Search Engine Marketing Explained: Definition, Benefits, SEM Terms, and Tips for a Successful SEM Campaign
February 24, 2021
Did you know that a whopping 63% search engine users click on a paid advertisement on Google?
This means you have a 63% chance at getting your content noticed by your target audience over the Google search engine platform. All because you happened to have, your ads displayed to the right people at the right time through search engine marketing
Such advertisements come under the umbrella term of Search Engine Marketing or SEM. If you don’t know what SEM is or want to know how it can help your business.
In this blog, we will cover the A-Z of SEM, tell you what it is, talk about some common terms you should be familiar with, illustrate how SEM can benefit your business, and show you the tips you can follow to run a successful SEM campaign. Let’s begin.
An Overview: What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?
If you’re wondering what is SEM and how it works, what is SEM in marketing, or what is SEM in digital marketing, then here’s a short answer for you.
In layman terms, SEM or Search Engine Marketing refers to the practice of using paid advertisements to increase a company’s website visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). Google is one of the most commonly used paid search tools that are used by marketers today.
When companies engage in SEM, they employ keyword bidding to rank their content, specifically ads, for their target keywords. When a user searches for these keywords, the search engine shows them the company’s advertisements.
What makes SEM a unique and highly powerful digital marketing tactic is the quick visibility a company attracts from search engines. Moreover, the company simply has to pay for each click. This is why search engine marketing is also infamously known as Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC).
Major Platforms for Search Engine Marketing:
An SEM platform is a search engine where you can place advertisements. Your ads appear to a user when they perform a search. Here are the two most common platforms for search engine marketing:
Google: Google is the biggest and most widely used platform for search engine marketing. The search engine gets billions of searches every day, making it a potent platform for displaying your ads and targeting the right audience.
Bing: Another platform that you can use for SEM is bing. When you invest in SEM with Bing ads, they display your ads on partner sites like Yahoo and MSN, thus helping you connect with users who do not use google for their search queries.
Common SEM and PPC Terms You Should Be Aware Of:
Search Engine Marketing is a diverse topic. If you’re interested to know more about it, here are some terms that you should be familiar with:
- Impressions: In the SEM world, impression refers to the number of times your ad appears on a search result. It does not consider the number of times people saw your advertisement or clicked on it.
- CTR (click through rate): The CTR refers to the number of clicks you got to your website from people that saw your advertisement. It is a metric of assessment for keyword & ad performance.
- Cost Per Click (CPC): Of the many people who see your advertisement appear on their screen, only some would actually click on it. When a company engages in SEM, they pay for the number of clicks they get on their ad. Hence, the term ‘cost per click’. Before setting your campaign, your in-house marketing team can adjust this cost to moderate how much money goes into the campaign. You can control the cost by setting a budget limit and selecting your target groups.
- Conversion Goal: Every ad you run through an SEM or PPC campaign will have a conversion goal. In simple terms, it refers to a desired action that a person takes after clicking your ad. Be it a business inquiry, email subscription, or sales – the conversion goal can be different for different businesses who engage in PPC advertising.
- Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): When you divide your ad campaign’s total cost by the number of conversions you receive, you get the cost per acquisition.
- Bid: In SEM, a ‘bid’ refers to the maximum amount you are willing to pay per click on your ad. Marketers generally outbid their competitors to ensure that the search engine prioritizes their PPC ad over theirs. If you set your bid at INR 10/click, the search engine cannot charge you more than this amount for each click. In most cases, your CPC might even be lower than your ad bid.
- Tracking and performance reporting: This simply refers to tracking your advertisement’s performance and making adjustments to meet your conversion goals at a minimum CPA.
Additional Read: Advantage of Strategic PPC Audience Targeting
Now that you are familiar with some common SEM and PPC terminologies, we will now discuss the difference between SEM and SEO to familiarise you with both concepts.
SEM v/s SEO: What’s the difference?
Are you curious to know how SEM is different from SEO and vice versa? If the answer is yes, read on. Here are some critical differences between SEM and SEO:
Difference #1: SEM is paid, and SEO is organic.
SEM Search Engine Marketing or SEM Marketing refers to the process of attracting website visibility and scaling traffic through paid means. On the contrary, SEO short form of Search Engine Optimization is a process that achieves the same goals through organic means. So the first difference between SEM and SEO is the involvement of monetary investment.
- When one engages in SEM, they have to invest money to get website traffic.
- When one participates in SEO, they can get website traffic without investing money.
Difference #2: SEM attracts instant traffic while SEO takes time.
Another major difference between SEM and SEO is the duration it takes to achieve results.
- By using SEM, a company gets quick visibility on search engines. The minute a company runs their SEM or PPC campaign, their ads start showing on the first page of search results. Data shows that people are more likely to click on a link when it appears on page 1 of a search result. So in this sense, SEM is designed to beat SEO in terms of attracting website visibility.
