A Complete Guide to SEM (Paid Search)


What is SEM?

When you buy ads on any Search Engine Result Pages to initiate a process to drive incoming website traffic, that is called SEM or Search Engine Marketing. Initially, SEMs were meant to mean any and all activities of a market variety on Search Engines, but recently it has come to mean simply paid search advertising. Remember to not confuse it with display ads, that operate using third-party websites as an alternative to search engines for delivery.

Also Read: How to Do Keyword Research


How does SEM work?

  1. Since advertisers want their ads to pop up when a specific keyword is typed, they select that keyword and keyphrase and add it to the algorithm.
  2. Then the advertisers have to claim how much they can bid on every click.
  3. In the event that a consumer does press the relevant keyword, a bunch of ads would display with the highest bidder’s ads coming out on top and other alternatives subsequently.
  4. If the client decides to check out the first ad, the bidder will be charged for it.

A Brief History of Search Ads

  1. 1990- Archie, the world’s numero uno search engine was developed by Alan Emtage. This was the first engine to search FTP sites which were then used to create a downloadable file index.
  2. 1994- Altavista was brought out- leading to the first site which would allow queries in national languages. It also offered unlimited bandwidth and several other features for the first time.
  3. 1994- Yahoo comes to the foray with its search engine which had its own collection of websites it favored with a description with every URL.
  4. 1996- Sergey Brin and Larry Page start-up Google- a search engine that would solely explore the relationship between two or more websites.
  5. 1997- Yahoo gets the chance to buy Google for a measly price of $1 million. They refuse on the deal, and Google as of 2020 has a valuation of over $100 billion.
  6. 1999- GoTo is formed, which becomes the first company to introduce pay-for-placement for brands to advertise.
  7. 2000- There is a dearth of online advertisers, as the search engine collapses due to the popping of the dot com bubble.
  8. 2000- Google becomes the first company to introduce ‘Adwords’, and a new feature called ‘Quality Score’ where they would rate every single website based on the price of bidding and the clickthrough rates.
  9. 2002- CPC bidding is introduced by Google which allows bidders to start bidding on maximum CPC rather than actual CPC.
  10. 2004- Google hits a share market peak of 84.7% of all search engine searches, and its valuation reaches $23.1 billion.
  11. 2005- Google Analytics is introduced which helps the advertisers to have more control over the ads they bring out.
  12. 2008- Google’s Quality Score feature is updated to allow for more changes to make sure the rankings are appropriate and relevant.
  13. 2010- Microsoft releases its own search engine called ‘Bing’. They collaborate with Yahoo to start taking control of the market from Google.
  14. 2014- Advertising on the internet keeps rising, with an increase of over 90% on mobile advertising.
  15. 2018- Google decided to rebrand the features DoubleClick and AdWords as ‘Google Ads Manager’, and ‘Google Ads’.
  16. Present Day- Search engines are continuously tinkered with to give the best possible outcome and search results for users- also making it easier for advertisers to bid and place ads.

Why SEM Works for Businesses

SEM works for businesses because it gives a brand much-needed exposure. It also provides a website with consistent traffic and views. An SEM has a large global outreach, and can also use comprehensive targeting capabilities.

Search Advertising Platforms


There are three main search advertising platforms- Yahoo, Bing, and Google. Now, you don’t have to think that these are simply competing with each other. Rather, they do complement each other- thereby taking your ads to different places, and providing multiple perspectives.

Search Advertising Statistics

Paid Search

Search advertising has developed quite comprehensively over the years to be seen as an effective channel that would generate leads of qualified sales.

How to Build a Solid Search Advertising Strategy


Developing a Search Ad Plan

If you want to bring about an ad campaign that is successful, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you have a plan in place. You need to document the entire procedure strategically, thereby ensuring that no one moves away from the script. This will also help in measuring all forms of development.

Researching and Selecting Keywords

This is often considered to be the hardest, yet the most crucial part of your ad campaign. Every single word that you choose needs to resonate with the public- and actually be something they would click on a whim. You need to fully research the keyword which you might want to use for the ad. Now, you need to research a word that will actually be of some relevance to the clients which will make them type it out.

Remember, there will always be a roster of words that are bound to perform better than others- which comes with an immense difference in cost-per-click and the price of bidding. Also, most advertisers are always shifting, moving forwards and backwards at extremely fast speeds. So, you need to be sure that you are not stagnant in your search for keywords, and actually be updated with the modern changes in advertisements and SEM.

Creating Search Ad Copy

After the keyword has been selected, you now have the task of searching for the perfect description that would make your clients itch to click it. You need to hit the sweet spot with your meta-description, so it would really help if you employed a good copywriter. Remember, first impressions are extremely important in this business. So the small snippet that you would provide on the search engine needs to be engaging- else you will lose the client for good.

Also, you have to make sure the ad copy so constructed is relevant to the keyword applied. The entire advertisement needs to find relevance in the ad copy, else it will simply get filtered out by the client.

Optimizing Paid Search Campaigns

Reiterating what has already been said, you can’t simply optimize your paid search campaigns by scheduling it for once. It needs to be a continuous, ongoing, consistent process. To ensure that your strategies are competitive enough to prevail in the market, you need to keep testing and updating it.

There are a few areas where you need to take a keen interest in optimization- for it might change the very reception of your advertisement.

  1. Searching for ad account structure
  2. Expansion of the keyword list
  3. Negative keywords
  4. Strategies for bidding.
  5. Strategies for targeting the audience.

