Search Engine Marketing


Did you know that, for 85% of retail businesses, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the most successful strategy for acquiring new customers?


Or that 63% of users will likely click on a paid search ad on Google?


Search engine marketing is a very powerful tool for nurturing leads online, generating higher conversion rates, and improving your business’s overall digital efficiency.


In this article, we will explain what search engine marketing is, what types and platforms exist, what benefits SEM brings for your business, and what best practices to follow when coming up with your own SEM campaign.


What Is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing is the systematic use of search engine advertising platforms to increase brand visibility and attract qualified traffic to the website.


Your business’s SEM strategy has to consider all the search engines that your prospects and target audience use. It also needs to take into account platforms and websites that rank high in search results for your target keywords.


It also encompasses owned media platforms such as social media, review sites, Google My Business pages, and others that appear in search results and affect your authority.


Some of the most common search engines and their respective ad platforms include:


  • Google (Google Ads)
  • Yahoo (Yahoo Gemini)
  • Bingo (Microsoft Advertising)


The search engine marketing objective is to reach the highest ranking position on a specific search engine.


SEM is quite often – and quite erroneously – mistook for search engine optimization. They are both related to search engines and target audiences who search online using keywords. However, SEM has quite a different approach in that it focuses on delivering ads to prospective customers.


SEM is a business model for monetization of search engines: a great part of Google’s $162 billion in 2019 revenue came from SEM.


What Types Of Search Engine Marketing Exist?

There are several main types of Search Engine Marketing:


  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search ads (PPC and PPM)
  • Owned Media Platforms
  • Third party authority websites (Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.)


All of these platforms are covered by digital agency services provided by the best online marketing companies out there.


Your SEM strategy should consider how to maximize your business’s reputation on all of these platforms for the purpose of boosting visibility and increasing clicks to your website.


Why Does SEM Matter For Your Business?

Being present on the first page of search results for your target keywords is of critical importance to your sales and online marketing efforts.


For businesses in general, being present online is fundamental to revenue, brand image, and online business reputation. And this is what SEM can deliver.


SEM is very useful when aligning your business with search intent, which users are signaling with their search queries. Knowing their search intent regarding your business puts you in the driving seat to serve them content and messaging that they will respond to.


Other benefits of SEM include:


  • Results-based cost: Your business pays only according to SEM campaign results such as clicks and conversions. You don’t pay for displaying the ads on the search page, which is a very cost-effective model.
  • Measurable results: Web analytics systems such as Google Analytics keep SEM results thoroughly tracked and measured, increasing the profitability of the campaign. This allows for real-time optimization and adjustment of SEM campaigns, ad copy, targeting, keywords, or landing pages, which lowers the advertising cost and gets scores of higher quality.
  • High ROI: According to Google’s Economic Impact report, every paid search click makes five organic clicks on SEPRs and every $1 spent on Google Ads produces $8. Depending on the level of SEM optimization and your industry, the ROI can be higher or lower, but the point is, it is always favorable.
  • Accurate targeting: SEM uses targeted keywords that are relevant to your services and products and the terms your target audience is searching for. Researching the right, profitable keywords to use in SEM campaigns will result in more accurate targeting of highly qualified prospects that are likely to convert. SEM also allows you to narrow down your targeting to specific locations, age groups, genders, and other demographic metrics.
  • SEO opportunities: Successful SEM campaigns come with another unexpected benefit: they provide useful data for improving your SEO. This can be, for instance, a trend in search patterns that you discover early and implement into your SEO strategy. Also, seeing how your competitors advertise on search engines will lend insight into their keywords.

SEM Strategy Best Practices

To reap the greatest possible benefits for your business online, you need to rank high for your keywords but also convey authority and trustworthiness with your target audience for the keywords they are using.


