In current times, when the market becomes more competitive, it has never been more important to focus on paid advertising strategy. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) stands out as a fast and effective option to help businesses gain visibility and promote the products to the right people at the right time.

So, what is SEM? In the past, search engine marketing was a term used to describe both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search. But now, it almost always refers to the practice of using paid search marketing to market a business. SEM offers the opportunity to get the websites on the first page of motivated customers ready to make a purchase.

Gaasly SEM Fundamentals

With SEM, it’s easy to waste a lot of money, for example, by advertising in the wrong country or device. When doing SEM, we always use your budget as effectively as possible.

We are very results-driven. Setting up the right KPIs at the right time and optimizing campaigns for the results is key to success. Balancing between optimal conversion cost and volume is an ongoing process.

Accountability is one of the key values of Gaasly, and we apply it also in SEO. Setting up KPIs and following them weekly basis helps us keep track of the progress.

1.   Build a website or a mobile app

Your website or mobile app is the centre of your digital marketing efforts. It is where all the digital rivers run toward. A beautifully designed website or mobile app will impress the audiences and likely convert them into users and customers. In addition, we also consider SEO features when choosing the builders since true SEM cannot succeed without the use of organic SEO. 

Looking at the sector apps, Google affects mobile search in many ways. For search engine result pages, there are not only websites but also apps with install buttons. 

2.   Setup Ads and Analytics

Moving on, we need to set up some tools that can help with tracking the performance.

Google Ads is undoubtedly the most widely used SEM platform. Every day, billions of Google searches are conducted. With Google Ads, you can reach your potential customers with the right ads at the right time. It allows you to manage your SEM campaigns, bidding strategy, budgets and ad creation. Conversion data in Google Ads is important in making strategic decisions to optimize your campaigns, ad groups, keywords, etc. With the concept of Pay Per Click, you only pay for the ads which the users have clicked on.

Google Analytics is at the centre of every good web tracking setup. Other tools also support web data collection like Facebook Analytics, Mixpanel, etc. Still, Google Analytics stands out as a free and powerful tool that offers valuable insights through different types of reports so that you will be able to discover hidden opportunities to cut costs or implement new strategies.

3. Identify your goals

The end goal for SEM is to get more customers. However, there are different steps in the customer journey that you can use SEM to establish a relationship with your potential customers.

Firstly, SEM can be used to target the first touchpoint with the websites and build brand awareness. The goal is to increase traffic to certain websites and landing pages.

Another important goal in your SEM efforts is lead generation. It is when your potential customers consider your offerings and would love to learn more. Not many people purchase for their first time visiting a website. You know a user become a truly lead when they start to permit you to contact them, normally by signing up on your website, subscribing to your email list or filling in a contact form.

Selling your product or service is also an important search engine marketing goal. It is identified normally through purchases and sales calls.

We at Gaasly have developed a framework for the customer journey, which you can apply in your own case to figure out suitable tools and measurements in each stage. 

Now that you have identified your SEM goals, it’s time to prepare for your first SEM campaign.

4. Choosing suitable SEM types

There are different SEM types that you can choose to support your goals. Overall, they are all based on keywords and processed by Search Engines such as Google or Bing. Each advertising type has its own characteristics.

Standard Search Ads

Standard search ads include a headline, URL, description and extended features such as contact form and call extension.

Sell your products with Shopping ads

On the other side, shopping ads are more visual, product-based advertisements that allow consumers to see information such as price and reviews.

Promote your Mobile Application

App ads usually go together with an install button where users can directly download them into a PC or mobile device. 

Targeting Keywords with Display campaigns

You can also create Display campaigns using targeting keywords. Google Ads will find relevant websites that include your keywords and show the ad to relevant audiences interested in those keywords.

In the next sections, we will emphasize standard search advertising campaigns. 

5.   Keywords research

Important keywords are the foundation of SEM. Those keywords speak a lot about your customers intent. Therefore, we highly emphasize the importance of thorough customer research as part of keywords research.

Based on the information from the research, the next step is to identify keywords relevant to your business and that your customers are likely to type in the search engines.

With the help of different tools in Google Keywords Planner, Wordstream or SEMrush, keywords research has never been easier. At Gaasly, we take full advantage of the Google Keywords Planner tool. We love keywords Planner because we need to enter a keyword that’s relevant to your business or service, and we will see related keyword suggestion ideas that can form the basis of your SEM campaigns.

