular basis? Let us know if there are any terms you need clarification on and we can feature them in a future post!Continue Reading »
One of the great things about a pay-per-click campaign in Google is the ability to access a myriad of data points to judge the effectiveness of your strategy. The idea is to use all of the data available at your fingertips to make small changes to your campaign so that you can achieve two simple goals:
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is – until you get a look of all the data that gets generated from a paid search campaign. By the time most advertisers finish looking at their CPC (cost per click), CTR (click through rate), Cost per conversion, conversion rate, etc, their head begins to spin.
With so much information, it’s important to decide which is important enough to act on. My rule of thumb when it comes to deciphering this information is simple: your most important data is closest to your bottom-line business goals. Why worry about CPC, when cost per lead is closer to the actual sale? Why worry about the percentage of people who click on your ad (click through rate), when you can focus on the percentage of clicks that turned into a “conversion” (conversion rate)?
When I am working with one of our agency partners on their insurance marketing SEM, and need to do a “quick and dirty” assessment of their campaign’s performance, I have some go-to metrics that I look at first. Let’s take a look at three of them:
- How much have I spend already on this campaign?
- When is my budget projected to run out, based on campaign spending so far?
- What campaigns are spending the most?
After you get a handle on how much you’ve spent, you can get started on looking at metrics that show how your money is performing. And the first thing I look at is…
One caveat: as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, the most valuable metrics get as close to the “sale” as possible, so the ultimate indicator of performance is cost per sale (or cost per customer). If you can directly attribute online sales to your SEM campaign, use a cost per sale as your substitute for CPO — this metric will tell you if your generated revenue is more than your investment in paid search.
- Is my website (more specifically your SEM landing page) effective at driving business?
- What keywords are most successful at driving conversions, and which keywords are just costing me money with very little return?
Your campaign’s conversion rate is a good indicator of how your landing page is performing. If the page to which you are driving traffic is built with your conversion point in mind (a quote request form, for example), your conversion rate will benefit. Since you’ve paid for the visitor’s click, you might as well pay attention to their behavior after they have cost you money. Your conversion rate will tell you if you are successful at converting costly visits into conversions.
Your campaign is capable of tracking conversion rate at the keyword level, which is a GREAT metric to be more efficient with your costs. Does a particular keyword have a high conversion rate? React to that by pushing up your bid and making that profitable keyword more visible. Is there a certain set of terms that are costing you money but not producing conversions? Pause or de-emphasize that term.
Use these metrics as a starting point in evaluating paid search marketing campaigns. They’ll help you sort through all of the data that you can find in Adwords (or the SEM report that your marketing partner sends to you!), and get to the information that really matters.
If you get lost in all that data just remember to ask yourself one very important question: which data most directly impacts my bottom line?
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Most users flock to the internet’s search engines for one thing: to find help. Help in finding the answer to a question. Help in solving a problem that they have. Help in purchasing the right car at their local dealership.
Being visible on a variety of keyword searches in Google is applicable and valuable for businesses in every industry. The world’s largest companies use their websites as the best (and most accessible) source of information about their brand, products, or services. At the same time the world’s smallest companies have established a web presence as a vital lifeline to previously inaccessible markets.
In the end, search engines pull them all together: the smallest companies can compete right next to the largest. Search engines are the great equalizer of digital marketing.
Or are they?
Not all markets are the same. The search “landscape” for certain industries are more competitive than others. The big box electronics chains are fighting tooth and nail for top position on keywords like“blu ray dvd player” and “flat screen tv”.
The insurance industry, both personal and commercial products, is no different. In fact, one leading industry blog just proclaimed the search landscape for insurance-related searches to be the most competitive amongst all PPC keywords. A study conducted on the average cost-per-click (CPC) across millions of keywords found that insurance-related terms were the most expensive, ahead of keyword groups such as “mortgage” and “loans”.
Does that mean that this search landscape is inaccessible and cost-inefficient for the smaller agencies in the industry? I would offer an emphatic “NO”. In fact, I believe just the opposite: the high competition in this particular realm indicates the sheer demand for insurance information that potential customers are looking for. Does that mean that smaller agencies should focus their PPC marketing dollars into bids for high-dollar keywords like “car insurance”? No. It simply means that these agencies need to have their paid search campaigns strategies modified to get the biggest “bang” for their marketing buck. There is room in this competitive space to be active…and profitable! After all, if 80% of all insurance customers are beginning their search for their policy online, can you afford to ignore this marketing tactic?
