Small Business Academy: Getting sharp with SEO and SEM

Small Business Academy: Getting sharp with SEO and SEM

When was the last time you used a search engine? Chances are good it was within the last hour. We do very little without using that fantastic and useful tool. The same is true of your customers, which is what makes the search engine so critical to your business success. Let’s look at some of the basics of using search engines to market your business.


What is the difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

At the core, SEM costs money in order for your website to appear in the search results whereas SEO doesn’t.

SEO is also known as organic search and it is the art and science of making your website as discoverable as possible in organic search results through the use of HTML tags in the code of your website and unique written content on each page. The search engines crawl your website looking at both the written content and the code to determine what terms and phrases (keywords) are relevant for each page of your website and then determine where you will appear in the search results as compared to other pages about the same content. With SEO the control of which keywords and where you rank for those keywords is in the hands of the search engine.

As a business, the costs for optimizing your website through SEO may or may not include paying an SEO expert to audit your site to provide you with recommendations and adjustments to help the search engines improve your site discoverability and indexability. You might also study up on the subject yourself and become your own SEO expert. There is a lot of material available on the topic and it’s not rocket science; with some focused attention, you can learn all you need to know about SEO.

SEM is known by several names including paid search and pay-per-click (PPC); but no matter what you call it, the concept is the same, your business chooses which keywords you want your website to appear for and can create the listing that appears in the paid section of the search results. With SEM you are always in control. You choose which keywords you want your ads to appear for in the search results, how much you are willing to pay per click for each individual keyword, which page on your website you want the traffic to go to, and what your ad copy says all the way down to the exact amount of budget you want to spend on a daily to monthly basis.

As a business, you choose exactly how much money you want to spend for SEM, and the good news is that you can participate in SEM with a budget as small as $50 per month.

Should I participate in both SEO and SEO?

Many businesses will both SEO and SEM together to show up in the top search results. If your business isn’t appearing for the most important keywords for your business then I’d recommend using SEM so that your customers can find your website. Remember, you don’t have to break the bank and spend hundreds to thousands of dollars per month for your business to appear in the paid search results.

What are the top three things I need to know for SEO?

    1. First off, make sure you have unique content on each page of your website. Write the content on your site for your customers, not the search engines. Think of SEO as the infrastructure and the backbone that allows the search engines to understand your business, but the search engines alone isn’t your target audience, your customers are! By providing clear, deep and easy to understand content on your website, a search engine is more likely to index and show your site in search results. Your content should be easy to navigate, rich and engaging to the visitor, and provide them the information they seek. Also, don’t forget to make sure that your website is mobile friendly.


If you are a local business make sure that you include content about your city and neighborhood so that your pages rank for local searches, there will be fewer pages competing to appear for local searches. Here’s an example of how many web pages are competing for generic versus local search terms and why you might want to show for local searches:

  • 94.6M web pages are competing to rank for “dentists”
  • 16.3M web pages are competing to rank for “Texas dentists”
  • 1.2M web pages are competing to rank for “dentists in Allen TX”
  • 200K web pages are competing to rank for “Allen TX dentists”


    1. Make sure your website is SEO friendly: Good website design is friendly to the user meaning that it is intuitive and easy to navigate and uses the HTML code on the back-end to let the search engines crawl and understand your website. At a bare minimum each page needs to have uniquely written HTML tags for Meta Title and Meta Description. The Meta title tag is what appears as the blue hyperlink on each search results page and is like a headline that entices a searcher to click through to your website. It should be between 35 and 65 characters long. The description is the text that appears in the search results below the title to let the user know what content the page is about and it should be between 65 and 160 characters long.Also make sure that you have a page specifically about your business and include what’s called local citation information. In laymans terms you want to have an “About Us” page that includes your N.A.P:


    • Business Name (This is the name that consumers know you by, or your DBA “Doing Business As” name if you use a separate name for tax purposes
    • Physical Address
    • Local Phone Number


  While it’s not required, it’s also a best practice to include your Business Hours and either a map or directions to help customers find your business!


