What is Search Engine Marketing?

In today’s blog, we’re going to look at Search Engine Marketing (or SEM), what it is, and how you can benefit from it. In many ways, SEM is SEO’s less talked about sister. Maybe it’s because SEM is all about the paid ad campaigns as opposed to making (largely) free changes to websites? After all, who doesn’t like being able to do things for free that can eventually bring in more business?

And there’s nothing better than getting those higher rankings in organic search with some top notch SEO. But if your online marketing strategy consists of only SEO, then you’re missing out.

The Search Marketing Family Tree


search engine marketing - family tree

But before I go further, I’d just like to clear a little something up about terminology. You see, more recently, the term “Search Engine Marketing” has become somewhat outdated. Nowadays we talk more of “Search Marketing”, which includes both paid and unpaid methods of driving website traffic. If digital marketing were a tree, then Search Marketing would be the trunk, and SEM and SEO, two large limbs.

But what do I mean by “paid methods of driving website traffic”?

Paid Search Marketing

search engine marketing - paid ads
Here is what those paid ads look like in your search results!

Whenever you do a search on whichever search engine you use, you will get both paid and organic results returned. Now, search engines like Google make a lot of

money from paid search, and these are the top results returned. This ability to collect revenue from paid ads is why search engines even bother with quality control. Because fewer people using a search engine means fewer companies taking out paid ads with a search engine. No company likes to lose money. So it’s important to understand that the hoops we jump through for SEO, exist because of SEM.

Now, the biggest advantage that SEM has over SEO, is that it is a guaranteed way of ranking. That is, if you take out ads under the right search terms. You see, you still have to figure out what people are most likely to search for to get that visibility. This is where services like Google Adwords come in.

Adwords (and similar services such as Bing Ads), work on a Pay-Per-Click (PPC), or Cost-Per-Impression (CPM) basis. In other words, with PPC, you only pay for your ad when customers click on it. But with CPM, you pay for every 1000 times it is seen. This makes PPC the best choice for sales, and CPM a better option for awareness campaigns.

Search Terms and Ads

When it comes to launching paid ad campaigns, it’s all about getting the most for your dollars. In other words, finding the search terms that still bring in customers, but aren’t too expensive to bid for.

As you can see from this screenshot of a search I did in the Adwords Keyword Planner, the term “web design” is expensive. (Don’t forget, those prices are cost-per-click!)search engine marketing - adwords 1

Sometimes though, you can find potentially cheaper options that can be investigated. And when you scroll further down the results from my initial keyword search, you can see that there are three cheaper options. One is “high” competition (meaning more people are bidding on it), and the other two are “medium”. However, one of those medium competition searches averages between 100 – 1000 searches per month.search engine marketing - adwords2

Strategy and Research

This is where strategy and research really come in. The high level of competition for the search term “how to design a website” tells us that a lot of advertisers are bidding for this term. And why wouldn’t they? It’s cheaper and has an average of 100-1000 searches per month, which means more people will potentially see any ads. However, the more popular it becomes as a term to bid for, the more likely it is that the CPC price will increase.

There’s also an element of psychology to take into account here too. Because people can use the same search terms with very different intentions. One person searching for “web design” could be looking for web design ideas that they can implement. But another person could searching for “web design” with the intention of hiring someone to build them a site. As you can see in the following screenshots, the search terms that are more explicitly tied to developing websites are the most costly.search engine marketing - adwords3



search engine marketing - adwords4

See what I’m saying about strategy and research?

Making SEM Work for YOUR Business

However, despite the research and cost involved in launching a paid ad campaign, it’s hard to deny the benefits. Paid marketing works a lot faster than SEO. You can continually optimize which terms you bid for depending on how well they’re doing for you. Additionally, it’s possible to set a budget for your advertising campaign. Lastly, if customers don’t click on your site, you’re still raising brand awareness (for free)!

Entering the world of Search Engine Marketing can be daunting for a lot of small businesses though. Because even with the demonstrable benefits, digital marketing is simply a different skillset for many business owners. This is why it can be an excellent idea to hire the services of a company that specializes in Search Marketing.

Search Marketing companies can do all of that research and planning for you. They can create your campaign strategy, monitor how it’s doing, and ensure that you get the best ROI possible. Leaving you to…well, reap the benefits!

Did I mention that Misfit Interactive specializes in Search Engine Marketing? Because we do. We also specialize in SEO, which makes us the perfect choice for all of your Search Marketing needs. So why not take a look around our website, read our testimonials, and see what we can offer you?

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