6.   Create landing pages that convert

Landing pages are the first impression customers get when they visit your website after their clicks on the SEM campaigns, so there shouldn’t be any room for error. Compared to homepages, landing pages are more specific and optimized for conversions. We understand the importance of the website builder and the goal identification in the previous steps. Without any of these two, the process becomes more complex and time-consuming.

So, how can we know if our landing pages are optimized for conversions? Here is a simple list of things to consider:

– Tailored for search engine queries: it should contain the keywords your users search for and offer some types of value to the visiting customers.

– Clear headlines: The landing page’s main headline and supporting headline are the two things visitors will see. For this reason, it must describe very clearly what a user will get from the page.

– Clear, concise message about the product or service, for example, what the key benefits are and how they are different from your competitors

– Photos or videos to make your products/ services more visualized and help your customers better understand your offerings – as they said, “A picture speaks a thousand words.”

– Testimonials are very persuasive. Visitors are more likely to convert into consumers if they see that others before them have used your offer and truly benefited from it.

– Call to action is the last but not least important thing. It is where your SEM goals are clearly expressed. Is this to contact sales or sign up for your mailing list? The call to action should be compelling, exciting, and persuasive. Use contrasting colours to make it stand out. It can be repeated a few times on your landing page.

Read more about the landing page from Neil Patel’s blog

7.   Start your first campaign

With keywords identified and landing pages created, we are ready to set up your first SEM campaign on Google Ads. The below graphics show how a campaign is structured. 

Each campaign has its own unique goal, budget, bid strategy, and targeting settings at the highest level. Consider your goals to decide whether you can include different ad groups or set up a new campaign. 

For example, Gaasly wants to target customers in Sweden and Finland. The targeting is different; therefore, two separate campaigns must be set up. However, if Gaasly wants to promote different services for the Finnish market, one campaign can be broken down into smaller ad groups, each representing a certain service.

At this beginning stage, the point is to experiment. With the Gaasly weekly iteration approach, we can learn fast where to get low-cost clicks and conversions.

8.   Set up a bidding strategy

When creating campaigns, you might notice a section called “bidding” with a few options below. We will clarify and help you choose which one is suitable for your campaign.

Manual CPC

In this strategy, the bid is set manually at keywords level, and Google Ads will follow your set bid to optimize your budget. With an enhanced CPC option, Google Ads can help you increase or decrease your bid based on the likelihood that the clicks will lead to conversions.

Maximize conversions

This strategy automatically sets bids to help you receive the most conversions for your campaigns while spending your entire campaign level budget.

Target CPA

With this type, Google automatically distributes the ads to receive as many conversions as possible at your set target cost for acquisition.

Target ROAS

ROAS refers to the average value you receive in turn for every dollar you spend on ads. This approach helps you receive as much conversion value as possible at your set ROAS.

9.   Optimizing Your Campaign

Your campaign is now ready to go! But your SEM effort does not stop here – since SEM and all digital marketing is about continuous learning. After the first few days, let’s review and adjust your campaign performance. There are numerous ways that we suggest you experiment and bring the campaign to the next level:

Add additional relevant keywords

You may have missed some keywords when you created your campaign, or new keywords have come up following the new trends.

Set negative keywords

Are there keywords that attract the wrong traffic, show low-performing, or are no longer relevant to your offerings?  

A/B testing

Use A/B testing to create different variations of your ad strategies. Based on this, we will learn what work and what doesn’t.

Improve Quality Score

Optimizing the quality score is key to successful SEM campaigns. High-Quality Scores can help you achieve better ad positions at lower costs. An ad and destination URL aligned to the searcher’s intent will lead to a higher Quality Score. We recommend you review and update your landing page frequently to improve CTR and ad relevance.

10. Start SEM and gain fast results with Gaasly

SEO is an enriching way to drive organic traffic, while SEM is highly cost-effective to drive conversions. Both SEO and SEM should be fundamental parts of your online marketing strategy.

Gaasly provides consulting and tools to help you get the results you and your business are striving for. We have a team of SEO & SEM specialists that are always ready to answer any of your questions. We believe our unique weekly approach is the best way to learn and continuously develop. 

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