10 tips on how to do search engine marketing (SEM) the right way

Search engine marketing is a strategy many businesses use to attract and convert customers online. But not every business succeeds in its SEM endeavours. To help you, we’ve put together 10 tips on how to do search engine marketing the right way.

What is search engine marketing?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy that increases a website’s visibility in the search results. Two of the most popular tactics used within an SEM strategy are search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC).

However, in recent years, the term SEM has shifted to focus more on paid advertising than SEO. Unlike SEO (which is a long-term strategy) pay per click (PPC) can deliver quick results. That’s because these paid adverts appear at the top of results pages, above the organic listings.

For those selling products and services online, this can significantly boost your visibility and drive traffic. This is particularly beneficial when certain search queries are very competitive and take time to achieve top-ranking positions for.

49% of shoppers surveyed say they use Google to discover or find a new product. Getting your products or services listed at the top of results pages can benefit your business. A successful SEM strategy can help ensure your products appear in the right place for the right search terms.

But given the nature of paid advertising, how can you ensure your products appear at the top? With factors like quality score, pricing, and bidding strategies, getting your advert listed in the first place can be difficult. We cover 10 top tips for how to do SEM right.

10 top SEM tips

1. Conduct effective keyword research

Our first SEM tip is to conduct effective keyword research. Keywords are extremely important as they form the foundation of any paid advertising efforts.

Conducting effective keyword research can take time, so many will overlook the importance of this step. However, the success of your paid advertising efforts largely depends on identifying the right keywords in the first place.

Fortunately, there are many ways to identify keywords. However, you also need to consider their value to your business (the stage of the buyer’s funnel), cost per click, volume (how many monthly searches the keywords get), and search intent (informational, transactional, etc.).

The best methods to identify effective keywords for your paid advertising campaigns include:

  • Brainstorming a list of potential keywords.
  • Google search recommendations.
  • Using the Google Keyword Planner tool in Google Ads.
  • Paid tools, such as Semrush and Ahrefs.

It’s also important to identify a mixture of short-tail and long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are less competitive but have a higher chance of converting than short-tail keywords.

2. Make use of match types

Once you’ve identified your keywords, it’s time to narrow your campaign reach using keyword match types. Chances are the keywords you identified in your research are all broad match. Unless otherwise stated, this is the default assigned to all keywords in Google Ads.

Broad match keywords in a campaign means your ads can appear for any searches related to your keyword. Sometimes, this may not be relevant to your business, product, or service offering. It also means your ads reach a larger but less targeted audience, increasing your costs per conversion.

Utilising keyword match types can avoid this. Alongside the broad match already mentioned, there are 4 keyword match types. These are:

  • broad match modified – similar to broad match but indicates a certain word that is compulsory for targeting your ads. This adds a + plus sign to the start of the keyword +keyword.
  • phrase match – phrase match keywords mean your ad will display the same meaning as your keyword. This adds your keyword into double quotation marks “keyword”.
  • exact match – exact match means your ads will display for the exact same meaning or intent of your keyword. This adds your keyword into square brackets [keyword].
  • Negative keywords identify those you don’t want your ads to show for. This adds a minus sign to the start of the word -keyword. Broad, phrase, and exact match also applied for negative keywords.

You should use a mixture of negative, exact match, and broad match keywords to ensure your ads display for the right search terms and to those who are more interested in your products or service.

3. Create compelling ad copy

Even if your ads display for a certain search term, there’s no guarantee someone will click your ad. With competition from other ads, how can you gain those clicks over your competitors? The answer is to write compelling ad copy. This includes a headline and description.

You are rather limited in terms of character count for your headline and description. You are allowed 30 characters for a headline and 90 characters for a description. However, you can and should add multiple headlines and descriptions.

The best way to write compelling ad copy is to address the searcher’s pain points. People turn to Google to find answers to questions or problems. Your headline and description must showcase how you can help mitigate the searcher’s pain points.

Start by writing a compelling headline that captures the searcher’s attention. Then expand on the headline within your description. Make the most use of the character limit you have available. You also need to optimise your ad copy for the keywords you previously identified.

