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Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a form of digital marketing that involves promoting websites or web pages through paid advertising on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEM typically involves the use of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, where advertisers bid on keywords that are relevant to their business and target audience.



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What is Search Engine Marketing and How is it different from PPC advertising?


Digital Marketers must know about advertising. When a business has set up a new website and wants to let its customers know instantly the approach they would take would be the SEM. This is primarily because SEO is an organic approach and takes time to show the results. While a business page has anything but time to reach its customers, else they will run short on business and customers. The brighter part is your ads get displayed to those customers for exactly what you are offering them as what they are searching for. The process of increasing a product or service's visibility on a SERP(Search Engine Results Page) through paid advertising is called SEM.

Marketers can also use SEM for specific eCommerce Platforms where users search for products they want to buy. These sites are also referred to as product-based search engines. Digital Marketers also consider YouTube as a search engine platform.

Shopping search engines, such as Google Shopping, allow users to search for products across multiple websites and present results in a standardized format, making it easier to compare products and prices. Additionally, many shopping search sites offer tools like price tracking, product reviews, and alerts for price drops, to help customers make the best purchasing decisions. When these sites advertise their content or product for specific keywords then it falls under SEM.

Typically advertisers don't get charged for displaying ads, it's more like when a customer clicks on these ads that they get charged which again depends on pay models like PPC.


There are typically two pay models involved with this type of marketing.

  • PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising model allows businesses to pay only when their advertisements are clicked.

  • Impressions-based advertising model allows businesses to pay depending on the number of times users have seen the ad.

Advantages of involving SEM in a digital marketing strategy:

  • Reach likely customers

  • Quickly appearing in the search results.

  • Learn which ads perform better

  • Control over where you send searches.

Different SEM Ads depending on Ad formats

  • Text Ads are classic ads with a title as a link and a description that appeal to the searchers on SERP.

  • Shopping Ads are specifically for eCommerce businesses that show products related to various companies displayed in the search results.

  • Local services ads are specifically for businesses with locally based customers. For displaying these ads businesses must have been screened by Google as legitimate businesses that are businesses with verified My Business Page.

  • Google Maps ads are meant for local businesses with the major difference from Local service ads being that they can be for local product-based business searches as well.

  • Call ads are specifically meant for mobile searches when the customer is searching on mobile and receives a call button in the searches.

  • Video Ads are meant for video platforms like YouTube when the customer is searching for a product and the relevant ad is displayed.


Ad Extensions for various Google Ad Formats

For most of these ad types, Google provides Ad extensions that feature additional information about a business such as a website link, a phone number, or an address.

  • Sitelink Extensions include additional website links.

  • Call Extensions make it possible to call the business.

  • Location Extension lets customers find local businesses by pulling it up on Google Maps.

  • Price Extension is for e-commerce businesses that show the product price along with its details.

  • Structured Snippets Extension which highlights specific aspects of products and services.

What is a Google Merchant Centre?

Google Merchant Center is a free tool provided by Google that allows online retailers and merchants to upload their product data to Google and make it available to Google Shopping and other Google services. With Google Merchant Center, merchants can manage their product information, including product images, descriptions, prices, and availability, and make it accessible to consumers when they search for products on Google. When a consumer searches for a product on Google, relevant products from merchants enrolled in Google Merchant Center may be displayed in a carousel-style format, including a photo of the product, its name, price, and a link to the merchant's website. These product listings can then be promoted through PPC advertising on Google.


By combining Google Merchant Center with PPC advertising, merchants can increase the visibility of their products, drive traffic to their websites, and ultimately increase sales. The cost of each click on a PPC ad can vary depending on the competition for the specific keywords and target audience, but with a well-optimized campaign, merchants can see a positive return on investment (ROI) from their advertising efforts.


Setting Up a Google Ad

  • Define your campaign goal or objective.

  • Choose the campaign type such as search, Shopping, Local, or Video.

  • Set up a budget.

  • Choose a bidding strategy like conversion, clicks, or others. Google uses machine learning to optimize ads.

  • Select target audience.

  • Create your ad

  • Setup conversion

What is Ad Auction?

Ad auction determines which ads show in what order for each search result that contains SEM ads. Ad Rank determines ad position. Ad matching happens based on keywords. Keywords are the phrases used in a search. For more on Keywords read the article "Types of Keywords". The relevancy of the ad displayed depends on the matching type which can be broadly classified into

  1. Broad Match - phrases that relate to the keyword

  2. Phrase Match - that includes the meaning of the keyword

  3. Exact Match - same meaning or intent as keyword

Factors determining ad rank

  • Your bid - the price you are willing to pay for getting your ad displayed.

  • The quality of your ad and landing page is determined by the Quality Score for diagnostic purposes.

  • Use of Ad extensions - use all relevant ad extensions for your ad to rank higher.

Apart from the above to rank your ad higher you need to provide value to your customer. Including one keyword in the headline, providing specific CTA, and optimizing the landing page for relevancy and reliability can help score your ad rank higher.


What is Display Advertising?

Placing paid ads anywhere on Google or Bing or any search engine property while performing a search for a given keyword or search term falls under SEM.

