Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Matthew Small
by Matthew Small
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Paid Search Marketing

Paid Search Marketing

We are in an age of digital marketing and online advertising. As a business owner it is extremely important to know your options, the audience you’re trying to reach, and what fits with your business model and budget. Paid search ads, banner ads, remarketing, retargeting, dynamic ads, content marketing … the list goes on. What makes sense for you and who can you really trust to provide you with the right advice?

Allow me to introduce what you need to know for starters. Search Engine Marketing (SEM or paid search) is the cornerstone of digital marketing and has become the traditional entry of online advertising for many businesses with Google pushing its way forward with Google AdWords. AdWords was launched in 2000 and has since been the leading search engine provider of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, followed by BingAds that formed an alliance with Yahoo in 2003.

AdWords provides a few different options for a business to target its audience. The first and most prevalent means is through paid search ads. Paid search ads appear to a user on search engine result pages (SERPs) following a search query s/he has entered into the Google search engine. That query triggers targeted ads shown at the very top and to the right of each SERP based on keywords that you, the business owner or your vendor-partner, has created. You create the keywords based on the traffic you that will result in a conversion on your site, whether that be a purchase, sharing information, form submission, etc. You may also narrow to whom the business targets based on geographic location, the time of day, and the device the user is using (i.e. desktop, mobile, tablet).

Google also provides a remarketing option which is usually launched after the creation of a search campaign. Remarketing works by targeting people who have visited the site yet left it without converting one of the set goals. A successful remarketing campaign will target an audience by focusing on visitors with specific characteristics while browsing other sites and reminding them of your presence (and their need for your product or information). The remarketing tag that Google provides is placed on every page throughout your site and the business can then remarket to certain groups based on lists that one are able to create (i.e. visitors to inventory page, visitors to about page, etc.).

Similar to remarketing is retargeting, which is not provided by Google Adwords. It can be an effective means of targeting users who have searched for sites like yours. Different from remarketing, the user does not click through to your site but instead searches for content related to your site via Google, Bing, Yahoo, and then targets those users with banner ads as they browse other sites. The ads may look quite similar to remarketing but how the user is targeted is where the two differ immensely. Here are a few companies that are leading the way in retargeting: Chango, Adroll, and Perfect Audience.

Content marketing, which has become increasingly popular by companies such as Taboola, Outbrain, and nRelate, is another way of driving users to your site. These companies provide your business with advertising space to showcase your content on high traffic sites such as, CNN,, US Weekly, and many more. This is a great option for sites that have great content that the business would like to use to attract users to the site. The content can come via a blog post, article, or video; basically anything that you have originally produced. Importance here is the quality of the content and thus will in many cases be shown based on each content marketing company’s proprietary algorithm taking into account user interests and behavior, along with the performance of the individual content.

Business with online commerce or e-commerce have a few advertising platforms to bring traffic to the site. The Google Shopping Network comes to mind where the merchant can submit a product feed, combined with creating a campaign in AdWords to drive the impressions to the products featured on the site. These products will appear on the SERPs page, near the top in the paid ads section. The user may also view in the Shopping tab. Google’s shopping network is triggered, not on the keywords you create, but by the attributes provide in the product feed, such as description, product type, category, etc. Each time a user clicks on the product, s/he is directed to your business’ site (and similar to an AdWords search ad, the business is charged a nominal fee per click).

A similar option is Amazon Product Ads, which are created in comparable fashion. As a merchant, you create a campaign in the Amazon interface and submit a product feed which will allow your business’ products to appear in a specific ad-allotted area on related product pages. Note that this is different than simply listing your products on Amazon as a seller where revenue is earned for selling products. With Amazon ads , the business is paying for each click to drive users and prospective customers to your organization’s site, where it must contain the appropriate sales funnel to so users complete the desired transaction.

Paid search is always growing and changing. If there are only a couple things to take away from this post:

  1. There are plenty of options to advertise your products, advertise content, and drive traffic to your site. Focus on finding the option that is most relevant to the business model and goals.
  2. Social media advertising, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, is another big area to reach and engage consumers.
  3. And there are plenty of options, in different media outlets and forms of digital advertising that we did not cover in this post.

Nobody knows your business like you do. Do some quality research and find what works best for you and if you need some help implementing a marketing strategy, campaign, or program please contact me.


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