The first thing to do when coming up with an SEM strategy is to track which keywords you want to rank for. When creating your SEM strategy, keep these tips in mind:


  • Know your objectives: The above measuring framework is the basis for a larger search engine marketing strategy that should always be tied to your business’s goals such as generating leads, boosting brand awareness, or increasing sales.
  • Maximize your budget: For SEM, maximizing your budget is essential. This can be done by removing negative keywords from ad groups to performing conversion rate optimization to improve return on ad spend.
  • Get better results with split testing: To compare ads and landing pages with different designs and messaging, use split testing to acquire conclusive data to support future spending. This can help you establish which ads and combination of ads and landing pages are the most effective. Scaling your marketing by sending funds to the more successful option will benefit your SEM campaign.
  • Align your landing pages with your ads: While it is important to create the most enticing and convincing ads possible, it’s also important that you do not neglect the landing pages they will lead to. It is critical that your landing page delivers on the ad’s promise. Align the two by creating a clear correlation between them with copy, messaging, and visuals.
    • The messaging on the landing page must reflect the one from the ad
    • Images and visual cues from the ad should also appear on the landing page
    • Build credibility with social proof
    • Use SSL seals and other trust symbols to boost trustworthiness
  • Use return on ad spend (ROAS) as your metric: Even though you can track SEM’s efficiency with several different metrics, using the return on ad spend is generally advised by most marketers. ROAS determines the average advertising spend return with this formula: revenue/ad spend = ROAS.


Search engine marketing is a highly effective strategy for boosting your business’s online success. Its basis is careful targeting of your target audience with relevant ads, resulting in greater revenue and brand visibility.


Author Bio

Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. He is focused on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels.

Just Horrible

I don’t mean to kick anyone while they are down but we think it is important to showcase a handful of horrible examples of other individuals and businesses requesting search engine marketing efforts to grow visibility. Search engines evolve drastically each year and many of these examples show the wide disconnect that still exists in the search engine marketing space. There is strategy and quality and there is something else. That something else is not going to help you grow.

From time to time we like to patrol sites like Elance and Guru to see what kind of projects people are requesting services for. Here is some of the worst cases we have come across recently.

Example #1

Horrible SEM Examples 1

$25.00 bucks for two websites? Seriously? Let’s start off by saying it is not just about rankings anymore but if you are going to hire a company that approaches SEO with some quality you are going to have to pay more than $25.00 a website. This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank but consumers need to be realistic here. Companies spend significant time executing strategy and growing streams of inbound marketing and visibility for websites.

Example #2

Horrible SEM Examples 2

Where do I even begin with this one? Let’s first point out that no site on the planet is going to rank first for the term “Facebook” but Facebook itself. The fact that someone would even think that is possible just blows my mind and really does not understand how search engines work. I don’t expect everyone to understand search engines but some homework should be done if you are going to shop for SEM services.

Next, hours?? This is website marketing not a magic show for heaven’s sake. If you offer services that compliment Facebook you can certainly go after long tail service type keywords but to go after the term “Facebook” as number 1 is just ludicrous especially within hours.

Example #3

Horrible SEM Examples 3

Facebook Like’s occur when someone enjoys your brand. You can’t force it no matter how much you try. Sure you can buy shotty services that give your page the appeal of more like’s but if you want quality fans you need a quality business. The fact that someone would indicate they need this within 20 hours is also crazy.

Example #4

Horrible SEM Examples 4

More is not always more in search marketing. More traffic doesn’t mean success. There should always be some sort of strategy to the type of traffic that is ideal for your website.

Example #5

Horrible SEM Examples 5

For the most part this is not a completely bad request for search engine marketing services. There is one hang up we have with it, time. Search engine marketing takes time when conducting organic efforts. There is a lot of competition everywhere you look and you have to compete against that. If you want to dive into the search engine marketing territory you need to be willing to put the time into it.

Example #6

Horrible SEM Examples 6

Let’s first take a good look at the hourly rate indicated, $5 or less per/hour. Maybe during the 1940’s it was okay to pay someone $5 per hour (or less!) but not in 2012. What kind of marketing expertise and guidance are you going to be able to receive for $5 per/hour? I know small children that have lemonade stands that require more for payment.

Example #7

Horrible SEM Examples 7

Two words, science project. This is not website marketing, this is 100% science and science does not grow a brand online. Let’s for one second pull one of these ridiculous ingredients out of this request. 156 press releases?? The total cost they would like to spend is $200 for this entire menu. 156 press releases written and distributed is a rather large order never-mind the 741 social bookmarks wanted. This is insanity.


