What is SEM? Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is when you market a business via paid ads that appear on search engine results pages (SERPS). A digital marketing agency will bid on keywords that users are likely to use during search queries or in the e-commerce world. This will give companies an advantage for their ads to show alongside those queries.
These are also known to include pay per click (PPC) ads. An advertiser is charged when their ad is clicked on by potential clients. Bidding on the right keywords will help you have a successful SEM campaign and will allow you to reach your target audience.
Some marketing services that SEM include are:
- Google Ads
- Product Listing Ads
- Social media advertising
- Amazon ads
- Mobile search advertising
The biggest advantage of SEM is that advertisers can place their ads at the top of customers’ search pages.
What about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO and SEM are vastly different and beginners to digital marketing can be easily confused.
SEO is unpaid organic traffic, while SEM consists of paid advertising.
SEO is good for targeting top-of-funnel audiences but takes time to rank on SERPs. SEM, on the other hand, is a surefire method of getting exposure to potential customers while being at the top of SERPs. With the right keywords, and a perfect ad and landing page, your SEM campaigns will succeed relatively fast. SEM is better for focusing on bottom-of-funnel kind of traffic.
How To Conduct Search Engine Marketing
Either way, it is good practice to have a PPC plan that will allow you to generate organic, paid, and free traffic. Understanding and being able to use the two types of advertising will allow you to drive more traffic to your website. Here is a sample plan that you could follow:
1. Set up a system to track your campaign
Create a tracking system for your internet marketing campaign for it to be successful.
Consider the following:
- Establish a goal for your search engine marketing campaign.
- Establish your budget. Remember to consider research and labor costs.
- Invest in tracking software to determine the success of your campaign.
- Identify key performance indicators [KPI] that will allow you gauge to the success of the SEM campaign.
2. Track your campaign and constantly evaluate
Ensure that you are constantly checking back on whether or not your SEM campaign is hitting the KPIs. If you find that the cost outweighs the benefits, consider dropping the campaign entirely or heading in a different direction such as bidding on different keywords. Additionally, you should be ensuring your web design, landing page and content marketing is kept up to date. A marketing strategy needs to be constantly perfected.
3. Conduct thorough keyword research
Keywords are the basics of search engine marketing as they are what users enter into search engines.
Find out which keywords do well for your site and which ones don’t, and make sure you consider negative keywords as well. Bids should be based on your most profitable keywords and they should be constantly monitored. If necessary, you should also consider hiring an expert to join your team so that you’re also establishing an online presence as your SEM campaign progresses.
As an advertiser, you need to conduct thorough keyword research as part of your keyword management tactics to have a successful SEM campaign. Keyword tools can be used for your business to find the most probable keywords that users will type to search for products and services.
4. Have a well-structured website
Although your ads are at the top of SERPs, they will only convert successfully and draw in your target audience if your website is easy to access and remember. You should also make sure your landing page is specific to each Google Ad that you create, rather than creating one generalized landing page such as a home website. Tracking landing pages are also helpful for allowing you to assess how successful your SEM campaign is.
5. Create high-quality content
Ensure that you are delivering content of high quality to encourage visitors to return to your site, in turn this will decrease the cost that search engines charge you per bid as well as allow you to continue ranking at the top of search engines.
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Google SEM Guidelines
Major search engines such as Google set their own guidelines for paid digital marketing. It is important that you either thoroughly familiarize yourself with these guidelines or you hire a team of experts to manage your Google Ads. Google created these guidelines to ensure good user experience with search engine marketing (SEM), and therefore only ads that meet the guidelines will be posted.
Here is a brief overview of Google Ads guidelines you should know.
Unauthorized Ad Content
Unauthorized content refers to services, products, or information that cannot be advertised on Google. They include but are not limited to the following:
- Dangerous products: drugs, drug paraphernalia, altered substances, explosives, ammunition and weapons or any insinuation or mention of these.
- Fake products: unauthorized logos or fraudulent brand names will be rejected.
