You may be familiar with the terms paid search, or search engine marketing (SEM). Search marketing is the art of serving ads to people using search engines to find what they’re looking for online.
Google, Yahoo, and Bing, the big 3 search engines in the US, all allow advertisers to show ads on their search results pages based on the keywords a person types into the search box. Paid search spending has represented the largest share of online advertising for a number of years, though display advertising is closing that gap in part due to the rise of Facebook.
Paid search spending in the US has risen by 15-25% per year for the last five years.
There’s one reason, it works. Companies consistently strong results with the paid search campaigns, bringing in new business for a fraction of the cost of other advertising channels.
If you’re not already doing it, check out this post on Getting Started with Google Adwords.
Here’s what you can do to grow your business using search engine marketing:
- Bid on keywords your customers may be searching. Think about what someone would search to find you. If you knew someone was searching “X”, would you want to advertise to them? That’s your base list of keywords to advertise on.
- Bid on variations of these keywords. Google has an easy to use keyword research tool that allows you to upload a list of keywords and generate a larger list of related keywords. They even tell you the average cost and search volume for each word so you can add them to your account.
- Bid on your brand name. This ensures you show up at the top of the results and keeps the competition from stealing searches from you.
- Bid on your competitors’ brand name. This is a risky move because the costs involved might be higher, but it is a good strategy if your goal is to steal market share from a more established competitor.
- Don’t forget Bing and Yahoo. Many people just advertise on Google, and ignore the other 30% of searches in the US that take place on the number 2 and 3 search engines.
- Double bid. Many companies establish secondary websites so that they can bid on the same keywords and show up twice on the first page, increasing the chances of getting clicked on.
- Optimize landing pages for action. No matter what your goal is, make sure you are measuring post-click performance. The page someone lands on after they click on an ad should be built to do one thing, get that user to complete one action – whether that is a sale, a completed form, a phone call, etc.
Once you are up and running, use all the tools available to you to measure the performance of your campaigns. All the way down to each individual keyword, you’ll be able to track cost, clicks, and conversions, allowing you to optimize the way you spend your money over time.
When used the right way, search engine marketing can help you grow your business by sending qualified prospects your way at a low cost.