    1. Last, make sure that you’ve claimed your local listings and that your local citations are up-to-date and correct. When you claim your listing it provides the search engine with correct local citation data, which helps your website appear for local searches with the correct information and it also puts your business on the maps of the search engines. Even if you have a brand new business you’ll want to claim your listings to make sure that you have access to the information and can keep it up to date in case anything changes. These services are free At a bare minimum make sure you’ve claimed your business on:



Industry-specific business listings sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yext and Yellowpages

Moz Local is a free tool you can use to find any existing local citations for your business on the web to make sure that your information is correct. If your business information is incorrect, you now have a list of which sites you need to update so that customers can find you.

If you already have the basics for local covered, i.e. you’ve claimed your listings and all information is correct, you can take your local SEO to the next level and implement SCHEMA mark-up in the HTML on your site. Schema is an additional layer of code that identifies more specific information about your business to provide additional context to the search engines.

What are the top three things I need to know about SEM?

SEM can seem complex and a bit daunting because there are many options that you’ll encounter while setting up and creating your account to advertise on the search engines, but don’t worry, both Bing and Google have in-depth help and how-to-guides designed to get businesses like yours up and running paid search ads quickly. What do you need to know? First off,  advertising on the top two search engines, Bing and Google will get your business reach to over 90% of the U.S. search audience. While you will have to set-up two unique advertising accounts, they are structured very similarly and there are features that will allow you to essentially copy and paste your paid search campaigns from Google into Bing to make it easier to advertise on both. To get started the basics will take you a long way:

  1. Choose relevant keywords! When you hear a search marketer talk about keywords what they mean are the words that that people will use to find your business. You don’t need to advertise on hundreds to thousands of keywords, just make sure you have the basics covered such as:

a. Your business name: For example, ACUO crossfit

b. Your line of business or business type: For example, cross fit, crossfit, high intensity interval training, hiit

c. Your business type + location (city/neighborhood): For example, crossfit Redmond, hiit Redmond, Redmond Willows crossfit gyms

A few things to know about keywords. First, keywords aren’t case sensitive, which means that they’ll match the same regardless of being written in upper or lowercase letters. Second, is that keywords have different match types that control how search terms are matched to the words you’ve selected. The broader your keyword matching, the more traffic that the keyword will be eligible to receive. In most cases you’ll want to select keywords that are either Broad Match Modified (BMM) or Exact Match. Using the broad match type for a keyword makes your ad eligible to be displayed when a search query or other input includes either the individual words in your keyword in any order, or words related to your keyword. Broad match modified keywords have a plus symbol in front of the term and that requires that that term must appear in the search query. Broad match modified provides a little bit more control. Then after you’ve selected your keywords, you’ll want to group like terms and phrases together in what’s called an Ad Group. Each ad group can have its own unique ad copy that will appear in the search results.


  1. Make sure your ad copy is relevant and that you include ad extensions to stand out in the search results.

Each “ad group” or group of keywords can have its own unique ad copy. You want the ad copy be relevant to the keywords within your ad groups, so in the example of words related to crossfit and high intensity interval training (HIIT) you’ll want to break them into two separate ad groups with unique ads for each. You’ll want to have at least 1-2 ads per ad group and you can test new ad copy as often as you’d like. If you have a promotion or a sale you can update your ad copy to reflect the promotion.
In addition, I’d recommend you use ad extensions to provide more information to your customers. Here are the top three ad extensions you should be using for your business:

I. Location extension (Shows your physical address so people can find your business location.)

II. Call extension (Allows users to call you directly via your ad. Make sure you set them to appear only during open hours of your business!)

III. Sitelink extension (provides links to additional pages on your website and you should use it to highlight your key features/products)



  1. Use the location targeting and ad scheduling tools to reach the right searchers.

a. Set your geographic location targeting to your campaign. Don’t accidently waste money by reaching customers who are thousands of miles away. For instance, while “Crossfit Redmond” seems specific to my location my ads could appear for people searching for Redmond Oregon as well as Redmond Washington. By using the location targeting settings I can select to only have my ads appear in Washington state or as a radius from one or many zip codes.

b. Set your ads to appear only during business hours: If you have a small business with set hours, you can schedule your ads to run shortly before your business hours start to the end of your business day. If you use a call extension on your paid search ad, make sure you aren’t paying for customers calling you outside of your business hours by setting “Day Parting Setting.” 


