A Beginner’s Guide to SEM: 6 Tips to Get Started

Digital advertising strategy is constantly evolving. In the ongoing effort to increase brand visibility and overall awareness, search engine marketing – known as SEM to those in the industry – has become an essential component of a holistic digital marketing gameplan.

The vast majority of internet users utilize search engines on a daily basis. Now, businesses are finding ways to make the web’s most popular search engines work for them.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can begin implementing an SEM strategy that gets your business’s name in front of more people interested in the products and services you’re selling.


1.      Choose the Platform(s)

This will probably come as no surprise to anyone who has used the internet at some point in the past decade, but Google and Bing are the major players in this particular space. Thus, Google Ads and Bing Ads draw most of the the focus from search engine marketers.

Though there are some questions to be asked before selecting the platforms you’ll use to execute your campaign, it’s a safe bet that these two are going to be the most important for nearly all businesses.


2.      Geo-Targeting

Perhaps you own a business that relies on foot traffic as the main driver of sales. Having your business show up at the top of a user’s search results isn’t going to be very effective if the person is located too far away to realistically be expected to stop in to your store. The solution? Geo-targeting.

Map out the areas where you think the majority of your prospective customers are living, and save money by avoiding spending marketing dollars on people outside of those locations. SEM platforms provide a range of different tools to help you choose the right geographical areas for your unique situation.


3.      Understand How the Budgets Work

One of the best parts of search engine marketing is that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. This makes SEM one of the least-risky digital ad strategies available today.

The real key in this regard is to make sure that people who are engaging with your ad are turning into conversions. Ask yourself if you’re looking to get calls or drive traffic to your site, and gear your budget toward one or the other if you’re working with limited resources.

Furthermore, be precise when building out your targeting parameters so that only the people who are most likely to become a customer are seeing your ad.


4.      Improve Your Landing Page

A click through to your website doesn’t have any inherent value if you aren’t able to keep their attention long enough to turn a click into a conversion. With that in mind, it’s crucial to consider your landing page.

When a user clicks on your ad in the search platform, the expectation is that the page they’ll be directed to is consistent with the ad they just clicked on. If your ad is about a current sale or promotional offer, make sure the page that your clicks through to provides more details on the topic.

The next consideration is getting the user to act. Increase the chances of obtaining a conversion by making your message impossible to miss. Use a clean layout for your landing page and provide all relevant information that applies to the ad he or she saw in their search engine.

If you need further proof of the importance of a good landing page, look no further than Google’s Quality Score. This is a number between 1 and 10 that ranks your SEM ad based on click-through-rate (CTR), ad relevance, and landing page experience. The higher your quality score, the better Google’s algorithm will work for you.


5.      Compile Your Keyword List

One of the most important, if not the single-most important, component of your SEM strategy is keyword planning. Choosing the right words is both an art and a science, but there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure you’re making the right choices.

A variety of tools exist that can help you determine which keywords you should be using. The Google Analytics queries section and other SEO services specialize in finding which words your audience is using to find you currently, and helps you capitalize on those terms.

Once you’ve compiled your keyword list, find a ranking tool that helps provide insights on where your pages are ranking organically. This can help you identify exactly where you need the most help in getting more exposure.

In addition to finding keywords that help you get more exposure, you can also add negative keywords as well. These are words or phrases that actually prevent your ad from showing up on someone’s search query. It might sound counterintuitive, but it can help you save money by not showing your ad to people who are unlikely to be searching for your business’s products or services. For example, if you sell high-end dress shoes, you might want to set up “running shoes” or “tennis shoes” as negative keywords.


6.      Review Frequently

More so than some other ad services, maximizing the benefits of SEM requires maintenance on a regular basis. If you choose to take a “set and forget” mentality you might still get good results, but you likely won’t get the most out of your budget.

As you start to see how your audience responds to your ad, making keyword tweaks, adding negative keywords, and raising or lowering your bids can help improve the overall efficiency of your campaign.


Wrapping Up

Like any other form of digital marketing, SEM requires a bit of a learning curve. With that being said, a successful campaign makes it all worth it.

If your business needs help developing an effective SEM campaign, get in touch with us today to put together a plan.