What Is SEM?
Search engine marketing is a form of paid search advertising that promotes your content at the very top of search engine results pages (SERPs). The publisher of the ad pays a fee every time a user clicks on the paid search result, which means SEM is a type of pay-per-click (PPC), or cost-per-click (CPC) advertising.
Digital marketing has largely pivoted away from paid advertising in the past decade, as evidenced through the meteoric rise of content marketing.
Nevertheless, SEM and other forms of click advertising still have substantial strategic value when used prudently as part of a larger marketing strategy. Some of the reasons why you should use SEM in your digital marketing efforts include the following:
Click-through rates (CTR) for most forms of display advertising average less than 0.5%. This means that, of the users who see a display ad, less than half a percent will actually click on it.
By comparison, the average CTR for paid search campaigns is 2%. Paid SEM services are several times more likely to move the needle for your business than other forms of digital advertising.
Potential for Quick Results
Making your way to Page 1 of search results in Google, Bing and other search engines through organic content marketing takes time and effort – up to 100 days in many cases.
As you build out your organic content and optimize your existing web pages to perform better on search, SEM can help provide some relief in the way of generating traffic. Search engine marketing is not a substitute for an organic strategy; however, it can be useful for supporting the early phases of your content marketing efforts.
Non-paid search results on the first half of Page 1 regularly see CTRs of 50% or higher, which is much better than the 2% delivered through paid search.
Nevertheless, paid search results are still the first listings users see as they scroll through Page 1 of SERPs. This exposure can help build brand awareness by as much as 80% in some cases, according to Google.
Shortcuts to Product Pages
Major search engines like Google and Bing provide PPC shopping ads that list toward the top of a SERP.
For B2B and B2C brands that sell products and services directly through their site or through other online marketing places, paid shopping ads basically provide a shortcut to the online point of sale.
Promotion for Local Services
More than 30% of all searches have local intent. For local services such as plumbing, landscaping and event planning, listing near the top of results could make the difference between business going to them or to a competitor.
Google offers Local Service Ads that local-services businesses can use to rank higher in search results. Unlike paid search, publishers pay for lead generation, not for clicks. Leads count as phone calls, messages or bookings made through the ad.
How Does SEM Work?
Search engine management involves a bidding process, whereby publishers compete to list for search queries.
For Google’s Search Network, ad publishers bid for space based on the maximum amount they’re willing to pay per click and the quality of the ad. Google determines which CPC ads to display through the following process:
- It multiplies the maximum bid by a Quality Score. The Quality Score is based on the page’s relevance to the keywords used in the search query, the CTR of the page, past ad performance on that page and overall performance of the page.
- The resulting score is the Ad Rank. Only pages that meet the Ad Rank Threshold are considered for display in a search query.
- Finally, Google decides the order of the ads to post based on Ad Rank. The ad with the highest ranking takes the No. 1 spot.
With Quality Score as a factor, the highest bidder is not necessarily the winner.
Local Service Ads
Service-based businesses that sign up for Local Service Ads determine a weekly budget for their ads in advance.
Unlike PPC marketing services, publishers pay per lead, which is a phone call or message. Cost per lead varies based on the type of job and the local market. There is no bidding process. Instead, Google automatically determines which ads to post based on the following factors:
- Proximity to the searcher’s location.
- Business hours.
- Number of reviews and the score of those reviews.
- Responsiveness to customer inquiries and requests.
- Any complaints about the business.
SEO vs. SEM
The main difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and SEM is that the former is unpaid.
Search engine optimization relies on organic, unpaid content to improve site visibility. This might include on-page optimization with technical SEO and website copy optimized to rank for specific keywords. It could also rely on off-page optimization through social media marketing, email marketing, backlink strategies and other off-site tactics.
Without strong SEO, SEM can end up costing more money. This is because of the important role that Quality Score plays in determining CPC.
Optimizing your website or landing page to rank for certain keywords is therefore important for tempering the cost of PPC strategies.
The main difference between
search engine optimization
(SEO) and SEM is that the
former is unpaid.
Why Brafton for SEM?
As a full-service digital marketing agency, Brafton can take the reins on your SEM campaign management. Our PPC strategists can help you through every phase of the SEM process.
- Setting goals for what you want to achieve through your paid campaign.
- Strategizing how to best use that spend.
- Setting up SEM campaigns.
- Making recommendations for how to lower CPC while improving impressions; for instance, by optimizing your ad’s landing page and improving your local SEO.
- Crafting short-form ad copy that can improve CTR.
- Measuring KPIs such as impressions, CTR, bounce rate, conversions and other metrics.
- Adjusting the strategy based on findings.
We’ll make sure you get what you pay for, and then some.
Click here for better CPC campaigns.