There is some confusion surrounding the term search engine marketing (SEM). The technical definition of search engine marketing encompasses any marketing strategy, paid or unpaid, that involves search engines. By this definition, search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) both fall under search engine marketing. Over the last few years, though, search engine marketing has come to refer strictly to paid search.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing revolves around paying for ad placement on the results pages (SERPs) of certain keywords. This marketing strategy is often referred to as cost-per-click (CPC) or pay-per-click (PPC) because search engines charge business by the number of clicks an ad gets. The more monthly search traffic a keyword has, the higher the cost-per-click advertisers must pay for placement on the first SERP. Search engine marketing companies understand how to target relevant keywords for your business without ballooning your marketing budget to unsustainable levels.

A common myth regarding search engine marketing is that since the CPC for high-competition keywords is too expensive, search engine marketing strategies are useless. The reality is your keyword selection strategy determines the value of your paid search efforts.

Paid search functions like an auction. You create an ad, choose which keywords you want to target and enter a maximum amount for how much you’re willing to pay for each click. Google and Bing don’t automatically select the highest bid for each search. Each search engine has their formula for selecting which ads to show – Google uses a metric called quality score.

Quality Score

Think of quality score like your credit score. When you have a high credit score, you get lower interest rates on your loans. Likewise, when your ad has a high-quality score, you get a lower cost-per-click rate. No one knows exactly how Google calculates quality score, but the following factors are known to be important:

  • Click-through rate (CTR) – Google sees ads with high CTRs as the most relevant to searchers
  • Keyword relevance – Your ad has to be as relevant as possible to your targeted keywords. We’ll discuss keyword strategies in a bit.
  • Ad text – Strong ad text shows the features and benefits of your product or service.
  • Landing Page Quality – Your landing page for the ad needs to be optimized for the keywords you’re targeting. This is where search engine marketing and search engine optimization overlap.

Business owners and entrepreneurs willing to invest in their digital marketing budget can kickstart their business with an efficient search engine marketing strategy that focuses on the four components above.

Search Engine Marketing Techniques

Similar to search engine optimization, the best search engine marketing strategies revolve around keywords relevant to your business. Large corporations can afford much higher keyword because their budgets allow for a higher cost-per-acquisition for each lead. Medium-sized business owners have to be more strategic.

Use Keyword Research to Find the Most Valuable Keywords for Your Business

Keyword research is one of the search engine marketing techniques business owners can use to get the most value out of their marketing budget. Since over 80 percent of ad spend goes to Google, you need to master Google Adwords. They have a keyword planner tool that allows you to check the search volume of keywords and phrases related to your business.

First, make a keyword list on paper. Start with 10-15 words or phrases under three words that are related to your business. Let’s use an SEO company as an example. Our list might look like this:

Once you have your list, use Adwords to check the search volume and competition of each word. Some may be out of your current reach, but they are worth noting for your long-term strategy.

Next, come up with 3-5 phrases longer than three words for each keyword on your list. These are called long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords have a lower search volume, but they’re more likely to draw relevant traffic to your site. If you own a brick-and-mortar business, long-tail keywords are the X-factor of a successful search engine marketing strategy. Unless you sell your products online or can provide your service remotely, you need your web traffic to be from people within your geographic location. Add your state, county, and city to the keywords on your list and analyze the search volume. Our list for search engine marketing would look like this:

  • Search engine marketing companies in Irvine
  • SEM companies in Irvine
  • Search engine marketing companies in Orange County

Once you settle on your keywords, you are ready to create an ad campaign.

Divide Your Ad Campaigns into Specific Ad Groups Using Your Keyword Research

Before you create your ads, you want to set up Ad groups based on your list of keywords. Each keyword is its own ad group, and each group contains ads targeting relevant long-tail keywords.

Be sure to include negative keywords at this stage. Negative keywords are words you don’t want to target, even if Google thinks your Ad is relevant. The simplest example is the word “free.” If you sell furniture, then you don’t want to target searchers looking for free furniture. The more ‘niche’ your business is, the more important negative keywords are in driving the right traffic to your website.

Make Each Character of Your Ad Text Impactful

There are three main components of an Adwords advertisement, each with their own character constraints:

  • Two headlines with a 30-character limit per headline
  • A description with an 80-character limit
  • Two path fields that describe your desintational URL, with a 15-character limit per path

Each character in each section needs to serve the greater purpose of getting clicks. Google has a bunch of great resources for those who want to try these search engine marketing techniques for themselves.

Creating a paid search ad that makes an impact and gets you customers takes a combination of strong market research and excellent copywriting. If you would rather let search engine marketing experts handle your paid search efforts, get in touch with us as soon as possible.


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What is SEM and Paid Search Marketing