This is not the time to get complacent about work- for all these areas can be worked upon, even if you think you have done all that you could have. Keep updating it, because that’s the beauty of paid search- it isn’t a one-time thing.

Building a Relevant Landing Page

Once you have found your keyword, and also written out an ad copy, you need to start looking for appropriate landing pages that will really drive the point home. It is important that the landing page captures all the information that is necessary- because this is going to sell it. Imagine someone has landed on your website after getting convinced by your ad. According to the rules, you are going to pay for the click. So now you might as well give the users something so they actually get interested and use your website.

A landing page should have the following elements:

  1. A headline that is both powerful and engaging.
  2. A lead capture form.
  3. A call-to-action that is precise, firm, and clear.
  4. A brief explanation about the website and/or what the ad is all about.

Remember to never clutter your landing page, for your client might get diverted by something else on your screen, and you will simply lose out on money.

Keyword Bidding Strategies

Here you need to again get back to your goal- that will help you devise a pattern going into the bidding war where you will be able to enforce a specific metric. So, if your plan is to get more impressions, clicks, or conversions, your bidding war strategy would be different. For beginners, the default keyword bidding would be the best, as it would allow one to test their keyword while learning how to take their bidding game to the next level.

There’s a loophole though- if your data is clean from previous campaigns for search ad, you can actually choose a strategy for bidding that is automatic. This allows you to use your old conversion data to help optimize the bids you are going to place.

Account Structure and Budgeting

It is very important that you set up your SEM account very carefully because that will control the triggering of your ads, whilst maintaining the efficiency of your overall ad. When you choose the appropriate campaign type, it helps the ad platform select what to optimize and what not to. Also, you might as well structure your account at the keyword levels to ensure efficient internal processing.

Now, there is the question of budgeting for the campaign. How much does one splurge over ad campaigns? Well, the straight answer is one doesn’t pay much for ad campaigns that haven’t been tested, for they can easily result in losses. You need to depend on your test results to see which ones pass the test and can be allocated a significant amount of budget to. Once you get profitable returns, you can think about bringing in more and more budget for conversion.

Measuring SEM Campaign Performance

Every marketing function depends on the following sequence- Plan, execute, review, and optimize. SEM functions the same way too. You need to track your campaigns because it can get really heavy really fast. You might end up throwing huge amounts of money without knowing if the campaign results are favorable or not. If you want to find out a campaign’s performance, you need to look at its overall goal. If it is defined, all that matters are the strategies that are in place to make sure that the metrics are well taken care of.

Tips to Improve Your Quality Score and Ad Rank For Paid Search

Paid Search

You shouldn’t even be questioning the veracity in improving your quality score, for that will make your cost per click really low, and you would be securing a lot more profit per hit. A metric uplift in quality score will allow you to earn more returns. Also, you will be able to reach the top of the pool, which also means that your competitors wouldn’t be given first preference- you would be. And finally, since cost per click is usually measured using the variables of your Quality score and your successor’s CPC, it will make the CPC of every other competitor really high.

Essential Tools for Your SEM Campaign


SEM has aspects that are allowed for automation, just like a lot of market functions out there. If you have the perfect set of tools at your disposal, not only would you accelerate things up, but you would also be able to reduce human mistakes. And it goes without saying, things would be more efficiently tracked if the right set of tools are used. If you want to make paid search a little bit tumulous for you, here are some tools that will help you get the point across-

  1. Keyword strategy
  2. Copywriting Ads
  3. Research About Your Competitor
  4. Formatting Ads
  5. Budgeting
  6. Management of Accounts

Now, while you do have a roster of tools at your disposal, the trick to finding the perfect suite would be to check up on your goals, and the ad you are giving out; for that will definitely strike gold.

SEM Mistakes to Avoid


See, there aren’t many ways an ad can get messed up through SEM. So, it is usually the first preference for many businesses who want results, and they want it now. But you also need to keep in mind that search engines have a really low barrier when it comes to searching for ads using keywords. This makes the competition really difficult and competitive. And businesses might have to spend a lot to get their ads across- which makes it an extremely common probability of spending huge amounts on something futile.

Do Paid Search Ads Affect SEO?


To put it succinctly, SEO and Search Ads don’t really affect the other. Nevertheless, if your Search Ads are working perfectly on the search engine, that does paint a very pretty picture of your SEO strategies. Firstly, both these concepts use keywords to a huge extent. Sp, information collected on one hand can be served on the other. Also, both SEO and Search Ads need a good landing page to really work. And if you have a good landing page, it complements both the fields.

In the end, you can say that despite neither of them really affecting the other through a direct relationship, they do have a tendency to complement each other in a positive way.

Competing in the Search Advertising Market


Search engines are an extremely competitive landscapes for advertisers due to their low barrier entries for any ads. This makes it really important to keep one’s cards close to themselves, whilst improving simultaneously. But it also makes it possible for other competitors to get a hint of your idea and use it to better theirs. In fact, one can go several feet ahead and actually steal clients from other competitors by surreptitiously bidding on a keyword that your competitor uses.

Use the analytics tool that SEM provides. This will help improve your paid search marketing by finding out deficits in the ads of your biggest competitors. With the deficits, you can actually put them in your ads to give them an entirely comprehensive structure- making them even more attractive.

Also Read: How to Determine and Improve Rankings Decline

SEM is a very useful tool that can be used ad companies actively look to expand their businesses. All it needs is a little acumen, and observational skills, to find out mistakes in their competitors, a bit of foresight to know when to bid, and maybe copywriting skills which will help not only in finding out perfect keywords but also that your paid search ads have a proper copy to it.

But mostly, it needs a vision.