What Is SEM?
SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines.
Imagine a world in which an advertiser only pays for advertising that actually works.
A world in which you don’t have to worry about placing a 250×250 ad in a newspaper and hope that it brings some foot traffic into your retail shop and covers your expenses.
A world where people are, in a sense, searching for your advertisements as opposed to avoiding them at all costs.
That’s essentially what pay per click (PPC) advertising is, folks. It got its start back in the year 2000, when Google introduced a self-serving ad platform, AdWords, as a solution for small businesses to advertise effectively online.
The idea was fairly simple, allowing users to bid on specific keywords, and when a Google searcher enters a query containing one of your keywords, your ad would appear.
The results would appear on the side of your normal ‘organic’ search results and the rank would depend on the relevancy of your ad to the query, and how high your bid was. The advertiser would only pay when someone actually clicked on their ad, so they would only pay if the advertisement worked.
In the 12 years since its inception, AdWords has grown into Google’s biggest money maker, and one of the most powerful ad platforms on the planet, spanning just about every country and language you can imagine.
It’s grown from simply text ads, to image ads, video ads, mobile ads, ads with maps, and even ads that initiate a phone call with the click of a button. And much more. For the purpose of this article, though, I’m going to limit the content to the more basic features and how to determine if using PPC advertising is right for you.
NB There are alternatives to Google AdWords, such as Facebook Paid Ads, LinkedIn Direct Ads, StumbleUpon Paid Discovery to name just four. But for the purposes of this and the following three articles in this series, I’ll be looking at AdWords itself, because it’s the biggest.
Before going forward, I’d like to explain the terms and acronyms I’ll be using quite frequently from here on in, as to not cause any confusion down the line.
PPC = Pay per click (where the advertiser (you) only pays if a web user clicks on their ad to go to their site).
SEM = Search engine marketing (building and marketing a site with the aim of bettering its position in the search engine results pages).
CPC = Cost per click (the the total cost to the advertiser when an ad is clicked on).
CPA = Cost per acquisition/action (commonly referred to as cost per conversion or sale – the cost to the advertiser per important action completed on your site, eg buying something or signing up to receive newsletter mailings).
ROI = Return on investment (the money an advertiser earns from their ads in comparison to the amount spent on their ads).
SEO = Search engine optimization (the process of improving the visibility of a web page in a search engine’s organic (non-paid) search results.
Who uses PPC?
Before getting into search engine marketing, it’s natural to be curious about whether or not your competitors are using AdWords, how it’s worked for businesses like yours and if anyone is even bothering putting resources into PPC. The answer to “who uses PPC?” is – lots of people are
Nike is using PPC, the NFL use PPC, your favorite café uses PPC, the lady who taught you to play “Chopsticks” on piano when you were in grade school even has an AdWords account.
In fact, if any of your friends run a local business, they may well use it. That’s the beauty of paid search advertising. Anyone can use it, whether they’re an international brand, or the florist down the street. Their size has no bearing on whether or not they can be successful, either. So long as you’re willing to do it right, PPC can do wonders for your business.
If you’re thinking that this sounds like it can be quite a time-consuming task, you’re absolutely right. Luckily, as the pay per click model has evolved, so have third party companies and professionals in the industry. With the extensive list of tools offering services like keyword research, account management, optimization and bid management, you can implement PPC advertising into your marketing campaign without missing out on your beauty sleep.
We’ll discuss that further in the next section, though!
How can I make PPC work for me?
Like any marketing campaign, before getting started with a PPC campaign you should have a clear goal in mind. Whether you’re marketing a blog and your only goal is getting as much traffic as possible, driving traffic to a page where users can enter an email address to get more information about an upcoming product, or if you’re advertising a webstore and need to justify your ad budget by creating sales, PPC can help, but your campaign must be tailored correctly.
When setting up a campaign purely for the purpose of getting traffic, you’ll want to use Broad match keywords. This means that your ad will appear for searches containing your keywords in any order, eg, business travel will appear for searches on business travel news and travel guide for business. And you probably won’t be as worried about conversion tracking: for a blog, you can set up conversion tracking to record when someone subscribes to your content.
Since you’re more interested in getting people on to your site, you shouldn’t only concern yourself with keywords that convert (those that succeed in bringing a person into your site who later completes a valuable action on your website, such as buying something, or requesting more information).
Conversely, when you need your advertising to turn into sales, your campaigns are going to be more complex, and you’ll definitely want to utilize conversion tracking. Further, you’re going to want to make sure you’re not wasting money on clicks that aren’t turning into sales, so there’s a lot to pay attention to. But like I mentioned, that’s what automation software is for.
What about SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the organic listings of your search. Getting your website to rank high in those results can take quite a bit of time, which is why using PPC is so important for small businesses, whether they’ve been around for years or not. As you work on improving your SEO rank, PPC can help make sure that you’re still getting visitors in the meantime.
In fact, websites that rank on the first page of Google organically, AND have an ad on the first page tend to generate more clicks than those only using one or the other.
So there we have it, those are the basics. In the next post we’ll talk about the best ways to set up campaigns, structure your ad groups, choose your keywords and write your text ads.
Until next time!