Paid Search Marketing – How SEM Initiates SEO

So, you are thinking about running a paid search campaign?

Let me tell you what you need to know about Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and whether or not SEM may be right for you.  Before I go any further, I would like to point out that Google AdWords is the primary focus of this post, but keep in mind there are plenty of other alternative search engines you can advertise on out there.

What is Google AdWords?

In short, Google AdWords is Google’s online advertising platform.  Basically, Google offers this service that allows you to bid to have a particular ad for your website or product displayed on the search engine results page when particular keywords or phrases are typed by the searcher.  AdWords is awesome because it allows you to take advantage of people searching for products or services on Google that are relevant to your own businesses offerings.  You not only get to choose when you want your ad to appear, but you also determine where.  Below is a screenshot taken from one of HubSpots helpful e-books that visually tells you which part of Google’s search results are paid (SEM), and which parts of the page are unpaid, aka organic.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 5.37.17 PM

How Does it Work?

Now that you know a little more about paid marketing, you should probably understand a little bit more about how Google AdWords works.  Google’s search bots crawl through search results that appear relevant to your ad.  Say you want to attract customers in your local area, well lucky for you, you can geographically target those within a certain radius of your business, making AdWords perfect for small start-ups and local businesses.

Why SEM Rocks.

  • Online advertising allows you to not only show your ads to people that want to see them, but it filters out those that do not.
  • Results are measurable, meaning you can collect data instantly and effortlessly to determine marketing metrics, like your ever so important conversion rate.  That’s very difficult to determine with SEO.
  • AdWords not only helps grow your business, but it creates awareness and attracts customers on the go.
  • Plus, the best part of Adwords is that you know how much you are spending.  For example,  you set your maximum amount you are willing to pay in advance, then you only pay once someone has clicked on your ad, hence the term pay-per-click (PPC) if you choose that route.  How awesome is that?!

Now let’s learn more about the Google Network, aka where ads can appear.

The Google Network

The Google network is the term for all the places Google AdWord ads can appear.  This includes Google search, search sites, popular webpages, and even inside mobile phone apps!  The Google network is divided into two areas, the display network and the search network.

A) The Search Network

  • Includes ads that show up on the sides and tops of google search returns.
  • The Search Network campaigns work by linking Google AdWord keywords to the ads or phrases a searcher types on Google.
  • Makes it easy for one to automatically connect with customers instantly, whether they are on a laptop or mobile device.
  • You can have have all sorts of ads, including simple text ads or ads with extensions and visual enhancements

B) The Display Network

  • Uses attention grabbing visuals, like rich media to match your ads to websites with content related to who you are targeting.
  • Reaches nearly 90% of consumers online in 100 countries
  • Helps build brand awareness & brand loyalty
  • Increases engagement with customers
  • Let’s you select the placements, topics, and audiences for your ad
  • Gives you the option to reach specific or large audiences
  • You can create text ads, image ads, rich media ads, or video ads.

TIP: Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and a higher ad rank (aka a better ad position).

There are 3 Ways to Spend Your Money With AdWords

  1. Cost-per-click (CPC) If you want to focus on clicks on your ads and drive traffic to your website, you will want to use CPC bidding.
  2. Cost per thousand impressions (CPM) If you want to focus on impressions, the # of times your ad shows and increase the awareness of your brand, you’ll want to use CPM bidding.  Note that CPM bidding is available for display Network campaigns only.
  3. Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) If you want to focus on conversions, which is when people take a specific action on your site after clicking on one of your ads, you should use CPA bidding.

How Much Does AdWords Cost?

  • If you choose CPC or CPM bidding, you will not be charged more than what’s needed for your ad to appear higher than the advertiser immediately below you.  Meaning, the highest bid does not guarantee the highest placed ad.
  • If you are using CPA bidding, the actual amount you will be charged might exceed your specific bid, because the actual amount is determined by factors outside of Google’s control.
  • Finally, probably the most important mention about Google AdWords is the ad quality.  A quality ad that links to an appropriate and user-friendly landing page, enhances your rank with Google.

ProTip: Improve your ad formats! This can improve your ad rank, even if you are bidding a lower amount than your competing advertisers.  It pays to create a quality ad!

*If you’re interested in learning more about the price of Google ads, watch this quick video  to understand how your ads quality score works and other factors that determine the rank of your ad at Google.

Paid Search (SEM) Adds Value to Organic Search (SEO).

Now, let’s talk more about the beneficial relationship between SEM and SEO.

Paid search traffic (SEM) is basically the foundation of traffic growth.  One must lay the paid SEM bricks down first.  Then once measurable awareness has increased due to the high control of your rankings, SEO can jump in and help fuel and maintain the traffic boost of your organic search.  In short, SEM is basically the initiator of SEO.  Even though optimal organic search is the ultimate goal, it usually takes years to achieve.  Hence why SEM is so valuable in that it helps initiate the beginning of that growth.  In conclusion, using the two congruently helps you earn twice the amount of visibility through use of both organic and paid search.

If you want to learn more, head to this e-book by HubSpot.


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