- On the contrary, getting tangible results from SEO might involve months and years of sustained effort. It involves outperforming competitor’s content in terms of content quality, originality, keyword usage, content length, meta tags, etc. This takes a lot of time, research, SEO savviness, and an army of prolific writers, and constant competitor analysis. So a blog or website content that you may have optimized for SEO can take months and even years to land on page 1 of Google. This means a longer time before you attract website traffic and a longer time to meet your website’s conversion goals!
Difference #3: SEO & SEM focus on different conversion goals.
SEO is generally associated with meeting long-term goals, whereas SEM is used to meet short-term goals at a quick turnaround time (TAT).
People who engage in SEO get sustained website traffic over several months and years. Finding success in search engine optimization means outranking and outperforming competitor websites in the same niche. The result: they’re able to establish domain authority and followers. These followers convert into customers over time. In other words, a company can meet its conversion goals with SEO. The downside: it takes too much time.
On the contrary, the goal of SEM is to meet immediate conversion goals. They have no time to waste. Getting website traffic is the first step. Attracting website visitors to their landing page is the next. And getting them to meet their conversion goal is the final step.
A company investing in SEM is not doing it for the gratification of attracting website traffic alone. They do it to meet their conversion goals at a quicker pace. Be it building brand awareness, getting blog or newsletter subscribers, attracting business inquiries, or making sales – SEM’s conversion goals are more immediate and tangible than those of SEO.
SEM v/s SEO Difference: An Analysis
While both SEM and SEO are different, they are potent and powerful in their own right. Any company that wants to further its business adopts a healthy combination of the two. SEO is an ongoing strategy that your company should engage in for years to come. You should perfect it over the years to ensure that you don’t have to spend money to meet your conversion goals.
We recommended that you implement SEM in your marketing practices to ensure that your immediate goals are quickly met. Choosing one over the other does not make sense from the business perspective. Implement both practices to reap the benefits of SEO and SEM.
You can execute these content marketing practices in-house or hire the SEM and SEO Services of a reputed marketing agency to meet your conversion goals.
Why is Search Engine Marketing important? What are its benefits?
We live in the digital age where almost every business enjoys an online presence. This means that to make your online presence a success and outrank competitors, you need to stand out.
While SEO has proven to be a time-tested tactic for attracting website visibility, it takes too long to get tangible results from this digital marketing practice. For companies that want instant results, SEO might not be a practical solution. This is where SEM proves to be extremely handy.
Listed below are the top benefits of Search Engine Marketing:
Benefit 1: Outranks high DA Websites on search engines.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) helps you outrank high DA websites that have been trending on the first page of search engines.
DA refers to domain authority. It is the score that you get for sustained SEO performance over time. It considers factors like content quality, SEO friendliness, page loading speed, link-building initiatives, etc.
Websites with a higher domain authority rank faster than those with low domain authority. For example, you might have noticed that established websites like Hubspot, Neil Patel’s blog, Search Engine Land, and Ahrefs always feature on the top spots for marketing queries.
They are able to guarantee these top spots because of their years of hard work and SEO perfection. Even if your content is better than those published by these websites, you won’t be able to outrank them in search engines automatically.
With SEM, this trouble gets resolved for good. You can easily outrank these websites and scale your website’s visibility with one PPC campaign.
Benefit 2: Helps you target potential customers on search engines.
With search advertising, a company can quickly target website visitors and turn them into potential customers for their products or business services.
For example, people searching for the ‘best patisserie in New York’ are doing so because they want to visit the best patisserie in this city. Ranking for this keyword with SEO can take months and years, but you can instantly appear on top of SERPs for this search query with SEM. All you have to do is bid on the right keyword and launch your SEM campaign to see the magic unfold.
Benefit 3: Allows targeted advertising that is not intrusive.
Thirdly, unlike social media that has a more intrusive advertising nature, advertising with SEM would help you market to a niche audience that is ready to make a purchase.
SEM marketing helps you target people who are in some stage of their buyer’s journey. It makes you visible to users who are explicitly looking for the products & services you specialize in. Thus, SEM is conversion-friendly. Its importance lies in helping you get one step closer to your conversion goals.
Benefit 4: SEM is more affordable and cost-effective than traditional marketing.
Another benefit of investing in SEM is the affordability that comes with it. You can set your ad budget to as limited as $10 a day. The beauty of SEM marketing lies in it’s CPC model. You only have to pay when someone clicks on your ad. Whether you want to post an advertisement on Google or Bing, your ads won’t cost you anything unless someone clicks on them.
