If you are a startup just starting out or looking to accelerate your growth, an online marketing tactic you should consider is search engine marketing, especially if you have some budget at hand.
Otherwise known as SEM, it has been increasingly one of the most effective ways for businesses to grow in a competitive marketplace.
What is search engine marketing (SEM)?
Search engine marketing or SEM was once used as an umbrella term to include both organic SEO and paid search advertising.
Over time, SEM strategies now have been adopted to refer solely to paid search, a business marketing strategy that uses paid advertisements to appear on search engine results pages (SERPS).
Advertisers bid on common keywords with the highest probability of being used by potential customers on search engines including Google and Bing.
The advertisers get a profitable opportunity since their ads will appear on top of the results for their search queries. While search engine marketing is available in almost all search engines, 76% of the search engine market actually belongs to Google according to Webfx.
You must be familiar with this, but Google paid advertisements are always placed on the top with an ad label on them.
These ads are often known by their other term, pay-per-click, and they come in various formats.
Some of these ads are small and text-based, while some are visual. The visual ads contain products-based advertisements that allow potential buyers to glance at important information such as the price of the products or services and their reviews.
Google search engine marketing is powerful because it puts the paid advertisements on the top of any search queries to eager buyers ready to purchase your product.
According to Google, businesses using Google Ads on average earns $8 for every $1.60 they spent on ads. For this reason, these advertisements provide an edge that most other marketing strategies cannot.
So if you are considering SEM as a strategy, here are some of the services you should explore:
- Google AdWords
- Yahoo search marketing
- Bing ads
- A9 for amazon
- Linkedin Ads
SEM vs SEO: What’s the Difference?
However, before we dive straight into the SEM strategies, here are a few questions businesses often come across and that is: what is the difference between SEM and SEO?
Generally, there is only one significant difference between SEM and SEO marketing and that is paid or unpaid.
Search engine marketing refers to paid search marketing, whereby businesses and brands get on the top of search results through paying Google to show their ads.
Search engine optimization, otherwise known as SEO, refers to the process of getting to the top of search results for their queries organically, without paying, and instead through providing the most relevant content for the given search query.
SEM vs. SEO: Which is better?
You could lose a lot of money if you don’t do your SEM campaigns correctly, and likewise, if you are not doing your SEO properly, it might take a lot of time before you can see any significant results.
The key is to use the right strategy suitable for your business at the stage or to strike the right balance between SEM and SEO. Both SEO and SEM should be fundamental parts of your online marketing strategy.
SEO is a powerful way to drive evergreen traffic at the top of your funnel for informational search queries, while SEM and paid ads should be used to target ready potential buyers to drive conversions.
Here’s an awesome infographic by Alexa which constitutes the important questions you should ask when making a decision.
At last, if you are looking to get quick results, gain better keyword insights, and see an immediate increase in your traffic and sales, you should start your SEM campaign.
Besides, paid advertisements is also a good strategy to increase brand awareness through subconscious exposure since your product will always be on top of the search list whenever they make a search query.
This makes it great for local businesses since local businesses’ products and services are readily available to potential consumers.
This marketing strategy is advantageous and often leads to 78% offline purchases on all searches.
So with that, let’s look into search engine marketing.
Paid SEM: Terminology and Fundamentals
It’s important we understand the concepts and terminologies often used in paid search activities, so here are the most commonly used terms.
- Pay-per-click (PPC) – Pay-per-click or PPC is an internet marketing model where advertisers pay for each time their ad is clicked. Advertisers use this strategy to buy website visits rather than generating them organically.
- Cost-per-click (CPC) – Cost-per-click or CPC is the performance-based advertising model where the advertiser pays a set fee for every click on an ad.
- Cost-per-action (CPA) – Cost-per-action or CPA is a form of paid advertising that is dependent upon an action that a user performs as a result of the advertisement. This could include making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or asking for a follow-up call.
How do you apply SEM strategies to your business?
Master Keyword Research
When it comes to setting up an SEM campaign, you need to choose the keywords you want to target and or avoid.
Generally, you would be looking for buyer keywords, and these following steps can be helpful for your SEM keyword research and selection.
1. Prepare Your Seed Keyword List
First things first, you will need an initial keyword list to work on. Compile a list of seed keywords based on your business model and include keywords that your target audience might be interested in.
Ideally, your seed keyword list should include these five terms:
- Product terms – Keywords in this category should be the search queries that your target audience uses to find your product. They should describe what your product or service is, what your solution does, or the problem you solve.
- Brand terms – Keywords in this category is all about your brand. These are the most profitable keywords since people are already familiar with your brand and are specifically searching for your brand. These keywords are important to monitor as other brands can hijack your keyword and deliver their solution as an alternative.
- Competitor terms – Keywords in this category will include your competitor’s ranking keywords and comparison keywords that your potential customer might be searching for when making comparisons between you and your competitor.
- Substitute product terms – Some customers might be searching for products that are similar to what you are offering. For example, someone looking for a ski jacket might also be interested in a winter coat. However, do know that these keywords can have a higher CPC since the Google algorithm does not consider them relevant.
- Complementary product terms – Keywords in this category are terms that complement your product or services, just as socks are to shoes and peanut butter is to jam. So, you might want to consider bidding on these terms as well.
Targeting the right keywords is the foundation of a successful search engine marketing campaign. The reasoning behind this is that targeted keywords put your company’s website ahead of the competition that may be relying on rising through the ranks organically.
