Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is one of the most effective ways to grow your business and reach new customers.
While it's critical you employ organic strategies to attract traffic over the long-term, sometimes, you can't properly compete on the SERPs without putting money behind it and that's where SEM comes into play.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising. SEM may incorporate search engine optimization (SEO), which adjusts website content and site architecture to achieve a higher ranking in search engine results pages to enhance pay per click (PPC) listings.
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is one of the most effective ways to grow your business in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With millions of businesses out there all vying for the same eyeballs, it’s never been more important to advertise online, and search engine marketing is the most effective way to promote your products and grow your business.
In this guide, you'll learn an overview of search engine marketing basics as well as some tips and strategies for doing search engine marketing right.
SEO vs. SEM
In the land of digital marketing, people often confuse SEO and SEM. While closely related and both under the umbrella of “search marketing,” they are two very different concepts. SEO revolves around increasing clicks organically, while SEM relies on paid advertising to show ads on the first pages of the SERP. Both are fundamental to a business’s marketing strategy today.
SEO uses a series of rules and best practices (according to Google’s ever-changing algorithms) to help a business’s website make it to the first page of search results organically, without having to pay for the position. SEM allows businesses to skip steps and make it to the top faster, helping companies achieve positive results without the wait. In essence, SEO is unpaid while SEM is paid.
The Basics of SEM
A breakdown of everything that SEM entails starts with paid search ads. Paid search advertising is just that – ads that the business owner pays for, appearing at the top of the first page of SERPs when a user searches for a certain keyword. The pay schemes differ according to the type of paid advertising a company wishes to invest in. There are a few main terms you should know when it comes to paid SEM advertisements:
- PPC (pay-per-click). PPC advertising is the most popular form of SEM. With PPC, the marketer only pays for the ad when a user clicks on the link. All the other times when the searcher sees the page but doesn’t click are free to the advertiser. Search engine PPC advertising charges a small fee for each click, but the potential returns on investment (ROI) are much greater than the fee. For example, if you pay INR 300 for the click but the user purchases INR 1000 in goods, you’ve made a considerable profit.
- CPA (cost-per-acquisition). Your CPA is the total cost of your PPC campaign divided by the conversions you secured. Calculating your CPA will help you determine whether your paid SEM strategy is resulting in a profit or costing more than you’re making. CPA can help you understand the financial impact of your marketing campaign. You can determine an acceptable CPA by calculating the average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (CLV) of your business.
- CPC (cost-per-click). CPC refers to the actual cost of each click in a PPC marketing campaign. It is an average of bids against your competitors over a certain amount of time. Your CPC will be equal to or less than your maximum keyword bid. Calculating CPC is the Competitor Ad Rank divided by your Quality Score, plus $.01. Understanding your CPC can help you know how much to bid. The average CPC across all industries is $2. Use a CPC calculator to see where you stand in your industry.
- CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions). CPM refers to how much 1,000 advertisement impressions on a webpage cost the marketer. For example, if the site charges INR 200 CPM, that means you’ll pay INR 200 for every 1,000 impressions of your ad. (The M is the Roman numeral for 1,000.) CPM is the most common price scheme for web ads. You can measure the ROI of your CPM campaign by analyzing your click-through rates, or how often users click your ad compared to the number of impressions.
Your SEM strategy will change according to your budget and advertising goals. All forms of paid SEM, however, rely on keyword research. You must bid on certain keywords for your advertisements to appear when users search for those words. To appear on the SERP for “digital marketing firm,” for example, you would need to win a bid on those keywords. To succeed with paid search advertising, you must first master keyword research and bidding.
What is the benefit of SEM?
While SEO allows you to optimize your website for a greater chance in appearing higher in search results, and online advertising allows you to send promotional content to the target audience of your choosing, SEM combines both benefits as your content is both optimized for higher search rankings and is placed primarily in front of audiences who are most likely to convert when they click on your ads.
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).
In 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.
Do I need Both SEM and SEO?
Do you absolutely need both SEM and SEO? No. But will you end up getting a lot more leads and sales if you implement both? Absolutely yes.
It’s always a good idea to optimize your site according to SEO best practices. You want to lay out a solid foundation that will put you as far up in the SERPs organically as possible. After all, SEO clicks are basically free—why wouldn’t you want as many of those as you can get?
Utilizing search engine marketing, however, can significantly speed up your ability to build your brand and your client base. It will put you in front of target audiences who are actively searching for products, services, and brands just like yours. You want to appear at the very top of their searches, or someone else will get their sale.
Get Professional Help with SEM
Paid search engine marketing can transform your business. It can take you from the third or fourth page of the SERP to the very top of the first page. SEM is one of the most affordable and effective types of advertising, with options suitable for any budget. Paid search ads can boost brand visibility, increase site traffic and click-throughs, seal more conversions, and ultimately help you gain organic recognition and business.
Get professional help with your SEM strategy and PPC ad campaigns at Mildain. Our Paid Search Program Management services provide expert guidance on how to achieve remarkable ROI on Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and more. Contact us to learn more about our monthly PPC management services.