What Is SEM? Definition, Advantages, Disadvantages, and Key Concepts
What is SEM? SEM stands for search engine marketing.
Depending on who you ask, search engine marketing can mean a few different things. Normally SEM is used to refer to paid search ad campaigns, like Google Ads. But, some may use it to refer to all marketing actions that take place within a search engine, whether or not they are paid.
In this article, we'll explain what SEM is, what its advantages are, and the basic concepts to help you get started in the world of search engine marketing.
Defining exactly what SEM or search engine marketing consists of can be tricky since there are different definitions depending on who you ask.
SEM is defined by the set of tools, techniques and strategies that help optimize the visibility of websites and web pages through search engines. In short, the goal of SEM is to gain better search engine positioning on Google and other similar sites.
Generally, Google search pages and other sites show two types of results:
Search Engine Marketing encompasses both SEO techniques and search engine advertising. However, most marketers use SEM to refer exclusively to search engine advertising, or paid results. To avoid confusion, in this article we will use SEM to refer to search engine advertising and paid advertising.
SEM is a very broad topic that has many different avenues to explore. Below, we've linked to some articles to more specific topics within the SEM methodology.
There are many reasons to incorporate SEM in your digital marketing strategy. These are just some of the benefits of using Search Engine Marketing for your brand.
Undoubtedly, search engine marketing is a powerful tool for almost all types of brands. To evaluate when and how to use it, let's look at some of the advantages and disadvantages.
Segmentation. Finally, another positive of this tool is its great segmentation possibilities. By focusing on keywords, you will reach the public that is actively interested in you. You can also filter it by other factors such as location, language, or behavior.
To finish, let's review the basic concepts you need to move through the world of search engine advertising. Since we use Google for the vast majority of searches, we are going to base ourselves on the terms that are used in Google Ads.
Today SEM is a necessity. However, it is much more powerful if used in combination with other tools such as SEO. The study of keywords is the fundamental pillar of the search engine strategy. The study of Buyer Personas is also crucial to understanding the audience when looking for certain keywords because it allows for more accurate segmentation.
When planning an SEM campaign, keyword research should always be one of the first steps. We can say that keywords are like the "bricks" from which the whole SEM account, ads, and even landing pages are structured.
To perform keyword research for SEM campaigns, take note of the following steps.
Keywords should always be relevant to the product or service you are offering. Therefore, the first step is to draw up a list between two and ten main ideas that summarize the services or products you offer. In addition to studying your own offer, you can also take a look at your competitors' sites.
There are many keyword planning platforms on the market, such as SemRush and Google keyword planner. If you enter the basic ideas defined in the previous section, the tool will provide you with a list of related keywords. To filter the results, you can segment by location and language.
The good thing about these tools is that they can give you a lot of suggestions that you would never have thought of. Of course, there also are times when they offer suggestions that aren't to the original search. And this brings us to the next step...
Using the keywords as a starting point, you will have to filter manually to discard irrelevant words, group related keywords, and select those that have the highest number of searches and the lowest competition (i.e. that there are not many advertisers bidding for the same word).
And that's it! You now have a definitive list of keywords to optimize your SEM campaign. To get the best results, these keywords should be present both on your landing pages and in your ads.
Strategy and planning are fundamental to guarantee the results of your SEM campaign. Let's take a look at what it takes to launch a successful campaign.
Keywords are the basic foundation on which the entire SEM strategy is structured. To carry out a complete keyword study, you must pay special attention to:
The products and services you offer
How your competition is performing and how you are positioned relative to that
Your buyer persona
Searching for generic and "long tail" keywords using specialized tools
Combing through and cleaning the keyword list
The time has come to put your entire SEM strategy into place. These are some of the key aspects that you will have to define to launch a campaign in Google Ads or any other tool:
The work doesn't end after launching the campaign; SEM is based on continuous optimization. Therefore, you must periodically monitor the results of your campaigns to be able to swap out keywords, creatives, and any other aspects of the campaign.
To make sure you don't miss anything, you can set up alerts for critical aspects of the account and define a specific review schedule.
SEM and SEO are two closely related disciplines, as they both seek to rank on Google. Therefore, you can take advantage of the effort invested in SEM to improve your organic positioning.
Keyword research will help you detect keywords that can help you position your page organically, although they may not result in quick conversions. However, the results will help you identify which topics are more interesting for users and can help you to get more traffic and visits.
When we think of search engines, usually the first thing that comes to mind is Google. But the truth is that there are other SEM platforms that can also give us good results. These are the three main solutions for search engine advertising.
Google Ads is one of the main search engines. Here are some tips for using it:
CPC (cost per click): the price you pay for each click on your ads, which in turn depends on the level of quality and bids set.
Bing Ads (or Microsoft Advertising) is a very solid alternative to Google Ads, as it reaches a relevant potential audience (almost 10% of the market share) and has very good targeting and configuration options.
In general, it is a very similar tool to Google Ads, but there are some differences that you should be aware of:
Negative keyword matching is stricter (you can only place negative keywords with phrase matching).
Bing sets a minimum amount for maximum bids.
Bing's location options allow you to specify a radius within a city or zip code.
You can schedule ads to show in 15-minute increments throughout the day, or to appear only at certain times.
Bing has image-specific and stock-specific extensions.
You can set up different time zones within a single campaign.
Filter reports based on search partners and discard those you are not interested in.
Yahoo Advertising or Yahoo Ads is Yahoo's advertising solution, which allows you to reach users who perform searches on this search engine.
Search Ads: The most classic SEM format, which shows ads in the search engine when users enter a specific keyword.
Display Ads: These ads are placed at the top, bottom, side of a website, or in the middle of content and can be used for remarketing.
Sponsored Ads in different formats: Image, carousel, and native video ads.
Mail Ads: These ads are integrated within inboxes and through banners.
SEM tools, such as Google Ads, are very complex. It's to manage a lot of variables and be aware of the results in real-time in order to be able to continuously optimize the account. Therefore, it is worthwhile delegating this work to a SEM agency, which can carry out tasks such as:
SEM campaign design: defining objectives and budget and creating the campaign structure, keywords, and ad groups.
Keyword planning and optimization: selecting the right keywords and precise match levels is critical for good SEM results. The agency will perform both initial keyword research and ongoing monitoring of results.
Ad creation: with SEM ads, there is very little room to attract potential customers, so it is essential to create well-designed creatives.
Campaign monitoring: the agency will perform continuous analysis of the data to be able to make decisions in real-time and achieve the best results.
Quality level optimization: this parameter is one of the most important in SEM, since it allows for maximizing results and minimizing costs at the same time.
CPC and bid management: through continuous analysis of CPC and the position of the ads, an agency seeks to optimize the bides in order to achieve the highest number of quality clicks at the best cost.
Conversion rate optimization: by analyzing and adjusting different aspects of the account, from keywords to landing page design, you ultimately aim to achieve more conversions and increase the profitability of the account.
To get the best results from this kind of collaboration, we recommend that you look for a Google Partner certified agency, like ours!