Last updated on November 7th, 2022 by RGB Web Tech
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a type of marketing aimed at promoting a website on search engine results pages. Securing your website a high position in search results, SEM helps you generate more traffic and gain more customers.
What is the difference between SEO and SEM?
It’s difficult to avoid ambiguity while speaking about the differences between SEO and SEM. Pushing your website to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) may include organic promotion and paid advertising, such as PPC ads. SEO has always been viewed as organic promotion, while views on SEM have changed with time.
At first, the term SEM involved both paid and organic strategies. In this case, SEO appears as a part of SEM. However, now marketers use the phrase “search engine marketing” more and more for paid activities only, which makes SEM and SEO two different categories. To avoid confusion, in this article we’ll use the word SEM for paid search advertising only.
Why is SEM important?
Coupled with SEO, SEM helps your business be on the top of search results in Google, Bing, and other search engine players. The first page of search results gets over 71% of all the clicks.
Search engine marketing becomes more and more significant as a traffic generation channel. While click-through rates of organic search results have fallen by 13% in the first quarter of 2019, SEM skyrocketed by 75% in the same span.
Better yet, audiences are loyal to SEM. 75% of people said paid search ads help them find the information they search for, and over 30% clicked on a paid search ad because it directly answered their search query.
Basic SEM Concepts
SEM is a very broad topic that has many different avenues to explore. Below, we've linked some articles to more specific topics within the SEM methodology.
1. SEO and SEM: SEO and SEM are essentials in online marketing strategies, but they are also two abbreviations that lead to a lot of confusion. Which is better for your brand and how can you leverage both to boost traffic and increase conversions?
2. SEM Positioning: SEM positioning is the paid method that's used to quickly gain search engine positioning.
3. SEM Campaign: A SEM campaign represents the entire advertising strategy that generates ads in search engines like Google. A campaign can encompass many different ad groups and keywords in order to increase positioning.
4. SEM on Google: The most popular form of SEM is on Google Ads. To create a SEM campaign on Google, go from the most general to the most concrete. There are many different ways to advertise on Google Ads, with a variety of ad options and structures.
Why Use SEM for Your Business?
There are many reasons to incorporate SEM in your digital marketing strategy. These are just some of the benefits of using Search Engine Marketing for your brand.
1. Bring highly qualified traffic to your page. One of the bases of any digital marketing strategy is to attract the right users to your landing pages. Search engine marketing is very effective in attracting users' attention and generating clicks by allowing users to filter based on the words they seek. This ensures that your traffic is made up of people who are potentially interested in your brand.
2. Make your brand or company known throughout the world. Placing yourself at the top of Google is a great way to get visibility for your brand. To see your page in the first place will allow the user to associate it with the need that they’re looking to solve even if they don't click on the page.
3. Generate conversions. Google Ads offers many ways to measure conversions and thus ensure that your ads are really effective.
4. Get results with a tight budget. Search engine advertising solutions can be adjusted to your budgetary needs at any time. You do not need a large initial investment, so these are suitable for small and medium businesses. If your brand is growing, the sky's the limit!
5. Finally, with Search Engine Marketing Google Ads solutions, you can not only place advertisements in the search engine, but also take advantage of the data and parameters available to place contextual advertising on other websites. The possibilities of personalization are very high. For example, you can target users who have already visited your website, are interested in X type of products, are from a specific city, etc. Combined with your search engine advertising campaigns, these can be powerful tools to grow your brand.
Advantages of SEM
1.Highly measurable. Tools like Google Ads give you highly detailed reports of the evolution of your campaign, so you can always know what is happening with your ads. In addition, you can take advantage of the integration with Analytics to have everything controlled to perfection.
2. Real-time monitoring. The analytics interface allows you to see what is happening at each moment and corrects the course to the moment if you do not get the results you are looking for.
3. Pay per click. With this, you will only pay if you get results. You can control the maximum daily budget that you are willing to invest as well as the maximum cost per click you can pay. This way, you make sure that the campaign is profitable.
4. Speed. Regarding other techniques such as SEO or content marketing, search engine advertising allows you to achieve relatively fast, large-scale results.
5. Within everyone's reach. Since budgetary investment is scalable, this solution works for both large companies and SMEs. They all compete in equal conditions to reach the first positions for keywords.
6. Segmentation. Finally, another positive of this tool is its great segmentation possibilities. By focusing on keywords, you will reach the public that is actively interested in you. You can also filter it by other factors such as location, language, or behavior.
