Search engines are in my opinion, the best traffic source. In fact, around 5 billion searches happen on Google every single day. It’s also been reported that search engines drive 10 times more traffic to shopping sites than social media. And for local business owners, 72% of consumers who did a local search, visited a store within 5 miles.
Now, with more than a billion people surfing and searching the web regularly, SEM gives you the chance to get your in ads in front of such a huge audience in the most premium spots on SERPs by setting your budget. You get charged only when somebody clicks on your ad, which makes SEM the most affordable way to reach more customers for businesses of all sizes — including yours.
Search Engine Marketing abbreviated as SEM is a type of Internet Marketing that involves advertisements that appear on the top of the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). It is a form of Digital Marketing Strategy that promote websites by increasing their visibility. It’s a highly effective way of getting ranked on the top and to be seen by a giant amount of audience.
There are mainly 2 ways to show up at the top of the SERPs:
(1) ORGANIC RESULTS: These kinds of results are generally displayed in the centre of the page. These are selected by Google’s algorithm. This algorithm assesses:
• Both the relevance of the website (content quality and to what extent it responds to a specific search)
• The authority of the website (links from other pages).
(2) PAID RESULTS: These are also displayed at the top of the page but in a column on the right. Unlike organic results, here the advertiser has to pay a certain amount for each click on their ad. To buy advertising space on search engines, it is necessary to use platforms like Google Ads.
• The advertiser chooses relevant “keywords” or “key phrases” that they want their ads to show up for in SERPs.
• The advertiser then states how much they’re willing to bid per click.
• When consumer searches trigger any of the associated keywords or phrases, ads will get shown/ranked dependent on who bids the most, along with several other variables.
• If the consumer clicks on an ad, the advertiser is charged for the click.
When setting up a campaign within an SEM network, the advertiser is prompted to:
• Conduct keyword research and select a set of keywords related to their website or product.
• Select a geographic location for the ad to be displayed within.
• Create a text-based ad to display in the search results.
• Bid on a price they are willing to pay for each click on their ad.
(1) SEM is conversion-focused in nature.
(2) SEM provides exposure to brands.
(3) SEM is cost-effective.
(4) SEM generates immediate results.
(5) SEM drives consistent and immediate traffic.
(6) SEM brings in more qualified leads.
(1) Brand recognition and quick revenues.
(2) Grows with your business.
(3) Reaches people in the right place & time.
(4) Reinforces name recognition.
(5) Offers a competitive advantage.
(6) Taps target customers.
The difference between SEO and SEM is simple. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing content to be discovered through a search engine’s organic results. And SEM or Search Engine Marketing, is traditionally SEO plus Pay-per-click advertising, but some people just look at it as PPC today.
Now, you might be thinking that SEO is the way to go since organic traffic is free, consistent, and passive. But it’d be short-sighted to think that it’s the only way to grow your business through search.
Now, to explain why SEO and PPC are both important, let’s play a game of “would you rather.” Would you rather be able to instantly rank #1 for any keyword or have an unlimited PPC budget to pay for ads? Now, I certainly don’t have an answer to this, but let’s unpack both sides.
From a pure SEO perspective, you need to remember that search engines are businesses. They need to make money in order to operate. As a result, most, if not all platforms will give premium placements to paying customers. For example, commercial keywords like “insurance,” have a ton of value and therefore, a ton of competition, so the entire fold is pretty much covered in ads, making organic results near invisible. So, assuming you ranked organically for this keyword, a searcher would have to scroll down for a while before even entertaining the thought of going to your page.
Now, let’s make a case for PPC. Sure, if you had an infinite budget, you’d be ranking #1 at the top of every page, right? Nope! Google doesn’t show ads on every page for every search. There needs to be some sort of commercial intent in order for ads to appear. If you were to opt-in for an infinite Ads Budget, but no SEO, you’d be missing out on a ton of opportunity to get traffic. And another thing to note is that commercial Keywords generally have less search volume than informational ones, which would even further limit your pool of relevant traffic.
So, now I’m guessing that your answer to unlimited SEO traffic vs PPC traffic is probably tougher than you might have initially thought. But this is why we have yet another acronym, SEM, where we can combine the two strategies and truly take our search engine marketing to another level. Let’s go through a few strategies that should give you a good idea of when and why to implement SEO, PPC, or both.
(1) Try running Ads for keywords that are Too competitive to rank for (at least for now). There are likely keywords in your industry That you won’t be able to rank for in years. For example, if you were creating a brand new supplements store and you wanted to rank for things like “buy protein powder,” then Your chances of a Top 3 ranking are slim. You’d be competing against the likes of Amazon, GNC, and Walmart to name a few. Now, it doesn’t mean that you should abandon SEO altogether and just run ads. But since ranking for competitive terms will Likely be a long play, PPC can help get the ball rolling immediately. And there are three massive benefits to using PPC while you’re working to rank your pages:
(a) You can immediately start generating Revenue since you’re paying for traffic. This will hopefully help get some cash flow coming in, but do note that just because you advertise, it doesn’t mean you’ll have a positive return. Oftentimes, it can take months and a lot of lost dollars to find a campaign that works for you.
(b) You get an opportunity to test and optimize for conversions. Most ad platforms have conversion-tracking features. Afterall, if publishers can see that their ad spend is returning positive ROI, they’ll keep spending. So use this as an opportunity to get insights on things like the average cost per conversion. Run controlled tests to improve your conversion rate. And as you start producing profit from your ads, scale out to other platforms.
