In the past, search engine marketing, otherwise known as SEM, referred to a digital marketing strategy that encompassed both organic and paid traffic. However, the scope of this marketing strategy has changed significantly over the years. If you feel like you’re not getting as much traffic to your website as you should, read on to discover what SEM is, why it is important, how it works, and much more.
What Is Search Engine Marketing?
Search engine marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on drawing traffic to a website through, primarily, paid advertising. In fact, it so often involves paid search advertising that people today use the term SEM interchangeably with pay per click (PPC) or paid search.
How Important Is SEM?
As of 2020, search engine optimization and SEM were the two most powerful marketing tactics by far. Specifically, 40% of all trackable web traffic came from organic searches, and an astonishing 28% of trackable web traffic came from paid searches. In other words, over a quarter of all trackable web traffic came from a pay-per-click campaign.
How Important Is SEM?
SEM is important because it drives traffic to your website at the best possible time when potential customers are looking for new information. You can advertise on social media, but people on social media are not necessarily looking to purchase a product or service. In fact, they may be annoyed by advertisements while they are trying to catch up with old friends.
On the other hand, when they are using a search engine to make a query, they want information. Also, they are likely to purchase your advertised product or service if they see and click on your webpage because you purchased a sponsored ad.
Did you know that 81% of people between the ages of 16 and 64 searched for a product or service online in June 2020? That’s almost 200 million people! More amazingly, 90% of people in the same age group visited a retail store or site online during the same time frame. In other words, well over 100 million people used the internet to find information on a product or service in a single month. Specifically:
- 67% used a mobile shopping app
- 74% purchased a product online
- 52% bought a product with their phone
How This Digital Marketing Strategy Works
Search engine marketing works by making your webpage prominently visible to people searching for related information. This digital marketing strategy is highly effective because, when an SEM campaign is set up, specific information is gathered.
For instance, your webpage is not just advertised to everyone searching for a particular keyword. The ad is only displayed within a certain geographic location. This specificity makes your ad more relevant and effective.
Search Ad Networks
SEM campaigns are set up through a search ad network. Primarily, small business owners use Google Ads, formerly known as Google Adwords, to create their pay per click advertising campaign. The reasoning behind this is Google is a popular search engine, so people will probably use Google to search for information. However, Google’s ad network isn’t necessarily ideal.
You will almost always have to pay more for the opportunity to advertise on Google’s ad network. This holds true regardless of whether you are trying to place ads on Google’s search network or display network.The former comprises only Google’s search-related websites while the latter encompasses such properties as Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube.
A Better Option
In some cases, Google’s ad network is not the best way to go. While you only pay when a potential customer clicks on your ad, you will usually pay a lot less per click if you advertise on Bing Ads. Also, Google’s ad network may be bigger than Bing’s ad network, but the latter includes both Bing’s network and Yahoo’s network of websites.
Furthermore, marketers often find that they can rank higher for highly competitive keyword phrases and get higher clickthrough rates on Bing’s ad network. In other words, it is possible to spend less money and get faster, better results through Bing’s ad network.
Who Should Use SEM?
SEM, as a general rule, is appropriate for small businesses with a healthy advertising budget. SEO is essentially free once the upfront costs of building the web pages have been paid. However, SEM requires ongoing costs. Even though you only pay for your advertisement when it is clicked on, you must keep in mind when deciding whether SEM is right for you if your advertising budget can support ongoing ad payments.
There is a chance that people who clicked on your ad once will remember your company and search for your company specifically in the future. However, even if you get return traffic after an initial visit to your site, you are potentially missing out on over a quarter of your site’s potential web traffic if you stop paying for sponsored advertisements.
How to Ensure You Are Getting the Biggest Bang for Your Buck
To ensure you are spending your marketing dollars as efficiently as possible, you need A/B testing. A/B testing allows you to identify the most effective landing pages so when potential customers click on your ad’s link to your webpage, they stick around and continue moving through the sales funnel.
How A/B Testing Works
A/B testing ensures that your advertisement is as effective as possible by using it as a control and comparing it to a modified version of the advertisement. For instance, you may be getting 20 clicks on Google Ads for every 1,000 people who view your sponsored ad.
However, A/B testing may change the call to action on your ad, and you may start getting 25 clicks on Google Ads for every 1,000 people who view your sponsored ad. Note, A/B testing may also show that the modification you are testing had no effect on click-through rates or decreased click-through rates. An expert digital marketer can help you improve your SEM strategy even if you don’t get ideal results from A/B testing.
You also need in-depth keyword research to ensure your SEM campaign is as effective as possible. Calls to action are great, but they don’t matter if you are advertising keywords that people aren’t searching for. To get an idea of what keywords you should advertise, consider the products or services you offer. What problems are you solving? Then, put yourself in the shoes of your customer.
What keyword or keyphrase would you search for if you had a particular problem? For instance, if you have a residential landscaping business, your potential customers may find you by searching for “weeding near me” or “tree pruning in city, state”. Once you have brainstormed a handful of keywords your customers may search for to find you, search for those search terms on Google, scroll down, and look at “Related searches” for more ideas.
Check Keyword Popularity
Once you have a list of potential keywords, it is highly advisable to research their popularity in your geographical region. You may come up with half a dozen keywords or keyphrases related to one of your services, but if those words or phrases aren’t being searched for by people in your area, your ad campaign won’t be effective.
However, you also must consider the possibility of fierce competition from other local service providers if you build your pay per click ad campaign based on the most popular keyword for your services. A digital marketing expert can help you strike a balance between search term popularity and competition from other local service or product providers.
What Is Search Engine Optimization?
As stated previously, search engine optimization is responsible for driving two-fifths of all trackable web traffic. It involves driving traffic to your webpages organically by ensuring your webpage appears high on the search engine results page (SERP).
Who Should Use SEO
Search engine optimization is appropriate for businesses that are good at link building. Link building is one of the keys to successful search engine optimization and entails a relevant, authoritative website linking back to your website. Note, quality is far more important than quantity when building backlinks. If you don’t feel confident about quality link building, SEM is probably more appropriate for you to focus on.
SEO is also appropriate for small businesses who can afford to wait for results. The results of search engine marketing are almost instantaneous. On the other hand, it is rare for webpages to make it to the front page of a search engine within a few months. More commonly, it takes six to 12 months, and it is not unheard of to take a couple of years. If you can wait to see a solid ROI, SEO may be the way to go.
Search engine marketing once referred to both organic and paid searches. However, today, it is almost exclusively entails paid traffic. For help taking your business to the next level with digital marketing, reach out to us now at Anthem Software to schedule your free consultation.