Disadvantages of SEM
1. Higher long-term cost. To be clear, SEM only works while you pay. Although over time you can optimize your campaigns and reduce costs per click, you will have to continue paying for each of the visits you get.
2. High level of competition. Search Engine Marketing has become popular and there are many companies that compete to position themselves for the same keywords. This competition causes costs to rise and sometimes it can be difficult to get a good ROI.
3. It's interruptive. As opposed to other solutions like native advertising, SEM involves "invading" the user's space with content that they didn't seek out. In fact, if the user you are targeting has an ad blocker, they may not see your ads.
SEM Dictionary: Top Terms to Know
To finish, let's review the basic concepts you need to move through the world of search engine advertising. Since we use Google for the vast majority of searches, we are going to base ourselves on the terms that are used in Google Ads.
1. Keywords: keywords are the basis of all search engine marketing. Keywords are the words, groups of words, or phrases that will make your ad appear to users.
2. Text ad: the standard ad type that is shown in search engines. They usually have a title, two lines of text, and a customizable link.
3. Ad Group: Ad groups are ad sets and keywords. These are grouped into campaigns, in which you can define the daily budget and the countries or territories where the ads will appear.
4. Search Network: the part of the search engine where your ads can appear. The simplest thing is to work with text ads on the top and right of the results page but you can also show ads on other sites such as Google Shopping or Google Maps.
5. Impressions: the number of times an ad is shown.
6. Clicks: the number of times an ad has been clicked on.
7. CTR: the percentage of impressions that generate a click.
8. CPC: the average cost per click. You can define a maximum CPC to guarantee that you do not go over budget.
9. Quality level: Score (determined by Google) of a keyword and an ad to determine your CPC. In theory, the higher the quality of an ad, the less you pay for each click.
Today SEM is a necessity. However, it is much more powerful if used in combination with other tools such as SEO. The study of keywords is the fundamental pillar of the search engine strategy. The study of Buyer Personas is also crucial to understanding the audience when looking for certain keywords because it allows for more accurate segmentation.
How to Perform Keyword Research in SEM
When planning an SEM campaign, keyword research should always be one of the first steps. We can say that keywords are like the "bricks" from which the whole SEM account, ads, and even landing pages are structured.
To perform keyword research for SEM campaigns, take note of the following steps.
1. Analysis of the Product or Service (And, if Already Created, of the Landing Page)
Keywords should always be relevant to the product or service you are offering. Therefore, the first step is to draw up a list between two and ten main ideas that summarize the services or products you offer. In addition to studying your own offer, you can also take a look at your competitors' sites.
2. Keyword Research Tools
There are many keyword planning platforms on the market, such as SemRush and Google keyword planner. If you enter the basic ideas defined in the previous section, the tool will provide you with a list of related keywords. To filter the results, you can segment by location and language.
The good thing about these tools is that they can give you a lot of suggestions that you would never have thought of. Of course, there also are times when they offer suggestions that aren't to the original search. And this brings us to the next step...
3. Filtering and Selecting Keywords
Using the keywords as a starting point, you will have to filter manually to discard irrelevant words, group related keywords, and select those that have the highest number of searches and the lowest competition (i.e. that there are not many advertisers bidding for lor the same word).
And that's it! You now have a definitive list of keywords to optimize your SEM campaign. To get the best results, these keywords should be present both on your landing pages and in your ads.
How to Develop a SEM Campaign Step by Step
Strategy and planning are fundamental to guarantee the results of your SEM campaign. Let's take a look at what it takes to launch a successful campaign.
1. Keyword Research
Keywords are the basic foundation on which the entire SEM strategy is structured. To carry out a complete keyword study, you must pay special attention to:
- The products and services you offer
- How your competition is performing and how you are positioned relative to that
- Your buyer persona
- Searching for generic and "long tail" keywords using specialized tools
- Combing through and cleaning the keyword list
2. Campaign Creation
The time has come to put your entire SEM strategy into place. These are some of the key aspects that you will have to define to launch a campaign in Google Ads or any other tool:
- Budget and maximum bid.
- Ad groups: Unless you are selling a very specific product or service, you will have different groups of related keywords. The idea is to structure the keywords within specific ad groups to achieve the best results.
- Designing and optimizing landing pages: Ideally, you should have a landing page for each product or service and for each target.
- Ad creation: When setting up the campaign, we advise setting up different creatives so that you can compare the results with one another.
