All About Search Engine Marketing

You may not be familiar with the term search engine marketing, but you've almost certainly experienced it. The last time you used your favorite search engine, several ads probably appeared before your list of results. Purchasing advertising space within that space is the basis of SEM. While that may seem simple, the path to a successful campaign is much more complex than many traditional advertising methods. But a well-developed SEM campaign can be a very lucrative marketing tactic for many businesses.

Where Can I Advertise?

There are countless options when it comes to choosing an SEM campaign right for you. Most often, search engine marketing refers to a search network campaign. This is where text ads are shown in search engine results pages. However, there are quite a few additional campaign options, including display ads, video ads, and even shopping ads. The type of campaign that's right for you depends on your industry and advertising goals. Each of these campaigns types could be discussed in detail about what they entail, but here we'll be looking primarily at search network campaigns.

Almost all search engines support some form of advertising. The most popular choices continue to be Google and Bing. As the internet's most popular search engines with the largest bases of users, this isn't surprising. Though there may be some slight differences between search engines, the general advertising process is the same. A user will search a keyword or phrase, and a group of ads targeting that search will appear above and below the organic results. To gain the most visibility and traffic, advertisers aim to have their ads showing in one of the first three positions.  How do you get your ads at the top? Unlike more traditional forms of advertising, budget is far from the only thing that determines your ad's position.

Keyword Research - The Heart of SEM

The most important factor in any search engine marketing campaign is targeting the correct keywords. The key terms that you target will determine when your ads show. Therefore, it's important to target words and phrases that ensure those who see your ads will find your services or products useful. For example, targeting the keyword "clothes" might seem like a good idea because it's such a popular search term. But if you only sell custom t-shirts, many people that see your ad may not be interested in the specific product you're offering. Finding a balance between relevance and search volume when it comes to your key phrases is one of the biggest challenges faced by those using SEM.

Quality Score - Be Relevant to Be Seen

So you've picked out your keywords and developed some great ads. What else do you need? It's important to keep in mind that a search engine's number one goal is to serve its users the most relevant results. This practice doesn't exclude advertisers. When you create ads for your campaign, you'll choose a landing page for your users to be sent to if they click on it. The search engine will analyze the page you choose and compare it with the keywords and phrases you've decided to target. You will then be awarded a quality score for each keyword. The higher the score, the higher you are likely to place on the results page. Therefore, the more relevant your landing page is to your targeted keywords, the better the chances your ad will be seen.

Setting Your Budget and Cost Per Click

Another extremely important element in your SEM campaign is your budget. You'll set both a total  daily  budget and a maximum cost-per-click, or CPC, for each keyword. This price determines how much you're willing to pay for a click on your ad. SEM campaigns are often referred to as PPC, or pay-per-click   campaigns for this reason - you won't pay anything at all, unless your ad is clicked on.

Your CPC can vary wildly depending on your industry, from just a few cents up to hundreds of dollars. To be competitive in your industry, you'll need to set your CPC for your keywords at a level that is on par (or higher) than your competitors. Otherwise you risk letting your ads go unseen.

Entering the Ad Auction

Once you have your budget in place, your ads are ready to run. The next time one of your keywords is searched, your ads will enter the Ad Auction. The search engine takes your max CPC and your quality score, and compares them against those of the other advertisers also bidding on the keyword. The ads are then ranked on the results page. Ads with high quality scores and competitive bids are often those that show in the coveted top positions. Those bidding too low or those with low quality scores will be placed at the bottom of the first page and on subsequent pages.

Is SEM Right For Me?

SEM and SEO (search engine optimization) are often contrasted against each other. Both will make your website visible in search engines to users searching for your product or service. However, one might choose SEM over SEO for quite a few reasons.

The biggest benefit of a search engine marketing campaign is that it will start working immediately. Your campaign will start driving traffic to your website right away, infinitely faster than an SEO campaign could. You can start getting conversions and sales on the  day you launch a website if you start an SEM campaign on the same day. If you're in a competitive industry where you know you'll have a difficult time ranking organically, SEM may also be a better option.

However, it's worth mentioning that SEM and SEO complement each other very well. Optimizing your landing pages for keywords that you're targeting will increase your quality score. And sending more traffic to a website optimized for conversions will more than likely increase your conversion rate as well.

Ready to talk to an expert about an SEM campaign for your business? Get in touch with 360 PSG today.

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