What is SEM? A Basic Guide to Search Engine Marketing

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What is Search Engine Marketing

Basic of SEM You Ought to Know in Digital Marketing

What is SEM? To put it is simple words Search Engine Marketing or SEM is any online marketing technique in which you pay an upfront fee as per pre-specified rate to get traction on search engines. SEM usually works as paid advertisements which are placed through Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising (for Bing), Yahoo Gemini, etc.

So, presented here is the basic guide to SEM that will look at the SEM now and then, essence of SEM for today’s businesses, common SEM terms, platforms that drive SEM, how SEM works and finally SEM conclusion. 

SEM: Now and Then

Traditionally, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as a term used to refer to any marketing technique that worked to give desired traction to web pages on search engine result pages (SERPs). However, since the time online advertising has caught up pace with its more conventional peers, SEM has been synonymous to Pay Per Click (PPC). PPC is an online advertising model in which, when the user clicks on the company’s advertisements that appear along with the results on search engine result pages (SERPs), the company makes a payment at a bid rate set in the advertisement.

Essence of SEM for Today’s Businesses

Since last decade or so, e-commerce has caught up pace with the industry experiencing significant quarter-to-quarter growth in retail sales. This fact makes it pertinent for every business to harness the power and reach of SEM and add new dimension to its online marketing efforts.

A majority of SEM models are cost-effective as the users only pay to the advertiser (Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, etc.) when a prospective buyer clicks on the ad. And, generally, as the buyer only clicks the ad when he is interested to know about a product or service, it makes the model a more efficient one than others wherein the users are fed with ads they may or may not want to see.

These ads only reach the customer when he enters the query that matches that ad. So, these types of ads never interrupt in their tasks.

Finally, as results are instant, businesses usually prefer to have the model on board as a vital online marketing channel. As the objective of businesses is to get their ads appear on the top of SERPs, they usually keep a decent budget for such a campaign.

Common SEM Terms

There are various types of paid ad models that companies can work upon based on the nature and requirement of their businesses:

PPC (Pay-per-click): Is the most common form of paid search models. In this model, the marketer only pays when a prospective buyer clicks on his ad on SERPs. Ad impressions (the times when the ads become visible to prospective buyers) are free. Fee the marketer pays per click is very less as compared to return on investment he gets from that click.

CPA (Cost-per-acquisition): Total cost of the PPC campaign divided by the conversions you secure is CPA.  This factor will determine whether your efforts are profitable or not. It will also help you to understand the financial impact of your marketing campaign.

CPC (Cost per click): CPC is actual cost of each click a marketer pays in a PPC marketing campaign. It’s less than or equal to your maximum bid. Average CPC across businesses is $2.

CPM (Cost per 1000 impressions): The cost 1000 impressions of an ad costs the marketer is CPM. Its the most common price model for web based ads.

SEM Platforms to Look Into

As referred to in the section, “Essence of SEM for today’s businesses,” there are quite a few SEM platforms that a business can collaborate with to generate leads.

Google Ads: For sure, the most popular of all the SEM platforms is Google Ads. Account is created for free and bidding can start right away. PPC is the payment model. The Google Ads team does a review at the backend which usually ends in one business day. If the review is not completed within one business day, the marketer should call the Google Ads customer care team to seek an update.

Bing Ads: The Bing Network displays ads that the marketers launch. Again PPC is the payment model and you can create accounts for free.

Yahoo! Gemini: Yahoo! Gemini is a marketplace developed to create native ads for mobile users. Native ads are promoted search results and sponsored social media posts.

Social Network PPC Ads: Social Networks like Facebook have their own ad networks that run on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Audience Network, or across all of them. There are quite a few ad formats to choose from, so just set the budget, choose a format, place a bid and you are good to go. The ad will appear the moment the users sign in.

How SEM Works?

As we know, once the search engine on which the ads need to run has been finalized, the ad campaign can be launched really quickly. Here are the steps marketers can look into:

Conduct keyword research: At the helm of any SEM campaign are and always have been keywords. Keyword research has to be performed on the basis of relevance for a business, level of competition it has from other marketing campaigns, and various behavioural patterns of users searching for those keywords.

Select a geographic location: Next up is to select a geographic location to display ads, which can be countries, areas within a country, a radius around a location, etc. Advise when you set up the location is to be realistic and only select areas where you can actually service.

Create your ad: Create an ad based on the rules and guidelines of that network. Select the format of ads beforehand, for instance text-based ads, image-based ads (static or dynamic), video ads, shopping ads, and call-only ads.

Bid a price: The price has to be considering the prevalent competition at that particular time in that location. The more competitive it is the better it is for your campaign.

Of all the ad types, the easiest is the text-based ads where only a specialized writer can create the ads.

SEM: Concluding Remarks

At the backend of every ad is the landing page (LP), the page where the ads take the users once they click on the ad. With search engines laying more and more emphasis on building almost everything around handhelds (mobile phones, tablets, etc.) it’s pertinent for the marketers to create LPs that whole-heartedly support the ad. In addition to that, the content of the LP has to be as crisp and up to the point as possible. All this makes sense as in the 2020s the focus of search engines will be to keep everything around the customer.