The online marketplace has never been more competitive. With the rapidly increasing number of digital buyers and an unprecedented boost in global retail e-commerce sales, it is more important than ever to make your business visible online.
So, how can businesses make their marketing more effective amidst the competition? Is there a way to get value from digital advertising investments while having a competitive advantage?
The answer is: search engine marketing.
Search engine marketing (abbreviated to SEM) is a digital marketing strategy aimed at increasing the visibility of websites on search engine results pages (SERPs). When done right, SEM is an effective way to grow and establish your online business presence, which is a powerful alternative to organic strategies.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing practice of using paid advertisements to promote a business online. The advertisements appear on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Unlike search engine optimisation (SEO), which focuses on organic search activities, SEM refers to paid search advertising. In simpler terms, advertisers pay money for their ads to appear alongside organic search results of search engines such as Google and Bing.
Also known as paid search or pay-per-click (PPC), these ads appear in various formats, from text-based advertisements to visual product listings.
For instance, what happens when you search “running shoes” on Google? While websites with a solid SEO strategy typically rank first organically, you will also find search results with a tiny “Ad” written next to them. These are paid searches.
With search engines like Google being the primary source for online searches, your products or services must rank first in SERPs when a user is searching for them.
With countless businesses like yours vying for attention and recognition from the same target audience, the last thing you want is to get invisible among the millions of searches on SERPs. While organic marketing efforts through SEO are great, they may not be enough to give your business the limelight it needs to stand out from competitors.
Search engine marketing is one of the fastest and most effective ways to directly reach your target audience by displaying paid ads among search engine results. It takes advantage of the psychology of online shoppers, who are more likely to make a purchase the moment they see relevant ads with at-a-glance information like price and product details. As soon as consumers search for a product like yours, they directly see your ad at a prominent location on SERPs without having to scroll further down.
Let’s look at the objectives search engine marketing seeks to fulfill:
1. Generating and reinforcing brand recognition
2. Reaching consumers at the right place and time
3. Tapping the target audience
4. Offering a competitive advantage
5. Scaling with business growth
Since SEM puts ads at the top of search engine results pages, it’s easier for consumers to become aware of your brand. With more awareness comes greater recognition and, eventually, a boost in sales. Repeatedly and consistently presenting your brand increases the chances of a prospect becoming a paying customer. Recognition increases familiarity, and people are more likely to engage with brands they are familiar with than brands with a meek online presence.
A significant chunk of global online search experiences starts with a search engine like Google. Thus, making yourself prominent on search engine results pages is an effective way to reach prospects precisely when searching for something you offer. However, every click on your paid ads may not turn into a sale. Yet, it serves as a crucial touchpoint and takes the prospect further down the sales funnel towards becoming a loyal customer.
Unlike traditional marketing strategies, search engine advertising brings you several steps closer to your target audience. Traditional advertising avenues are expensive, and even after spending a fortune on advertising campaigns, you may never be able to focus on your target customers. On the contrary, the users have selected CTR as the bidding strategy but it can be costly if the users are paying for views/ impressions. Moreover, SEM is a sure-shot way to feature on top of SERPs and be noticeable to your audience.
When done right, search engine marketing can reinforce your SEO strategies. If you already have exceptional SEO strategies with a coveted spot on SERPs, SEM allows you to appear above organic search results with paid ads. With a solid and compelling SEM strategy, you can easily stay ahead of your competitors and establish your market presence.
Since SEM is scalable, you can gradually increase your search engine marketing efforts as your business grows. In addition, SEM is flexible, letting you refine your paid advertising campaigns depending on your marketing goals and objectives. You can keep your budget limited and see what works best for your business. Once you identify the best strategies, you can scale your efforts to match your marketing expectations.
Although modern interpretations define SEM as paid online advertising, search engine marketing is of the following three types:
Let’s explore each type of search engine marketing.
In the pay-per-click or PPC model, the advertiser must pay a fee every time a user clicks on their online advertisement on SERPs. Also known as Sponsored Search or Sponsored Ads, PPC search results are easily visible to online searchers due to their prominent position at the top of SERPs. Google labels paid search results as “Ad” or “Sponsored.”
Unlike the PPC model of online advertising, organic SEO aims to increase online visibility and drive traffic through organic search results. A search engine optimisation method helps businesses gain organic traffic and increased visibility through unpaid and non-local results. Hence, advertisers need not pay a fee for every click-through to their site.
