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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Search engine optimization

First let’s look at organic search and search engine optimization, or SEO as it’s often referred to. This is a massive part of digital marketing and a really important concept to understand. You need to understand, first of all, what it is, and then how to do it.

Organic search are the results that come up when you search into a search engine and they’re the results that that search engine ranks as the most relevant for your search based on their merits.

And if you think of Google as a typical web browser or search engine, when you type in a search, you’ll often be shown results that are highlighted at the top, sometimes little boxes that show images of products. So those little boxes that show images of products, those are paid advertising and called Google Shopping that we’ll speak about later on. Then, often below that, you’ll see a range of bolder links sometimes on a kind of yellow background. Those are also search ads that, again, are paid for advertising.

Then if you come down a level below that, that’s where you get the organic results, and these are the ones that Google are rating as the most relevant results for the search you’ve made. On other searches that are either less relevant or that have fewer companies bidding on the results, you may well find that there aren’t those levels of ads and the organic lists are right at the top, right underneath the search bar that you’ve entered your search into.

So now we need to understand how it is that we get your website and your links to be those top most relevant results for the searches that people have made. This depends on relevance and authority, and this is about the content and your site.


So how relevant is your site, how relevant is the content on your site, and how much authority does Google, in this case, deem your site to have? So let’s talk about relevance here in the first place. Two key things contribute to this.

One of them is content, and this is all about how much content there is on your page that relates to the search that someone has made.

So, for example, if someone has searched for bright golf pants, there’s lots of content on our website. Both products, product descriptions, product titles, blog articles about different bright golf pants that are available to people, all that relevant content that includes the similar words that are used in the search inquiry are on our site, which makes Google think, “Yes, this site is relevant to that search term.” Likewise, if you’ve got people searching for what’s the best software used to do x, if you’ve got sites that have got blog articles that are answering that specific question, those blog articles will feature those words quite heavily and as a result Google will know that there is content there that is relevant to that inquiry.

Second thing that helps relevancy is some of the kind of SEO nuts and bolts that you need to have in place. This is things like having the right keywords in your titles, and having the right tags and meta data set up behind the web page for your product descriptions and your titles.

Again, there’s lots of blogs available and lots of agencies available to help you better understand that kind of technical SEO basics that you need to have in place to make sure that Google views your content as relevant as possible to those search inquiries.


This is about Google saying, “Okay, you might have lots of information about the thing the person has searched for, but how do we know that it’s valuable and that it’s relevant, and it’s accurate?” It could be that you’ve just made up lots of facts and figures and information about that particular search inquiry and that’s no use to the user who’s searched for it. So Google will need to do what they can to try and validate that the information on your site is valuable and accurate, and so they do this through trying to get a sentence on the authority that your site has.

Links to your site

The real key way that this is done is through Google looking at how many other sites link to your site. So effectively they think if there’s other sites that are referencing your site as a valuable resourceful content, then there’s a good chance that that content is accurate and is valid. So if you think about an example, again going back to bright golf pants, if other people are writing about bright golf pants for whatever reason in different blog and then linking back to our site, that gives Google confidence that yes, whatever people are going to find on the Royal & Awesome site is relevant to that particular search term.


The other important thing to note on links and providing authority is that links from different sites have different levels of weighting. So, again, not all sites are equal in Google’s eyes, quite rightly. Suppose you get a link from a very high traffic, very high authority website, such as the BBC in the UK, the likes of Huffington Post, or ESPN in the US, so all of these major traffic, highly respected websites. If they link to your website, that, again, gives Google real confidence that the content that users are going to find on your site is valid, is relevant, and has the relevant authority.

Conversely, if you’re getting links from much smaller sites, Google gives less weight to those links because they’re easier to get and they’re less validated in Google’s eyes.

So, again, just to recap, to maximize your chance of showing up well in these organic searches, you need to deliver two things: relevant content, and then as many links as possible to your site from other sites so that Google has confidence that you’ve got authority on the subject that you’re speaking about.

Phases of organic search interest

The other key thing to consider for all search, but especially organic search, is the different phases that a user can be in when they’re searching for things.

The three key phases are:

  • The attention phase
  • The interest phase
  • The decision-making phase

The attention phase

So first, as you take the example of someone who’s running an e-commerce site like me who is viewing his data of how his users are using his sight can see that the conversion rate is not as high as he would like, and can see which pages people are leaving from, but doesn’t really know why people are leaving from that page. I may well go to Google and type in, “How can I better understand how people are using my website?”, or “How can I better understand why people are leaving my website?”, or “How can I see how people are using my website?”