If you get truly bit by the SEM bug, consider taking the Bing Ads Training and Accreditation course. It’s simple and convenient and will help you take your business marketing to a new level.



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    Recap: The Kevin Bacon Approach to Keyword Attribution

    The assumption in Hollywood circles is that everyone is just six people from knowing Kevin Bacon – and that the closer your degree is to Kevin Bacon, the more successful you will be. This is a great analogy for understanding how keywords can assist conversions, even if those keywords themselves aren’t conversion stars.

    Conversion attribution continues to be the bugaboo of digital marketing, especially as searchers stretch across screens and absorb the influence of social media. There’s nothing we’d like more than to be able to identify precisely what caused a customer to convert. Keyword attribution is a step in the right direction. We can start to work backwards from the conversion moment to identify which keywords led to the moment of truth, and most specifically, which keyword is the hardest worker.

    The data scientists at Bing Ads wanted to understand the role that assist keywords play in conversions, so they created tests, conducted a study and compiled the data. Led by Lars Hirsch, our Director of Advertiser Research, and Lin Huang, Senior Data Scientist, we recently hosted a webinar that detailed the research results and explained how to research your own best assist keywords. If you missed it, you can check out the recording by visiting the event page and registering as if you were going to attend -- that will give you access.

    NOTE: There's still time to register for our next webinar, The Science of Excel for PPC Marketers, coming up on March 15 at 11am PST/2pm EST.

    And now, without further ado... 

    Questions from the webinar audience

    bing ads keyword attributionIn this post, we’re answering the questions we didn’t have time to get to during the webinar. If you have new questions that aren’t answered here, ask in the comments below or take it social with #AskBingAds.

    Q. Can Bing’s Universal Event Tracking (UET) code be set up through Google’s tag manager?

    A. UET is the first step in tracking conversions on Bing. Without this code on your website, you can’t track the success of your paid campaigns on Bing. UET is compatible with Google’s tag management system, as well as with Adobe, Signal, Ensighten, Tealium and Qubit

    Q. Is the research based strictly on Bing searches or on Yahoo and AOL as well?

    B. This research is based on ads running on the Bing Network, which encompasses Yahoo and AOL.

    Q. How can you be legally allowed to use competitor brand names even if they only assist you?

    A. You can bid on competitor brand names as keywords all you want – but you cannot use them in your ad copy. This policy varies a bit by market; take a closer look at our intellectual property policy and other editorial policies.

    Q. Does this mean advertisers should consider also bidding on competitors brand terms?

    A. Excellent question! Our first webinar in the Advertiser Science series, The Science of Brand Bidding, took a close look at this question. Watch the webinar here. (Spoiler alert: The answer is yes.)

    Q. Should we limit the number of keywords in a campaign to 10 – 20 words as opposed to hundreds?

    A. If you want to test the effectiveness of a particular keyword list, then use fewer keywords. If you're testing the model in general, use more keywords.

    Q. I don’t see how I, as Macy’s, can use “JCPenney strollers” as an assist keyword phrase. Please explain.

    A. If you are running a PPC campaign for Marcy’s strollers, add the phrase “JCPenney strollers” to your keyword list. All things being equal (with regards to budget and quality score), your ad will show on that search – and our research shows that shoppers may be just as willing to check out Macy’s strollers, even though they started with a search for JCPenney strollers.

    Q. Is the keyword assist data only available if you’ve implemented UET?

    A. Correct! Learn more about UET here.

    Q. How far back does this keyword assist data go? We have had UET installed for quite some time. Would that mean that we could see assist data from, say, a year ago?

    A. Keyword assist data goes back 6 months.

    Q. Do impressions relate to the effectiveness of the keyword?

    A.Absolutely. In the attribution model, we consider the number of times an assist keyword performs, which means that it supports a search, impression or click.

