SEO, SEM, PPC: The acronym soup of online marketing can get confusing. Search engine marketing (SEM) uses paid advertisements to reach the top of the results page when potential clients search for your products and services. Where search engine optimization (SEO) can take months to gain traction and produce organic results, SEM — also known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising — can make an immediate impact.
How Paid Ads Work
SEM advertisements appear clearly labeled as “ads” at the top or to the side of search results pages. They only cost you if someone clicks through to your landing page.
How often your ads appear depends on a combination of factors. Advertisers bid on keywords, which are assigned a quality score by the search engine based on relevance. The score helps the search engine provide the best possible results to users rather than push the highest bidder.
SEM Best Practices
- SEO plays a vital role in the success of search engine marketing. If your website isn’t relevant to the keywords you bid on, your quality score will take a hit and your ads won’t appear as often.
- Choose keywords wisely. While you’re not paying for ads to display, you will be wasting money if search users are clicking through on irrelevant key terms. If you’re not sure where to start, try Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner.
- Optimize your campaigns so your landing pages are relevant to the keywords you’ve selected.
- Target your advertisements. Depending on your business, this may mean showing ads in defined geographic locations, during specific times of the day or on particular devices.
- A/B testing can help you pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t so you can adjust accordingly.
Dipping your toes into unknown waters can be intimidating, but with a little education and effort, you can put search engine marketing to work for your business.