Another option for placing ads is websites or applications that are not Google properties. These ads are termed display advertising. These ads can be placed on Websites, Apps, YouTube, and Gmail. The significant difference with SEM ads is that they are not ads that are shown after a user searches for the given product or service, these ads are merely displayed yet are targeted based on Machine Learning Algorithms. Google Display Network has a major role to play in this display advertising. Google Display Network is a group of more than two million websites, videos, and apps where programmatic display ads can appear. For more on ad networks read this article.


There are two types of Google Display Ads :

Uploaded - which are uploaded by the user which could be a Banner, Leaderboard, or a Skyscraper Ad depending on the size.

Responsive - Google ads will automatically generate ad combinations.


Now that you have understood the major differences between SEM, PPC, and Display Advertising you may be in a position to set up an advertising campaign on your own.


Search Engine Marketing Funnel

The typical SEM funnel has the following stages:

  1. Awareness: Potential customers become aware of a business's brand, products, or services through SEM advertising.

  2. Interest: Potential customers show interest in a business's offerings and start to research more about the products or services.

  3. Consideration: Potential customers compare different products or services to determine which ones best meet their needs.

  4. Intent: Potential customers express a desire to make a purchase and start to consider the options for making that purchase.

  5. Evaluation: Potential customers evaluate their options and make a decision about which product or service to purchase.

  6. Purchase: Potential customers make a purchase and become a customer.

  7. Loyalty: Customers continue to use a business's products or services and may become repeat customers.

Search Engine Marketing Funnel

By understanding the stages of the SEM funnel, a business can tailor its SEM campaigns to target specific stages of the funnel and improve the customer experience, ultimately increasing conversions and driving growth.


Search Engine Marketing Strategy

A well-structured SEM strategy can help increase visibility and drive targeted traffic to a website, ultimately leading to increased leads, sales, or conversions.

A successful SEM strategy typically involves the following steps:

  1. Keyword research: Identifying the keywords that your target audience is using to search for products or services like yours.

  2. Ad copy creation: Writing compelling ad copy that accurately represents your brand and is optimized for the keywords you are targeting.

  3. Campaign structure: Deciding on the type of SEM advertising to use, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, display advertising, video advertising, or shopping advertising, and organizing the campaign structure in a way that makes sense for your business.

  4. Budget allocation: Deciding on a budget for your SEM campaign and allocating it in a way that maximizes your return on investment (ROI).

  5. Bid management: Setting bids for your targeted keywords to ensure that your ads are displayed in the right place at the right time.

  6. Tracking and analysis: Continuously monitoring and analyzing data to see what's working and what's not, and making informed decisions based on that data to adjust your strategy and maximize your results.

It's important to remember that SEM is a continuous process and that your strategy should evolve over time as you learn more about your target audience and what works best for your business.


Search Engine Marketing Plan

Developing a search engine marketing (SEM) plan is essential to ensure that your SEM efforts are aligned with your business goals and objectives. Here are some steps you can take to create an effective SEM plan:

  1. Define your goals: Start by defining your business goals and objectives for your SEM campaign. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to increase website traffic, generate leads, or boost sales?

  2. Identify your target audience: Determine who your target audience is and what their search behavior is like. This will help you to identify the keywords and phrases they are likely to use when searching for your products or services.

  3. Conduct keyword research: Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to research relevant keywords and phrases. Consider both short-tail and long-tail keywords that are relevant to your target audience.

  4. Develop your ad copy: Develop ad copy that is clear, concise, and compelling. Make sure that your ad copy is focused on the benefits of your product or service, rather than just its features.

  5. Set your budget: Determine how much you are willing to spend on your SEM campaign. You can set a daily or weekly budget, and adjust it as needed based on the performance of your ads.

  6. Choose your SEM platform: Consider which SEM platform is best suited for your business. Google Ads is the most popular SEM platform, but there are other options such as Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads.

  7. Create your ads: Create your ads based on your ad copy and keywords. Make sure that your ads are visually appealing and that they include a clear call to action(CTA).

  8. Monitor and optimize: Monitor the performance of your ads and make adjustments as needed to improve their performance. Track metrics such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and cost-per-click to ensure that your SEM campaign is delivering a positive return on investment (ROI).

By following these steps and creating a well-defined SEM plan, you can effectively target your audience, increase website traffic, and drive conversions for your business.


Search Engine Marketing Campaign

To set up an SEM campaign, you'll need to determine your target audience, choose the keywords that you want to target, create relevant and compelling ad copy, and set your budget for the campaign. You'll also need to decide which search engines you want to advertise on and what type of SEM advertising you want to use, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, display advertising, video advertising, or shopping advertising.

To optimize your SEM campaign, you'll need to continually monitor and adjust your bids, ad copy, and targeting to ensure that you're getting the best results possible. You'll also need to track your results and analyze data to see what's working and what's not so that you can make informed decisions and adjust your strategy as needed.


SEM gives you the ability to immediately place your website at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), which can increase visibility and drive targeted traffic to your site. With SEM, you have complete control over your ad spending and can adjust your bids and targeting at any time to maximize your results. SEM provides you with immediate, quantifiable results, allowing you to track the performance of your campaigns and make informed decisions to optimize your strategy.

For more information on other digital marketing channels read these articles.


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