Search engine marketing 101: SEM and paid search marketing

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Search engine marketing (SEM) originally was a term that was used when describing both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search activities. However, over the years, the digital industry ultimately chose to use the SEM acronym when describing paid search activities only.

SEM or “paid search advertising” is known by a couple of other names: pay per click (PPC) and cost per click (CPC). In this post, we will refer to SEM as paid search. Paid search is a digital advertising channel where an advertiser pays for their ads to show up in the advertising search listings when specific keywords are searched. When a searcher clicks on a paid search ad, the advertiser is charged the cost-per-click bid amount. That is the simplest overview of how paid search works.

Although that overview is simple, setting up a paid search account, campaigns and ad groups that will be successful, as well as choosing keywords, can be more difficult if you do not have experience with the paid search platforms or how to use the many ad settings and options that are available.

Other sources for frustration or failure with paid search are as follows:

  • Failing to cultivate your Quality Score
  • Not having clearly defined goals
  • Not matching landing pages to goals
  • Failing to attract qualified customers
  • Not understanding how to set bids
  • Not using metrics to track progress toward goals
  • Not monitoring results closely and making necessary adjustments
  • Bailing out too quickly, in cases where favorable results are not immediately evident
  • Not continuing to build and refine your list of keywords
  • Not using negative keywords properly
  • Not keeping up with changes — whether by Google or within the marketplace

Based on this list of reasons why advertisers may fail with paid search, make sure you have specific answers to the following paid search setup questions before you get started:

What are your goals?

It is imperative you define your personal paid search objectives and determine how you will know whether or not they are being achieved.

  • How will you know when your efforts are successful?
  • Are you seeking increased inquiries and orders?
  • Do you want to build your brand?
  • Are you struggling to rank in search results and want to be sure your link gets seen by prospective customers or clients?

The bottom line, for most businesses, is sales. So how many ways can you think of that a concerted effort at PPC could help move your products or services?

Are your landing pages ready?

In order to realize sufficient ROI from your PPC campaign, you need to make sure the clicked link takes the viewer to a page with a high probability of getting the reader to take the next step in your sequence — whether that is requesting more information (lead development), placing an order, receiving a message or some other action.

  • Does the landing page accurately answer their question and provide the next logical step to easing the tension that brought them here?
  • Do you know who needs, wants and can afford your offer?
  • Do you present visitors from your ad with exactly what they need to take the next step toward realizing the benefits you provide?
What words and phrases do potential customers use to search for your product or service?

Paid search experts ask the following questions when considering what type of keywords to target with paid search:

  • What keywords and phrases might potential customers use to search for your product/service?
  • When trying a few searches with keywords you think someone might use to find your product/service, what do you find?
  • What competitors are advertising?
  • What are your competitors’ value propositions?
  • What calls to action are being used in the ad copy?
  • What does your customer care about: features, benefits, price?

As you can see, planning out your landing pages and keyword portfolio can make paid search a “know thy customer or perish” landscape. By honestly and strategically answering the questions listed above, you have a foundational understanding of what you want to accomplish with paid search.

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September 20, 2019by Kuulei Hanamaikai


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