Search Engine Marketing (SEM) 101 Part 1

Jill Goldstein - February 4, 2021

Today more than ever, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is one of the most effective ways to generate relevant, quality traffic to your website. It is the cornerstone of most Digital Marketing strategies and there’s a good reason why. It works! In this multi-part series, we will go through all the major components of SEM and touch on some tips along the way.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing (SEM) (also often referred to as paid search advertising or pay per click advertising, or PPC) is the promotion of a business by paying to show an ad at the top of a search engine’s results page (SERP). This occurs (in it’s most traditional sense) by bidding on keywords that users are searching to generate relevant results on popular search engines such as Google or Microsoft Bing. Ads are typically shown above non-paid listings, which makes them particularly valuable as there’s been research that proves users typically only click on the top few search results.

The Benefits of SEM in comparison to SEO.

Although both SEM and SEO (Search Engine Optimization, or the practice of increasing website traffic through unpaid tactics) help your brand appear in search results, there’s some key differences between the two. Namely, SEM is paid, and SEO is not. That said, there’s some major benefits to using SEM to drive traffic to your website.

  1. Your results are immediate
    • Ads can be live within minutes.
  2. You have real-time control over messaging and landing page
    • PRO TIP: Use your brand keywords to convey important messaging for your business.
  3. You have more control over audience (who sees your ads)
    • PRO TIP: We recommend applying all relevant audience segments with a targeting setting of “Observation.” This allows you to gather invaluable data with zero added cost or impact on your campaigns. You can later limit or expand the reach of which audiences see your ads.
  4. SEM is great for testing and data intelligence
    • PRO TIP: The search terms report provides a wealth of knowledge around your audience’s search trends. This could open doors to new keyword themes you may not have thought of upon initial campaign setup.

What is Quality Score?

“Ad Quality helps us maintain the Google ecosystem by providing an economic incentive for advertisers to create high quality ads for our users.” – Google

As the name would suggest, quality score is an estimate of the quality of your keywords as they relate to your ads and landing pages. The higher your quality score, the lower you will pay for each click. This helps prevent irrelevant ads from showing on searches, preserving the user experience. Keywords can receive a 1-10 score, with 10 being the highest quality score a keyword can achieve.

Keep in mind, that Quality Score is a helpful tool to diagnose the health of your campaigns, however is not a key performance indicator. Always optimize towards business goals, rather than improving quality score.

There are 3 main components of quality score:

  1. Expected Clickthrough Rate: How likely is it that your ad will be clicked when it’s shown?
    • PRO TIP: Improve your expected click through rate by keeping a close eye on your search terms report to regularly add negative keywords. In time, this will improve the quality of the searches that your ads appear for, improving expected clickthrough rate.
  2. Ad Relevance: How closely do your keywords align with your ad’s messaging?
    • PRO TIP: Improve your ad relevance by utilizing Responsive Search Ads. Responsive Search Ads allow you to enter multiple headlines & descriptions which Google will use to automatically test different combinations to learn which perform best. By having more options that can match to a user’s search, these ads typically will improve ad relevance.
  3. Landing Page Experience: How relevant is the landing page to the people who clicked on your ad?
    • PRO TIP: Improve your landing page experience by making sure your page loads quickly. A poor load time can negatively affect landing page experience.

What is Ad Rank and how is it calculated?

Ad Rank is the value that’s used to determine your ad’s position on a search engine results page (or if your ad will show all together). It’s primarily calculated using your bid and quality score, however other factors do come into play. These factors include but are not limited to the competitiveness of an auction, Ad Rank Thresholds, the context of each person’s search (device, location, etc.) and the expected impact of your ad extensions and other ad formats.

Since Ad Rank puts a heavy weight on quality score, it is fair to say that the better your ads, the better your ad rank. That said, your bid also plays a big role here. While there is no published calculation you can use to determine ad rank (due to the many factors that influence it), here’s a simplified version that shows how quality score and bids work together to influence your ad’s position on a page.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of SEM 101. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact the experts at MoreVisibility.

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