Search Engine Marketing 101: A No-Nonsense Guide to SEM for Dummies

What does SEM stand for? Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an umbrella term that includes several strategies for marketing on search engines, in particular Google. In this article, we will cover what these main marketing methods and strategies are.

If you searched for SEM for dummies, then you’re in the right place. SEM is actually a large component when you invest into online marketing. Here, you’ll be able to read all about the basic concepts covered by the term ‘SEM’ and how you can implement them for your business and brand across the web.

The concepts are not difficult to understand, as they involve methods to increase the traffic to your website or social media account. That is the ultimate objective of SEM marketing, which is to draw attention to your brand.

What is SEM for Dummies? Here’s An Overview

As mentioned previously, SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. SEM basics involves using a search engine like Google to drive traffic to your business website or social media pages.

An SEM campaign involves paid advertising in order to increase your company’s visibility online.

There are two basic strategies involved in SEM tactics, namely pay per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO).

If you’re a beginner in Google SEM, these are the two strategies that you will have to familiarize yourself with. Apart from this, there’s also pay per impression (PPI). [1]

Pay Per Click (PPC)

This is a type of advertising where a business owner pays a specific fee for advertisements for their website link to appear at the top of the web search results list. The fee is based on the number of clicks the link is to receive. [2]

For example, a company pays RM300 for an ad that will stay up on Google for 500 clicks.

After the ad receives 500 clicks from curious users, the created ad will finish its run and be removed.

This is the basics of PPC for dummies. The same can be done for Facebook ad campaigns.

There are various components that determine the success of a PPC marketing campaign. Source: Web Factory Online

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The usage of SEO is pretty straightforward. It means incorporating highly searched for keywords into the content of your site.

These highly relevant keywords will help your site or social media post appear higher and more prominently in a search list.

To learn more about SEO, a beginner’s guide to SEO might come in handy.

In short, SEO is a free strategy that doesn’t usually require any cost on your part as a business owner. Therefore it is one method that’s cost effective.

Example of PPC ads on Google, which appear at the top of the search list. Source: Google

The two most common search engine platforms for SEM marketing in this day and age are:

1. Google Ads

Google has many different Google marketing tools for businesses that can help you craft better SEM.

Their Google Adwords option has a plethora of options for businesses to advertise, including platforms like Google Display Ads and Search Ads.

2. Bing Ads

Bing is a smaller search engine, and it usually covers about 3 million or so web users that can’t, or are subjected to limited use of Google.

There is also an option to advertise here, called Bing Ads which you can consider if you want all your SEM marketing in Malaysia covered.

Understanding The Technical Terms in Search Engine Marketing: SEM Glossary That You Should Know

SEM is a concept that involves several terminologies that you may be unfamiliar with. In order to understand what is SEM better, it’s also good to know what these terms mean.

SEO Keywords

SEO Keywords are search terms related to your products or services that have a high search rate. It is usually incorporated into your content in order to increase its visibility in a search results list and boost your post’s rankings.

Advertising Network

A series of websites on which your advertisements will appear. On Google Adwords this is called a Display Ad network. You can choose to customize your advertising network by choosing the types of websites your ads appear on.

Impression Rates

The number of impressions in the number of times your ads appear on a search engine results when a related term is typed in. [3] This is no guarantee that users see your created ads.

Click-Throughs Rate

The click-through rates of your search engine ads is the number of clicks your ads gets from web users. The higher the better.

Ad Campaign

A search engine advertising campaign is also called an ad campaign. It involves all the ads you will place on a search engine that has the same theme and message.

Performance Score

Usually, when you start an account on a search engine, the search engine will give you back end data on how your ads are performing, based on things like click-through rates, landing page traffic, keyword quality and others.

SEM Strategy

A series of methods you can employ to achieve your SEM objectives. These objectives are to increase your brand’s visibility on search engine results and increase traffic to your business websites.

So, How Does SEM Really Work?

On the ground, SEM has to be implemented by the business owners themselves or by the marketing team.

Some bigger companies may seek the help of a search engine marketing company.

