There are around 5.5 billion Google searches every day. Keep in mind this fun fact throughout this article, as it will help you put things into perspective. Search engine marketing, or SEM, relies on our Internet-dependent habits and helps us navigate through various online platforms. However, at the same time, SEM fulfills its primary role – it helps brands position themselves in our minds and on our search engine result pages (SERP).
There is a lot to grasp once you dive into the topic of SEM: from PPC and SEO to important metrics and SEM bidding. Knowing the basic concepts, advantages and disadvantages of search engine marketing will help you decide if and how it can help your business grow.
Search engine marketing is otherwise known as a brand positioning strategy, and it covers various types of marketing efforts to put one brand on top of the search result page. SEM is basically a strategy that combines SEO and PPC methods under one umbrella and unites paid and organic traffic to achieve the best results.
SEM strategy relies on quality content that targets relevant keywords and on paid keyword targeting. The first method is basic, on-page SEO content writing. It begins with keyword research, which should help the marketer select a word with low difficulty, but high search volume.
Then, from there, all you have to do is write a good, comprehensive article around that keyword. Of course, there is much more to it, but that is a topic for another time.
The second method is, in today’s day and age of digital marketing, much closer to SEM. Pay-per-click campaigns also begin with keyword research, but the selection of keywords has a different purpose. A marketer chooses keywords and targets the audience that types those keywords into the search engine.
Google is famous for showing ads on top of its result pages, but it is not the only search engine that does it. You can expand your SEM efforts on various platforms: Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, YouTube, and many more.
SEM is a marketing strategy that uses many tools and methods to achieve its goals. The main goals are, of course, to position the brand on a result page very high up and increase relevant traffic to the webpage.
PPC is sometimes used interchangeably with SEM, as it is definitely the most important method of the SEM strategy. Pay-per-click advertising is a way to promote your company by targeting keywords and paying only when someone clicks on your ad.
SEM campaigns consist of planning and organizing your PPC activities. Campaigns can have the goal of testing the effectiveness of certain keywords, or they can be active targeting campaigns.
The position of your PPC ad will depend on your keyword bid and how it compares to that of your competitors. For example, if you find a keyword that a lot of people search for but is, at the same time, often targeted by your competitors, especially those with larger budgets – your ad is less likely to appear on the top of the page.
On the other hand, if you choose a good keyword that is both relevant and uncapitalized by competitors, you can invest a reasonable bid into an ad and reap the benefits soon after. A bid is, essentially, how much money you offer to the search engine in case someone clicks on your ad.
Whether or not you’ll get clicks depends on more than just your bid. Yes, you can invest a significant amount of money in one ad, but people can still click on the ad that’s right below yours. What happens there? Good copywriting. Create amazing, engaging copies for your ads and watch the click-through rate climb steeply.
PPC and SEO are both marketing strategies that rely on search engine positioning. Some experts might say that the two are completely different efforts, but they share many aspects and, what’s more important – they share the same goal.
It is important to note that SEM and SEO share many specifics: they have the same goals, on-page SEO and SEM both function around a keyword, they require monitoring, and they can be updated or upgraded if needed.
However, some things divide them and make them separate digital marketing strategies.
Search engine marketing is all about trial and error and commitment to keyword research. There is a pool of words that are relevant to your brand, but not all of them are a good fit for an SEM campaign. It takes an in-depth knowledge of the brand you are trying to promote, an audience you are trying to target, and the competitors you are trying to beat – to create a fruitful campaign.
The first step of keyword research is to create that pool of words, investigate the products and services that you offer, and find out who is in need of them. Knowing the exact target groups will help you write that engaging copy, adjusted to their specific needs.
Going further, you will need to know more about your competitors. You’ll be interested in their good and bad practices, but, mainly, you want to know what keywords they are targeting and what their bids are.
Keyword tools are very important throughout the process, as they offer you not only the metrics but also out-of-the-box ideas for keywords you might have never thought about. There are many such tools. We often use Ahrefs, SEMRush, Wordtracker, etc.
SEM expert has a few important metrics to follow. Those metrics tell, in numbers, about the success of the PPC campaign. If some goals are not reached, it is easy to change the specifics of the ads – and that’s the beauty of PPC and SEM.
Some of the most important metrics for search engine marketing are:
The impression share metric measures how many people viewed the ad and if you are taking full advantage of it. In case the impression is low, that means that you need to up the budget and increase the bids to enlarge your presence.
The click-through rate measures how many people clicked on the ad compared to how many of them saw it. If you want to increase CTR, you need to either change your audience or change your ad copy.
Quality score is a metric that Google uses to measure user experience. It answers the following question: Is your ad helpful and comprehensible to your target audience?
And last but not least, conversion is the main business metric, as it shows how PPC impacted company sales. Conversion measures how many PPC ads generate a sale – it showcases ad performance in real-time.
SEM can offer reliable, short-termed traffic to your webpage. It is useful when you’re launching a new product or service, when you want to test a new offer, or when you want to reach new audiences. PPC is not a long-run strategy for SERP positioning, but SEO is just that.
That is why you should use both strategies and invest smartly in each of them – to optimize your digital marketing strategy. SEM cannot bring you good results if your website isn’t SEO-friendly.
On the other hand, without SEM – it could take months, if not years, to position yourself in the top of the search results.
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