Small business owners sometimes think that search engine marketing (SEM), also known as pay-per-click advertising (PPC), is not lucrative option for them. They may think they can’t afford it, or that their online presence is not important if they are a local or service-based business. The truth is, as search engines have undeniably become a part of our lifestyles as consumers, there are many ways to leverage them for businesses of any size. This post will introduce you to the basics and benefits of search engine marketing (SEM).
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the use of paid ads to reach potential leads and customers on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. More specifically, to reach them the moment they are searching for your service. It is also known as search engine advertising, paid search advertising, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
Pay-per-click ads appear in prime spots in search engine results page (SERP), across multiple devices (mobile, tablet, desktop, etc.). Prime spots vary depending upon the search engine, but typically are on top of and/or on the side of organic results. All PPC ads are labeled with an “ad” designation.
PPC ads cost the advertiser each time someone takes action on their ad, such as by clicking through to end up on a designated landing page, or clicking to call or to get directions. Cost-per-click varies by industry, geography, and competition, and will also vary regularly throughout a campaign.
With SEM (once again, synonymous with pay-per-click advertising), you pay to have your ad and business rank on the top of search engine results.
When designing an SEM campaign, the first step is to designate a monthly budget. You’ll want to base this off of your industry, geography, and the number of products and services you are trying to advertise for. Your budget will influence how much money you are able to spend throughout a month on PPC ads, and your spend level may vary day to day.
Campaigns are broken out into ad groups, which house both ads and keyphrases. This allows your campaign to focus ad copy specifically on the keyphrases a consumer is searching. Keyphrases, or keywords, are simply the words or phrases that users type into search boxes in search engines (such as “plumber quincy ma”).
When a search engine user in the targeted area searches for the keywords or keyphrases that you chose, your ad enters an immediate online auction. Your ad is displayed when it matches bid and relevancy criteria, so you want to make sure that you have an appropriate budget size, and that you are bidding on keyphrases relevant to your products/services (such as those indicated on your website or landing page). You are not charged when your ad is displayed, but rather when someone clicks on your ad to take further action.
You may be wondering, why pay to show up in search engines and have people click on your website pages? Can’t you just improve your website’s SEO and get online visibility and organic clicks for free? The answer is that organic search isn’t actually free. SEO strategies are very beneficial to your business, but SEO takes time to take effect, (up to 6 months) and the tactics involve a lot of work toward producing quality content. With SEM/pay-per-click advertising, you see results right away, in the form of your business name on page one of a search.
There is limited real estate for the top positions in organic search results. With the amount of content on the web today and the number of competitors you have, it can be hard to get in a top position, even despite your best efforts. If you’re a new business or an existing one trying to build your online presence, SEM/PPC advertising can get you in front of highly targeted customers.
Another one of the benefits of SEM is that people who see your PPC ads are those most likely to want to buy your product or service. PPC ads require you to choose a geographic location and specific search queries to target. As a result, you can be sure that anyone who clicks on your ad is not arbitrarily surfing the web, but rather, is looking for your product or service and in a position to do so.
Keep in mind that if you’re going to be driving more qualified traffic to your business website, you should make sure that it is optimized for conversions. A good business website is not just one that attracts visitors, but gets them to stay and convert.
Once again, SEM works by putting your site in front of people who are searching for your services in search engines. If a potential customer reaches your website, pay per click ad services (such as through Google, Yahoo, and Bing) enable you to collect data on each click, such as
With this data, those who click on your ad can become leads for you to contact at a later time.
Real time and specific tracking are huge benefits of SEM/PPC advertising that allow you to see exactly what you’re getting for every marketing dollar you spend, and obtain more leads. You can be more efficient with your advertising efforts, and translate clicks into revenue.
SEM is not just for businesses trying to reach a national scale. Due to its targeting features, Search Engine Marketing works great for small businesses that want to reach local customers conducting research or interest searches via the internet. Local search is on the rise, and SEM can help you take advantage of it.
SEM, PPC advertising, paid search—call it what you want!—is a great way to boost your online exposure, increase traffic to your website, and gain more customers. Take a look at your budget and the keywords that relate to your services and start an SEM campaign today!