Most businesses are familiar with the value of SEO, or search engine optimization. SEO is the science and art of designing a website and its copy so that it is visible to people who are searching for specific relevant keywords and terms.
However, merely having a well-optimized website is no longer enough to be successful in any kind of online endeavour. The new generation of consumers is spending almost a third of their time online interacting with social media platforms. As a result, online businesses are competing for an ever smaller amount of attention from their target audience.
It is crucial to be as visible as possible. In most cases, the most visible ads are the paid search ads that appear at the top of every page of results. How can businesses use online marketing in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible? This new form of optimization is known as search engine marketing or SEM.
SEO has traditionally been viewed as a subset of search engine marketing. In modern times, however, optimizing your site for organic and paid searches requires two different approaches. As a result, many internet behaviour analysts have begun referring to SEM solely when discussing strategy for paid marketing.
SEM generally refers to PPC, or pay per click, ads, such as those you see in the Adwords bar at the top of every Google search. The term is not generally used for paid social media advertising, as this depends on a different algorithm.
Paid ads are becoming an increasingly important part of business marketing. They offer more versatility than organic searches, as companies can determine both the appearance of the ad and its precise landing page. Although these ads are often text-based, they also can be visual and offer an expanded range of information.
The real strength of SEM is that it combines traditional ad-based marketing with the reach and immediacy of the internet. A well-placed ad will put your name and products in front of potential customers at the exact moment in which they are prepared to buy. This is not the case with television ads and other traditional media marketing.
Unlike traditional media, big marketing budgets are not necessary for success in SEM. While a huge marketing budget will always win over a small one when all other factors are equal, there is a great deal of strategy in SEM. Major internet ad companies, including Google AdWords, use an ad auction that can give the smaller fish in the pond an equal chance if they play their cards right.
You should also test your ads and content to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. A great book to test your hypothesis on SEM is teh scientific advertising by Claude M Hopkins. Download Here.
An ad auction is simple: businesses that want to advertise bid on certain keywords or keyword combinations. Your bid is the amount you are willing to pay for a click resulting from an ad shown to someone who searches for that keyword. After all, there is not enough space to show all of the ads for any given word or phrase.
While the auction can drive prices high for common keywords, the price is very reasonable when you get more creative. Thus an important part of SEM strategy is identifying less common keywords that will bring in a similarly well-targeted audience.
Your bid is not the only factor in whether your ad makes the cut. Google and other major search engines also use a quality score, which is a measure of how relevant your ads are. Quality scores are crucial in SEM, as they are about 50% of what Google considers when deciding in that split second which ads to show for any given search.If you have an ecommerce store and target product with an accurate title that is descriptive of the type of product, your paid marketing will have a much more impact.
In general, a quality score takes the following factors into account:
- The relevance of the text in your ad
- The quality of your landing page
- Your previous click-through rate
- How your prior ads have performed
If you have a high-quality score, Google and other platforms will reward you richly with better placement at a lower cost. That’s right: businesses with higher quality scores are actually charged less per click or conversion. After all, these companies are in the business of giving search engine users what is most relevant to them.
If you are interested in learning more about how this system works, and how you can use it to your advantage, Google’s Chief Economist gives a longer explanation in this video.
It is easy to see the similarities between SEO and SEM – after all, they were almost synonymous a decade ago. Both are strategies intended to help you reach your target audience on the great world wide web.
In addition, both are highly dependent on choosing the right keywords. You will have to choose keywords for your SEM campaign, and they often will be similar to those you are using for website optimization. In fact, they should generally be almost identical.
In both cases, it is generally best to choose keywords that have high volume but less competition. You cannot outbid huge corporations. As a result, you will sometimes be using specific word combinations that are less common or even misspellings of the most common keywords, just as in SEO. This will not only help you to get more conversions but will drive up your quality score.
The last similarity between SEO and SEM is that you have to use your resources wisely. Choosing the wrong phrases for SEO is a wasted opportunity; using the wrong phrases for SEM is wasted cash. AdWords and other major search engine ad companies have performance metrics that will help you to see the results of your campaigns almost immediately. You can see clicks that did not lead to conversions, the average click-through rates, and quality scores of your chosen keywords, then adjust your strategy accordingly. Most businesses benefit from regular fine-tuning to ensure high visibility and optimal cost-effectiveness.
Although there are several important similarities between SEO and SEM, there are key differences. First, there is a fundamental difference in approach. SEO looks mainly at improving your website in various ways. You are probably familiar with a variety of strategies, such as keyword placement, building internal and external links, and optimizing metadata.