These are all searches that let me know that I am looking to solve, or let Google know that I’m looking to solve some sort of problem. And so it’s very likely that they will then show me information that says, “These different web tools are available for either viewing heat maps of how people are using the website, potentially filming people or filming the screen of the people using the web browser so that they can see how people are navigating the site.” And it’ll obviously mention those software providers in those blog posts. And so that’s kind of phase one, where I’ve been searching for something and I now know that there are these web softwares that allowed me to get a better understanding of how people are using my site.

The interest phase

And so then stage two becomes, “Right, I know about these different providers. Which one is best for me?” So I might then do a new Google search of “Which is the best software between Inspectlet...” and I think there’s another called Visualizer, or something along those lines, “Which is the best software of these two?” And then it would come back with blog posts about that issue. And again, that helps me better understand my decision before I move on to the final decision if I’m ready to take action.

The decision-making phase

So I’ve done the research on the different providers, I know which one I like best and which best matches my need, and so I’m now in a position to buy so I’ll be searching for things like, “Best place to buy Inspectlet software from” or “Buy Inspectlet software” or “Cheapest Inspectlet software” and, again, the results that would come up would be the ones that are all the different people selling that product and information about what price they’re selling it at, what their service levels are going to be.

Converting customers with content

Optimized content

And so it’s important for someone that is selling that service to have organic content that is relevant to every stage of that buying and kind of process that the buyer, in this case me, was going through so that they are visible and likely to pick up traffic at that stage. So, again, they would have content optimized, and content about the initial stage of these are all the softwares that are available. They’ll have content available at the interest phase of these are how those different softwares compare to each other, and then they’ll have buying opportunities and product information at this is where you buy the product from, at this price.


Again, a simple example in a more traditional category, so, again, looking at our morphsuits and fancy dress costume business, a typical search that someone would start that purchase process with would be something along the lines of, ‘Funny Halloween costume’. And so again, we make sure that we’ve got blog content that speaks about these are the top five, these are the top ten funniest Halloween costumes for men, funniest Halloween costumes for women, funniest Halloween costumes of 2015, of 2016, and so on.

So we’ve got lots of content around that high level attention phase search so that hopefully, when someone types in, ‘Funniest Halloween costume’, a blog that features morphsuits comes up either on our page or on someone else’s page, and gives them information about the types of products available. So, ideally, that person sees that content, has a read of it and decides, “Yes, I want to buy a morphsuit,” which is an all-in-one Lycra costume, but they also might see through that blog post or through other research they do that there are other brands that offer a similar type of product.


So then they might move on to stage two which is the interest phase. So at this point they’re searching for things like “Why should I buy a morphsuit rather than a skin suit?” or “Why is morphsuits better or worse than the competition?” So, again, we’ve got content on our site that is optimized to answer that question of why our product is better than the competition. So things like the consistency of the Lycra allows you to see through it, but not be seen through, things like the zips are a better quality, all these product features that we believe differentiate us compared to our competition.

There is content on our site that answers that question so that hopefully, users who are not sure whether to buy from us or our competition, search for things, come to our page, view that information, and then decide to buy our product.


This takes them on to the third phase of decision action, and again, at this stage they would have decided, “Right, I want to buy a black morphsuit because it will go best with the rest of my Halloween costume.” So at that stage they type in, ‘Buy black morphsuit’ and at that stage, all the different retailers including us that sell that product will show up, both in terms of paid advertising that we’ll speak about later, and in terms of organic search.

And again, we want to make sure that our website is optimized in a way and has content available that means that we come up top of the organic search to try and maximize the amount of sales and the amount of traffic that we get for that key portion of traffic that is around the decision and action phase. So then this leads us in to how you convert customers, and as I’ve said, point one here around the importance of having content available to rank is really around getting your organic search engine optimization right.

Paid media

Point two is around running marketing campaigns through paid media that help complement that. When you type something into Google, you often get shown a combination of paid advertising results and organic results. And so having these two elements of your marketing, mix of the organic and the paid working together in harmony gives you the best chance of capturing those sales.

So it’s a real kind of belts-and-braces approach of making sure that you’ve got all bases covered, to mix metaphors there, so that when people are searching for a product you’re most likely to capture that sale.

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Graeme Smeaton

Graeme Smeaton is the founder of Royal & Awesome. Along with a proven track record in defining and delivering marketing strategies that drive significant growth and create real shareholder value, Graeme is highly commercial. He has extensive experience managing PLs and other key financial statements, while being an operational board director of AFG Media Ltd, and has experience negotiating with suppliers, distributors and licensing partners.

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Identify the channels and formats used to generate e-commerce customer interest including e-commerce websites
  • Analyse user behaviour on an e-commerce platform
  • Critically assess opportunities for creating e-commerce conversions

    Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

    DMI Short Course: GDPR

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