If your responsibility is to increase online revenue, you'll need the right resources.

Investing in a search marketing campaign is like spending money on any other type of marketing. The costs parallel the challenges. And everyone's challenges are different. Robust campaigns generally start around $30,000, require 6-8 weeks to implement and result in benefits as diverse as the campaigns themselves.

The scope of search engine optimization and marketing is extensive in regards to application and implementation. Search marketing—also known as Web site marketing, Internet marketing and Web site promotion—can help create a solid Internet foundation on which your business can build.

Because every business is unique, your first task is to clearly identify what it is you want to accomplish. Do you want more brand visibility? Do you want to reach a specific audience? Obtain a higher position in Google? Increase online sales?

After you identify your business goals, partner with a reputable search engine marketer (SEM)—also known as a search engine optimization (SEO) company. These specialize in the technology that generates traffic and positions for clients. A knowledgeable, experienced SEM/SEO can assist you every step of the way while keeping the best interests of your business in mind.

But before we delve into the fundamentals of how search engine marketing can increase your online revenues, let's take a look at some of the benefits of successful search engine marketing to get a sense of what can be accomplished.

Consider the following examples:

  • A nationally recognized healthcare complex made $185 for every dollar spent on search engine optimization and marketing during its first year. The healthcare company's goals were to increase Web traffic and target a specific audience that would, ultimately, improve the quality of its traffic. The comprehensive campaign included keyword and Web site architecture analysis, optimization of Web site and press release content, and the installation of tracking technology that monitors and evaluates the healthcare facility's investment.

  • A 75-year-old Fortune 500 cataloger of business and institutional supplies now has more than 650 keywords in Top 10 search engine positions and more than 940 keywords in Top 30 search engine positions—up from nothing in the course of just one year.

  • A nationally recognized furniture manufacturer, working within a tight budget and with a limited number of keywords, optimized for several highly competitive terms. After optimization, the furniture manufacturer reached more than 100 "Top 10" search engine positions and more than 130 "Top 30" search engine positions for these highly competitive terms.

  • A specialty grocer's homepage was as rare in the search engine listings as the unique, hard-to-find products it sold. After a year of search engine optimization, the grocer has sold $7 for every dollar invested in its search engine marketing campaign.

  • An international chemical giant needed to fix problems created by a previous search engine practitioner. It also wanted to increase traffic and educate a targeted audience. In less than a year, the company reached its traffic goals and moved from six Top 10 positions in the search engines to 500. Top 30 positions rose from 20 to more than 680.

This is just a small sample of cases where the right combination of resources and talent significantly increased online revenues for a business.

The Five Ps of Search Engine Marketing

Let's put a little twist on the five traditional principles, or Ps, of marketing. For each category (product, place, price, position and promotion), we have added a little information for you to chew on.

  1. I want my cake right now (Product). Being able to easily find a product on the Web is a value-added service for many customers. Despite the time of day or night, location or even the weather, customers can get what they what from you—if your product promptly appears within the first few results pages of the customer's search engine of choice (which, according to most recent studies, is probably Google, MSN, AOL or Yahoo!). The sale of your products and services can quickly escalate based on how convenient it is for your customers to research, inquire and ultimately make a purchase. How quickly can they find your products or services? Can they learn more about those products or services and buy them from you right now? Is it a safe, simple procedure?

  2. Where can I find that cake? (Place). A bakery can sell its famous cakes from a brick building down the street, from a kiosk in a food court or from the results pages of a search engine. When a customer walks into a bakery, he can immediately see whether there are any chocolate cakes—but what about the baker's Web site? How will the customer know if the baker has any chocolate cakes? The answer is keyword. If your Web site does not contain the keywords customers use to find a specific product, it's just like having an empty shelf at the bakery. With conscientious search engine optimization, you can put your products and services on the shelf—at eye level.

  3. How much is that cake? (Price). Comprehensive search engine optimization and marketing can help reduce the cost of generating leads and sales. You can pass those savings on to your customer, enjoy a stronger profit margin or benefit from both. Plus, search analytics can provide you with the data and the analysis needed to generate leads and demonstrate your savings, quarter after quarter.

  4. Is that the best cake you've got? (Position). What do you suppose happens to your reputation if the products and services you sell don't readily appear within the first few pages of a Google search? You may be judged irrelevant. Nonexistent. Ouch. A successful campaign, however, can permit smaller players to walk among giants. It levels the proverbial playing field. And don't forget—you can add to your visibility with pay-per-click advertising and let your customers know you're ready to deal. Your reputation is resuscitated. Your presence is felt.

  5. My friends love your cake—can we get a group discount? (Promotion). Obviously, the exposure of being well positioned naturally in search results promotes your product or service—potential customers usually scroll through only the first few pages of search engine results before giving up and moving on. But have you considered how paid search campaigns could also offer price promotions and seasonal products or launch new services? And how a well-optimized press release can rise to the top of a journalist's list of resources? Or on the list of an investor, analyst, franchisee, or most importantly, a customer? And where does a customer go to get more information about an advertised sweepstakes or self-fulfilling promotion? You get the idea.

So what should you, the marketer, glean from all this information about search engine optimization and marketing?

First, familiarize yourself with it. Learn how search engines search. Learn the importance of keyword selection. Define objectives for your business and your Web site and make a list of the goals you wish to achieve. Learn who the players are, then partner with a SEM/SEO that bases success on results, not just potential.

Be sure that the companies you consider can clearly track, measure and demonstrate a return on your investment, and that they have the tools to report and evaluate Top 10 and Top 30 search engine positions. Your SEM/SEO should also provide analytics that reveal search engine traffic increases as optimization efforts take effect and grow over time. As with any great recipe for success, superior results are always measurable.

Finally, ask your SEM/SEO partner if it can define actions (such as downloading articles, subscribing to newsletters or requesting information) that convert Web site users into prospects, and then qualify them as suitable leads. Prior to optimization, your SEM/SEO should be able to benchmark conversion rates and, as optimization takes effect, document how your site is attracting qualified prospects.

The key to increasing your online revenue through search engine marketing requires a team effort—the right combination of resources and talent. And, because of all the buzz about search engine optimization being on the rise, it is common knowledge that competition for Top 10 and Top 30 search engine positions is going to intensify.

After you've done a little homework, answer this questions: Can you afford not to optimize your site?

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Lisa Wehr is president of Oneupweb. For more information, visit oneupweb.com.