In SEM, there is more of a “pay to play” approach. Although your keywords and your quality score both matters, you ultimately will be paying for your visibility. There is no need to woo web crawlers, although you still will need to have demonstrable effectiveness in the form of a high click-through rate and a reasonable amount of conversions.
SEM is also more accessible to small businesses than SEO. A smaller website will never have the site authority – an important metric in ranking – that a multinational corporation in the same niche enjoys. It is much easier for a smaller website to improve its quality scores than to build site authority that outranks established businesses.
Small business ranking for generic term
A last important difference is in the customer behaviour that you are trying to encourage. SEO generally aims to bring customers to your page and to keep them there – hopefully until they convert. SEM, on the other hand, is about getting customers who are already willing to buy your product to choose you out of a lineup at the top of their search engine results.
Although the keyword strategies for SEO and SEM are similar, that is where the similarity ends. The intention and the desired effect are very different. For this reason, many experts recommend using both strategies in tandem as part of a coordinated marketing campaign. But is this approach necessary? Is it worth the money and effort?
Both SEO and SEM require investment, whether in time or funding, as well as a very specific approach to all materials that you post online. This leads many online entrepreneurs to wonder if using both approaches is necessary.
The short answer is no. A handful of businesses are indeed able to be successful with one or even neither of these. The long answer is more complicated. It is rare that a modern business can succeed without both SEO and SEM. Utilizing both approaches will give your endeavours a higher chance of success in a tight market by ensuring that you are seen by potential customers in large quantities. Having good copywriting will complement both your paid and organic strategies.You can use the Market Finder to even find more opportunities in different countries.
All websites should be search engine optimized. It is the bare minimum needed to have a functioning online business of any kind. In addition, good SEO will actually improve the quality of your pages and their perceived value to customers, which is always a win-win.
Once your page is optimized, it will bring in a certain amount of clicks and conversions organically. This lays the basis for a successful business and reduces the amount that you are obligated to spend on marketing such as SEM.At this point you should invest in improving the speed of your site. Website speed is crucial to improving your SEM campaign.
Google also has a great tool for speed impact that measures business revenue lost.
SEM, on the other hand, offers its own unique set of advantages. This approach often gives more visibility and faster results. It also can be a powerful driver of sales and conversions. SEM places your brand in front of people who are actively searching to buy right now, in a clickable form. If you do not appear in their searches, these customers will choose whoever does appear. Although it is possible to be successful without SEM, you will be losing sales – and your competitors gaining them – every day that you go without it.
In many cases, high-quality SEO and SEM campaigns can complement each other and amplify results. Having a well-optimized page will make SEM-driven customers more likely to find what they want quickly and buy it. This, in turn, will drive up your quality score, increasing visibility and reducing cost per click. In addition, both SEM and SEO rely to a huge degree on the same algorithm. SEO is a low-risk way to test new keywords and new strategies before making them part of an SEM campaign.
Online businesses often are most successful when they use both strategies in a flexible, varying ratio. When your organic search engine sales are high, you can pull back a bit on SEM or try new approaches. After all, why pay for visibility when you can get it for free? When you need to promote your brand or a new product, on the other hand, pouring more resources into SEM can yield fast results.
Ultimately, most businesses do best when they diversify their marketing and publicity efforts. There is no need to choose between these two strategies when the overwhelming majority of online businesses will see the most success using both.
Are you ready to dip your toe into the SEM pool? There are several options for pay-per-click and other types of search engine marketing. The most popular of these is Google AdWords. Google is currently the king of search engines, claiming two-thirds of PC search and an astounding 83% of mobile search.
However, there are downsides to using AdWords as well. Because it is so popular, there is stiff competition. When you are just starting out and have a lower quality score or a less honed marketing strategy, you may not get the visibility you seek. Many people thus choose the ads of other popular search engines, particularly Bing Ads and Yahoo Search Ads. Again, SEM does not address social media ads as they are targeted differently, funnelled to customers that have looked at the similar material in the past rather than those who are searching for particular words at this moment.
An important thing to consider is what type of device you expect your target audience to primarily use. Google has a huge market share of smartphones, so businesses that market to millennials cannot afford to ignore it. Older generations are more PC reliant, so another search engine may yield great results.
Regardless of the search engine ad network that you choose, SEM can change your online business. It offers a unique set of advantages that can lead quickly to higher visibility and higher sales. Although it requires a financial investment, the right campaign will more than compensate for this. Are you ready to take your business to the top of the search page? If yes, begin developing an SEM campaign today.