Your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Strategy Guide

Search Engine Marketing, also known as SEM or paid search, seems simple at first glance. SEM goes something like this: you go to Google Ads (or Bing Ads), add in your location reach, bid on some keywords, insert an ad, and you’re away. However, ensuring that your SEM is as effective as possible for the cost takes a bit of work and knowledge. Luckily, we’ve got some tips below based on our extensive experience.

Choosing the right Search Engine for SEM

First off, there are two main SEM platforms – one for Google (Google Ads) and one for Bing (Bing Ads). So, do you choose one or the other? Both? The answer is it depends. Let’s take a look at your options.

85% of Bing users are based in the USA and 87% of Bing users are using Internet Explorer where Bing is the default search engine (not so tech-savvy then!). The typical user of Bing is older too, between 55 and 64 years old, and has a higher disposable income than Google users. On the other hand, Googles users are younger, mostly between 18 and 44.

The most defining difference between the two is their difference in market share: Google has a whopping 74% of global market share, whereas Bing has around 11%. This means you’re going to reach a lot more people across Google’s Display Network than you are Bing’s. However, the price of SEM on each platform takes this into account – Bing Ads can be up to 70% cheaper than Google Ads.

So, what can we conclude from all these numbers? The search engine you choose for your SEM strategy depends on the target demographic of your product or service. If you’re targeting older users in the USA with a high disposable income, then Bing might be right for you instead of Google! Bing has the benefit of being more targeted, so if your product and service fit the bill, this is a cheap way to reach your customers.

Start off small

If this is your first SEM campaign, start off by running a few ads to figure out what you’re doing. Keep track of your results, analyse them and adjust from there. Analysing your data is important so you can understand what ads are doing well and which aren’t, and what you might need to tweak for next time. You want to avoid getting overwhelmed by the number of ads you have going and not being able to manage your results. Starting off small will ensure that you get the best bang for your buck!

Target the right keywords

This is one of the most important sections of SEM! Popular keywords can get really expensive to target, and you can end up spending a fortune bidding on keywords which don’t necessarily lead to conversions. These are often called “head” keywords – usually short keywords (one or two terms) which are highly competitive and popular. These keywords are getting a lot of traffic, so they may sound like logical keywords to target initially. Since there’s a lot of competition for head keywords, the cost per click (CPC) is going to be high and the chance your page is exactly what users want is low. This means your conversion rate is most likely going to be low, coupled with a very high CPC. Hence, targeting head keywords is an expensive strategy most likely giving you a poor return on investment (ROI)! Doesn’t sound too great after all, does it?

This is where “long-tail” keywords come in. Being longer and more specific there is less competition – consequently, the CPC is going to be lower. Users searching these keywords will also be specifically seeking your product or service, so they’re more likely to convert. Two key benefits arise from long-tail keywords: (1) high rates of conversion and (2) relatively lower costs. If you’re not convinced just yet here’s some numbers for you: long-tail keywords get 2.5x more conversions than head keywords, and 70% of searches are for long-tail keywords. Ultimately, your ROI is going to be much higher for long-tail keywords than head keywords. Moral of the story, using long-tail keywords is a strong and cost-effective SEM strategy.

Another effective SEM strategy is to target keywords that you’re getting hits for with a lower page rank. You can also target variations of these keywords. If you’re getting clicks despite your lower page rank your site is going to be what users are looking for, so this is a good place to use SEM! Boosting your site to the top of the list will increase your visibility for a keyword search you know you’re relevant for and drive some leads or conversions!

Match your landing page to your ad

Consistency is key! Users hate it when they click on an ad and get redirected to a webpage that’s irrelevant to what they were searching for. I REPEAT: do not link your specific SEM ads to your generic homepage. Make sure you have a landing page linked to your ad that is specific and relevant to the advertisement. This way, users can get the information they were looking for as soon as your page loads. This is where the “three second rule” is crucial. Essentially, you have three seconds to show users what they are looking for, otherwise, they will bounce from your website. If they’ve come from a SEM ad, that’s an expensive missed conversion!

Consistency between your ad and the landing page it links to will make sure you obey the three second rule. This will decrease your bounce rate and increase conversions, making your ads worthwhile. This is particularly important for SEM ads as they are based on a Pay Per Click (PPC) basis, so every person that clicks on your ad is costing you money. This includes those who bounce!

Your landing pages should also be optimised for your SEM ads to make sure they are as effective as possible. This will work towards increasing your conversion rates and decreasing your bounce rates – meaning that you get more bang for your buck! This can be done through traditional A/B testing, however, this takes a lot of time, effort and data input to produce meaningful data for optimisation. Instead, we recommend Unbounce who have recently released their AI driven landing page optimisation process “Smart Traffic”. This gives feedback on optimisation with only 50 page visits – meaning you can get the data you need to optimising your page quickly! For a discount on Unbounce’s services (you can also create beautiful landing pages through their software), click here.


Test it! 

If you’re not quite sure what will be most effective with your SEM ads then test them out. A/B testing can help you test out what type of ad is most effective. With A/B testing you can create variations of an ad which are then randomly distributed to users. You can choose to test any of the following (and more!): headline, text, landing page linked, keywords targeted. Comparing the results between ads is crucial!

One of the most important metrics to analyse is your click-through rate – the number of people who are clicking on your ad. The other important metric is the conversion rate from each ad. This data will tell you which ad variation is most effective, and which you should be continuing with.

Review on a daily basis

Review, review, review! The analytics of your SEM ads are crucial to improving your SEM strategy. This data will let you know which ads are not performing well, which ads you need to tweak, and which are successful. SEM platforms will give you a lot of information, which can be difficult to understand if you’re new to SEM. If you’re feeling overwhelmed have a look at WordStream they can provide optimisation recommendations for your SEM campaigns.

Get started!

Now you’ve got some tips to start building your SEM strategy or alter your existing strategy, it’s time to get working on it! We are well aware that figuring out the best keywords for your business is a difficult process. We recommend that you take a look at WordStream if you need a hand with your SEM strategy. Their services will help you determine what keywords are best for your business, and help you optimise your SEM strategy. For a free trial of WordStream click this link! Best of luck!


Check out some of our other blog posts on SEO 

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