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July 26, 2011

A Shortcut to the Grail: How Semantic Search Can Boost Internet Marketing for Small Businesses

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This is a guest post by Colin Jeavons and part of a series of guest posts that will be featured on the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog all week long. Colin explains how semantic search technology can help small businesses use ad dollars to reach their specific target audiences online. Read on and enjoy!

As with any business in the information age, marketing has become a more and more specialized discipline. Long gone are the days when companies would just put up a billboard or record a radio advertisement, and expect the compelling copy to make the sale. Even within the Internet age, there has been an evolution—the indiscriminate pop-ups of the early World Wide Web era have evolved into the current search advertising market, which predicates itself on complex algorithms meant to divine the most effective results.


grail of semantic search

Effective Web marketing relies on cutting waste; business owners can no longer afford for their marketing to cast wide and survive on the scant percentages that are converted by a national ad campaign. The “Holy Grail” of marketing, therefore, targets the people most interested in buying your merchandise/booking your service at the moment of peak interest.

For the search marketing industry, targeting has taken many shapes. Ads are placed by their relevance to a keyword within a search session; by behavior type when tracking cookies are involved; and by demographic in the cases of hyper-local ads.

Semantic technology is an additional tool starting to come into favor. For small business owners, who feel pressure to utilize the most effective marketing solutions in the most cost-effective manner due to limited resources, semantic search-based advertising, especially on a pay-per-click model, is one of the best ways to quickly target receptive buyers in the most effective fashion.

As we say in Britain, the proof of the pudding is in the eating; semantic search-based ads react to their surrounding content more like a human than a standard keyword search ad, meaning that a conversion- someone visiting the site because of an ad- is more likely.

On top of that, a semantic-search engine is more likely to display what is already on the user’s mind. This all adds up to a compelling package for the advertiser- if someone is on a food Web site, a semantic search package will ensure that they see ads in the food or cooking sector, and likewise with their search queries.

The pay-per-click model is especially attractive to small businesses because it is completely scalable—businesses can set a cap, and only pay when their prospects “come into the shop” by clicking on the ad.

A small-business owner looking to enter into a semantic-based marketing campaign needs to be aware of a few things going in. First, they need to get a sense of where their campaign will go- how many people will see it, what type of content will it accompany, etc. After they’ve reviewed the publisher list, and made sure that it matches their targets, they need to double check their hosting agreements- a truly effective semantic search campaign will draw clicks, and much like a “group coupon deal” participant running out of inventory, a DNS crash makes the advertiser look worse than if they were invisible. My company, Vertical Search Works, has had a few clients stop a campaign because the traffic boost within the first week was running them close to a site crash.

The semantic search market is just beginning its rise, much like keyword search did in the late 90s and early 00s. As it becomes more widespread, small business owners and marketers will see its effectiveness, and semantic search ads will be a necessary part of every company’s marketing mix. Companies that take advantage of it now will be miles ahead of their competition.

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