3. Measurement and Optimization
The work doesn't end after launching the campaign; SEM is based on continuous optimization. Therefore, you must periodically monitor the results of your campaigns to be able to swap out keywords, creatives, and any other aspects of the campaign.
To make sure you don't miss anything, you can set up alerts for critical aspects of the account and define a specific review schedule.
Bonus: Take Advantage of SEM to Do SEO
SEM and SEO are two closely related disciplines, as they both seek to rank on Google. Therefore, you can take advantage of the effort invested in SEM to improve your organic positioning.
Keyword research will help you detect keywords that can help you position your page organically, although they may not result in quick conversions. However, the results will help you identify which topics are more interesting for users and can help you to get more traffic and visits.
Most Popular Search Engines for SEM
When we think of search engines, usually the first thing that comes to mind is Google. But the truth is that there are other SEM platforms that can also give us good results. These are the three main solutions for search engine advertising.
1. Google Ads
Google Ads is one of the main search engines. Here are some tips for using it:
- Keywords: a keyword is a set of terms entered by a user in a search engine. It can be a single word, several words, or even a whole phrase, for example: "buy dumbbells for home exercise". Keywords let Google know which ads are relevant to a particular user at a particular time.
- Match Types: match types determine to what extent the term entered by the user in the search engine matches the keyword. In Google Ads, from the broadest to the strictest, you'll find: broad match, phrase match, and exact match. You can also set negative matches (searches for which you do NOT want your ads to be shown).
- Ads: the advertising displayed on Google's search engine is mainly based on text ads consisting of a title, visible URL, description, and extensions.
- CPC (cost per click): the price you pay for each click on your ads, which in turn depends on the level of quality and bids set.
2. Microsoft Advertising or Bing Ads
Bing Ads (or Microsoft Advertising) is a very solid alternative to Google Ads, as it reaches a relevant potential audience (almost 10% of the market share) and has very good targeting and configuration options.
In general, it is a very similar tool to Google Ads, but there are some differences that you should be aware of:
- Negative keyword matching is stricter (you can only place negative keywords with phrase matching).
- Bing sets a minimum amount for maximum bids.
- Bing's location options allow you to specify a radius within a city or zip code.
- You can schedule ads to show in 15-minute increments throughout the day, or to appear only at certain times.
- Bing has image-specific and stock-specific extensions.
- You can set up different time zones within a single campaign.
- Filter reports based on search partners and discard those you are not interested in.
3. Yahoo Ads
Yahoo Advertising or Yahoo Ads is Yahoo's advertising solution, which allows you to reach users who perform searches on this search engine.
- Search Ads: The most classic SEM format, which shows ads in the search engine when users enter a specific keyword.
- Display Ads: These ads are placed at the top, bottom, side of a website, or in the middle of content and can be used for remarketing.
- Sponsored Ads in different formats: Image, carousel, and native video ads.
- Mail Ads: These ads are integrated within inboxes and through banners.
How a SEM Agency Can Help You
SEM tools, such as Google Ads, are very complex. It's to manage a lot of variables and be aware of the results in real-time in order to be able to continuously optimize the account. Therefore, it is worthwhile delegating this work to a SEM agency, which can carry out tasks such as:
1. SEM campaign design: defining objectives and budget and creating the campaign structure, keywords, and ad groups.
2. Keyword planning and optimization: selecting the right keywords and precise match levels is critical for good SEM results. The agency will perform both initial keyword research and ongoing monitoring of results.
3. Ad creation: with SEM ads, there is very little room to attract potential customers, so it is essential to create well-designed creatives.
4. Campaign monitoring: the agency will perform continuous analysis of the data to be able to make decisions in real-time and achieve the best results.
5. Quality level optimization: this parameter is one of the most important in SEM, since it allows for maximizing results and minimizing costs at the same time. CPC and bid management: through continuous analysis of CPC and the position of the ads, an agency seeks to optimize the bids in order to achieve the highest number of quality clicks at the best cost.
6. Conversion rate optimization: by analyzing and adjusting different aspects of the account, from keywords to landing page design, you ultimately aim to achieve more conversions and increase the profitability of the account
FAQs - SEM ( Search Engine Marketing )
1. What is search engine marketing?
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs).
2. What is SEM and why is it important?
Search Engine Marketing refers to a variety of techniques and strategies a company can use to generate more visitor traffic from search engine results pages (SERPS) to a website. The goal of SEM is to promote a website's visibility using paid search, contextual advertising, and organic search rankings.