by Marjorie Steele
Several years ago, my dad discovered an online community of BMW motorcycle enthusiasts. A mechanic and kind of a luddite, he was amazed to find that he could easily pass around trade secrets on “Bimmer” care, modifications, gatherings and other juicy tidbits. He was also a master welder and metallurgist, and he had fabricated a unique sprocket for a niche BMW modification. Using his new cyberskills, he marketed this part to his online Bimmer friends and was soon shipping them out as fast as he could.
My dad, someone who would normally avoid the computer at all costs, had learned an important lesson about manufacturing and social networking: the Internet is here to help. Not only is online social networking and advertising appropriate for manufacturers, but as the economy tightens and shy consumers turn to searching the web for the best deals, it is becoming essential.
SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, is a growing industry which pulled in $9.4 billion in 2006, according to SEMPO’s 2007 survey – that’s a 750% increase since 2002. Surveys showed that figure raise to $12.2 billion in 2007, with projections of $25 billion in 2011. Clearly this is a booming industry, but what exactly is SEM? What is SEO, and why are more and more marketing companies throwing around these terms as if we should know them?
For those who don’t know, Search Engine Marketing employs different methods of paid ad placement, paid search inclusion and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to increase website traffic and, ultimately, sales. Paid placements are brief ads and website links for companies paying to be listed among search results to certain search terms, or “keywords”. Try googling “tube socks”. Those listings in the yellow box at the top and on the far right hand column are paid placement ads, an effective SEM technique.
Paid placements and paid listings are designed to entice googlers with products they’re already searching for. If you google “tube socks”, you’ll see tube sock distributors advertising on the search page. This doesn’t always work, however, and advertisers sometimes place ads on nonrelevant pages; like when you google “white-out” and get an ad for Penn State T-shirts. This can also be expensive, depending on how popular your search terms are.
This is why SEO is a vital part of Search Engine Marketing. SEO “optimizes” a company’s website, blogs and other online material by making it attractive to search engines. Search engine optimizers do this by using “keywords”, which are key search words people use to search for specific products. A keyword phrase used by someone looking for rubber bumpers might be “extruded rubber”. By including the phrase “extruded rubber” in a website’s text, that website’s chances of being snagged whenever someone googles “extruded rubber” go up significantly.
The idea behind SEO is availability. If a company can bring itself to the attention of someone interested in products that company sells, then the company suddenly has a chance at making a sale it didn’t have before. Using specific keywords (and other more complicated cyber-terms which we’ll leave to the SEO nerds for now) can be very effective in getting your company to show up on search engines (this is called getting “high rankings”). If your company shows up on search engines, boosted website traffic and sales will inevitably follow – as long as your website has good usability.
This brings us to industrial manufacturers. Many manufacturers of industrial products and equipment market themselves by reputation only, others through trade shows, trade magazines and branding. The internet is a powerful vein of media, technology and communication, however, and you can be sure that those who didn’t show up at the trade shows will be googling instead. Reputation and word-of-mouth is the best type of advertising a company can get, but what about the vibrant web community of nearly seven billion people? If your company is not visible to anyone on the web, then no one is talking about you; and if no one is talking about you, no one is buying.
Marketing industrial equipment on the web can be tricky, though; using SEO and paid placement ads may bring people to your site, but are they people who are qualified to buy? Industrial manufacturers’ products are industry-specific, and many are very narrowly specialized into niche fields. How can products for such narrow markets be advertised effectively in a pool of billions of websites? Online directories are beginning to meet this challenge by organizing vendors into industry-specific categories which attract qualified buyers. Companies which might never come up on a search engine can dramatically improve site visibility by listing itself in a directory, provided that directory uses enough SEO to attract plenty of visitors.
Industrial Quick Search is a directory which has dedicated itself to improving qualified site traffic for industrial manufacturers, using both SEO and paid placement ads. But the truth is that whether you advertise with us here at IQS® or not, if you are an industrial manufacturer you should be using some form of Search Engine Marketing, because seven billion people is too big of a pie to miss out on. And if my dad can sell his Bimmer sprocket online, surely industrial manufacturers can take a slice or two of that pie.
If you’d like to know more about SEM, try these links: