Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a completely free way to boost your website ranking on search engine results and drive more organic traffic to your site. However, SEO can sometimes be a timely and uncertain endeavor. It could take weeks – sometimes months – of daily dedicated efforts before you make it on Google’s first page of search results.
If you want to see faster results and you don’t mind spending a few hundred dollars per campaign, you may want to think about Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM is the process of increasing your search engine ranking through optimization AND paid advertising. You know the little yellow boxes that appear above Google’s Top Ten search results? And the ads on the far right of the screen? Those are paid advertisements that a company has purchased to increase their visibility.
Here’s how paid advertisements work:
- You invest time in solid Keyword Research and Analysis
- You purchase online advertisements, such as Google ads
- A customer searches for your keywords on Google, finds your ad, clicks on it, and gets directed to your website or blog
- Google charges you for that click
This is called pay-per-click advertising (or PPC).
Did you notice the first step? KEYWORDS!
You do NOT want to pay for clicks that are unrelated to your business! This is why long-tail keywords are so important – they directly target your specific (and local) customers and filter out the irrelevant traffic. If you haven’t yet learned how to identify specific long-tail keywords for your niche market, click here and here to get a solid foundation of Keyword Research.
Meet the Ads
There are different types of online advertisements, but this blog post will only focus on “text ads” – short text-only ads that appear in search engine result pages (Google yellow box ads) or along the sides of social media websites (Facebook ads) and link to your website. These ads will look something like this:
You can purchase text ads on many different social media platforms. Here are the top 4 you should look into:
Google is the obvious first place for any company to start! You get to choose where your Google Ad will go (yellow boxes? far right at the top?), and then it pops up when potential customers are searching for the keywords you have chosen. They are more likely to click on a Google Ad because it is exactly what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it (unlike an ad that appears on Facebook and may or may not be relevant at the moment the user sees it).
There’s no denying your traffic will always be greater with Google AdWords, but Yahoo and Bing ads will have less competition, and you still reach a wide audience. The Yahoo Bing Network boasts that you can reach up to 168 million people when you purchase text ads through them. That’s 29% of the search market!
Have you ever wondered why the day after you search for a gift for your 2-year-old niece’s birthday, you’ll have a few toy ads appear on your Facebook timeline? Facebook ads are smart! And with over 1 billion users and the technology to help you target your ideal customers, this platform has a lot of potential. Facebook ads help you find new customers in your niche market – identified by preferences, search habits, demographics, and location. As mentioned above, they won’t be searching for your services when they see your ad, but it will be relevant to their search history.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest network for professionals, reaching 255 million worldwide. If you want to grab the attention of business decision makers, managers, and/or executives, this is a great option for your SEM investment. Just like Facebook ads, LinkedIn uses your keyword-rich ad to target customers based on preferences, demographics, and location.
Think, Plan, Pay
These ads are so easy to purchase – it only take a few clicks, short content, and your credit card information. In fact, PPC ads are so easy that a lot of companies end up wasting hundreds or thousands of dollars without really thinking through their marketing strategy. It’s the planning and search engine knowledge that makes SEM so complicated!
You wouldn’t start a new business endeavor without doing your homework first, right? So why would you jump into Search Engine Marketing without first creating a budget, goal, and a clear marketing strategy? Here are a few things to consider in your initial preparations:
- Budget – You’re in this for the long haul! Paid online marketing isn’t a one-time investment, and you won’t reach your goal in a few weeks. This is a marathon, and if you do it right it will pay off tenfold!
- Testing – How do you choose the right platforms for your ads? By A/B testing! A/B testing allows you to compare different advertisement variations side by side and choose the one that performs better for your business. This will help you choose the most effective keywords, headlines, specific wording, and social media platforms. We will go into much greater detail about A/B testing in a future post, so check back soon.
- Goal Setting – What is your end goal? To appear on the first page of search engine results? To boost online sales by 200%? Decide what you want to achieve, and then consult an Online Marketing Professional to help you set a reasonable time frame for reaching your goal. In fact, we recommend you consider hiring an expert to manage your Search Engine Marketing if you’re just now getting in the game. You’ll end up saving time AND money if you seek professional assistance, especially at the very beginning of your SEM efforts.
How has your experience been with PPC advertising? Is it worth the financial investment? Please share your thoughts and journey in the comments below.