What is SEM?
One of the first concerns you have to have as a business owner is how exactly to get the word out about your business.
You know you need to market your products and services to people who are out there looking for them.
But how exactly do you reach these people?
One of the fastest and most powerful methods of doing this is by using SEM.
What is this SEM?
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. This simply means that a business can pay for advertisements to show up when people search for keywords related to what they offer in a search engine.
The ads can be at the top of the search results and typically always show up on the first page.
While there are many search engines out there, the big three are Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Of those three, Google gets 90% of all the search engine traffic in the world.1 Google’s search volume is at about 2 trillion searches per year and as more people get computers and smartphones, that number keeps growing.
So it is best to focus your efforts on Google primarily.
Traditionally, there have been two options for marketing a business on a search engine: paid (SEM) and organic (SEO).
SEM (paid ads): This is exactly how it sounds. You pay for advertisements for your business to show up at the top of search results when people search for a specific keyword related to your business. When people click your ads, you pay Google. Also known as PPC or pay-per-click.
SEO (organic search results): You may have heard of organic search marketing by another name such as SEO (which stands for Search Engine Optimization). This means that you optimize the content on your website to be of such value that Google’s algorithm decides it should be near the top of the natural search results.
The only trouble with SEO is that it can ebb and flow and sometimes be inconsistent. While you may build up good search rankings naturally, Google changes its algorithm from time to time to improve and deliver the best results to its users.
While you may do a great job keeping your content up to date, it only takes one update by Google to lose potential organic traffic because of a rankings drop.
While it is smart to have a SEO strategy in place for your website, you should still have a safeguard in place to make sure your business is always getting a steady flow of traffic, leads, and customers.
This is accomplished by implementing a paid SEM plan.
How well does SEM work?
Using SEM as a cornerstone of your digital marketing plan is an extremely powerful tool.
Ideally, you would want to expose as many customers to your marketing pieces, content, and products and services as you possibly can. You also want to do this as efficiently and inexpensively as possible.
SEM is a great way to keep your marketing costs down:
“In terms of cost per lead, SEM is the most efficient online marketing tool. It only costs about 29 cents per lead compared to email marketing, which is about 50 cents per lead.” 2
Google Adwords (Google’s advertising platform) allows you to target your ads based on the location of the searcher. If you are selling something that can be shipped, this is not as big of a deal. But if you are a local business, this can be vital to your success:
“Targeting your ads locally is important. 72% of all searches for a local store within 5 miles lead to a store visit.” 3
Another reason paid SEM works so well is because you get immediate results that can be used to make adjustments to your website and marketing funnels. This is great because SEO results can take some time to build up as you grow your business.
By using the paid ads strategy on Google, you can immediately see which ads and information capture pages work the best to get new leads for your business and convert them into customers!This becomes even more important when used in combination with your SEO efforts.
SEO is great because you can build a body of work over time. Potential customers can do some research into your business and find articles you have written, videos you have created, pictures you have shared, and so on.
SEO is truly a long-term branding strategy that every smart business owner should put into place to attract more of their ideal clients and customers.
The power in using these two approaches together is that now you can take your best converting lead capture pages (as measured by your paid SEM campaigns) and link to them from your established optimized content that ranks because of your SEO campaigns.
When you combine the immediate feedback loop from paid SEM ads and the long term game plan of SEO, you can truly take your business to the next level!
How much should you spend on SEM for your business per month?
This is truly a case of “it depends”.
There are several factors to think about when developing a SEM strategy to market your business on Google.
The cost of the ads. Google Adwords as with many advertising platforms charges for advertising in 2 primary ways. PPC or CPM. PPC is pay-per-click. CPM is a fancy acronym for your rate per thousand impressions (or times your ad is shown). Most businesses will be fine with paying per click. Switching to CPM may be a strategy to use only after the conversion rates are established and it effectively lowers the overall ad cost.
The Industry. The more expensive the products in your industry, the higher the cost of the ads will be. Ads for mortgage brokers are more expensive than ads for a bakery.
The Area. If you live in a big city, your business will have a larger pool of potential customers to market to than if you live in a small town. This typically means a higher ad spend because of more ads being run but also because those leads may be worth more in that city.
Your competition. If you have competitors that are bidding on the same keywords as you, then this can make your ad costs go up. If your competitors are not advertising, then this is a major opportunity for you to get a leg up on them.
Your ad manager. This is the cost you should strongly consider taking on to have a professional agency run your ad campaigns for you. This will allow you to focus on running your business without the added duty of creating ad campaigns, monitoring them, and making adjustments.
Considering the above factors, you will typically need to define your company’s marketing budget.
How much of that are you able to contribute to SEM advertising?
If your answer is $1000 or greater, you probably also need to hire a professional to manage your ad campaigns.
What is the average cost of SEM services?
In many cases, using an agency for SEM services is comparable in cost to hiring a full-time employee, but with a much greater return on investment. Plus, they're able to work within a fully integrated omnichannel marketing strategy.
This can vary from one SEM management agency to another. Some charge a flat fee. Some charge a percentage of the ad spend they are managing.
The important thing is to contact the agency that you are considering hiring to manage your SEM ads for you. They can help you figure out if they have an option that works best for your business needs and marketing budget.
They may also offer services as a SEO company and can help you figure out options for that as well.
By hiring a quality agency to take care of the search engine marketing piece for you, you can go back to doing what you do best: serving your clients and customers!