First off, we should now understand how SEO and link building can be a big contributor in increasing traffic to your web page. In addition, paid search, or SEM, can also be used to see a big increase in traffic and conversions. Before discussing SEM in a little more detail, first check out this beginner’s guide to paid search from our friends at, you guessed it, HubSpot.
For today’s blog, I am going to cover:
- What paid search is
- How it works
- Reasons why you need paid search
- Strategies for successful paid search
- Companies with successful SEM
So first off, what is SEM?
SEM is a term used to describe the various means of marketing a website by using search engines, this entails both organic SEO and paid search strategies. Organic search is based on the unpaid, natural rankings which is determined by the search engine algorithms. These types of searches can be optimized with the SEO practices I talked about in my last blog. Paid search allows you to pay a fee to have your website displayed on the search engine results page when someone types in specific keywords or phrases in the search engine. The search engine results page, or SERP, will display the ads you create to direct viewers to your site, and the fee that is payed is based on either clicks or views of the ads. Organic and paid both appear on the search engine, but in different places. Here is a picture of how the paid vs organic links are set up:
According to HubSpot data, over 70% of people click on the organic results, while there are still 30% that are likely to click on the paid links. Although the number is relatively low compared to the organic search, it can still be a powerful tool for increasing your companies online presence.
How does paid search work?
Paid search includes three elements, keywords, ads, and landing pages. If you are using Google AdWords for example, which I would highly recommend studying for and passing their AdWords certification exams, you start by giving them keywords which will tell Google where to display your ads when people search for those keywords. The overall goal is that when someone clicks your ad, they will be a converted customer by being directed to your landing pages rather than just your home page. Overall, paid search comes down to these three items:
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Bidding – All this means is that you don’t pay for your ad being displayed, but you pay it when somebody actually clicks on your ad. In order to determine how much you pay for click, Google uses an auction-style bid to set their prices. Using the picture above as an example, the top paid results will be given to the highest bidder, then as you scroll down the page, each company pays less and less.
- Quality Score – Google also uses an algorithm called quality score in determining a companies relevance to the keywords that searched for. It looks at how closely your keyword relates to your ad and how closely tour ad relates to your landing page content. Google actually checks your landing pages to ensure that you are not just buying keywords and directing traffic to irrelevant pages. The quality score is rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest rating and 10 being the highest. So there is times where even though your company may be paying less per click, you are actually going to be rated ahead of a company paying more because of the relevance of your ad.
- Keyword Match Types – Since there are an infinite number of ways to search for an item, Google has 3 keyword match types that you can use to give them more specific instructions for when to display your ads. The y are:
- Exact match – If a keyword is set to exact match, Google will only display your ad if the search term includes that exact keyword, with the words in that exact order.
- Phrase match – If a keyword is set to phrase match, Google will display your ad if the search term contains the same order of the words, but may also contain additional words.
- Broad match – If a keyword is set to broad match, Google will display your ad when the search term contains any or some combination of the words in your keyword, in any order.
Why do you need paid search?
Although SEO can be very helpful in increasing traffic, here are four reasons why a paid search campaign should be used as well:
- Organic rankings are volatile – One day you can be on top of the organic search rank, the next day you could be gone. With Google AdWords, your rank is going to be consistent.
- Twice the visibility – Even if your SEO is on point and you are listed on the first page, why not double the visibility and add paid click to your marketing campaign.
- Increase click-throughs – Like I said before, 30% of many, many clicks through Google are through the paid search so having some paid links will definitely increase traffic.
- Increase probability of conversion – By increasing traffic, you will most likely increase conversion, especially if you get an exact match keyword.
What can you do for a successful paid search campaign?
Here are four tips, again from our friends at HubSpot, that can help you with a successful paid search campaign:
- Determine how much your’re willing to pay for a lead or conversion – By using some sort of metrics to determine how much a customer is worth to you, will help you determine how much you are willing to pay to get the top amount of traffic you are willing to pay for.
- Identify which organic keywords drive traffic and convert on your website – Finding out which keywords drive the best traffic will help you to get better web pages that better support your keywords as well as being able to tell Google AdWords what keywords to use.
- Constantly monitor keywords and set match types – If a keyword is not related to your product or service, it is going to be a waste because although you are getting more clicks, you will not get more conversions. It is important to monitor your keywords on a regular basis that are always related to your business goals.
- Don’t do it alone – If you don’t have time or are unsuccessful, there are many agencies and services that can help maximize your paid search campaign and to get you going. Many services will only charge you based on program performance as well.
What are some companies with successful SEM?
- This article here shows how Amazon put in the money and time for a successful SEM campaign. They spent nearly twice as much on Google AdWords per month than the next largest PPC retailer and it worked. In 2012, their success set was 48% larger than Target’s, which was the next busiest PPC marketers. As you can see from this picture, the clicks were much, much higher than all their competitors.
- Here is a list with another 5 companies definitely a lot smaller than amazon who had success with paid search advertising as well. One of the companies, National Parts Retailer, was able to overcome the recession in 2008 and expand from a small business to a large one through PPC.
In the end, having a good mix of SEO and paid search can be extremely important in the expansion of your company and success. Once again, I would highly recommend learning Google AdWords since this is a tool that can help you with PPC and learning to use the right keywords. AdWords can help you get to the top of Google through your paid search and should be used by any company looking to to get more traffic, increase conversions, and therefore expand.