For all of you out there that work in the search engine marketing space you know what I mean when I say “things that make you cringe” when you are discussing in person or over the phone different topics and SEM strategies relating to search engine marketing. I know I have heard my share of comments over the years and if you are reading this chances are you have to.

Let’s go over a few shall we:

“Oh I don’t need social media”

What?? Have you turned on a computer or a TV recently? Every television show is starting to showcase Twitter hash tags and the whole world now revolves around Facebook and Google. Google which has spent the last 7 years trying to figure out how to get into this social space which I think they have finally figured out is another large reason why social media is important. The fact is that social media is required by everyone who runs or owns a business, no exceptions. If you want to be successful online you have to be social online because the overlap between traditional search marketing (I know small shelf life there) and social media is pretty thick.
Here are 3 great examples of social media success:


“I have to be number 1 in Google”

We all do. The fact is if your goal for your company SEO is to simply be number 1 in Google you are going about it all wrong. SEO is not a race it is a process and a journey that is almost always engulfed in improvement. Search engine optimization is a rather slow process which is only getting slower because every day more and more content is being dumped and more businesses are firing up their own SEO campaigns. SEO today is all about improving your standings in the search space and building your brand not just being #1.

“Well I was told this is how you are supposed to do it”

There are many different philosophies and approaches to building a brand online and conducting SEM. Often times no two approaches are alike which is why it is important to have an open mind to all SEM efforts and activities. If someone once told you that something should be done one way that does not mean that it is the only or even the right way.

“Oh I don’t need a website”

Folks if you make a paycheck selling anything anywhere you 100% without a doubt absolutely need a website. You need to have a focal point you can send your traffic so they can learn more about you and so that you can build your brand in front of your internet audience. A business without a website is like peanut butter without the butter. It just doesn’t work.

“SEO doesn’t really work”

It actually does work it just depends on what your idea of SEO is. For many the definition simply revolves around rankings but the reality is that the definition is multi-pronged. SEO when done correctly will build your brand for company branded search queries and also bring a steady stream of inbound traffic over time while increasing rankings and conversions on your website. To simply dismiss the process of SEO because you are not number 1 is just silly.

“Do you guarantee rankings?”

If you ask this question you should take a moment and read this official Google SEO page discussing this very topic.

Here is the link:

“I got SEM services before for $49 per/month?”

Those weren’t SEM services; you were just paying for a pretty report every month. It is not all about money but like everything on this great planet we live on you get what you pay for. Do you really think you can have a successful online marketing campaign for that dollar amount? You just can’t. It takes time and quality knowledge to execute a healthy search engine marketing campaign, something that typically has a realistic price tag attached to it.

“How come they rank and I don’t?”

Well search engine rankings are a lot like DNA, it can be complicated. With over 1,000 search signals and a fast evolving industry there could be many different reasons why a competitor web page out ranks yours. Everything from hosting, to URL age to social media influence play a pivotal role in why pages rank the way that they do. Don’t assume it is all about links although links are an important part of the equation.

“I need 100,000 Facebook Fans”

Great! Build a great brand and it will happen naturally. You cannot force people to become fans of your fan page if they do not have some sort of connection with your brand. Companies that promise you X amount of Facebook fans are just taking your money because the majority of those “likes” will most likely be manufactured.

“I need an article re-written 25 times”

And why do you think that will work? Because it won’t. Article spinning is an old method of article “marketing” (and I use that term loosely) in order to inundate the search space with an article and get the most use of one piece of written garbage. Write unique content with catch industry topics if you want your content marketing to work how it should.

SEO Firing

SEO can be a very weird and strange type of investment for many new comers. Intangible in nature, no industry standard, no unified approach and very foggy descriptions at times make SEO an even stranger investment for many businesses. There are however something’s that should be part of the process when purchasing search engine optimization that just go without saying. If you currently have an SEO person or company working for you and you are on the fence to let them go, see if they fall into any of these categories.

Impossible to Get A Hold Of

Can you never get a hold of your company or SEM person? Does the phone ring and ring with no answer? Do emails take a week for a response? These are signs that you might want to fire your SEO person. Any professional search engine marketer knows that this purchase is confusing and rather complicated for many businesses and the communication factor needs to be strong. The client needs to know that you are there with answers at all times. Lack of communication can be very frustrating on the behalf of the client.