- Inappropriate content: sexual, religious/political intolerance, hate messages, etc. are prohibited.
Restricted permitted content
Some ads are considered sensitive and are restricted to a particular location or group, these have specific requirements on top of the basic guidelines. Here are some examples:
- Adult content: any adult content must comply with the laws of the target country.
- Alcoholic beverages: these ads must comply with the legal requirements and standards of the target country.
- Copyrighted content: You must provide evidence that you are the owner or have proper authorization before advertising copyrighted content.
- Trademarks: trademark owners can file complaints against the advertiser if trademarks were used without authorization.
- Gambling content: any ad that contains gambling related content must be approved by not only Google but also follow the regulations of the county the SEM campaign takes place in.
- Politically related content: any content of this nature needs to abide the law of the country the campaign takes place in.
Unauthorized advertising practices
Anything that could be perceived to be either irresponsible handling of user data, user misrepresentation, or advertising networks, are prohibited by Google Ads.
- Misrepresentation: advertisers cannot conceal important information about services or products.
- Misuse of advertising networks: this includes any harmful content that doesn’t add value to users.
- Inappropriate handling of user data: Any data that is collected without consent or data that is then used for advertising to users is classified as irresponsible handling.
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Keep in mind that not every click from a PPC campaign will translate to a direct campaign conversion.
Although conversion is the ultimate goal, it’s not the only way to measure the success of your digital marketing agency. There are other key performance indicators (KPIs) you may use to track the performance of your marketing strategy and will allow you to make the necessary adjustments.
Here are some of the most important KPIs:
Every conversion needs to start from a click. Someone has to find your paid ad and click on it to be directed to your landing page or website.
Monitoring clicks is a matter of finding out how many people clicked on your digital ads.
Clicks are a good choice of KPIs for your mid-campaign search engine marketing performance check-ups. However, these should not be used as a single indicator of success.
2. Impression Shares
Impressions refer to the number of views your Google ads get regardless of clicks.
Looking at the number of impressions alone doesn’t indicate success because it doesn’t show how many people found the ad effective.
Impression shares allow you to compare the impressions that your ad got versus the impressions that your campaign was eligible for.
Impression shares = ad impressions/eligible impressions
Eligible impressions are determined by looking at multiple factors, such as approval statuses, targeting settings, and ad quality.
Google ads has impression shares for ad groups, keywords, campaigns, and product groups.
These are good for analyzing your competition’s performance. If you increase your impression share, you also decrease the number of times your competitors’ ads show. You can also do this by increasing bids if your marketing campaign budget allows it.
3. Quality Score
Quality score is a more abstract KPI but nonetheless it has its uses.
Google Ads created this to measure the relevance and quality of your ad copy. Quality score is calculated using multiple metrics, such as:
- Click-Through Rate: Google takes into account the CTR and account history of your company when calculating your quality score.
- Ad Relevance: Google will also check how relevant your keywords are, and analyze both ad text and keywords and then determine if they’re relevant to the queried search.
- Quality of landing page: Google Ads will evaluate your landing page for speed, user-friendliness and relevance to the ad message displayed to people.
Quality Score is calculated on a scale of one to ten, where a good Quality Score ranges from seven to ten. With a good quality score, you can dominate paid search by paying less which is imperative to your marketing strategies. At the very least your quality score should not be lower than 5.
4. Cost Per Action (CPA)
This is a metric that tells you how profitable your SEM campaigns are. It can also be defined as the amount you pay for customer you receive.
A good quality score will lower your CPA. Your CPA also varies depending on the industry you’re in.
In addition to calculating the average CPA of your industry, you should also consider using Google’s targeted CPA when setting up your SEM campaign to help you get set up.
This is a metric that Google Ads created to let you automatically set your bid and increase your conversions based on your SEM campaign budget.
Working around targeted CPA isn’t easy, so make sure you understand CPA or hire an expert to help you out. You also need more than just a few bidding tactics to succeed.
