SEM is Search Engine Marketing.

In the August blog post we talked about Search Engine Optimization, or organic search.   Now let’s talk about SEM or Search Engine Marketing, probably better understood as online advertising. 

Remember that a search engine’s goal is to provide the best experience for users, so people who are searching find what they need and keep coming back instead of using competing search engine.   Google has done such a good job of this you probably don’t even think of using Bing or Yahoo for search – though you could!   Why do they care so much?  Google earned over $24 billion dollars in search ad revenue in 2016!

So as you will expect, SEM costs money.  It is advertising after all.  You may have heard of SEM referred to as Pay Per Click (PPC) because you pay for each time someone clicks the ad to go to your website.   The good news is that you can decide the geographic spread of your ad.  If you’re a firm only focused on businesses in Greater Boston then you’ll focus on local search so that you’re not wasting money on someone searching in Texas.  Also good is that you can set your spending limit by day or month so that when your money runs out, your ad stops appearing.  This way there are no surprises!

The biggest advantages of SEM are that it’s immediate and that you get to decide much of what the user’s experience is.  Unlike SEO’s long game, when SEM is implemented, results occur starting the first day.  What’s more, you can track, measure, and adjust your ad’s message and see the results the very next day!

The factors that influence SEM success are:

  • Keywords – your SEO/SEM specialist will tell you what words to focus on based on your content and desired target market and results.
  • Ad copy – This is what someone would read when they see your ad. How appealing it is will impact whether they click or not.   It’s better to offer an educational resource rather than just advertise your service.
  • Landing pages – The landing page is where someone will arrive at if they click the ad. The quality and relevance of this page related to the search is important.  It’s far better to have a tailored/specialized landing page than just the homepage of your website.
  • Bids – SEM is an auction based system. You can bid on any keyword, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to appear on the search results page (win the bid).
  • “Quality Score” – Related to bids, there’s a ‘black box’ with SEM called a Quality Score. The Quality Score is a metric determined by the search engine that’s used to determine how relevant and useful your ad and landing page are to the user. This will impact the amount you’ll need to pay to enter and win the auction.

As with SEO, you’re going to need a part-time team including a content writer, a programmer, and an SEO/SEM specialist to help you be successful.

SEO & SEM:  1+ 1 = 3

SEO and SEM complement each other.   Not to upset the accountants in the room, but essentially, 1+ 1 = 3.   Studies have shown that when companies have both SEM ads and organic SEO listings on the same keyword, they enjoy a lift in overall traffic and conversions (people clicking the link to go to the site) compared with the amount of traffic they should have gotten.

Finally, it’s important to know that neither SEO nor SEM are “set it and forget it” marketing activities.   Google is constantly changing its search algorithm, so SEO needs to be continually addressed. It’s not enough to establish it when you build your site originally and leave it alone.  Even more so, SEM needs to be actively managed throughout the length of the campaign to maximize your ROI.

Please contact me to ask any questions about SEO or SEM, or to talk about your firm’s online goals!

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Alison has more than fifteen years of professional services marketing and business development experience. She is a Boston College Double Eagle, holding both a BS in Management with concentrations in Marketing & Information Systems, and an MBA. Alison is a member of the 2009 Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 class of honorees.