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The ABCs of SEO and SEM


Construction is both macro and micro. In Dubai, there is a building that stands a half-mile high, for instance (the Burj Khalifa). Yes, that would be the Macro. What would be an example of the Micro? SEO and SEM, to name a couple of things. What are SEO and SEM? You wouldn’t confuse either of them for a half-mile high skyscraper, for starters. But if properly and intelligently employed, these quiet little tools will make your construction business much more visible than even the absurdly towering Burj Khalifa. Much more visible. This odd and thrilling fact can be filed under “The Weird Beauty and Stunning Business Economies of the Internet.” It goes something like this.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

We know what the Internet is. Let’s all say it together; “A vast, windy omniverse of densely-packed information that contains most of the answers we seek if we can just find them.” Okay, as definitions go, that’s close enough. If you’re a contractor, you may want to advertise your services on the internet, because its reach not only exceeds that of the local paper; its reach is also more exacting. You may place an ad in the newspaper in hopes the right people will see it, but when you properly place an ad on the internet, you’re actually designing your ad based on what the customer is asking to see. This is where SEO comes in. 

SEO means “Search Engine Optimization.” It’s a method for using specific language to draw specific “types” of visitors to your website, and thus to your business. In practice, it’s as if you devised a lock based precisely on the shape of the key held by the greatest number of prospects searching for a service like yours. Obviously, this is a lock you want many people to open. To “optimize” your web presence is to seed your written content with terms that are, ideally, very relevant to what you are offering, and not in completely common use by other businesses in your space. 

Walking this line can be a challenge—there are SEO professionals and consultants whose deep expertise is devoted solely to helping companies make optimal SEO choices. Why? Because when someone does an internet search based on several terms, the result can come back in the tens of thousands. You want to be near the visible top of that vertical list so your prospects can see you. It’s a tough game. But it is good to know there are strategies for getting noticed on the internet that cost you nothing but time, research, and a canny sense of how to leverage language. 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM means “Search Engine Marketing” (it’s also called “Pay-Per-Click”), and is a means of drawing web traffic that you actually pay for. How much does it cost? That depends largely on how many other people want to “buy” the same search terms you are using. In the SEM model, you will be “bidding” against other advertisers for these keywords that draw traffic to your site. For instance, if as a contractor your primary focus is “commercial real estate,” you will be vying for those words against other companies also interested in buying those words. The winning bid—which goes not only to the highest value bid, but is also decided based on landing page quality, relevance of desired keywords to your product or service, and so on—gets visible placement at or near the top of the search result. 

So, where SEO involves thoughtfully choosing keywords and counting on the right searchers finding them, paid SEM takes the guesswork out of the transaction. You are paying for visibility. In the Pay-per-Click model you will be paying the search engine every time a prospect clicks your “ad” and is taken to your site. That “per click” dollar figure is the amount you agreed to pay when you won the bid.

The internet is a bit like the U.S. Western frontier in the early 18th century—a vastness of unimaginable opportunity awaiting those with the determination and imagination to leverage its potential. Unlike the land rushes of the Old West, though, the greatest advantage goes not to those who arrive first, but to those who understand the landscape, and grasp how best to parlay its peculiarities into competitive advantage. After all, your skyscraping tower is just going to sit empty if nobody finds it. What’d be the point of that?




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