What’s the first thing most consumers do when they’re looking to solve a problem? They turn to a search engine for answers and advice. You want your business to have a presence on these search engines so that they turn to you for the perfect solution to their issue.

Part of being seen on search engines is having a great SEO strategy. But the other key component is paid advertising efforts, otherwise known as search engine marketing (SEM) or pay per click (PPC). If you’ve got a handle on SEO but aren’t sure how things work with search engine marketing, let me walk you through how SEM functions and what it can do for you.

Pick Your Keywords

If you’ve already created an SEO strategy, then you know all about keyword research. With this research, you do some digging into the search terms and phrases that people are actually using to find your products or services online. When you understand the real search terms people are using that drive them to find results like yours, you can tailor your strategy to align with those terms and intent.

With SEO, it’s ultimately up to the search engine to determine how, when, and where to display your result, including which keywords your website will show for. Every search engine has an involved process for assessing each site on the web so that they can display the ones they deem to be most relevant for a given search query.

With search engine marketing, however, you pick the terms you want to show up for. You bid on the terms that you think are most relevant to your business, and you can choose different keywords for each campaign. One of the great things about SEM is that you can run multiple campaigns built around different areas or focuses of your business so you increase your chances of appearing for relevant searches.

For example, if you own a plumbing business, you might notice that your website performs well for keywords around “Dallas plumber.” But, when it comes time to run your SEM campaign, you might see that “Dallas plumber” is a highly competitive phrase (which also means it’s probably pretty expensive for you to bid on), and you want to focus your SEM efforts on a more targeted part of your business — like 24/7 emergency plumbing. So, you can choose keywords and phrases for that campaign around emergency or after-hours plumbing.

Identify Your Audience

Search engine marketing also gives you the power to identify the audience for your advertising. Because the big search engines, like Google and Bing, have collected a lot of data on users, you can target your ads at people based on specific demographics.

For local businesses, this means you can target consumers in your own backyard rather than wasting valuable ad spend on folks who live far away and will likely never become customers. If yours is a luxury brand, you can direct your ad spend at consumers with a high annual income. Again, rather than relying on the search engine’s algorithms as you do in SEO, you have more control over where your ads are displayed.

Design Your Campaign

Once you’ve settled on the keywords and audience for your ads, it’s time to select your campaign type and design your creative. Most search engines offer a variety of ad types — from Google Shopping Ads with images designed to feature specific products to text-based ads aimed at raising brand awareness. (Check out this list of Google’s campaign types for a better sense of how they break down ads by goals.)

The content of your ad is also important. You want your headlines and descriptions to give consumers as much information as possible about your brand and the specific offer you’re making in the ad. Google now has responsive ads, which allow you to input several variations of each headline and description. Google automatically A/B tests these variations to help you find the most effective combination for your messaging.

Just like with any advertising, the objective of your ad is to capture attention. So, it’s important to think about the verbiage, offers, and information that’s most compelling to your audience. If you have a good relationship with some of your customers, you can ask them what they like best about your business or what attracted them to your business in the first place. You can also tap into what your employees think — what are they most proud of when it comes to working with you? What do they tell friends or family about when your business when they’re describing you? When you understand what’s going to get people to choose you over a competitor, it can help to differentiate your ad.

This is also where working with a search marketing partner, like LOCALiQ, comes in. We have data and insights from a plethora of search marketing campaigns that we can use to create and craft the most effective search campaign for your business.

Going Once, Going Twice…

The final key component of search engine marketing is the bidding and auction process. Once you’ve created your ads, you’re asked to design a bid strategy. You decide how much you’re willing to pay to show up for any given keyword.

Then, as consumers enter those keywords into their search engine, a mini-auction takes place, lightning-fast. Your site is pitted against others that are hoping to show up for the same term. Search engines select the winner based on a handful of factors. One, of course, is how much you’re willing to pay as compared to the other advertisers hoping to display for the term.

The other major factor is your ad’s Quality Score. Search engines have a vested interest in only displaying ads that are actually relevant for that keyword — they don’t want to spam consumers with ads that are off-topic or simply poorly designed. The higher your Quality Score, the greater shot your ad has at being selected to display for your desired search term.

Track Your Clickthrough Rate

You’ve made it this far. You’ve designed a great ad, it’s being displayed for your desired keywords, and the most relevant consumers are seeing it. You’ve given your ad the best chance at success. Now it’s time for you to track how it’s actually performing.

Your clickthrough rate (CTR) is the number of clicks your ad gets as compared to the number of impressions, or views. A high CTR is one indicator of search marketing success.

Not only does a high CTR help boost your Quality Score, making your ad more likely to show up in the future, but it also gives your business the best shot at driving conversions from your ad. Once consumers have clicked through to your website, they’re one step closer to doing business with you.

If you discover that your ad has a lower CTR, it’s a sign that something might not be working. Go back and make sure that your campaign goals align with all of the other elements of your ad.

Are you targeting the right audience? Does your messaging in the ad accurately represent what you do? Are your keywords synced up with the conversions you’re trying to drive with the ad?

Search engine marketing is a valuable tool for reaching the right consumers with the right messaging about your brand. These ads allow you a great deal of control, from selecting the keywords you want to show up for and the audience you want to target to creating the ads themselves. When you know how to build an effective campaign, search engine marketing is a cost-effective and efficient option for just about any business.

If you’re feeling unsure about how to get your search engine marketing efforts off the ground, we just might have the solution for you.

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