8 Simple Steps to Start an SEM Strategy that Wins Lead Gen


Finding ways to drive traffic to your website is important if you want to continue increasing conversions. As far as organic traffic goes, a strong SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is a must. However, not all traffic has to be organic. You can also drive traffic through the use of paid advertising. Such a strategy is known as SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and can be an incredibly effective tool in your inbound marketing toolbox if done properly. 

What Exactly is SEM?

SEM used to refer to both SEO and paid advertising, but these days it refers solely to paid search strategy. The way it works is relatively simple: a business pays for an ad to appear at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) when someone uses the predesignated keywords that the business bought for the ad. That way, the business can be sure that they are listed in the top tier of search results for keywords relevant to their service. 

The frequency at which it's displayed is based on how competitive the keyword is and how much you bid on the ad. When you're choosing keywords that you want to show up for, you have to bid for them. The amount that you bid is the amount that you'll have to pay each time your ad is clicked on. SEM is essentially inorganic SEO.

Take these examples. If you sold landline telephones in 2019 for whatever reason, and you wanted to capture those masochists looking for one you could use Google Adwords to place a bid on the keyword "Landline Telephone." But you'd look at it and see this:

adwords SEM

...up to 10 thousand people search for landline telephones each month! I didn't believe it either. That's insane. But let's move on, try not to think about it. If you wanted to land in the top for landline telephone searches, you'd have to be willing to pay over $1.71 per click to compete (which could add up to $17,100 if all ten thousand people click your ad in a month. Worth it? Maybe. If you can sell a couple hundred phones.)

But this is where a strong SEM strategy comes in. Because you can compete with Amazon's landline phone catalogue with paid search. You just have to be smart about it. Something as simple as elongating your keyword to target niche audiences will help you spend less on cost-per-click (CPC) and help you to capture more meaningful leads... visitor's more likely to purchase. For example:

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You can be the first to bid and pay a couple of cents per click to capture 10-100 visitors a month.  Jackpot. Although, be careful because CPC is always changing, so make sure to check your ad performance/cost regularly.

The Benefits of SEM

SEM may seem like a very basic marketing strategy, and it can be. But if it's used to it's full potential it can make an enormous impact on lead generation, sales and more.

1. Increase web traffic

PPC ads are more prominently displayed than the links listed on a SERP. This means that users will be more likely to click on your ad, which will take them to your website. It's worth noting that PPC ads don't have to be promoting products or services, they can also promote content, such as a new blog post or a downloadable eBook.

2. Improve sales

PPC ads are effective because through the use of keywords you can target potential customers who may not have been aware of your brand. If you're using the right keywords, then you're more likely to attract potential customers who are looking to buy, which means that you won't need to make such a big effort nurturing them.

3. Test out SEO keywords

You can use your PPC ads to test out keywords before you implement them into your SEO strategy. For example, you can use two ads that are exactly the same except for the use of different keywords. You can then compare the results of those two ads to determine which keyword was more effective. It's a great way to test out your keywords for SEO before using them to ensure that you're not using ineffective keywords.

Our free E-book on optimization actually has a whole chapter on Paid Search. Snag it through the CTA below.optimizing-marketing-sales-funnel-ebook

4. Only pay for results

PPC ads are incredibly cost-effective for the simple reason that you're not paying for the ad to be displayed; instead, you're paying for the clicks your ad receives. Essentially, you're only paying for results.

5. Increase brand awareness

PPC ads are a great way to reach a larger audience. Even potential leads who see your ad but do not click on it will become more aware of your brand's existence. They will now associate your brand with the product or service that they were searching for.

6. Track metrics in real time

Because you can measure the performance of your PPC ads in real time, you'll be able to pull your ads and make adjustments, such as changing the keywords, changing the verbiage of the ad's written content, changing the offer, and more. This is usually not possible with traditional advertisements, which only allow you to measure the results once the ad has finished running

Creating an SEM Strategy

Crafting your SEM strategy takes more than just seeking out long-tail keywords. Here are the 8 steps to approach SEM like a boss.

1. Establish your goals

Before you begin investing in SEM, you need to figure out what your ultimate goal is. Are you trying to sell a new product? Promote a special event? Increase web traffic? Knowing what your goals are will allow you to figure out exactly what you want your ads to achieve (which will help guide you in the creation of the ad as well as determine how much each action is worth when creating your budget).

2. Know your audience

Before you can identify keywords to use for your SEM strategy, you'll need to figure out who your target audience is. Besides making it easier to identify effective keywords, knowing your audience will allow you to tailor your content to their needs and sensibilities. Not to mention that it will help you figure out where to run your PPC ads since paid advertising is available on numerous platforms, including Google, Bing, Facebook, and Twitter, to name a few.

3. Research your keywords

The keywords you're using for your SEO strategy may be effective as well for your SEM strategy. However, keep in mind that your audience is going to be slightly different; whereas with organic traffic, visitors are going to be in the beginning stages of the buyer's cycle, you may be attempting to attract those who are already near the end of the buyer's cycle, which means that you'll need to find more effective keywords to address this. In addition to gathering potentially effective keywords, make a list of negative keywords as well. Having such a list can help reduce wasted clicks and lower costs.

4. Write your ad copy

Your copy should be short and sweet. Make sure the keywords you use are relevant to the copy and that the title attracts attention. The copy should address the need you're trying to fulfill and position your product, service, or brand as a solution. You'll want to make variations of your ads to test out so you can identify which variation will be more effective.

5. Create landing pages

Your ads need to link back to your website; however, the worst thing you can do is to just link back to your home page. If you do this, visitors will have no idea what you want them to do or where to find your offer. Don't make them do any more work than they have to. Set up landing pages for each unique ad that corresponds to the content and offer of your ad. For example, don't offer a free downloadable eBook and then send your clicks to a landing page that promotes an upcoming sale.

6. Choose your PPC parameters

Once you've written your ads and your landing pages, you'll need to choose some settings. For example, you can choose what location you want your ad to run in. This way, you're not wasting money on clicks from across the world if you only ship your products domestically. You can also choose what types of devices the ad will run on, how you want your group of ads to run (you can choose to run them evenly or show better performing ads more often), and more.

7. Manage your bids

To properly manage your bids (how much you pay for each click), you'll need to figure out how much you can afford to pay by determining how much each click could be worth to you. For example, if selling a product you're promoting will make you $100 and every click costs $1, then you'll need to convert 1 percent of your clicks.

8. Track performance

You'll want to track the performance of your ads by analyzing certain metrics, such as click-through rates and conversion rates. An ad may be getting lots of clicks, but it may not be converting at all. By continually tracking metrics, you can make adjustments to your ads to improve their performance.

When to outsource your SEM efforts

The process of implementing and tracking your SEM strategy isn't necessarily difficult; however, it can be very time-consuming. It's one of the reasons why many businesses prefer to outsource their SEM efforts. Not only will an experienced SEM service know how to tailor your campaign based on your specific goals and needs, but you can also feel safe in the knowledge that they know exactly what they're doing, which means you won't have to worry about wasting resources on trial and error. Not to mention that the time you will save outsourcing will allow you to allocate resources and be more efficient in other areas of your business.

If you're not sure where you'll find a great candidate who gets the whole picture, why not hire a whole team for the price of one?