The Basics of Search: An Interview with Webnatics Singapore General Manager Frieda Lee
6,586,013,574 searches a day are made through internet search engines worldwide, the bulk of it on Google. A complex algorithm determines whether or not your website appears on the first page results of your targeted keywords. Of course, appearing on the first few pages of the search results makes it more likely for people to find it.
Seeing how much power search engines have over how people find your new website, it would be imprudent to ignore or put aside Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). In fact, most of Arcadier’s traffic comes from organic search, but it must be made clear that this is something that was built over time, not overnight. From adding on-page SEO elements, improving page loading time to backlinking, these efforts are crucial in building a search engine-friendly website.
Fortunately, Arcadier had the help of digital and search agency Webnatics, which has a presence in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. We spoke to Webnatics Singapore’s General Manager, Frieda Lee — who was once Head of Search at Blue Interactive, a full-service digital agency with regional offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Dubai, London and Palo Alto — to pick her brain about what new site owners should know about SEO and SEM.
From left to right: Frieda Lee, Wilfred Chua (CEO & Founder), Julie Chiam (Group Account Director). Photo credit: Webnatics.
A: You’ve been with Webnatics since 2013 and in the Search Marketing field for a total of 15 years now! Can you tell us how you got started with this specialization? What is it about the work or the industry that keeps your passion alive?
F: Yes it may seem like a long time, but time passes like a breeze! Maybe it’s because I love what I do — I really want to see small and medium businesses skill up and scale up their market potential. The Singapore brand is very strong, and a lot of businesses don’t know and haven’t leveraged on it internationally. That’s what fuels my excitement and working with our local businesses; helping them see the opportunities and getting them set up to meet their potential on the digital and business growth, strategy and transformation.
What are SEO and SEM?
A: Can you explain the relationship between SEO and SEM? Can they work effectively without each other?
F: That’s a very common question, and often the words SEM and SEO are used without proper understanding. SEO is the practice of optimizing the content and structure of a website so that it is readable to search engine spiders. SEM is Online Advertising where you only pay per click when a customer goes to your website. These two disciplines go hand in hand because:
- Great SEO can lead to cheaper costs on SEM
- SEO rankings are free and you don’t have to keep paying Google
- Brand Names should be #1 on Google Search Results pages (SEO), as that is brand advocacy
- Expensive and high volume keywords on SEM should be SEO-ed on, so that you can benefit from more paid and organic traffic to your website
- There’s a lot more to consider, but these are the few more evident and important ones to any Marketer who considers ROI and Performance Marketing
A: At which stage would you recommend a startup client use SEM, or what are the fundamentals a client should have before opting to use SEM?
F: I recommend that they look to asking a good Google Premier Service Partner this question; there are 4 of these agencies in Singapore and Webnatics is one of them. At Webnatics we will ask businesses the hard questions about their intended marketing goals and expected returns on investment. Then we look at their digital fundamentals — Is the website optimized for Google? Is the client tracking the right metrics? Is there a viable value proposition and commercial market fit between the company offerings and their customer set? When these (and more) questions are answered, then a company can start SEM as it is still the most cost efficient media channel to date.
Creating an SEM campaign
A: How should Arcadier Marketplace operators decide how much they should pay for a click in a PPC campaign?
F: Arcadier Marketplace owners should look back on the Profit Margins on every online sale, and decide how much they can spend in order to breakeven from every sales. Then multiply this into the number of orders they would like to see.
The idea is if you pay for a visit or potential client, you want that cost of advertising to break even, because if you aren’t able to make incremental profits, you are still able to get your name out there against your competition.
Webnatics Singapore team. Photo credit: Webnatics.
A: What are the most important components of a good search ad?
F: A good search ad would have crystallized the client’s communication message; the combination of Consumer, Company and Competition. It also has enough call to action to entice the searcher to come to the website. Additionally, it must display all the needed DNA, which is sitelink, call, structured snippet extensions etc. These best of breed practices change all the time, and I highly recommend that you go back to your agency or marketing team to ask these questions.
A: We’ve seen that CPC can vary widely in different industries. How do you make the most of a limited budget in high CPC (cost per click) environments?
F: It goes back to the initial question of how SEO aids SEM. This is exactly how we try to reduce CPC over time. With healthy SEO, and good relevant ads, CPCs even in highly competitive industries should reduce over time.
There are some budgets that are too small to give 10 clicks a day. I recommend you look at a smarter way of placing your budgets; time scheduling, turning off weekends if that works for your business, being more focused on one or two services / products on your website. Think of consolidating the small budget into a month instead of spreading it out over many months. Again, ask your agency and marketing team these questions.
Analyzing the results of your SEM campaign
A: When using AdWords, what campaign metrics should we be focusing on and why?
F: If you are concerned about Return On Investment, make sure you are tracking the right online actions with Google Analytics, Facebook Pixels and Adwords Conversion Codes. You should be looking at a rising volume of conversions (leads / ecommerce transactions) and reducing CPA over time.
If you are new to market and need to get your brand out there, firstly look to get more clicks for your budgets, and move quickly onto Conversion Based Optimisation methods next. At Webnatics we use our programmatic bidding and tracking platform to build efficiency over time. The algorithm is trained on many industries in Singapore and has amassed a great deal of learning that will deliver results for you.
A: What range would be considered a good conversion rate? From your experience, what are the best ways to improve conversion rates in SEM?
F: There isn’t a magic number that I can give you. Each campaign and industry is different and could vary widely. I would say based on experience, 1% conversion from click to a lead is ok, and could be better. But, take this with a pinch of salt as you should always look to your historical data.
To improve conversion rates, relook at your Adcopy and keyword and Landing Page relevancy. If everything is good, then redo your landing pages. We are going into Landing Page Optimisation (which is what Webnatics does as well), to test various messaging and Landing Pages to determine which mix of adcopy to keyword to landing page works for you. In a nutshell, use this formula below:
Keyword x Adcopy x Landing Page = Improving Conversion Rate
Frieda leading a Performance Based Marketing Workshop for NTU Marketing Students.
Photo credit: Webnatics.
Additional search industry resources
A: What are some resources that we can refer to if we’d like to track changes in how search engines operate and understand how they work behind the scenes?
F: I personally follow a few sites — SearchEngineLand, SearchEngineJournal, Clickz.com, marketingtechnews.net, Webmasterworld as a few examples. I do plough through Slideshare as there are sometimes good resources. They would give you a good pulse on the industry.
A: What are some recent changes to Google’s algorithm and SEM that we should be aware of? Based on the trends, what is your best bet for maintaining or improving visibility on the search engines in the long run?
F: There are a lot of updates over the past 5 years and recently another update to the algorithm in June 2017 as well. Lots talk online about rankings and visibility being affected, but no one pin-pointing exactly what it is. My biggest comment on this is, to continue focusing on whitehat means of SEO. Good quality link building, content that is original and new to the market, ensuring all the basic SEO hygiene is met.
After all, Google changes their algorithm to reward those who ensure they practice relevancy to the reader. As long as this rule is followed, whatever updates to Google should not penalize you too badly.
Webnatics’ SEO Team lives and breathes this. Please feel free to reach out to us.
About the writer: Clarissa Santoso is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Arcadier, a SaaS company that powers next generation marketplace ideas. You can follow Arcadier on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for the latest insights on the sharing economy.
Learn More About Arcadier: arcadier.com