5. Conversion Rate (CVR)
Conversion rate doesn’t only measure your campaign success, it’s also a very accurate indicator of how successful your marketing campaign is in pulling in your target audience.
Conversion rate is calculated by dividing the total number of conversions by the total number of clicks on your Google Ads.
CVR is also usually expressed as a percentage. As for interpreting your CVR value, for example if your campaign only has a CVR of 10%, that means that out of every 10 clicks you only get one conversion. If we were to flip it around, if you wanted 100 conversions, you should be aiming to get 1000 clicks.
Conversion is usually the ultimate goal of any online marketing campaign. However, if the focus of your company is visibility, then you may prefer optimizing your SEM campaigns for clicks.
An alternative method of getting conversions would be to optimize your ad for cost per action goals.
However it’s important to keep in mind that before you can optimize your account for conversions, Google requires your account to have at least 15 conversions in the last 30 days.
6. Budget management
As a marketing agency, it is common to be allocated a monthly budget for a paid search campaign.
Budget management is the KPI that determines how close you came to achieving the ad budget you had set out to. It’s easily one of the most overlooked PPC performance metrics, even though it can provide a lot of information on how to improve your SEM campaigns.
It’s easy to underspend or overspend on PPC ads and this is because it’s difficult to keep up with the constant fluctuations and patterns that are common in SEM campaigns.
It’s definitely not an easy task, and it requires ongoing optimization and evaluation without machine learning to help.
If you want to get serious about search engine marketing then you definitely want to consider budget management as a critical KPI as it provides valuable insight into your search marketing strategies.
7. Lifetime Value (LTV)
Lifetime value is a KPI that measures your ability as a digital marketing agency and the overall “health” of your account.
This is different from other KPIs as it is not readily calculated, as it is hard to measure accurately and it is also based on a combination of factors.
In general, retaining more of your customers that you have drawn in from paid marketing such as social media marketing, email marketing, and other marketing efforts will mean more revenue for you.
Some questions you want to consider are:
- Will there be repeat purchases?
- Do the majority of your customers continue to buy from you or do they decide to go straight to your competitors’ after?
This KPI can be measured by the number of days, months or years customers continued to buy from you after the first purchase.
The process for calculating customers’ LTV as mentioned before is complicated and will vary from company to company. For example, as a large company, you may need to consider the following factors: the average customer lifespan, the profit you make on one customer, applied discounts, and more.
Reasons Your Ad Campaign Is Unsuccessful
Although it’s not possible for every paid search click to translate to a conversion, you shouldn’t just settle with a low conversion rate in paid search.
You have to remember that conversions are not instant, it’s not guaranteed that every time an ad is clicked on that it will convert. Here are some possible reasons that customers didn’t convert and instead chose to leave the site:
Your SEM ads are Sending your Users to your Homepage or a poorly designed Landing Page:
This is the biggest mistake that a new marketing agency could make. Sending users to a generalized homepage or poorly designed landing page is definitely not the way to go about it.
For the homepage, these pages tend to be too unspecific and generalized. They’re full of items that distract users from buying the product that initially made them click on your link. Although this does have potential benefits, as some customers may end up adding more to their basket, this is a very rare occurrence. In general it is a good practice to keep in mind that when a user clicks on your link, they’re only really interested in doing what made them click on your link in the first place, and distractions usually prove to be a bad idea.
What you need is a dedicated landing page for each individual ad that has targeted messaging.
Your Website or Landing Page isn’t Mobile-friendly:
With advances in social media and mobile devices, there is no way that most of your traffic comes from desktop or laptop users. In a few cases, this may be correct, but if your business is service or product-oriented, then you should expect that a majority of the users will be browsing your website or landing page via mobile devices.
Ensure that your website or landing page has been optimized for mobile and as always, make sure the site is easy to navigate and read, place an order, and contact you through a mobile device.
Make sure that you test all of its functionalities and features and make sure they’re all work flawlessly on a mobile device before you begin your search marketing campaign.
