SEM: Outdated Dinosaur or Viable Content Marketing Strategy?

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There has been a sea change in the type of content brands have been publishing over the last several years. While at one time, getting a high search engine rating was the Holy Grail of content marketing, these days there’s more emphasis on “quality content.”

For example, brands have become increasingly dependent on content that provides value to its readers and has potential to be shared, or possibly even go viral, on social media.

When you realize that marketers are occasionally getting consumers to do their distribution work for them, it’s easy to see why quality content is kind of a big deal. But that doesn’t mean that Search Engine Marketing (SEM) shouldn’t still occupy a space in your content creation toolbox.

There are several instances when old friends like Google Analytics and Google Ads can still yield a respectable ROI for content marketers. The key is to understand when a SEM strategy makes sense to implement.

The first step is knowing what the different types of SEM are. These include SEO, PPC, local, and others, such as video and product listing ads.

Technically speaking, Organic SEO is part and parcel of SEM. Organic SEO is simply the process one goes through to get a prominent position on a search engine. But now there is an emphasis on creating good content as opposed to shoehorning as many keywords as possible into the mix.

Of course, there are also paid searches, which refers to programs like Google Adwords. Bing and Yahoo also have similar programs.

Paid search allows you to have a large amount of say as to where your ad is placed, and you can see the results more or less in real time.

Another important type of SEM is Local Search, which focuses on people Googling in your area. This type of SEM makes sure that the people closest to you know that your brand is in the area and ready to serve their needs.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that was all review for you. But the real question it all leads to: When is it right to use SEM?

Let’s start off with Google AdWords. These are nice because you don’t owe anything unless people start clicking on your ad, a true case of pay per click (PPC). That means you’re not paying a lump sum to have your ad sit there on the sidelines.

In addition, you bid on ad space, so you don’t ever have to pay an amount you’re not comfortable with. On the other hand, outbidding the competition is a key element of getting good placement. So the trick becomes figuring out how much to spend versus ROI.

Whether you’re paying 10 cents or $50 a click, you have to make sure each click is profitable. So let’s say five percent of the people who click on your ad actually lead to a conversion. To keep it simple, we’ll pretend there were total of 100 clicks at a rate of one dollar each, so you’re in for $100. As long as the five conversions lead to a profit margin your brand is comfortable with, SEM just worked for you. The key is to have the numbers crunched before you start bidding.

You’re not just guessing blindly, either. There are many ways Google Analytics can help you with these decisions. The data gathering needed to come up with the right bidding strategy can be very labor intensive. Google Analytics can help you focus on the facts that you need to know in order to become the cunning bidding machine your company needs you to be.

Local searches are ideal for brands that need to draw business from the local community and are operating on a limited budget. While it’s great to get a brand into the local business algorithm, there are some challenges that come with it. For one thing, you have no control over where Google puts you in the search engine hierarchy. Also, the further people are from the business being advertised, the less likely they are to run across it. But, then again, it’s free.

SEM is also particularly useful for brands in the retail space. 85 percent of retailers (https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/shoporgforrester-search-marketing-tops-online-retail-customer-acquisition) say that SEM is their most effective customer acquisition tactic. So while there is a place for SEM in B2B marketing and the service industry, if you’re in retail SEM should be a part of a retail brand’s content marketing strategy.

SEM is a huge and still-growing space within content marketing. Its strategic and financial flexibility make it ideal for any type of brand, large or small. Whether it’s a global conglomerate, a mid-sized corporation trying to take the next step or a mom and pop operation with a limited budget, SEM is far from a thing of the past. For savvy content marketers it’s both the present and the future.