Search engine marketing (SEM) used to refer to both organic and paid methods of increasing your website’s rank on search engines. It is now more commonly associated with the latter, and has come to be synonymous with several other terms, including pay-per-click (PPC), cost-per-click (CPC), paid search, and AdWords (which is specific to advertising on Google). No matter what you call it, running an SEM campaign can make a huge difference in the online visibility and growth of your business.
The Importance of SEM
Paid search campaigns specific to Google are called Adwords campaigns. With over 40,000 search queries every second, showing up at the top of Google search results can up your business to a whole new segment of potential customers.
The Challenge with SEM
However, with so many other businesses advertising, the plethora of search terms to target, and Google’s ever changing algorithms, it can be daunting to identify the strategy that will yield the highest return. To help the new user get started, or to help the veteran users improve, here are six savvy SEM tips to help you maximize the results of your paid search campaigns.
SEM Tip #1: Implement Tracking
While impressions and clicks are important metrics to monitor, measuring the success of your campaign goes way beyond your click-through rate (CTR). Your Adwords data offers many insights, but it does not tell you how many of those clicks turned into phone calls, website form submissions, or new sales leads. Your first SEM tip is to incorporate lead tracking into your campaigns as a more strategic indicator of ROI.
Tracked Phone Numbers
With tracked phone numbers, you use a different phone number for each of your campaigns. Even though each number will forward to your main number, you now a way of identifying which campaign the user saw that lead them to call your business.
With tracked links, you take the original link of the page you are trying to promote or advertise, and add a unique code to the end of it for each of the different ways you are advertising it. Regardless of where a user sees your link (on a search engine vs on a social media post, for example), they are directed to the same page. However, since each URL is unique, your analytics will track clicks to each unique URL, allowing you to see which channels people are coming in from/
With tracking enabled, you will have a tangible number to determine how many roofing jobs (or haircut appointments, or equipment rental requests) you received thanks to your search campaign.
SEM Tip #2: Write Competitive Ad Copy
It’s important to differentiate your ad from the dozen other ads that might appear on the search results page. To come up with compelling ad copy, think about what sets you apart from your competitors. Are you licensed and insured? Do you offer free quotes? Does your company provide same-day service or free shipping? What about having the largest inventory in New England? Use your two lines of ad copy wisely to distinguish your business from competitors, and convey why your offer is worth clicking on.
SEM Tip #3. Include Ad Extensions
Ad extensions are used to show extra information in particular areas of your ad (such as adding additional links to your site or displaying additional contact information). They don’t cost extra, but if they increase the number of clicks your ad receives, you may use up your budget more quickly.
Ad extensions have a mix of pros and cons. They help your listing to occupy more space on the results page, which can help with your online visibility. Also, the extra content may provide the details that users may need in order to click (improving CTR, which means more web traffic). On the other hand, sometimes the more content a user has to read through, the more likely they are to disengage.
SEM Tip #4: A/B Test Your Ads
A/B testing is an essential tool for SEM success. The initial build-out of an SEM campaign can seem daunting, but don’t just settle for the first ad copy you come up with. Create multiple versions of each ad and ad group. With an A version and B version of each ad, you can experiment to see what language and which calls to action gain the most traction.
What will users find more appealing, “Prices as low as $99.99” or “Receive $50 off today”? With A/B testing, you can optimize around what works.
SEM Tip #5. Negative keywords
SEM ads are designed to show up for specific keywords that you choose—terms users are likely to type into search engines when seeking your product or service. While keywords are central to your campaign, negative keywords are sometimes equally as important. Negative keywords are the terms for which you can prevent your ad from showing up, to ensure that the Google is serving up only the most qualified, relevant impressions.
Is there a product or brand you do not sell? Or a service you will not provide? Does the product you offer have multiple meanings (computer chips, potato chips)? These are the terms to add to your negative keyword list. Negative keywords help to ensure your ads are displaying to users who are more likely to click. They also save you from paying for clicks by users who are not relevant.
SEM Tip #6: Use Landing Pages
Instinct may tell you to link all SEM ads right to your homepage, allowing the user to navigate themselves to where they want to go. Do not do this! Use landing pages! Users want (and need) you to bring them directly from the ad to the exact item it was offering. The content and URL of your landing page should be highly relevant to the keywords you are targeting (it should include them). “View Our Full Inventory!” should bring users right to the inventory page. This will ensure that your new web traffic can quickly see and access the specific info they are looking for.
A good landing page also makes clear what the next steps are, through a clear call to action. Call! Sign up today! Contact us for your instant quote! In addition, any particular brands, makes, or products referenced in the ad copy should be clearly visible. Anyone looking for a Toro mower should not be directed to a page dedicated to Husqvarna.
Finding success in SEM goes way beyond setting up a keyword list and budget. It takes experimentation and strategic data analysis. What works? What doesn’t work? With the strategies highlighted above, an SEM novice can start to become a savvy digital marketer.