You Didn’t Choose the Right Campaign Type or You’re Targeting the Wrong Group:
The most challenging part of running a PPC campaign isn’t getting clicks, or even minimizing your cost per click, but actually being able to successfully convert customers. It’s actually really easy when your ad is driving the right type of traffic.
First off, you want to keep in mind that the default settings on Google or Bing Ads may not be ideal for your marketing campaigns right off the bat. This is just because the default settings are intended for a general company, and your specific company might not fit their idea of average. Additionally, the fact that each company differs in terms of budget, target audience along with a lot of other things, means that you want to tailor the settings to YOUR campaign.
Here are a few examples of how your PPC settings might be jeopardizing your campaign:
- You’re targeting the wrong geographical region – nothing else needs to be said here.
- You’re bidding on the wrong keywords – maybe the keywords are too broad, and you’re not getting to your target audience.
- Your ad is running at the wrong time or day: If your ads generate a lot of clicks during weekdays, but in general fail to generate a noticeable amount during the weekend, then it should be an easy feat to realize that you should stop your ads on weekends.
- Your ad messaging is entirely different from the messaging that users will see on your website or landing page: Users don’t like feeling baited or tricked. In essence, you need to make sure that your ad and landing page messaging are both communicating the same message. Additionally, your ad should be a truthful indicator of what the user is likely to find once they open your landing page or website.
- Running the wrong campaign: You have to make sure you’re running the right campaign and choosing the right choice for you. Sometimes you might be able to get away with relying purely on SEM services, but sometimes you may want to consider ranking on organic search results. Even then it’s important that you have the right settings on, if you have the wrong settings, you might be wasting your money and resources running displays ads on websites that may not align with your brand or marketing goals.
Lack of Branding:
It’s a proven science that good branding influences buying decisions. By having a well-established brand is sometimes enough to make your customers ignore all the other options and consider purchasing from you and only you.
Basically, converting a customer is a lot easier when they already trust your brand, have heard of it or interacted with it before. A virtually unknown brand will have a hard time converting new visitors even if they develop an innovative service or product. The main reason behind this is that online customers tend to be less trusting of businesses that they have never heard of before.
Common SEM Mistakes To Avoid
The world of SEM could be your gateway to success, but it can also be very frustrating when the right strategies are not used. To succeed as a marketer in SEM, you need to learn and understand the common SEM mistakes so that you can successfully avoid them altogether and have your company rank at the top of search results!
1) Using the wrong keywords
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: keywords are crucial in SEM for you to rank on the top of search pages! When a user searches for a relevant item, there’s a chance that your page will show up in the results.
It’s essential that you do thorough research on keywords to ensure you use the best ones for your company.
2) Bad landing pages
When a customer goes on Google and clicks your ad, they’ll have an expectation of what they should see. You can meet this expectation by ensuring that the landing page is well-organized and relevant. This will allow the user to easily navigate around the website and find what they are looking for.
3) Mismatched page themes
The most common mistake marketers make is having two different themes on their corresponding ad pages and landing pages. As mentioned before, people will have an expectation of what it should look like and therefore it is up to you to ensure that your landing page lives up to the promises in the ad to ensure better conversion rates.
You can also fix this by specifically designating some landing pages for specific ads or add titles to landing pages.
4) Not using expensive keywords
Certain keywords are guaranteed to drive higher traffic than others and hence their bid prices are higher than the average one. These valuable keywords require you to bid on them with an exact match.
By using the exact keyword match, you actually save money because you will only pay for the expensive keywords, and clicks on your ads are mostly from potential buyers.
5) Not using negative keywords
Negative keywords are any keyword that you want your ads appearing against. Negative keywords in the ad campaign help ensure that your ads appear only in relevant search queries, reducing the amount of unintentional clicks. You can avoid wasting money on underperforming terms by using negative keywords.
6) Using the wrong metrics for analysis
SEM always requires you to constantly measure the efforts. You have to ensure that you’re tracking the right performance indicators to give you an accurate indication of if you’re going in the right direction.
Your focus should be on getting links from high-performing websites instead of spending time on inbound marketing.