Here are some strategies to be competitive in a competitive paid search marketplace:
With these simple steps, you are well on your way to becoming effective in a competitive advertising space. Companies of any size can be active in this marketing medium, and capitalize on all of those people who are saying “HELP!” to their search engines.
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Here it is — the last installment of my series on driving qualified visitors through your paid search (SEM) campaign. In part one of this series, I discussed PPC keyword selection as the first two steps in qualifying traffic, and in part two I showed you how to optimize your ad copy in order to drive traffic from the visitors that you’d most prefer.
Remember that qualifying your paid search traffic has two parts:
Also remember that, as compared to organic search traffic (where you welcome visitors in all phases of the sales funnel), the most effective and efficient SEM campaigns can focus on driving visits that produce conversions. Let your organic search optimization efforts drive the “information-gathering” traffic, use your PPC campaign to target the “purchasing” consumer.
Now that we’ve covered three steps to improve your campaign, let’s dive into the next tactic that will help you drive valuable clicks:
Step 4: Create Landing Pages to Promote Your Conversion Point
You’ve set up your PPC keywords, you’ve created some unbelievably enticing ad copy to get your audience to click … now what? The process of converting your traffic from visitors into customers is technically over, as you’ve now received a visitor from your SEM campaign. But the most effective PPC campaigns do not stop optimization until after the most important part of this process – the conversion point. If I am running a campaign to sell a widget, and I’ve received my captive audience through paid search, I want to make darn sure that I make the final piece of their purchasing process is both obvious and easy.
Once I’ve paid for this click, the last thing that I want the visitor to do is get distracted, bored, confused or frustrated. I want to subtly but firmly guide them through the conversion (or transactional) process. That’s why the landing page in a paid search campaign is so important. I’ll give you three quick tips to create an effective landing page, all geared towards promoting a conversion point.
Note that the page is simple, does not contain too much text, and provides no linking away from this page. The visitor, who has arrived on a very specific keyword search (including the word “quote”) is confronted with exactly the type of information that they have requested, and are more likely to convert as a result!
There you have it – four easy steps to generating and converting qualified paid search traffic! Apply these tactics to your campaign and you just might get a more efficient use of your marketing dollars.
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So it seems that online paid advertising spending is here to stay, no? The latest estimates show that online advertising spending will crest at $31.3b this year, which is an increase of 20% over 2010. That’s “b” … as in “billion”. This is more than a case of an industry that has reached its peak and is slowing its growth rate — it is an industry whose growth rate is double what it was projected to be at the end of 2010.
I’ve already spent time in this space talking about how paid search marketing is set to take off for the rest of 2011, but now come some new details about where that search growth is coming from. Paid search marketing is comprised of many components, including the familiar Google search results. But now we know that, behind that explosive increase in online ad spending is something called “display advertising”. Display advertising is a marketing tool that allows you to show eye-catching ads across various Google search properties (web sites) that are relevant to your business.
The difference between traditional paid search advertising and display campaign advertising is twofold:
Why is that important for you? It highlights the idea our familiar “search real estate” is always changing. Five years ago the only conceivable avenue for those forward-thinking enough to engage in paid search advertising was to run ads with Google AdWords for PPC. Now, we have to pay attention to different areas of growth in the industry, where people are getting their ads from different web properties, no longer just from a Google search. Consider these three pieces of information regarding display advertising:
- With Facebook advertising, I can run a hybrid image/text ad that only shows my advertisements to women, ages 18-35 in the state of Rhode Island. (Side note: Facebook hit 687 million users worldwide in the month of May)
- With LinkedIn (the world’s largest professional network with over 100 million members), I can reach all users who have listed “insurance agent” in their profile
- Twitter (one of the world’s most visited sites) has started serving third-party text ads on its webpage (how long can it be before it incorporates display ads?)
At this point, I want to take a step back for a reality check. The latest comScore data shows that Google Search advertising continues to dominate the landscape, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The fact is Google’s current market dominance and innovative approach to business means that it isn’t going away, or in the words of Mike Tyson, “fade into Bolivian”.