If your PPC ad does not convert quickly or has a low conversion rate, you can go to your campaign account and make adjustments. On the contrary, a traditional TV commercial Ad cannot be changed or tweaked as quickly or easily. You can’t pull back a TV commercial once it has gone live. Print advertisements are also hard to redact once you have made the payment, and they are already printed and circulated.
Benefit 5: Gives scope for targeted marketing.
Targeted marketing is one of the many reasons we advocate the use of SEM for your marketing strategy. Not only does SEM help you capture the attention of users who are potentially looking to buy your niche products and services, but it also helps you make your ads as targeted as you want.
From choosing the time for displaying your advertisements to helping you target people from a specific location, gender, and age category – you have an ocean of options you can explore with SEM.
10 Effective Tips for a successful SEM Campaign:
Do you want to run a successful SEM campaign and meet your conversion goals sooner? Do you want to reduce the cost per click for your PPC campaigns but don’t know how?
If the answer is yes, read on.
We have put together a list of 10 practical tips to help you run a successful SEM campaign.
Tip 1: Identify your target audience.
Investing in SEM ad campaigns means reaching out into your company’s marketing budget. You need results. You need to make smart investments. Knowing how to run a PPC campaign is not enough. You need to know who your target audience is. Knowing who to advertise to will increase the likelihood of campaign success as it will help you understand your prospective buyer’s psyche. This understanding puts you at an advantage as you can tailor your ads to match your buyer’s needs.
Tip 2: Perform keyword research.
Another marketing tip that works wonders for a successful SEM campaign is keyword research. When you engage in PPC advertising, you need to engage in keyword bidding. Keyword bidding means that you tell the search engine to show your ads to people looking for the search terms you have chosen.
When you bid on the wrong keywords, your advertisements get shown to the wrong audience who may or may not be looking for products and services relevant to your business. So before you launch your SEM campaign, make sure that you do in-depth keyword analysis. Try to target long-tail keywords for maximum efficiency.
Tip 3: Write relevant and compelling ad copies.
To ensure that your SEM ads are impactful and your CTR is high, people should want to click on your advertisements. Here are some tips that can help you make a compelling ad copy:
- Write catchy ads that satisfy the user’s search intent.
- Use the keyword in the ad copy for search engine effectiveness.
- Avoid long copies to ensure ad copy success. Be succinct.
Tip 4: Make a conversion-friendly landing page
When you make a compelling ad copy, the user clicks on your ads. Perfect. Now what?
What happens next is the user gets directed to your landing page. This is where the real action happens. As such, you need to perfect your landing page to the best of your ability. Here’s what you can do to make a high-conversion landing page:
- A landing page is not a home page. Do not add more information than you need to.
- Get to the point. Your landing page should swiftly communicate the desired message.
- Communicate the benefits of your product or service listings effectively.
- Have a clear CTA (call to action), so your users know what action to take.
- Give a freebie. Whether it is an eBook or other relevant resources, being generous always helps.
- Display pop-ups to leads that make it to the end of your landing page. Doing so will ensure that you don’t lose out on potential customers because of ill-timed and frequent pop-up displays.
Tip 5: Set your price bids.
Now that you know how to make compelling ad copies, landing pages, and know which keywords to target, all that’s left now is to make your price bids for your chosen keywords.
While making PPC keyword bids, you should focus on targeting those bids that meet your marketing budget, not exceed it.
Pro Tip: Choose moderately competitive keywords that help you target your niche audience. They tend to be more budget-friendly than those keywords with too much competition.
Tip 6: Launch Targeted Ads.
After making your price big, create highly targeted ads for more sophisticated and targeted results.
Setting relevant parameters to optimize your ad campaign is called Ad targeting. Also known as SEM and PPC Ad targeting, you can use it to tell the search engine who to show your ads to and what time to display your ads to your chosen audience.
Here are the four types of ad targeting you can do:
- Location Targeting: You can choose the country, city, locality, to a particular zip code you want to target for your ads. This is highly powerful for a business that is targeting customers in their immediate geolocation. For example, a cafe in south Delhi would get more inquiries and table reservations if the ad is shown to people who live in the south Delhi region.
- Ad Schedule Targeting: If you have an excellent idea of your target audience and know when they’re likely to go online, ad schedule targeting can come in handy. Using it, you can display your ad to people only on specific days a week or even particular hours a day!
- Demographic Targeting: A cosmetic company’s target audience mainly consists of women. Similarly, a bike retailer will primarily target men. If you have a product or service that caters to a niche audience, demographic targeting is the tool for you. Using it, you can adjust your ads and display them to distinct demographic categories based on age and gender.
- Device Targeting: Many businesses are making mobile-first websites and eCommerce stores because people tend to browse and shop more using their mobile devices. Using device targeting, you can tweak your ads and show them to users on specific devices such as desktops, tablets, and mobile phones.