(c) You can get valuable keyword data. Within Google Ads, they have a report called, “Search Terms.” Within this report, you can see keywords that people are bidding on and see conversion numbers with them. This can help you get an understanding of whether the keywords you want to target will actually produce conversions.
As a hypothetical example, let’s say that you Were bidding on “protein powder,” and getting a ton of traffic because it’s a popular query. But in terms of net profit, you weren’t profitable. Within the Search Terms report, you might find that a keyword like “grass fed whey protein” sends a lot less traffic but converts at a much higher rate. So what I recommend you do is to export the Search terms report from Google Ads.
(2) Now, another reason you might use both SEO and PPC is if the search results pages are covered in Ads. As you already saw in the “insurance” example, competitive keywords generally have a lot of people willing to pay top dollar to appear at the top. And even if you’re ranking #1 through SEO, The organic results are so far down that they may not even get clicked.
(3) Finally, is to own as much real estate as possible. These days, a typical SERP will have some Ads at the top, some SERP elements like featured snippets, “People also ask” boxes, and then the organic Search results. Now, while this might feel annoying for SEOs in particular, I want you to look at this as an opportunity to rank in SERPs with monopolization in mind.
SEM keywords are words and phrases describing your product or service that you choose to help determine when and where your ad will be displayed in search engine results.
In paid search, you’re paying Google (or other search engines) to show your search ads when someone enters a relevant keyword. Up to 4 PPC ads can be shown at the top of search results. These will be positioned above any organic results, which are generally above the fold.
Certain keywords may convert better than others and there are vast differences in cost-per-click (CPC) when choosing more highly-competitive keywords. That’s why it’s up to brands to decide on the right keyword mix to drive traffic and conversions.
The following lists the steps required for your SEM keyword research and selection:
STEP 1: PREPARE YOUR SEED LIST BASED ON THE TARGET MODEL: First things first: a Seed List is your initial keyword list and the Target Model in keyword research is a method of categorizing keywords based on the level of interest or intent that they target.
The target model is useful for keyword research because it ensures that you’ll come up with search terms that are relevant for people interested in products or services that are similar to yours.
STEP 2: USE A KEYWORD RESEARCH TOOL TO BUILD YOUR LIST: The next thing to do with your seed list is to expand it using keyword research tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Planner. To help you build a good keyword list, you should:
• Choose both specific and general keywords.
• Group similar keywords into ad groups
STEP 3: FILTER THROUGH YOUR KEYWORD LIST: At this point, you want to choose the best keywords for your SEM campaign – the ones that zero in on the intent of searchers. You could refine your list through:
• Keyword category
• Match types
(1) BROAD MATCH KEYWORDS target variations of a term. This includes similar phrases, singular or plural forms, misspellings, stemmings, or synonyms of the target term.
(2) PHRASE MATCH KEYWORDS target the exact phrase, plus any phrases that have words that come before or after the target keyword.
(3) EXACT MATCH KEYWORDS target words that are very closely related to the target term. This includes misspellings, singular or plural forms, stemmings, abbreviations, reordered words, paraphrases, or closely related words with the same search intent of the exact match term.
(4) NEGATIVE KEYWORDS exclude terms that you don’t want to target. Negative keywords are variations of broad match, phrase match, and exact match keywords that you don’t want to use in your campaign. These terms may be semantically related to your keywords but unrelated to the search intent of the target term, your campaign, or ad copy.
Targeting keywords tells a search platform when to show your ads. SEM targeting takes it one step further. Through targeting, you set additional parameters for when your ad should show and who it should show to.
• LOCATION TARGETING sets ads to only show to people who are within a certain ZIP code or geographic area.
• AD SCHEDULE TARGETING sets ads to only show at certain times of the day or during specific days of the week.
• DEMOGRAPHIC TARGETING sets ads to only show to people who fit certain demographic categories based on age and gender.
• DEVICE TARGETING sets ads to only show to users on specific devices such as mobile phones, desktops, or tablets.
When you set up an SEM campaign, that doesn’t mean your ad is going to show every time someone searches for your target keyword. SEM platforms have a built in system that decides if and when your ad shows, and how it competes with other brands that are targeting the same keywords. This system is called an Ad Auction, and it is based on three factors.
(1) MAX CPC BID: The maximum amount you are willing to pay when someone clicks on your ad.
(2) QUALITY SCORE: A rating that the platform assigns to your ad. There is no clear formula for Quality Score, but it is believed to be based on factors such as your click-through rate (CTR), the relevance of keywords to the ad group, the relevance of landing page to keywords, and historical ad performance.
(3) AD RANK: A rating that the platform gives to your ad to determine where it will show on SERPs. The higher your Ad Rank, the better placement your search ad will have.
These three factors are used to determine who “wins” the Ad Auction and gets the best placement on search engine results pages.
Max CPC Bid x Quality Score = Ad Rank
This is yet another important aspect for a successful SEM campaign. Logical keyword grouping and account structure can help you achieve higher CTR (Click-Through-Rate), lower CPC(Cost-per-Click), and generally stronger overall performance of the campaign. An optimally structured account is comprised of five distinct elements:
(a) Ad campaigns
(b) Ad groups
(d) Ad text
(e) Landing pages
Step 1 — Create a Google Ads Account.
Step 2 — Choose Campaign Name and Type.
Step 3 — Select the Geography.
Step 4 — Select your “Bid Strategy” and Daily Budget.
Step 5 — Create Ad Extensions.
Step 6 — Create Your PPC Ad.
Step 7 — Fill in Your Chosen Keywords.
Step 8 — Maximum CPC or Default Bid.
Step 9 — Review the Ad.
Step 10 — Enter your Payment Information.