Vague Answers

I have no problems explaining in depth every single step I am taking when I help a client with their search engine marketing needs. I think some SEO people are scared that their clients will take the information and run with it but the reality is that it is not going to happen. A client needs to know what is going on at all times so they feel good about their investment. Leaving them in the dark is not going to lead to anything good. If you have an SEO person and you have absolutely no idea what they are doing at any given moment I think it might be time to move on and find someone new if the answers continue to be vague.

No Production or Evidence

I once met a client who had an SEO company working for them for a year. When I searched the company name I found not one single piece of evidence that anything was even done. No PR, no article, no business profiles, nothing just a spreadsheet with this most horrible links I have ever see. The right search engine marketing company will have your search results looking nicely polished and robust with a variety of good and useful information to help your brand grow.

No Analytics Increase

Have you been watching your analytics closely for quite a while and nothing has been happening? Has it been 6 months and virtually no new traffic has found its way to your website? Search engine optimization is a long term effort and depending on your industry could take some time to break into the search results but after 6 months there should be some sort of traffic increase, large or small there should be an increase you can see.

No Company Address

If you have all of the above and there is no address for you search engine marketing company the jig is up. There are certain red flags and no address means someone does not want to be found. If they are not U.S based they should tell you up front and let you know what is going on and where they are located. Your businesses marketing is in their hands so you should know everything about them.

I’m not saying go fire your SEO right away but take a look at these factors and see if your company falls into any of these. Search engine marketing is changing and it is important your approach is rock solid so that you can build your business online for the future. Find a vendor you are comfortable with and stick with them.

Google Plus


Optimization and SEO of your Google+ page is going to be an important effort once you get it up and running. Some people do it without really thinking about it and others miss great opportunities on their profiles to enhance the user experience and also their own SEO. The new Google+ profile pages have a great deal of opportunity to enhance user experience and strengthen an individuals or brands search engine optimization efforts.


For anyone who understands the world of SEO they know that links are quite important and that is one area the new Google+ pages really give you an opportunity to showcase what you have.


Google Plus Page Optimization

Let’s take a look at some of the more obvious locations.


  • Top Title: The top title portion allows for a tag line underneath your name. If you are using this profile for professional reasons label exactly what it is that you offer. Try utilizing some keywords into the mix as well. Are the keywords going to be the make or break the business for you? Probably not but it really doesn’t hurt to utilize some when ever you can.
  • Introduction: The introduction is an important area to focus on because it really allows you to put some nice content into the mix while being able to leave behind hyper linked keywords. Now you don’t want to over do it with your hyper links but a few that make sense for your audience will certainly help you out quite a bit.
  • Side Bar Links: This is where you really need to pay close attention. This area gives you the ability to really showcase yourself as a business and also a brand. Links to other profiles, areas of contribution and recommended links are what Google wants you to showcase from a link standpoint. You want to make sure you utilize this area not only to build your credentials as a professional in your field but also to drive some nice link power to each source assuming some of the sources will be sites that you personally own.

Google + Button Display Ads

Google has been scrambling for some time now to incorporate an impactful social feature that actually grows and prospers and Google + has been their best attempt to date. So many efforts over the years have hit the cutting room floor but their latest attempt is certainly gaining some traction.

Google announced this week that their +1 button will start appearing in the Google display network as well.

“As we explained in our initial announcement several weeks ago, we believe that incorporating personal recommendations into display ads has the potential to change the way people view advertising. A display ad becomes much more powerful when people can see which of their friends and contacts have chosen to endorse it.

We’re working to add the +1 button and annotations to all eligible inventory over the next couple weeks. So while you might not see them immediately, we’re working hard to roll them out to all advertisers as quickly as possible.”

How will this change their display advertising?

Well Google is hoping that it creates a type of social connection with all audiences when it comes to advertising. Advertising is advertising but if you ad the social connection to it you can virtually change the way people look at certain ads.


Spelling plays an important role when it comes to the SEO of a website. Google claims it is not a direct factor they use but it does have some weight when determining the SEO power of a web page. Now with that said you should always try and use proper spelling and grammar but mistakes do happen — we are only human.

In this YouTube video Matt Cutts discussing just how spelling and grammar can affect your search engine optimization.