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What is search engine marketing?
Search engine marketing, or better known by SEM, is a form of internet advertising that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of pay-per-click (PPC) auction-based advertisements.
I know – that’s a lot of acronyms, right? Simply put, search engine marketing is advertising to web users as they search online for products and services that you might offer. The use of search engines is increasingly popular among consumers. Today, it’s estimated that 79% of web sessions include the use of a search engine, making search the second most-used application on the web behind e-mail. About 80% of consumers say that internet search is the most useful tool available when trying to make a buying decision.
Whether your company does business online or offline, search engine marketing works. For example, 96% of consumers use search to research professional services offerings. 93% use search to research health services. 78% use search to research about real estate offerings. When deciding how to connect with potential customers, search engine marketing is extremely cost-effective, especially in relation to other marketing channels, both online and offline. Search engine marketing is significantly less expensive than other advertising methods, such as e-mail, yellow pages, and direct mail.
Why is search engine marketing so effective?
Search engine marketing allows to you to target potential customers more precisely than other forms of advertising. To better understand how it works, let’s take a look at some specific examples on how a business can advertise. Suppose your business is content site looking to give advice to kids or parents on selecting a college:
Using search engine marketing, you can show your message to potential customers at the exact moment they’re searching online for what you have to offer. No other advertising medium can give you this kind of control over who you reach or when you reach them.
Once your account has been set up on the pay-per-click pricing model that search engines offer, you only pay when prospects click through your ad to connect with your business. Your ad dollars are never wasted in this pay-per-click pricing model.
How does search engine marketing work?
Whether you do business online, offline, or both, search engine marketing can help you connect with new customers and grow your business. In search engine marketing, your ads are only displayed on search terms you choose to be relevant to your business, so your marketing message is only displayed to potential customers at the very moment they’re searching for information relevant to your products or services. Search engine marketing advertisements appear alongside the search result listings on the right hand side or the top of the page.
Keywords, words and phrases that relate to your business, are chosen when building a search engine marketing campaign, and will allow for your ads to appear in the search engine result pages when a search is performed that includes that keyword.
Unlike traditional advertising, search engine marketing features pay-per-click pricing, meaning you pay only when your ad is clicked. That said, you’re always in control of your marketing budget. You decide how much you’re willing to pay for each visitor, and you can decide how much or how little you’d like to spend per day.
You can even target users in a specific geo-targeted region of your choosing. Search engine marketing ad buys can be geo-targeted to areas around your business, so if you’re a pizza restaurant with a 10 mile delivery range, you can run ads in that range. You can geo-target an ad to as little as a zip code, or as large as the world.
How can I get the most out of my search engine marketing campaign?
One of the reasons search engine marketing is so great is that you have the ability to track the performance and effectiveness of your campaign down to the ad and keyword level. Search engine marketing gives you the ability to see which keywords are driving the most traffic to your business; it’s simple to see how much money you’re spending per keyword, per click, and how effective it is in relation to other keywords, ads, and marketing channels.
Using search engine marketing, you’re never stuck having to run out-of-date or underperforming ads. Your ads displayed in your SEM campaigns can be altered whenever you want, such as opening a new location, offering a new product or service, or whenever your business might change.
Connecting your search engine marketing account with an analytics account allows you to integrate both programs to find out how potential customers interact with your website, and also allows you to decide which keywords and ads are providing the most value to your business.
How can I get started?
Across the country, thousands of companies are taking advantage of search engine marketing. To build a complete and effective search engine marketing campaign, you’ll need thousands of relevant keywords and hundreds of targeted ads.
Achieving success with search engine marketing isn’t easy. A company may choose to direct a key person to learn about SEM and then manage their campaign. But given the steep learning curve involved, many companies choose to outsource. The outsourcing experience can be a learning exercise that can allow a company to eventually move the activity in-house when enough SEM knowledge and experience is acquired.
SMBs that step into the search engine marketing world benefit greatly from seeking advice from experts rather than incurring the costs of trying to teach themselves. New SEM entrants are at a disadvantage when they try to compete against other companies who have already optimized their sites and have successful PPC advertising campaigns in place. Experts can help bridge that gap.