2. Use a Keyword Research tool to refine your list
SEM is all about stats. To make sure you get the results for every penny you spend, you need to do some thorough keyword research and invest in only the most profitable and relevant keywords.
The next thing to do is to expand your seed keywords and get the keyword details and data. You can get the information using Google Keyword Planner or access more info using our BiQ’s Keyword Intelligence.
Getting the best performing buyer keywords will give you an edge over your competition by placing your ad where relevant customers will most likely click through the ad to your website.
- CPCs and ad auction
CPC stands for cost per click and is also known as pay per click. It is used to determine advertisers’ costs for their ads displayed on Google’s search engines. CPC plays a significant role when choosing bids in your SEM strategies. It’s where you want to maximize conversions relative to the budget.
Ad auction refers to the process by which google provides advertisements based on keywords where interested parties bid and whoever is willing to pay the most gets the ad. This forum allows for google to award the ad to the most interested party.
You should note that you could get a higher ranking and still pay less if you choose the most relevant keywords for your advertising. Not every ad can appear in a search engine because Google considers several factors to determine whether the ad is the best fit for the search query.
There are several factors to consider when using SEM strategies, such as:
Keyword intent represents the internet user’s primary purpose in performing the search. It is the most crucial part of keyword research since it allows you to meet the user’s needs better by matching your content and landing pages with their intentions.
As an advertiser, you have to be presumptuous when researching for your SEM keywords. This is important since it gives you better odds for the user clicking through to your page and getting the product or service they need, which is a great way to boost conversions.
Keyword volume and competition
Keyword search volume refers to the number of searches on a particular keyword in a given time frame, while keyword competition refers to how hard it will be for you to rank on a specific keyword. Using keyword volume and keyword competition tools is a great way to determine the best keywords for you.
The average keyword cost for Google Ads is about $0.58. However, the cost can sometimes soar to up to $50 per click, depending on how competitive the keywords are. Most small business companies in the US can spend up to $10000 on google ads per month.
Account and campaign structure
Creating a successful SEM account and campaign structure is determined by several factors. For instance, you should know your target market to make personalized advertisements that your customers can respond to.
You should organize your account structure through logical keyword grouping, which can help you get more click through rates with lower costs-per-click and stronger overall performance. It would be best to research keyword groupings and create optimized content for clusters of related keywords.
Advanced SEM strategies
Understanding your target audience and their search criteria
Understanding your target audience is essential when creating SEM strategies. It allows you to use targeted keywords to bring in more conversions and more traffic to your website. To do this, you have to get into your customer’s minds and analyze their search pattern.
Doing this is quite tricky; however, if you get it right, the chances are that you’ll get more results through your SEM strategies campaign. Strategically placing your ad in front of eager customers will result in higher click-through rates and even more conversions!
Improve prospecting efficiency with similar audiences
You could categorize buyers into groups with shared similarities that are more likely to click through when shown your ad in a specific format. Providing this information in your SEM strategies could increase your prospecting efficiency by optimizing your ads with a similar model.
According to Google, reaching out to similar audiences increases impressions by 60%, clicks by 48%, and conversions by 41%.
Manage your copy for natural search
A natural search is when your website is indexed without the search engine, making any editorial changes or paid advertising. Having these copies helps you compare the two marketing campaigns to determine if you’re making progress.
How can you personalize ads by device and by audience?
Personalizing ads by device provides user-friendly ads that can be viewed on either mobiles or computers with an excellent display for either one of them is a great boost for your SEM strategies.
Doing this gives you the full advantage of reaching a more significant number of potential customers and getting more traffic.
By personalizing your ads to different sets of customers, you can provide them with various enticing offers suitable for each group. For instance, in e-commerce, you could offer a 30% discount to customers who are about to abandon their cart and a 20% discount to first-time subscribers.
Play to your strength using USP
You can combine your search engine marketing strategy with your unique selling proposition to create a solid marketing campaign. Using SEM strategies to get a bigger audience provides you with a means to inform your potential customers why your products and services are better than the competition.
Why can you strengthen your landing page’s CTA?
Before using SEM strategies, you should start by creating a great CTA, call to action, for your landing page. Doing this reduces your site’s bounce rate. You could do this by crafting a compelling headline, making a promise to your customers, and writing engaging content that promotes conversions.
Create urgency with marketing sales countdown
You could use psychological marketing tricks, such as the fear of missing out, to create an urgency that convinces your customers to sign up or purchase your products. You could develop a sense of urgency by introducing a countdown timer if you are running a promotion or are organizing an event.
Use both natural search and paid search in tandem.
Using these two strategies helps your brand get more recognition and doubles your brand’s visibility in search engine results pages, allowing your brand to get more recognition. This increases the click-through rate to your site and thus more traffic, leading to more conversions.
Why should you create a fantastic email campaign?
Combining all this effort with a fantastic email campaign could help you generate more profits from your SEM strategies. You should personalize your emails and add an appropriate call to action to convince your customers why they should click through your website.
You could also use your email campaign platform to create a better relationship with your customers and provide them with discount offers and other incentives.
Track test and optimize
To know whether your SEM is doing great, you should track, test, and optimize your metrics within specific timeframes. Tracking, testing, and optimizing your SEM strategies will let you gauge how good the campaign is and the changes you can make to get even better results.
Conclusion (SEO vs. SEO)
SEM strategies and SEO marketing are both critical campaigns that, if used together, could provide significant improvements to your brand, your website and even positively improve your profit margins.
You could use SEO marketing and SEM strategies to give your business an edge over your competitors and score more customers.