    Q. How long should the testing period be?

    A. The attribution model has no theoretical threshold on the length of the lookback period. But with everything equal, the older data will be more penalized. Due to computation feasibilities, most of the case studies to date have adopted a one-month lookback period.

    Q. I need some clarification on how to process the results. We don’t include the results from the assist campaigns?

    A. When you process the results for conversions, I suggest not including the conversions where the assist keywords were the last click before conversions (i.e. the direct conversions on the assist keywords). This is because you most likely want to evaluate the ability of these keywords to drive "downstream" conversions. Of course you will get more total conversions if you include the assist keywords, but how effectively do these drive additional conversions? An even more useful metric to evaluate is profit, or the difference between the value of your campaigns and the cost of running these campaigns. Unlike when evaluating conversions, when evaluating profit you should include your assist keywords as well, because what you are interested in is if the total profitability of all your campaigns goes up or down once you include the assist keywords. You need to count both the cost of these campaigns as well as the total value across all campaigns (including the assist keywords campaigns).

    Q. Does the keyword report provide the actual keyword terms that are assisting and not just the counts?

    A. Yes it does.

    Q. I have a national account. When I do my own keyword assist research, is it necessary to geo-target the test?

    A. You need to establish two comparable sides in such an experiment. Geo-targeting is a natural way to do that. Whether that means comparable nations or DMAs. But geo-targeting is probably not the only way. One additional thing to point out is that unlike the brand experiment we described last month, splitting by time e.g. enabling/disabling assist keywords every other day is probably not going to work since the conversion funnel is likely to go over several days. You know your business the best. Let us know if geo-targeting applies to you or if you have an alternative idea to split your spending.   One additional thing to point out is that unlike the brand experiment we described last month, splitting by time e.g. enabling/disabling assist keywords every other day is probably not going to work since the conversion funnel is likely to go over several days.

    What’s next?

    If you'd like to check out the webinar content that was covered during the live event, register on the event page to get access. If you found this helpful, don't miss our next webinar in the Advertiser Science series:

    Register: The Science of Excel for PPC Marketers

    Date: March 15 2016

    Time: 11am PST | 2pm EST

    Questions? Comments?

    Feel free to ping us on Twitter, submit questions with the hash tag #AskBingAds, visit us to ask questions at the Bing Ads Answers forum, submit and vote on your top-priority features at the Bing Ads Feature Suggestion forum, or send us your feedback directly at


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    How to lose a lead in seconds

    The destination URL or Final URL is a critical component of the ad copy as it leads search users to the targeted content on an advertiser’s website. An incorrect destination/final URL in an ad leading to a 4XX error such as 404 will result in a frustrating user experience as the users will not find the product or service they are expecting to see after clicking the ad. From an advertiser point of view, a click on an ad with a broken URL will not convert, hurting return on investment or ROI.

    4xx errors for destination/final URLs therefore needs to be handled with diligence. 4xx errors commonly occur in the following scenarios:

    • The requested page has been renamed.
    • The requested page has been moved to another location and/or deleted.
    • The requested page is temporarily unavailable due to maintenance, upgrades etc.
    • The requested page does not exist because some content has been removed
    • Website address is misspelled
    • Incorrect trackers or redirects
    • Errors in dynamic substitution


    Here are some best practices to deal with pages resulting in 4xx errors.

    How will I know if my ads have broken destination URLs?

    In our efforts to constantly improve user experience and advertiser satisfaction, we reject ads with destination/final URLs returning 4xx errors as a part of our policy enforcement. An important point to note here is that if your destination/final URL returns 4xx errors and then redirects users to a good page, the ad will still get rejected. Ads rejected for inaccessible site will act like a feedback loop for advertisers to correct the destination/final URLs and avoid wasted clicks on ads.

    Below is a snapshot of error messaging for destination/final URLs returning 4xx status code in Bing Ads UI:

    bing ads landing pages

    What corrective course of action can I take?