Tip 7: Run A/B Tests before SEM Campaign Launch.
A/B testing your landing pages before launching your campaign is a great way to ensure conversions. Make 2-3 landing pages and show them to different ad groups on platforms like Facebook and other social media channels before running your PPC ads.
Track their response. Ask questions. See what type of audience best responds to your landing page. Ask them which of the two landing pages they prefer. Or what changes you can make to them.
Based on the response you get from different groups, you can redo your landing page or use the one that performs well. Once you’re confident that everything is perfect, launch your PPC campaign.
Tip 8: Track campaign performance.
After the last step, it is time to launch your ads. You can see results in a month or two. Track the progress after at least a month of running your PPC ad campaign. If your ads are not performing well, identify the problem areas and rectify the situation.
Here are some of the problems you might encounter:
- If the CTR is low, it means that you are either targeting the wrong keywords, the wrong audience or that your ads are just not click-worthy enough.
- If the CTR is high, but your conversion rate is low, it means that your landing page is probably not performing well. Add CTAs if you haven’t. Revamp your landing page if needed. Trim down the content if it is too long. Then run the tests all over again.
- Let’s say that you are meeting your conversion goals, but you are spending way too much on your ad bids; it might be time to review your keyword bids, make bid adjustments, or perhaps target less competitive keywords that cost less.
The idea is to improve your PPC ads as much as you can. The closest you can get to perfection is when you know when to change your strategy when the occasion presents itself.
Tip 9: Improve your quality score.
With a high-quality score, your CPC reduces. So optimizing your SEM campaigns has twin benefits: 1) helping you meet your conversion goals and 2) keeping your cost per click low.
The performance of your ads in these critical areas decide your quality score:
- Keyword relevance: When your ad appears for a certain keyword but people don’t click on your ad, the search engine takes it as a sign that your ad is not relevant to your target keyword. As a result, your quality score goes down. To remedy this, ensure that you are targeting relevant keywords for your SEM or PPC campaign.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR): The percentage of impressions that result in a click is called a click-through rate. The better your CTR, the better your quality score.
- Quality of landing page: Google uses metrics like the number of conversions you get after someone clicks on your ad to determine your quality score. If people are clicking on your ads but not taking the call to action (CTA) or are leaving your website instantly, it means that the website was probably misleading or people did not have a good user experience. When this happens, your quality score goes down. So make sure that your landing page is a continuation of your advertisements. Do not write something irrelevant on your landing page. Keep it strictly relevant and concise for maximum effectiveness and a higher quality score.
- Ad Text Relevance: Is your ad text relevant to the user’s search query? Does it satisfy the user’s search intent? If it does, then your quality score goes up. If it doesn’t, your quality score goes down. So make sure that your ad text is relevant.
- Historical Performance: Search engines look at how your ads perform overtime. So before you track your ad performance, make sure that you have run your campaign for at least one month before you make tweaks and adjustments to your PPC ad campaigns.
Tip 10: Avoid Negative Keywords.
Negative keywords are irrelevant search terms that you should strictly exclude from your PPC campaigns because they are less likely to result in conversions. They are semantically similar to your keywords but are unrelated to your target keyword’s search intent, ad copy, and ad campaign.
For example, if you’re strictly selling leather shoes for women, you might want to exclude the keyword ‘men leather shoes’ or ‘leather shoes for men’ from your ad campaign. Why? Because users searching for men’s leather shoes are unlikely to buy your product.
In this scenario, these keywords are negative keywords. Avoid using them in your Ad campaigns.
For better results, avoid targeting a generic keyword like ‘leather shoes’. Bidding on a generic keyword like ‘leather shoes’ can make your ads visible to men looking for leather shoes online, resulting in a negative quality score for showcasing irrelevant ads. Instead, target highly relevant and niche keywords like ‘leather shoes for women.’
To reduce the chances of appearing in irrelevant searches, review your campaign thoroughly and remove those keywords that attract the wrong type of traffic. Mark low performing or irrelevant search terms as negative keywords in your campaign account.
In this blog, we have tried to answer questions like what is SEM and how it works, what is SEM in marketing, and what is SEM in digital marketing to the best of our knowledge. We believe that SEM is a powerful tool when used effectively, which is why it is important to be open to rework and update your existing strategies to make the most of SEM marketing.
With an effective SEM strategy, you can grow your business and meet your conversion goals faster than conventional marketing allows. Follow the tips that we have mentioned in this blog to leverage SEM to your best advantage. If you want to outsource it to a company with proven experience in delivering successful SEM campaigns, please contact us. We have been rated the 7th Best Integrated Search Marketing (SEO & PPC) Company in India. Read our case studies to learn about our digital marketing achievements.
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