Intro to Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Intro to Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Over 3.5 billion searches are performed on Google every day. With so much traffic being generated on search engines at such astounding rates, it’s no wonder that more and more advertisers are turning to this revolutionary new platform. Not to mention that they have the largest market share Wordwide!

Global Market Share, Source: Stat Counter

The good news is, you don’t have to be a tech whiz or word wizard to bump your ads to that coveted front page. With some rigorous research, good budgeting and lots of practice, you’ll be able to sit back and watch the clicks roll in—all from the comfort of your chair. Here, you’ll find a handy guide on how to get started with SEM.


What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

SEM is an online advertising method whereby businesses pay to place their ads on search engine results pages (SERPs). You’re probably already familiar with some forms of SEM: for example, the simple text boxes that show up before your search results, or the rows of shopping ads that appear when you search for “tennis shoes”.

Unlike Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which involves strategic placement of keywords and other metadata on your site for search engines to crawl, SEM offers a much simpler and faster route to the front page. All you have to do is set a bid, write some eye-catching ad copy, and watch your ad take the top spot. It’s that easy!

What is SEM & SEO, Source: Google

How It Works

The most popular SEM platform, by far, is Google Ads. And with 86% of the global search engine market, it’s easy to see why. Apart from its ability to reach thousands of consumers at once, its straightforward, easy-to-use platform will get your campaign up and running in next to no time.

Types of Ads

Google Ads offers six basic ad campaigns. When deciding which campaign is right for you and your business, it’s important to consider your advertising goals to ensure that you pick the most suitable format.

Type Of Ads

Types of Ads, Source: Business 2 Community

  • Search campaigns allow your ads to show up in Google SERPs when customers make queries related to your ad’s keywords. This is best if you want to get your products and services in front of high-potential customers right when they’re searching for them.
  • Display campaigns spread your ads throughout websites and apps whose content is relevant to your business or your customers’ interests. This is best for raising awareness of your products and services, rather than getting customers to buy them immediately.
  • Search campaigns with Display opt-in offers you the best of both worlds. Here, you’ll only need to create Search ads, which will then be shown on both Google SERPs and relevant websites. This is best for increasing your pool of potential customers.
  • Video campaigns are run across YouTube and other Google Display Network sites. This is best for grabbing customers’ attention in a new, engaging way.
  • Shopping campaigns show ads for your products in Google Shopping. This is best for publicising your stocks and collections, as well as increasing the number of visits to your website.

Shopping Ads, Source: StoreYa

  • Universal app campaigns are designed for app developers to maximise the number of downloads. Google automatically tests and tweaks your campaign to highlight the best-performing ads—all you have to do is write some text, provide a budget and specify the languages and locations you want your ad to be in.

Media Cost Models

After settling on the right campaign type, you’ll also need to decide on a media cost model that best aligns with your campaign goals. Depending on what you want your ads to achieve, you might pick any of the following ways to pay:

  • Cost per click (CPC), also known as pay per click (PPC): This is one of the most popular cost models used in SEM, as it helps to increase website traffic. You’ll pay every time someone clicks on your ad to visit your website.
  • Cost per thousand impressions (CPM): You’ll pay every time your ad is published, regardless of where or how it’s displayed. This model works best if you want to get the word out about your business, rather than getting customers to act now.
  • Viewable cost per thousand impressions (vCPM): Unlike CPM, you’ll only pay every time your ad is displayed on a customer’s screen. (Viewability is defined as 50% of the ad being shown for at least one second.) As compared to CPM, customers are more likely to see your ad, but you’ll also pay more for your campaign.
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): Under this model, you’ll only pay when a customer sees your ad and then buys something from your website, signs up for your newsletter or otherwise interacts with your content. This model is more expensive than PPC or CPM campaigns, but promises higher returns.
  • Cost per view (CPV): This is the default option for video campaigns, and you’ll pay every time someone watches your video ad or otherwise interacts with it (for example, clicking on a link to your website or a banner ad shown beneath it).

Ad Auction

Source: Giphy

Every time Google Ads has a free space to fill, the system runs an auction to decide which ads get it, what order they’ll be shown in, and how much you’ll pay if your ad is picked.

After sifting out unapproved or irrelevant ads, it all comes down to your Ad Rank. This determines whether your ad earns a spot at the top of the first page—or is relegated to the bottom of the fifth. To determine your Ad Rank, the system considers factors like:

  • Bid: A bid is the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a customer to click on your ad and go to your website. Contrary to popular belief, having the highest bid doesn’t always guarantee the highest Ad Rank—your ad has to meet other criteria.

Source: Giphy

  • Quality Score: This measures the overall quality and relevance of your ad.
    • Ad relevance: Here, the system analyses the language and keywords used in your ad to determine if it’s useful to consumers.
    • Expected clickthrough rate (CTR): This predicts how often your ad will be clicked, and is determined by how consumers have responded to your keywords in the past.
    • Landing page: This is the page on your website that consumers will be taken to when they click on your ad. Your Ad Rank will be higher if your landing page is clear and easy to navigate.
  • Ad format: Having more relevant information, in the form of ad extensions (more on that later), can boost your Ad Rank as well.

Remember that only ads with a sufficiently high Ad Rank are eligible to be shown! The best thing about the Google Ads auction is that you can earn better spots on the page than your competitors while spending less—as long as your ad is relevant, informative and engaging.

With all that in mind, here are our top tips for making sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. These 5 strategies are all you need to create a winning ad campaign—and you’ll find over time that, with practice, it really is as easy as that.


5 Simple Steps to Optimise Your SEM Campaign

Conduct Keyword Research

Before starting your campaign, brainstorm relevant keywords that will lead customers right to your doorstep. The trick is to think like a customer: if you were researching the best laptop models, for example, what would you enter into the search bar?

More general keywords might get you more impressions, but narrowing them down to more specific terms and subcategories will reach customers who are more likely to click on your ad and buy your products.

Source: Shout Me Loud

Pick a Targeted Demographic

Casting your net wide isn’t always the ideal way of getting customers—you want people who are more likely to be receptive to your message. With Google Ads, you can conduct audience targeting to engage customers who intend to buy products similar to yours, or demographic targeting to reach customers of a specific age group or gender.

Break down your consumer base into smaller, more manageable groups, and come up with tailored strategies to target each one more effectively based on their characteristics.

Source: Continuity Programs

Control Your Budget

Fortunately, there’s no minimum amount you have to spend on your campaign. You can, however, set a maximum amount to keep your budget in check. With manual bidding, you can bid more for ad groups you want to focus on. And after you’ve accrued enough data on your ads, you can opt for automatic bidding to have the system calculate how to maximise the return on your investment.

You can also adjust bids based on device (mobile vs desktop), location, time of day and a host of other factors, to increase the amount of traffic where and when you want it.


Optimise Your Landing Page

Reining in customers doesn’t stop when they click on your ad. Make sure the landing page included in your ad leads to a user-friendly experience on your website: clear, informative and easily navigable pages are more likely to close sales.

Review Your Campaign Regularly

Given the dynamic nature of the Internet and SEM in general, it’s good to look over your campaign on a regular basis, to observe whether bid adjustments should be made or if you should modify your list of keywords. This will help to keep your ads relevant and useful to consumers.



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