Local SEO aims to get your business to appear in Google Map results. Like organic SEO, there is no charge involved in implementing a local SEO strategy. Unlike organic SEO with a global reach, local SEO focuses on increasing the business’ visibility within a specific geographical area. Thus, it mainly caters to the local audience and helps them discover companies online.
A powerful and effective SEM campaign strategically optimises paid search ads with specific marketing goals in mind.
However, creating a search engine marketing strategy that works and gives the desired ROI is not a cakewalk. It requires a thorough understanding of how paid advertisement platforms work. In addition, you need to consider variables such as keywords, ad creation, and, most importantly, your budget.
Below is an overview of the critical factors you should consider before kickstarting your search engine marketing campaign.
Keywords are the terms or phrases users enter into a search engine to find related information online. Since this is where the search engine experience starts, keyword research forms the basis of search engine marketing campaigns. Thus, you need to focus on the keywords that will form the foundation of your SEM campaign.
Several online keyword research tools (Google Trends, Google Ads Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and more) can help you conduct keyword research. These SEM tools provide helpful information, such as keyword volume and competition. In addition, they let users track critical metrics and monitor other core areas of SEM campaigns.
Since search engine marketing involves pay-per-clicks or paid searches, budget planning becomes a crucial part of an SEM campaign. The budget for search engine marketing campaigns primarily includes the keyword cost or the bid you place on keywords during the ad auction. These keywords or queries are what your ads will show up for in SERPs.
You may only want to bid on keywords with high commercial intent if you have a tight budget. Such keywords refer to the tendency of online customers to make a purchase, such as “buy,” “discount,” “free shipping,” and so on. Those with a more generous budget can bid on keywords that target the earlier stages of a buyer’s journey.
You must consider the keyword volume and competition when planning your SEM budget. High-competition keywords tend to be more expensive, while extremely high-volume keywords, although more competitive, may not always be relevant. Eventually, you need to strike a balance between competition (budget) and volume (demand).
Once you have allocated a budget for your SEM and finalised the keywords, the next step is to create compelling ads that earn clicks. Writing a data-driven and keyword-rich ad copy is the only way to ensure high ROIs from your SEM campaign. Understand what your target audience is looking through their queries and curate your ad accordingly.
Here are some pointers you can keep in mind when creating your SEM ad copy:
The pay-per-click or PPC is an internet marketing model in which advertisers are charged every time one of their ads is clicked. Instead of earning traffic organically, the PPC model of search engine marketing “buys” visits to a site.
A most popular form of PPC is search engine advertising, where advertisers bid to display their ads in a search engine’s sponsored links. Thus, when a user searches for something using keywords related to a business offering, the corresponding paid ads appear on the top of SERPs. With every click the ad gets, the advertiser has to pay the search engine a fee.
Creating a successful PPC strategy involves a lot, from researching the right keywords and organising them into campaigns and ad groups to building PPC landing pages optimised for conversions. PPC campaigns are a two-way street. If your ads and landing pages are relevant and valuable to users, the search engine, in turn, rewards you by charging less for ad clicks.
Before you embark on your PPC journey, learning how it works and how to do it right is crucial.
Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, is a paid online advertising platform where advertisers can create online ads that appear on Google SERPs. The most popular PPC advertising platform globally lets any business reach its target audience exactly when they are interested in the products and services it offers.
In a nutshell, Google Ads lets you:
You can manage your Google Ads account online. The platform is flexible enough to let you create and modify your ad campaigns anytime. Another unique feature of Google Ads is that you can set and control your ad campaign budget. Moreover, you can choose where your ad appears on SERPs and measure the impact of your ad through the platform. Using Google Ads for your PPC marketing is particularly beneficial. The search engine giant garners the maximum traffic, increasing the chances of generating the most clicks to your ads.
A PPC campaign refers to the entire process of setting up a pay-per-click advertisement drive, from keyword research and ad creation to building optimised landing pages and measuring the impact of ads. It also involves determining the campaign budget, defining the target audience, and tracking conversions.
Advertisers typically bid for keywords for which they want to display ads. However, a higher bid price does not necessarily guarantee a favorable placement in SERPs. Search engines also consider other relevant factors such as ad quality to determine which ads deserve the highest position.
PPC campaigns are trackable. You can also measure the impact of your PPC ad campaigns by analysing various metrics such as clicks, impressions, conversions, your ad performance across devices and locations, and so on.