To determine which headlines and descriptions work best, consider A/B testing. This split testing method allows you to test alternative headlines to determine which drives the most conversions. You can conduct A/B tests within Google Ads.

Discover how to use the power of persuasion to create compelling ad copy

4. Optimise your landing page

Alongside optimising your keywords, you also need to optimise your landing page. Every ad that displays in search results links to a page. The page you link your ad to needs to be relevant, provide a positive user experience, and help drive conversions.

When optimising a landing page, you should consider factors such as:

  • Page speed
  • Optimising the written and visual content
  • Ensure important elements are above the fold
  • Include clear call-to-actions
  • Use colour psychology to your advantage
  • Include testimonials
  • Keep your conversion form short and simple

5. Make use of extensions

Alongside your ad copy, you can add extensions (or assets) to your paid adverts. This is additional information that displays with your ad and helps your ad to stand out from others. There are many different extensions you can use:

  • Location
  • Call
  • Sitelink
  • Callout
  • Structured snippet
  • Price
  • App
  • Lead form
  • Image
  • Promotion
  • Seller rating
  • Business information

6. Clearly specify your audience

To focus the targeting of your ads, you should clearly specify your audience. This ensures your ads display to the right people and that the money you invest in paid advertising is well spent. It also increases the success of your advertising efforts.

Google Ads has several methods you can use to segment your audience for more specific targeting, including:

  • Demographics, including age, gender, employment, marital status, etc.
  • Affinity, such as lifestyle, gardening, food, etc.
  • In-market, such as arts and crafts, automotive, beauty, etc.
  • Life events, such as graduations, marriages, moving houses, etc.

If you already understand your customers by conducting buyer personas, you can easily segment your audiences. It also makes it much easier to create effective ad copy that resonates with your target audience.

7. Set up a clear account structure

Ensuring you set up a clear account structure for your Google Ads account is the best way to organise and manage your campaigns. Creating campaigns and ad groups ad hoc is a sure way to lose track of important campaigns.

It also enables more targeted ad copy and lower cost-per-clicks. Instead, you set up individual campaigns to target different advertising goals and target audiences. Ideally, your account structure should be set up as follows:

  • Campaign, which is the highest level of structuring.
  • Ad group for each campaign grouped by theme.
  • Keywords for each ad group that you want to bid for.
  • Ads with your copy displaying chosen keywords.

One of the best ways to organise your structure is to use the same hierarchy as your website. For example, use major sections for campaigns and then subsections for different ad groups.

8. Align your SEM and SEO strategies

The best results of SEM come from ensuring your SEO strategy works in tandem. By aligning your SEM and SEO strategies, you can help grow your visibility. SEM and SEO also work well together, helping inform both strategies. Here are just some of the ways they work together:

  • Utilises the same or similar keywords
  • Use data from PPC campaigns to inform SEO campaigns
  • SEO-optimised pages can perform better in PPC campaigns.
  • Delivers a positive user experience for both SEO and PPC traffic.

Discover more about how SEM and SEO work together

9. Improve your quality score

Quality score is a measure used to judge how your ad quality compares to competitors. It is measured from 0 to 10 and provided at the keyword level of your account. Typically, higher quality scores equate to better ad performance.

Quality score is determined primarily by expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. To view the quality score, follow these steps from Google:

If your ad score is below 7, there is definite room for improvement. If so, consider:

  • Make your ads more relevant to keywords.
  • Create more effective ad copy that makes your ad more compelling.
  • Optimise your landing page design for performance and user experience.

10. Analyse your performance

The final step of any successful SEM campaign is to analyse your performance. This allows you to determine your ads’ success, whether they lead to conversions, and the return on investment. It also allows you to identify areas for improvement.

Google Ads provides a wealth of data for you to determine the success of your ads. Some of the metrics to consider tracking include:

  • Quality score
  • Cost per click
  • Click-through rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Cost per acquisition
  • Return on ad spend

Spending the time to find the right keywords and optimising your ads for higher quality are the two best ways to ensure your SEM efforts’ success. Then, analysing your performance allows you to determine how successful and profitable your SEM efforts really are.