Firstly What is SEM?
Search Engine Marketing (not to be confused with Search Engine Optimisation), to quote Wikipedia is defined as follows: "Search engine marketing, (SEM), is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion". In other words, it's paying to get your advert/link displayed on search engines.
Why use SEM?
SEM is fast becoming the preferred method of advertising for many companies, because it offers many advantages over conventional advertising such as paid press ads, these include:
- Targeted marketing to specific locations
- Targeted marketing based on specific "Keywords"
- Virtually instant results
- Easily manageable budget
- Easy to monitor impact/ROI
- Great statistical data
- Easy to change settings/marketing campaigns
Types of SEM
There are many types of SEM, but the best know and most commonly used are as follows:
PPC - Pay Per Click, the most commonly known SEM method used by companies like Google. Within PPC there is usually PFP (Pay For Placement) where you bid on certain keywords, and the price you bid, dictates where you are placed on the page (higher bids getting the better placement).
Paid inclusion/Paid submissions/Directory enhancements, this is where you either:
- Pay for submission in search results (only some search engines do this for ethical reasons)
- Pay for inclusion in to a directory
- Pay to have your listing is a directory improved (better position, more prominently displayed)
CPI (cost per impression) is effectively pay per display. This usually is used with banner advertising, where you effectively pay every time your banned is displayed, although you would usually buy a block of displays say 10,000 displays, and your advert would be displayed in rotation until it ran out.
Which should I use?
You guessed it, this varies from one business to another, but the most commonly used is PPC. Many opt for PPC because it is easy to manage, you can start from a very small budget, and you can get virtually instant results.
Should I just use Google?
No, Google is one of the best known and a great starting place, and it has fantastic tools to support its PPC, but so long as you are careful which schemes you use, and you monitor them all carefully, you should over time look at more that just Google for your SEM. There are many other busy search engines/directories out there with various ways of getting listed on them including Ask, Yahoo, Bing and a growing number of internet provider companies/supermarkets with their own systems that more and more people are using including Virgin, Orange, Sainsburys. You should investigate each carefully as their ROI varies. If you use an Internet Marking Expert they should have a good grasp of which are the best to use at the time, which will obviously vary from market to market.
Getting it wrong
Getting SEM wrong can be very costly. There are many factors to look out for. Spending loads of money on a campaign that gets you no business is the obvious one, but you also need to look out for the harder to spot. Running at a loss e.g. if you are using PPC and paying £0.10 per click, you convert 10% of these, so you have a cost of £1 per sale, and the profit margin on your product is £0.80, you are looking at a loss of £0.20.
For people not looking for sales conversions, you need to watch your bounce rate from click throughs, a 90% bounce rate would tell you that only 10% of the people driven to your site through the purchased link find it relevant. To some this would be terrible, others may consider this about right for their site.
In short, watch your stats very carefully, and make sure you are not wasting money.
SEO can be part of some SEM
Where you are using SEM and keywords, you will find that some PPC system still use SEO scoring to effect your SEM placement and bid costs. I know that was a pile of acronyms, basically what we are saying is, if the pages you target when doing your Pay-Per-Click (advertisings based on keyword terms) are not optimised well from the terms you are using this may effect what you pay (i.e. you will pay more) and where you are listed on the page.
Testing tool for SEO
Using small SEM samples to test potential SEO terms gets you fast results that help you to assess which SEO terms are best targeted without spending lots of money optmising your site for terms that don't work.
Using an online marketing expert
If you find a good online marketing expert, they should be able to help you get your SEO and SEM right more quickly in order to establish better and faster ROI. In many cases you will find they actually save you money.