    You can try using Edge/Internet Explorer’s F12 Developer Tool to find and fix issues related to broken pages. Once you have fixed your landing pages returning 4xx status code, you can submit an appeal for all rejected ads/keywords associated with previously inaccessible sites. We provide options to submit appeals for single ad or multiple ads in both Bing Ads UI and Bing Ads Editor. Screenshot for Bing Ads UI for bulk appeals in case of multiple ad rejections can be seen below:

    a)    Filter all ads which have delivery status disapproved

     bing ads landing pages

    b)    Select all the ads you want to submit for review and use request exception under edit menu

    bing ads landing pages


    c)    Fill out the request exception box and submit for review

    bing ads landing pages

    Questions? Comments?

    Thanks for reading and hope you found the post helpful.  As always, we're happy to hear your thoughts on enhancements we can make to improve your Bing Ads experience. Stay connected with us through Feature Suggestion ForumTwitter, or Bing Ads Feedback.

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    Three tips to Bing Ads campaign imports you can’t miss

    If you’re just starting out or expanding your Bing Ads account, a helpful feature is the ability to import campaigns from Adwords.

    The process is simple, however, the platforms are not exactly the same. There are a few key areas you should know about when importing into Bing Ads. The following does not import into Bing Ads:

    • Broad match negative keywords
    • Negative keyword lists
    • Ad extensions Bing Ads does not offer


    When you think about how complex and extensive the data is stored in PPC platforms, this is actually a very short list. Let’s take a look at each one to better understand the implications.

    Broad match negative keywords

    Negative Keyword match types will differ depending on goals and campaigns details. Its important to note that Bing Ads negative match type default is phrase match with exact match as another option. When you import your negative keyword list to Bing Ads, any broad match types would automatically be converted to the default phrase match.

    Because the keywords are converted to phrase match and potentially more specific, you may want to review the list and add any additional negative keywords that may cover variations or a different word order.

    Negative keyword lists

    Bing Ads and AdWords have shared lists that can be created to apply a group of negative keywords to several campaigns. If you manage negative keywords primarily through lists in AdWords, your negative keywords will not be imported into Bing.

    Bing Ads offers a shared library feature, so its quite easy to simply “create new negative keyword list” in the shared library and paste in your keywords. Don’t forget to add your campaigns to the list so the negatives can be applied to it!

    Ad extensions

    Ad extensions are one of the greatest features of Bing Ads. These provide “bonus” information in the form of text and sitelinks, phone numbers, and even images. A savvy PPC manager can max out these extensions and gain better CTRs for campaigns.

    Ad extensions that Bing Ads supports, will import, saving time in the set-up process. This includes: location, call, sitelinks and app extensions.*

    The following chart details the availability of ad extensions in each platform.

     bing ads extensions

    Once the new campaigns and ad extensions are imported, check them to ensure they have imported correctly and are assigned to the correct campaigns.

    This is only a few tips for the campaign import process. Once the campaigns are set-up, the optimization for Bing Ads should be begin to maximize overall performance.

    I created a guide that outlines helpful tips for importing and optimizing Bing Ads and posted it on my website, Big Click Co. Feel free to download it for a deeper dive into this topic.

    Happy optimizing!

    * Note: Bing Ads does not import sitelink and app extensions at the ad group level, only at the campaign level.


    About the author

    Lisa Raehsler is a search engine marketing and pay-per-click (PPC) strategist, nationally-recognized speaker, and columnist for industry leading publications. As the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., Lisa works with companies and agencies of all sizes to integrate PPC advertising into online media strategies for brand promotion, demand generation, and customer acquisition. Lisa has led strategy and management on hundreds of paid advertising accounts for search engines (Google AdWords and Bing Ads), mobile, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Her experience spans seventeen years and includes working with national brands at agencies and at the enterprise level at Thomson Reuters.

    Lisa has spoken about PPC, mobile, retargeting and many other online marketing topics in podcasts and webinars. She has also spoken at numerous leading industry conferences, including Pubcon, ClickZ Live, SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX, as well as training events. Lisa also shares her expertise on digital marketing and paid search advertising as a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRocksSEM.

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