Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

The days of shopping in brick-and-mortar establishments are long gone. 85 percent of the world’s population, according to Statista, shops online. Search engines account for around 48% of all purchases. That is why companies seek to rank first in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Businesses employ a variety of tactics in order to get the desired top spot on search engine results pages (SERPs). A significant method is search engine optimization (SEO). Businesses can also employ search engine marketing (SEM) to improve their search engine visibility.

So, what exactly is SEO (search engine optimization)? It’s achieving a top ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) using sponsored tactics.

If you search for ‘sports shoes,’ for example, you’ll notice that shoe companies pay Google to show you adverts. It’s all part of their search engine optimization strategy.

Brainlab showed 74% of marketers say that paid advertising is a huge driver for their business. Therefore, you don’t want to miss that opportunity. Let’s look at what search engine marketing is and how to do it well.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility of a website on search engine results pages (SERPs).

While the industry term once referred to both organic search activities such as search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising, it now refers almost exclusively to paid search advertising.

Search engine marketing is also alternately referred to as paid search or pay per click (PPC).

Why is SEM important?

Search engine marketing has become a critical online marketing approach for expanding a company’s reach, as an increasing number of people study and shop for products online.

In fact, the vast majority of new visitors to a website arrive from a search engine query.

Advertisers only pay for impressions that result in visitors in search engine marketing, making it a cost-effective option for a company to spend its marketing budget. As an added advantage, each visitor helps to boost the website’s organic search results rankings.

In comparison to other sites such as social media, where users enter search queries with the aim of finding information about a commercial character, customers entering search queries with the intent of discovering information of a commercial nature are in an excellent state of mind to make a purchase.

Search marketing reaches consumers at exactly the right time: when they are open to new information. Unlike the majority of digital advertising, PPC advertising is non-intrusive and does not interrupt their tasks.

Results are immediate with SEM. It is arguably the fastest way to drive traffic to a website.

How SEM works

Search engines use complicated algorithms to ensure the most relevant results are returned for each search, including location and other available information.

In paid search advertising, sponsored ads appear at the top of and on the side of search engine results pages to gain more visibility and prominence than the organic results.

Let’s say that you are a customer looking for a product or service online. You go to a search engine and type in your search terms (also known as keywords).

On your search results page, you will come across various company ads whose keywords match the keywords in your search.

These ads appear in prominent locations on the page – along with the other search listings that match your keywords. The paid listings are highly relevant to your specific search, making it likely that you will click on them.

Now let’s take a look at how SEM campaigns work from the marketer’s perspective.

SEM networks are self-serve operations. Once a marketer selects a network, they can get a campaign up within a short period of time.

When setting up a campaign within an SEM network, the marketer is prompted to:

  • Perform keyword research and choose a set of keywords that are relevant to their website or product.
  • Choose a geographic location for the ad to appear in.
  • Create a text-based advertisement that will appear in the search results.
  • Bid on a price per click on their ad that they are willing to spend.

Text-only ads are easy to produce. Marketers enter a headline, text for the body of the ad, a call-to-action, and a URL for the hyperlink.

Search engine marketing is considered by many to be the most efficient way to spend marketing dollars.

Examples of search advertising networks

Google Ads (previously Google Adwords) and Bing Ads are the two main search networks that SEM specialists target.

The Google Search Network and the Google Display Network are the two networks that make up Google AdWords.

The first network is made up entirely of Google-owned search-related websites, while the second includes YouTube, Blogger, and Gmail. Customers can buy advertisements on both Yahoo’s and Bing’s networks via the Bing Ads service.

While Google Ads has a much wider network (about 2x the size), Bing Ads has lower prices. Marketers may be able to rank higher for a competitive keyword phrase for less money than they would on Google. Some people claim that the clickthrough rates are also higher.

How A/B testing can complement SEM

Since you are already making an investment in search engine marketing to bring traffic to your website, it is a worthwhile effort to optimize that traffic for conversions and increase the efficiency of your spending.

A/B testing your landing pages is an easy way to maximize your spending, either by optimizing for average order value or revenue per page.

Optimizing your landing page can increase your Quality Score with search engine marketing networks, thus reducing your average CPC.

Optimizely and other platforms like it can help you easily structure and implement your A/B tests, offering real-time results to give you confidence in your business decisions.

Optimizely has integrations with popular ad networks such as Google Adwords and Facebook that make setting up ad-related experiments quick and easy.

Final Thoughts

Search engine marketing is an excellent strategy for you to appear at the top of SERPs. However, paid advertising is very competitive as businesses try to grab premium ad spots.

Therefore, you need a well-thought-out search engine marketing strategy to beat the competition.

Your SEM strategy should:

  • Optimize keywords
  • Improve Ad quality score
  • Minimize cost per click

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