Good PPC campaign management differentiates a successful digital marketing strategy from a poorly implemented one. It is about tracking your campaign to remain up-to-date on how it is running and making improvements to maximise profit. Efficient PPC campaign management also lets you stay ahead of the competition and be on top of performance trends.
Below we list some PPC campaign management best practices you can adopt to stay on top of the paid advertising game:
Although the PPC marketing channel covers a wide range of ad platforms, the most popular ones are Google Ads and Bing Ads. Within each platform, there could be many ad formats, including search ads, display ads, shopping ads, video ads, and more. However, Google Ads remains the most used PPC advertising platform for the sheer access to a large global audience and the various convenient options to set up and run campaigns.
The fundamentals of how PPC works remain the same regardless of the platform or ad format you choose. The steps below give an overview of how pay-per-click advertising works:
1. Sign up and create your account on an online advertising platform (such as Google Ads).
2. Decide your campaign budget, followed by deciding where you want your ad to show and which keywords you want to trigger for your ad to show.
3. Set the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid or the price you are willing to pay every time a potential customer clicks your ad.
4. Write your ad, preferably a simple text ad, if you are new to PPC advertising.
5. Your ad now goes to an automated bidding system (known as Ad Auction) with other advertisers bidding on the exact keywords as you.
6. The ad auction decides which ads make it to the top positions in SERPs and the order of the advertisements shown.
7. Once your ads get a place in SERPs, you must pay when an online searcher clicks your ad.
To fully understand how PPC advertising works, it is worth looking at the mechanism of PPC ad auctions.
For every search a user performs, an ad auction takes place to determine an ad account’s suitability to enter the auction, the order in which the eligible ads appear in the SERPs, and the cost-per-click (CPC).
CPC is the amount an advertiser determines for a specific keyword or ad group, and it is the maximum they are willing to pay for each ad click. Another critical metric is the quality score (QS). It considers multiple factors such as the ad's relevancy, expected click-through rate (CTR), and landing page quality.
The final position an ad earns on the SERPs is the outcome of the CPC and the QS, collectively expressed as the Ad Rank. A straightforward explanation of the Ad Rank is the quality score multiplied by the maximum CPC. Thus, both the quality score and the maximum bid amount strongly influence the ranking of a paid ad on SERPs.
Has all that information left you wondering if the PPC efforts are worth it? Do you need a PPC campaign for your business?
Take a look at these benefits of PPC advertising to know how it can radically transform your business and why you should channel your investments into it:
Now that we have covered the fundamentals of pay-per-click advertising, let’s review some important terms in PPC:
As a beginner, search engine advertising can be daunting and might leave you apprehensive of the outcome. However, when done right, using the correct tools and strategies, SEM can turn out to be one of the best investments for your business.
Listed below are some key benefits of using search engine marketing:
Paid ads keep you ahead in the cut-throat competition and leave a lasting impression of your brand. When used with SEO and other brand awareness strategies, search engine marketing significantly improves brand visibility and brings your business to the forefront.
SEM not only increases brand visibility but also makes it quick. Unlike organic SEO and other digital strategies, search engine marketing gives instantaneous results. As soon as a potential lead or customer searches for something your business offers, your ad goes live and creates quick visibility.
Search engine marketing lets you target customers based on specific geographic locations, age, socio-economic groups, etc. Thus, you can connect with people specifically looking for your products or services. Moreover, using well-researched ad keywords increases your chances of connecting to customers most likely to engage with your brand.
Paid ads are generally the first thing users see when searching for something using relevant keywords. Thus, creating a compelling ad copy that users find valuable increases the likelihood of more traffic reaching your website. SEM is especially beneficial if you struggle to drive organic traffic through SEO.
Once you get the hang of it, managing search engine marketing campaigns should be easy. Platforms like Google Ads offer various flexible and convenient features so that you can seamlessly set up, run, and monitor your ad campaigns. The flexibility and convenience of SEM are the main reasons it is so popular with marketers.
Monitoring and tracking the performance of your online ad campaigns can be a real bother if you don’t have the right tools. However, search engine marketing platforms like Google Ads provide all the tools and metrics you need to keep a tab on how your ad campaigns perform. Depending on the results, you can improve and adjust your campaign for better results.
Are you torn between online and offline SEM courses and unable to decide which is better? While both online and offline SEM certification courses have pros and cons, any online course has obvious benefits over its offline counterpart.