7) Targeting the wrong audience
SEM services are very effective in generating customer when properly executed. If you target the wrong audience, you will definitely lose money when using a SEM strategy and you won’t even generate any conversions or leads. It’s considered a good practice to consider your audience from the preliminary stages of your marketing campaigns.
8) Disregarding user intent
Using a specific keyword is not the only thing you should consider. It also needs to match what a prospective customer is thinking. If you bid on a random keyword without taking into account user intent, you run the risk of driving customers away.
Why SEM is important
When done correctly, SEM services can be a valuable tool in enhancing your company by increasing brand awareness which will increase sales in products and services, generation of online leads, and reinforce brand recognition across the internet. SEM also allows you to focus only on your target audience and avoid the expensive traditional marketing routes that may be ineffective in today’s day and age.
The Difference Between SEO and SEM
It is easy to mix SEM up with SEO but they are quite different from each other. SEO is when you focus on strategies that will maximize the number of users or visitors to your website by ensuring that your company’s website appears at the top of the results page from search engines. SEO strategies are forever fluctuating due to regular changes that are made by the search engine’s algorithm. SEM, on the other hand, will allow for the promotion of sites by boosting their visibility in the search engine result pages (SERPs) through advertising and optimization of SEM strategies.
It is common for SEM to employ SEO tactics and other search marketing techniques for it to be successful.
Then…what’s the difference between SEM and SEO? First, think of SEM as an umbrella term of which SEO is a component. This might be confusing but you need to realize that SEM is a large field that encapsulates basically every digital promotion you could do using a search engine.
This means that, besides SEO, SMM (social media marketing) and PPC (pay per click) strategies are also part of the overarching SEM family. Therefore both SEM and SEO work hand in hand but SEO is only a component of SEM.
Secondly, SEM includes pay per click ads while SEO relies on unpaid or “organic” results. You shouldn’t ever use them interchangeably because although both tend to be sometimes implemented in tandem, they are actually closer to opposite sides of the spectrum.
What Are The Benefits Of SEM?
SEM can bring immense benefits to any business that’s looking to increase their ranking in search engine results.
1. Instant brand awareness
As mentioned earlier, SEO, SMM and other unpaid strategies take a long time to work because that’s the nature of organic results. Sometimes it can take as long as one year to increase the rankings of a site through SEO. Additionally, keep in mind that just because you tried a SEM marketing campaign doesn’t mean it will work right away, you must also make sure you’re using the right strategies. What your competitors are doing could also affect the success or failure of your efforts.
SEM will instantly position your site on the first page. This allows a business with no current brand recognition or visibility to instantly achieve attention and generate traffic. If you’re considering long-term, you may increase the amount of customers just by consistently being seen on paid ads, and customers may be tempted to buy from you because they’ve consistently seen your marketing campaigns and believe you to be a relatively established brand.
2. SEM is capable of generating quick revenue
If you employ correct Ad copy in addition to other strategies, a lot of sales can be made on the same day you establish your SEM. SEM is essentially able to begin generating traffic as soon as you bid your first keyword, it doesn’t require a long time to start showing results.
Additionally, it’s a lot easier to establish compared to SEO especially for new and unbranded companies. In order to maximize your ROI, you’ll have to keep a sustained maintenance plan that involves constant evaluation and tweaks.
3. It reaches people
Did you know that it’s estimated that roughly half of the world’s population is now online? For most people, their first experience on the internet begins with using something using a search engine.
There is no other web infrastructure that currently exists that will drive more traffic than search engines. Just being visible on the first page of the returned search results means your company is present where your potential customers are looking. This way you don’t waste time or resources running marketing campaigns where it doesn’t matter.
Search engine marketing is one the most practical and cost-effective way to reach your target audience. Given the sheer amount of people who frequent search engines like Google and Bing to search for products and services, you can achieve dramatic results in very little time. Armed with the right tools, strategies, and expert services from a reputable SEM company, your marketing campaigns can pay off for your company.
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