The Importance of Building a Solid SEM Foundation
May 13 2021
Search engine marketing (SEM) is one of the most popular marketing strategies used to increase the visibility of a business online. It’s the driving force behind your website appearing at the top of search results for all potential customers to see and can provide a significant edge over brands limited by organic results alone. Where search engine optimization (SEO) emphasizes a site’s organic ranking and online visibility, SEM encompasses all paid search efforts.
SEM, sometimes referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, targets relevant keywords, topics, audiences, and markets pertaining to your brand. When users issue a query through a search engine, they qualify themselves as potential customers in need of your products or services — however, your ad dollars pay only for those impressions leading to site visits. That means advertisers can effectively use paid search for both far-reaching brand awareness campaigns and hyper-focused, conversion-based marketing.
Attracting consumers through paid search includes an element of self-qualification. Searching specific content related to your brand starts users closer to a purchase when compared to coming across your organic or social messaging. Engaging with these potential customers is a competitive business, but a worthwhile addition to every brand’s core digital strategy.
Why SEM Matters
Being where your customers are (and at the right time) is at the foundation of every digital marketing practice. No strategy accomplishes this more directly than paid search, which allows the presentation of all your vital information to a more qualified audience the moment they are looking.
Just try searching restaurants near you and count how many of the top results are noted “Ad”. Even with the dragging effects on overall ad spend this year, advertisers are expected to increase investments into paid search by 5.9% in 2021, totalling nearly $60 billion. As upcoming trends are expected to make more efficient use of marketing automation tools and provide deeper insights into customer engagement, SEM will continue to play a central role in every digital campaign.
SEM Targeting Basics
It’s a rule as old as marketing itself — customers can’t buy from brands they don’t know exist. For all the campaign strategies available through other channels, there’s still no substitute for being easy to find. Google processes roughly 3.5 billion searches every day, creating a virtually limitless pool of opportunity. Fine-tuning your brand’s most effective targeting parameters will introduce new audiences anxiously seeking out your content.
Here are some of the most common ways SEM is used to target qualified online searchers:
Content keywords: Target keyword lists relevant to your product or service to target users making searches using those same terms.
Demographics: Base your targeting on what you know about your current customers, including location, age, gender, and device type.
In-market: Apply your paid search ads to users searching for products and services similar to yours.
Similar audiences: These users aren’t searching for your products or services directly, but indicate shared interests with your current customers. This is the paid search version of act-alike or look-alike campaigns on social channels.
Remarketing: Appear in front of users that previously engaged with your ads, website, or app to stay top-of-mind and provide a new touchpoint to keep users moving through the sales funnel.
Experimenting with different keywords and audience types is critical to locating new segments who haven’t yet discovered or engaged with your business. Paid search campaigns can also be easily built around seasonal trends, weekend sales or other time-sensitive marketing purposes.
Mastering the paid search basics not only provides a new source of customers for your website and valuable insight into your audience’s buying tendencies — it lays a solid foundation for all other digital marketing efforts moving forward.