Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
When we talk about Search Engine Marketing (SEM), we’re referring to any paid advertising we’re doing through a search engine service, like Google AdWords, which allows much more than just search text ads. Display banners and video ads are now also handled through AdWords.
The search text ads appear in sponsored areas in your search results page, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell what’s an ad and what’s not. Google does this intentionally, attempting to make the ads less obviously… ads… because many users will intentionally avoid paid listings and opt for the first organic listing. These ads are triggered by keyword targets and can give you great control over what the user sees while leapfrogging the organic listings. This is an especially helpful tool when the keywords in question are highly competitive on the organic front (tough to rank for with SEO) but have low competition in the paid (SEM) arena.
A common approach is to use off-site SEO to promote more specific keywords and paid search for broad keywords. Specific, long-tail keywords will be easier to rank for. Broad terms tend to be much more competitive on both fronts, but results can be achieved faster with search text ads. These paid text ads incur costs on a PPC (pay-per-click) basis, so you’re only paying for clicks you receive.
You’re not limited to search text ads. You can utilize banner ads with a variety of targeting methods and gain access to Google’s massive network of partner sites (and mobile apps) to display the ads. You can target by keywords, placements, gender, age, geography, affinity data, topics and more. This gives you enough control to get as granular as possible – showing ads to only the people you’ve determined are you most likely prospects for the message used in this specific ad set. You can have multiple ads, ad groups and campaigns – each with its own target and set of parameters. Different methods utilize different cost structures, so you have to be mindful of the approach you’re taking, but you’ll normally be faced with two cost structures – CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Ads geared toward action will a more likely to utilize a CPC structure, while ads geared toward awareness will utilize CPM cost.
Banners, done right, can be a stellar addition to your digital strategy. Just like your content, your ads have to be relevant and useful to the audience. If you’ve done a good job creating killer content, this is your chance to show it off!