Let’s look at some reasons why online SEM courses are better than offline programs:
Although the specifics may differ with the course duration and the platform, a standard search engine marketing syllabus should ideally cover the following concepts:
India has witnessed unprecedented growth in digital marketing initiatives in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the growth even further. The country is only second to China, with over 500 million internet users and a penetration rate of about 47%. A role model of digital transformation for the rest of the world, India’s digital economy is forecasted to reach the USD 1 trillion mark by 2022.
The digital explosion in the country has brought to the limelight the potential of digital marketing as the fastest way to connect to a broader audience. As a result, companies of all sizes, from startups and MNCs, are channeling their investments into digital marketing strategies.
As the scope of digital marketing increases, the demand for professionals skilled in SEO, SEM, and other digital marketing techniques is also rising. Organisations are willing to pay high salaries to such qualified professionals, provided they deliver results. Hiring trends across marketing positions prove that there can be no better time to sign up for a search engine marketing course to gain the knowledge and skills needed for a rewarding career in digital marketing.
The average base salary of a Search Engine Marketing Specialist in India is INR 356,777 per year.
The entry-level base salary of a Search Engine Marketing Specialist in India is INR 230,000 annually, and professionals in their early careers can expect INR 361,338 annually.
The salary of a Search Engine Marketing Specialist in India depends on various factors such as job location, experience, and skillset. Jobs in tier 1 metro cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Pune will pay higher than their suburban or rural counterparts. When it comes to experience, entry-level jobs pay significantly less than what you would get in your mid or late-career stages. Likewise, the salary of Search Engine Marketing Specialists varies with the skills they bring to the table. The more skills you have, the better your chances of landing a high-paying job.
The average base salary of a Search Engine Marketing Specialist in the USA is USD 50,136 per year.
The average entry-level base salary of a Search Engine Marketing Specialist in the USA is USD 44,621 per year. Those in their early career can expect an average annual base salary of USD 49,432.
Average Salary Hike
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Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy that primarily relies on paid promotions to increase the visibility of websites on search engine results pages. Organic search engine optimisation (SEO) and local SEO are other popular forms of search engine marketing.
The three search engine marketing techniques are pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, organic SEO, and local SEO.
The most significant benefits of search engine marketing include improved brand awareness, quick visibility on SERPs, better brand recognition, increased website traffic, easy performance tracking, and the ability to run targeted ads.
Choose keyword research and select a bunch of keywords pertaining to the website/product. Choose a geographic location to display the ad. Create a text-based ad to display in the search results. Bid on the price which you are willing to pay for each click.
Pay-per-click advertising means SEM, where advertisers pay for impressions that lead to traffic. PPC advertising should ideally be less invasive because search engine marketing attempts to reach users when they most need the information you have to provide.
No, SEM, just like SEO, doesn’t require coding.
While SEO can take time to grow, SEM is easy and provides many benefits for your business. Why because (a) it grabs the attention of the audience right away, (b) simple and quick to implement, (c) it is measurable, and (d) it can raise brand awareness.
Many SEM marketing tools include SEMrush, Google Ads, OptyMyzr, Keywordtool.io, etc.
Yes. SEM can boost brand awareness and make people distinguish your business from the rest. It also helps in driving your traffic and converting them to yields.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to various techniques and strategies that help the company to generate more visitors from search engine results pages (SERPs). SEM aims to boost your site’s visibility in SERP rankings.
One of the key benefits of SEM for a business is that paid ads provide more CTR and conversions than the standard mode of marketing. That is because PPC is more customised and allows you to target specific keywords that are vital for your desired audience.
No. Search Engine Marketing is not free. Its services range from $1000 to $1 million and more.
Absolutely. SEM can help boost brand awareness and increase your online presence, leading to generating more online leads and sales.
SEM is a digital marketing strategy that boosts a website’s visibility in search results. However, Social Media Marketing, or SMM, is an entirely different digital strategy used to drive traffic through social media channels such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.
Search Engine Marketing has a few steps, such as defining proper strategy, choosing the right keywords, optimising the content, adding quality links, submitting your website for indexing, etc.
Yes, in fact, SEM is much easier than SEO. Though it is difficult to understand at times, once you get how it works, SEM is an amazing strategy to work with.
SEM is significant as it enables you to choose the most accurate keywords for your website and boost your chances of getting more lead generation.