However, as the projections show that Display advertising is the driving force behind an overall growth in online marketing, I ask you two questions:
- Can you afford to ignore this new mode of digital advertising?
- Are you the type of company who is going to be at the forefront of a growing advertising trend, or will you be left out?
Contact me with any questions that you have about expanding your SEM advertising into display marketing.
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Internet marketing is here to stay. Whether it is search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, or social media outreach, your business is likely participating in some form or fashion within this growing industry. The state of Search Marketing is good, and growing.
In fact, as the new Director of SEM for Astonish Results, I’m particularly biased towards the news that paid search spending is projected to grow another 16% in 2011. Coming on the heels of a 14% increase in PPC spending in 2010, online marketing continues to be an effective and efficient marketing tool for companies in any business vertical.
Being new to this blog, I’ll offer some of suggestions that can help you take advantage of this booming business. You’ll hear from me from time to time, offering tips and tricks when it comes to optimizing your PPC campaigns and updates on this ever-changing advertising medium.
In the meantime, let’s talk about a few things that make a good SEM campaign great. The following tips won’t guarantee a successful campaign, but they’ll get you closer to reaching its potential.
- Take a holistic approach to search marketing. The best performing campaigns that I’ve run have always used PPC in tandem with their SEO strategy. We all know that these two forms of digital marketing are vastly different from one another, but too often we choose one over the other. I’m here to tell you: don’t choose! Supplement your SEO efforts by utilizing PPC to run paid advertisements on keywords that you are having trouble ranking for organically. At the same time, support your SEO by analyzing PPC keyword data: identify new keyword opportunities by investigating all of the keyword searches than resulted in a PPC visit to your site. Is your PPC data showing that users are searching on a different type of vernacular to get to your ads? Incorporate that into your site’s content. The strategy is to use the available data from each form of digital marketing to inform the other, so that they work hand in hand.
- Test, refine … rinse, repeat. Search engine marketing is one of the most measurable forms of advertising in today’s business world. But what do we do with all of this available data? Use it to our advantage, of course, by testing different campaign tactics and strategies against one another. Not sure which ad copy is the best? Run two pieces of ad copy against each other, and pick the one with the best click-through-rate after 100 clicks for each ad. Don’t know what match type to use for your keywords? Set up two mirror campaigns for your keywords, setting one campaign to “phrase match” and one to “exact match”. Create another campaign with targeted keywords (long-tail terms) and set it to “broad match”. After a while, you’ll be able to tell which match type is most cost effective for you!
- Establish a conversion point, and assign a value to that conversion. Online retailers have it easy: a PPC visitor clicks on an ad, and either buys your product or doesn’t. Comparing the ROI for these types of campaigns is relatively easy, but what if you’re not an online retailer? What if you don’t “sell” something on your web site? It doesn’t matter, set up a conversion point anyway. Do you offer personal insurance products but don’t sell them online? Collect a lead from PPC by advertising for a free auto insurance quote. Are you a hospital chain with an online presence? Create an online appointment request form and drive your PPC traffic to that form. These may not be direct sales, but these “conversions” are a more effective performance metric than simply counting visits to your site. Your challenge is to assign a value to these conversions. Once you’ve set that value for your PPC conversion point, compare the “revenue” generated by these leads to the cost it took to acquire them. You’ll have a better understanding of how effective your PPC campaigns are.
- Have a dedicated PPC landing page. So, you’ve driven paid search traffic to your site … now what? Well, the best performing PPC campaigns have a unique dedicated landing page served up to only those visits that come through SEM. If you are sending PPC traffic to your home page, you’re likely losing valuable conversion opportunities for two reasons: first, the information you’re providing is too broad for your PPC audience (who have a specific search term in mind); second, there are far too many opportunities for a visitor to navigate to other content on your site (and thus away from your desired conversion point). This is the difference between a well-optimized home page and a dedicated PPC landing page: your site’s home page is designed as a broad gateway through which users can find a wide array of content, while your PPC page is designed to entice your visitor to perform one specific action (“Request a free auto insurance quote!”, “Download this white paper!”)
Come back to this space frequently to check out my thoughts on Search Engine Marketing and Pay-Per-Click advertising. After all, if American’s performed almost 19 billion searches in the month of March alone, shouldn’t you be paying attention to your Search Engine Marketing strategy?
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