You have to love a contentious headline. In this article, I won't be declaring search engine marketing (SEM) dead. What I want to explore are the various ways you should support this kind of marketing elsewhere on your website.
The point is, gaining a customer through pay-per-click advertising in the search engine results pages costs money. That's fine because, assuming your campaign manager is skilled, they are likely to make a purchase and you have gained a fresh customer.
However, you don't want to pay to attract that customer a second or third time. To make your search budget work as hard as possible, you only want to pay for the same customer once.
After that, you want to ensure they automatically come back to your site when they next need your product or service. You want them to type your web address into their window and come straight to you.
If they follow the same search pattern as before, you'll probably have to pay for them again – or even risk losing them to the competition.
So, how can you keep your brand at the top of your new customer's mind? Here are some notes. As always, please feel free to add your own comments and ideas in the comments below.
Perhaps your average customer only needs your service every three months, or maybe even once a year. That's a long time inbetween purchases during which they can simply forget your website and brand.
So, you want to get them in the habit of visiting your website inbetween these purchases, to ensure they return to your pages of their own accord when they next need to buy.
A blog can be really helpful. Regular, engaging, relevant posts encourage customers to save your site in their favourites and visit more often than purchasing alone demands.
Then you're more likely to achieve their future custom and you won't have to pay Google for the same customer again.
Brand awareness is really important if you are to avoid your customer making the same search journey that originally brought them to your pages – and so avoid paying for them again.
Decent email marketing can help with this.
Of course, if you know that the customer won't require your services again for another 12 months (perhaps you sell car insurance, for example) then regular email marketing is pretty useless and could even anger the customer.
That doesn't mean you can't record when they make their first purchase, deduce when they are likely to need your services again, and send them an email closer to the time.
Fill it with relevant links and you have an easy journey straight to your pages.
With paid search, you need to fork out each time a customer clicks. However, plough some money into your organic optimisation and you have potentially unlimited marketing opportunities. You won’t have to pay for every click.
You'll spend budget reaching the top of the search results, but you'll have a marketing tool that keeps on working, rather than stopping the instant you cease spending.
Again, if you can get your customer into the habit of visiting the site, you will gain their business without having to pay for their search engine journey.
So, just as with a blog, an opportunity to socialise on your site will encourage them to visit even when they don't need to make a purchase.
Perhaps you're a stationary retailer. You could have a forum for aspiring authors to share tips. Maybe you're a major mechanics chain. You could offer visitors the chance to advertise their vehicles for sale for free. If you're a pet food manufacturer, why not set up a page for animal lovers to swap photos?
Yes, these platforms will be expensive to set up. However, this investment could save you money in the long run, by adding a new attractive element to your website.