Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing (SEM) is using paid digital to help your company, product or service show up in a highly visible location on a search engine results page (SERP). Confused? Although acronyms like SEM and SERP have been around for two decades now, many people—even those who run digital display ad campaigns—still don’t understand exactly what they mean.

In reality, it works like this … When an internet user searches for something online, they type certain words or phrases into a search engine, usually Google. Good SEM learns what the most common search words and phrases are—these are called keywords—and ensures your ad shows up as a result of a search using those keywords.

On a basic level, if you sell periwinkle oval fuzzy widgets, you want to ensure your ad shows up near the top of the results page in an online search for widgets, periwinkle widgets, blue widgets, fuzzy widgets, soft widgets, oval widgets, round widgets, etc., all the potential words a potential buyer might use to search for your product.

Keywords are key

As mentioned above, finding the right keywords is an important part of good SEM. There are various tools that can be used to determine commonly used keywords. Some of the most popular are:

  • SEMRush—a great overall tool for keyword research
  • Google Trendstrack search for a keyword across a region, language or time
  • Keywordtool.Io—start with single keywords and learn what phrases people are searching
  • Google Ads Keyword Planner—learn what’s currently used in Google searches
  • SpyFu—allows you to spy on the keywords your competitors are using across multiple search engines

Making a bid for customers

Once you’ve determined the keywords people are using to find you, your products or your service—and created your ads—what’s next? That’s the magic … You or your media buyer will need to “bid” on keywords. The bidding process determines what company’s ads come up on top of the SERP when certain keywords are used in a search—and how much you’ll pay for that privilege.

Done right, this bidding process requires a significant amount of time spent on research, studying analytical data and monitoring competitive sites—but it’s the most important thing you can do to ensure that your website is truly working for you and helping customers find you online.

To learn more, connect with the programmatic digital media team at SPI. We’ll gladly talk SEM tactics until you beg us to stop!