However, no matter who is implementing the SEM, as a stakeholder in a business, it is major and crucial for everyone to understand the basic steps on how to implement SEM on a day to day basis.

1. Crafting Your Marketing Campaign

A marketing campaign is a series of content that promotes your brand. All of these content should share the same theme and promote a single product or service. [4] Sometimes, they can even promote a group of products or services.

Crafting a marketing campaign involves deciding on a means of getting your message across, including which platforms to advertise on, what designs to use, the copywriting tone and more.

A marketing campaign can include SEM as one of its methods, which will ultimately lead to content on websites or social media platforms.

Grab Malaysia’s recent durian themed marketing campaign is one example. Source: Grab

2. Attending Your Keyword ‘Auction’

Once you decide to include SEM, one key part of crafting your campaign is to decide on keywords to base your content on.

Once you’ve decided on the keywords, the search engine will require you to bid for the right to use that keyword in your descriptions and titles. [5]

Usually, the more sought after and highly searched for keywords would require higher bids to obtain.

Therefore, when you decide on keywords and campaigns, it helps to do a bit of research on what you can afford and whether it falls in your budget.

If you bid for ad space, you should also bid for highly searched keywords relevant to your business. Source: Google

3. Creating Your Ads

In any SEM tutorial, you’ll find that this is the most important step. Crafting ads is an art form that does take some practice to get right. Good SEM ads are able to convey important information with as little words as possible.

It should contain a link to your web business page, as well as an effective call to action. Preferably, your created ad should also be engaging and stand out from your competitors with unique copy and messaging.

4. Tracking Your Progress

Whichever search engine that you’re advertising on, there will be a back-end platform for you to track your advertisements’ progress. [6]

This section will allow you to learn how to improve your ads in order to increase engagements and click-through rates.

The data in this section should be treated like feedback. It will often also include the demographics and location of those clicking, so this will help you pick better keywords for future SEM advertisements.

SEO vs SEM: What’s The Difference?

Both SEO and SEM are strategies for web-based marketing. The most important thing to keep in mind is that SEO is a subset of SEM.

SEM is a wide term that covers several strategies to market your brand on a particular search engine platform, and SEO is one of these strategies.

Ultimately, both of these terms will lead to a single objective, which is to increase your brand’s visibility in a search results list. This list is the one that emerges after a user types in a related search term.

The Main Difference

Although some people use the terms interchangeably, both SEO and SEM could stand for different things. Here are the differences between SEO vs SEM:

SEO – Search Engine Optimization, which is the concept of inserting highly searchable keywords into a website’s content to make it appear more prominently in a search engine results list.

This is an organic marketing strategy, and does not involve any type of paid advertising to push the website to a higher position.

The traffic that SEO generates is therefore organic traffic and generated without any advertisement. Instead, it is the clever use of related search terms to your products, locality or service that makes it more visible.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing, which includes the concept of paying for your site to appear higher in the list and more visibly on a search engine.

This is done through a system called pay per click, where business owners pay to have their websites promoted for a specific number of clicks from users.

SEM is therefore considered inorganic marketing, which means it is pushed higher in visibility by being made into an advertisement.

SEO vs SEM – Which Is Better?

The answer to this is actually, why not both.

SEO and SEM practices should be carried out hand in hand while trying to make your websites stand out and lead more users to discovering your business.

Having a website and multiple social media accounts is not enough, as you must be able to push your created content to the masses, both organically and non-organically.

The Pros and Cons of SEM

Just like every marketing strategy that has ever existed, SEM has its own strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, it should not be taken as the be-all-and-end-all in online marketing. Here are some of SEM’s plus points and weaknesses to consider:

ProsCons
– Easily increase awareness about your brand to a large audience.Takes longer to improve as back end monitoring takes time to be collected and analyzed.
– Expand the reach of your brand beyond the usual demographics.Can consume high costs over time which is especially challenging for smaller enterprises.
– Increases the time spent by users on your site, and minimizes bounce rate.Could lead to Google penalty if used wrongly or if you violate Google’s SEM regulations.
Local SEO can be optimized for businesses that have a geographical location.

