Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM); what is it?

SEM is a term that was once referred to both organic search activities such as search engine optimization (SEO) and paid but now refers almost exclusively to paid search advertising.

The most commonly known and used paid search tool is Google Ads, but Bing has shown to be another effective platform in addition to the Verizon Media Ads (Previously known as Yahoo Ads).


  • Quick setup
  • Easy to measure and map
  • Less exertion to develop compared to SEO


  • Expensive (or can be depending on how it’s set up and the industry your products or services are in)
  • Susceptible to “Ad-blindness.” Huh?
    • Ad blindness, also known as banner blindness or banner noise is where visitors to a search engine results page (SERPs) consciously or subconsciously ignore banner-like information.

Commonly used terms in the SEM world

  • Impressions — How many times your ad was visible on a screen. It doesn’t actually mean the person saw it.
  • Paid search ads – Advertising placements on popular search engines such as, Google, Yahoo, and Bing that cost money and are shown above organic search results on SERPs
  • Paid search advertising – The other term thrown around that is synonymous with search engine marketing or SEM
  • PPC (pay-per-click) – Each time a user clicks on your ad and depending on the bidding strategy of your campaign, you will pay for that click.
  • PPC (pay-per-call) – With ad extensions, phone numbers can be shown in addition to the ad copy itself, when someone clicks on your phone number to make a call, your campaign will be charged.
  • CPC (cost-per-click) – Another term thrown around that is synonymous with pay-per-click or PPC
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) – This bidding strategy is used for brand awareness campaigns or when someone wants the most exposure at the lowest cost. It’s cheap, but not the most effective. The cost-per-thousand impressions refer to the amount your willing to pay for every 1,000 impressions the ad is shown. Typically clicks are still charged as well, so there are times Google and other platforms may be double dibbing into your ad budget.
Google Ads screenshot on a phone.

SEM Checklist

Keep in mind that everything in the “SEM Checklist” section isn’t a select as you go type of scenario when hiring an effective search engine marketer.

All of these tasks should be done to make sure a campaign is going to be run effectively.

Congrats, you’re ready to start advertising on the internets, otherwise known as the world wide web or web for short.

But first, setting specific goals for ad campaigns is probably the most important task to complete before getting started. That and setting a budget.

The following questions should be answered before diving into anything else:

  • What are we considering a success when the campaign is working correctly and efficiently?
  • Do we just want traffic to the site; form submits, asset downloads, and/or all of the above?

Once these questions are answered it will be easier to move forward and have a clear idea of what return on investment (ROI) looks like.

What’s your advertising budget; or how much are you willing to spend each month in order to have your ads shown?

In the old days, you could get away with spending $10 a day and make a splash with how many clicks and impressions you were getting, but those days have long passed and depending on your industry and how competitive it is, your ad budget may need to be a substantial amount in order to make any headway.

There are ways to control cost and that’s why defining your target audience and the area is important.

Geotargeting is the method of determining the geolocation of a website visitor and delivering different content to that visitor based on their location.

That means that if you want to deliver ads to only individuals in a specific area, you can do so.

It makes sense if you’re a coffee shop in Bend, OR and you don’t want to show your ads to people residing in Fargo, ND.

Who or what are you going to be competing against in the advertising landscape?

If we know who we’re working up against, this gives us a good idea of where to research and what to research in order to gain that competitive advantage, determine the target audience and area to advertise in.

Understanding what is going to be promoted will help with keyword research, understanding the target audience, geotargeting (if needed), writing ad copy, how the account structure is set up and so much more.

What are the search terms that your target audience will be entering when researching products or services similar to yours?

Basically, these are the search terms you want to be entered so that your ads show up.

Understanding the target audience should take place before any ads, geotargeting, or keyword research is created.


We wish we could say that everyone is a potential purchaser of your goods or services, but let’s get real, at the end of the day you too have a target demographic and market that should be narrowed down and aimed for, so money is used wisely and effectively.

The account structure organizes your…

  • Ad campaigns
  • Ad groups
  • Keywords
  • Ad text

…in a way so that it will help with ad score, ad spend; better control over all of the campaign.

Dumping users that click on ads onto some random page on your website is about the worst thing you can do.

I know what you’re thinking, “Well, they are making it my website, my products and services are so good that we know from there they will spend their valuable time searching my website for exactly what they need.”

That comment is usually made with a confident smile and they couldn’t be more wrong from the truth.

In today’s day and age, time is more important than money. Think about that for a second.

People would rather spend more money than time searching for exactly what they want or need.

Ironically, most users are spending that time searching for the lowest cost service or product at the best value which makes my previous statement sound false, but it isn’t.

When an ad is created, you want to get as close as possible to a one to one match.

For example, if you’re advertising for “Couples Massages in Kennewick, WA”, the ad shouldn’t send the user to a landing page advertising “Chico’s Pizza in Moses Lake, WA” (We highly suggest you try this amazing place out).

What the ad should do is send users directly to a page on your site for either your massage services or better yet a page specifically designed and promoting couples massages at the spa.

Are you connecting keywords in your ads; what about in the language of the ad; is your offer specific and to the point; is your company name in a headline…?

All of these factors help with ad score quality which will help lower the cost of when an ad is shown and have the potential to show ads above competitors that are willing to spend more than you.

Need help with your SEM?

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