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.


Digital Banner SEM - Storm Stanley Marketing Joplin MO


Digital Banners


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!  



Even video ad campaigns can be run through search providers like Google now.  Since Google purchased YouTube, the options and reach capabilities of these video ad campaigns have become a major component to video advertising.  You target these ads similarly to display banners (demographic groups, interests) and choose to display them on specific placements (channels and videos), and throughout websites and apps the display network, which is made up of over 2 million websites and reaches 90% of people on the web.


Being a little nerdy on the video side, it’s common for us to utilize digital video campaigns through AdWords along with paid social and local broadcast TV.  Each gives us a different set of targeting options, and potentially different audiences, to reach with your video ad.


Search Engine Marketing is an important piece of your digital marketing strategy, and what you do with it will depend entirely on your customers’ unique needs and your unique solutions.  Get smarter with your SEM.  Have a plan.  Know where it fits in and what it’s supposed to be doing.

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