Main Strategies That Are Pillars of SEM: 5 SEM Strategies That Every Marketers Should Use!

SEM will involve certain basic strategies and actions in order to ensure that they function well. Additionally, these are some of the important methods you will have to keep in mind to optimize your SEM ads on the search engine of target.

Here’s 5 SEM main strategies that can be apply for every marketers out there!

1. Keyword Identification

As mentioned previously, keyword identification is the crux of SEM. This step involves identification of various important phrases and words associated with your business.

In order to understand which words are the most sought after, you can refer to tools provided by the search engine itself. For Google, there’s the free to use Google Trends of the subscription based Google Ads.

These tools will be able to help you identify and track the popularity of words and phrases you want to use in your targeting ads.

The more highly they trend, the more you should use them in your web copy or content.

Google Trends is a free tool you can use to identify high performing keywords. Source: Google Trends

2. Determining Solid SEM Goals

Starting an SEM campaign without solid objectives is like going on a plane without a destination in mind.

Creating goals allows you to better strategize your SEM campaign, and determine the details that will go into the campaign.

Goals should be set in a stepwise manner – this means that you should set small and reasonable goals first before setting larger ones.

For example, if you’re a small business selling homemade food, you should aim for targeting about 50 ad clicks for the first few months, rather than 1000 or more.

Also you should be able to come up with a digital marketing strategy that focuses on local SEO to boost awareness about your business within the closest geographical radius. 

You can use free website traffic analytics tools like these to track whether your goals for your site are being met. Source: Similarweb

3. Familiarizing Yourself with Google Adwords

Google Adwords is the platform on which you will carry out your SEM campaigns. As such it is crucial to understand the algorithm which they use to decide where and when to display your SEM ads. [7] It is very much like a search engine marketing software.

Google Ads will display your ads via a PPC system. Due to this, you will have to work within it to optimize your content to allow effective targeting groups.

Among the things you’ll have to pay attention to are metrics, keywords and the load time of your own website.

Therefore it is important to know what search keywords to place within your ads in order to ensure that they reach your particular target audience.

Google Adwords is very user friendly and will guide you with crafting an ad campaign. Source: Google Ads

4. Targeting Based on Target Audience

One important part of using Google Adwords is knowing your targeting focus. [8] For example, if you run a preschool service, your ads should be targeting young parents with toddlers living within 5 kilometers from your school.

This information will help you decide what they would be looking for, what language they would normally speak, when they are online and so on.

This will help you utilize Google Adwords to the best of your advantage and use its metrics to boost your PPC clicks.

This is a form of customer driven marketing strategy which you need to master so that your ads have direction, rather than trying to appear all over the place.

Some of the keywords that make air fryer ads successful. Source: Google

5. Landing Page Optimization

A good website is one where the landing pages are easy and quick to load. This means a minimal amount of pop-ups, videos, animation and other things that take time to load.

Information should be presented with as little text as possible, and links should lead to other pages containing information.

You want a landing page that’s very direct to the point, clean and loads fast.

This is because the loading time of pages will determine important metrics of user engagement, like bounce rate, time spent on pages and number of unique visitors.

If your landing page is cluttered and is difficult to load, this will discourage visitors from staying long.

Less traffic to your pages could also mean a lower conversion to sales rate from your site. Having a good website should be a part of branding vs marketing too, as it is the front face of your business that everyone will see.

Example of a clean, easy to navigate business page. Source: ServisHero

Start Your Search Engine Marketing Journey Today

By now, you should be able to identify the differences between SEO vs SEM and what should every marketers take note before creating the ultimate SEM strategy for your brand

While SEM can be carried out for any type of business, no matter where you are or what you do, it’s best to start online marketing as soon as possible. This is because it will help expand your reach above and beyond your current pool of customers.

To do this, you may want to engage a professional SEM agency like One Search Pro for search marketing services.

Come talk to us today to start learning more about how your business could show up more prominently on search engines and attract more visitors to your site!

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