Home > Articles > Business & Management

How Search Marketing Works

To maximize the number of searchers coming to your site, however, you must take specific actions to attract visitors to your site from search sites. That’s search marketing. This chapter from Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company's Website, 3rd Edition explains why search marketing is important, why it is difficult, what search marketing is, and how to get started.
This chapter is from the book

Search marketing. Perhaps you’ve heard this term kicked around, but you don’t know what it means. Or, if you do know, you don’t know where to start. As with anything new, if you take it step by step, you can learn it. A systematic approach can lead to search marketing success in any organization.

When someone types a word into Google (or another search engine), sees a page listed from your site, and clicks through to visit your site, you have attracted a searcher. If you do nothing at all, searchers will still find your site—sometimes. To maximize the number of searchers coming to your site, however, you must take specific actions to attract visitors to your site from search sites. That’s search engine marketing (or search marketing, for short). This book shows you how to become a search marketer. This chapter covers the following topics:

  • Why search marketing is important: You are probably not reading this book as an academic exercise; instead, you want to know how to get more visitors to your website. You already spend your marketing budget on other ways to entice people to visit. This chapter explains why search marketing in many ways is the best kind of marketing there is. And some of it is free.
  • Why search marketing is difficult: Attracting searchers to your site is appealing, but it’s harder to do than you might think. As search marketing becomes more and more widespread, your competition is increasing. What’s more, small companies have different challenges than big companies—and it isn’t easy for either one. This chapter explains why so many websites struggle to attract search visitors. But don’t worry. The rest of this book shows you how to overcome these challenges.
  • What search marketing is: When a search site responds to a searcher, many types of search results show up on that screen. We explain where those results come from and how Google and Bing decide what to show.
  • How to get started in search marketing: When a search site responds to a searcher, many types of search results show up on that screen. We explain where those results come from and how you, as a search marketer, can influence your content to show up on that result screen. You can get started today if you just know how to approach search marketing. And you’ll learn more and more as you move deeper into this book.

Let’s get started now! First up, we’ll look at why search marketing is so important to any marketer with a website.

Why Search Marketing Is Important

Unless you’ve been under a rock since the late 1990s (and maybe even then), you know that search marketing is important, even if you might not have done much about it up until now. You know it’s important because you likely use search yourself, probably every day, and you’re not alone; 91% of online adults used search engines to find information on the web in 2012, up from 84% in 2004. But you might not be focusing on all of the reasons that search marketing can be critically important to your marketing mix.

Searchers Are Highly Qualified Prospects

You know that potential customers are out there that you want to reach and that search is one important way to do it. But it goes deeper than that.

Any form of marketing can reach potential customers; that’s why marketing exists. Search marketing is unique among marketing techniques in that searchers are out there raising their hands saying, “Please sell to me now!” When searchers belly up to Google and type something into the search box, they are begging to receive marketing messages. Now, not every search revolves around a potential purchase, but many do, and your company can be in the middle of those sales possibilities.

But it’s even better than that.

Not only are many searchers potential customers, but the very words that they type into the search box reveal where they are in their purchase process. Someone who enters hair loss remedy is not ready to buy, but someone who enters rogaine might be. You’ll want two very different marketing messages in response to these two different searches, with the first one focusing on alternative treatments for baldness and the second maybe offering a coupon. What other form of marketing is so tuned to the customer’s readiness to buy?

That readiness to buy is one of the most basic reasons to spend your scarce marketing budget on search: 89% of those online use search engines to look for information about brands and products. Lest you think that not enough people are online for search marketing to be worth your while, note that total Internet users passed the seven billion mark worldwide in 2012. As simple as it sounds, your customers are online, and they use search to buy. Your site must be found by these searchers who are ready to buy.

Think about the new way that people purchase products. They no longer call your company to have you mail them a brochure. They “Google” your offering (verizon wireless). Or maybe they look for your competitor’s (sprint). Or they search for its generic name (cell phone service).

If your company’s website is not listed in the first few search results for these searches, you’re out! You are out of the customer’s consideration set—the group of companies that will be considered for the customer’s purchase. If you are not in the customer’s consideration set, you have no chance to make the sale to that customer.

Even if the goal of your website is not online purchase, your customers must find you to learn about your offerings, download information, or find the location of a retail store. Searchers are far more qualified visitors to your site than someone who clicks a banner ad, for example, so attracting search visitors is just good business.

And search volume is growing dramatically, due to the explosion in the use of mobile devices. If you stop to think about it, these small screens with ubiquitous wireless access to the web are tailor-made for a more search-centered user experience. There is no room to look at long web pages with lots of links to navigate; searching using the keyboard or voice recognition is much easier. There’s always enough room for a search box.

The main reason to make search part of your marketing mix is that that’s where your customers are, but there are other reasons.

Search Marketing Is Cost-Effective

Beyond your customers’ use of search, the case for including search in your marketing mix is compelling for another reason: Search marketing expenditures are a good value compared to other forms of marketing. We’ve already talked about how searchers are more qualified than others you market to, because the act of searching is an expression of interest. That alone saves money wasted in other forms of marketing. But there are more reasons that search is a good buy.

Some search tactics require no payment to the search engine for traffic, so it can be among the most cost-effective forms of marketing, especially if your website is already well designed with high-quality content. Even with the costs of search advertising, you pay only for the people who actually click through to your site, unlike other forms of advertising where you pay for each ad impression shown. Marketing software company HubSpot has found that search engine optimization (SEO) has the highest lead-to-customer close rate of any form of generation marketing at one-third lower cost than outbound marketing tactics, such as advertising and direct mail.

Why is this important? Because if you want to start spending money on search, you need to stop spending on something else. When you understand that search is the most effective way to spend your scarce marketing dollars, you should be able to easily reduce some existing budgets (direct mail, perhaps?) to find the money for your new search expenditures. An Advertising.com survey found over 35% of marketers indicated paid search is their most cost-effective lead generation method, nearly twice as effective as other forms of marketing.

Search Marketing Is Big Business

You can tell a new marketing technique is taking off by noticing the number of consultants who hang out their shingles to help you do it! Several kinds of firms are involved in search marketing:

  • Search consultants: A brand new kind of consultancy has sprung up in the past several years; these new firms handle search marketing and nothing else.
  • Traditional advertising agencies: At the other end of the spectrum are the old-line advertising agencies that have been around for years. Just as firms such as Young & Rubicam and Ogilvy & Mather handle TV, radio, and print advertising, in recent years they have taken on web advertising. Starting with banner ads, they have now moved into search marketing, too.
  • Interactive advertising agencies: In between the two extremes, interactive agencies handle anything online, ranging from search marketing to social media to email campaigns. Sometimes these agencies are subsidiaries of the traditional ad agencies, whereas others are smaller, independent firms.

All of these firms are competing for your growing interactive marketing budget. Your organization might already work with one of these companies, or might be looking for a search marketing partner. What is most important at this point is your interest in allocating part of your marketing budget to search, because you will soon see that achieving success is rather challenging.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020