Search engine marketing (SEM) can get very expensive as clicks start to rally up, and CPC (cost-per-click) fluctuates over time if you are not using the right SEM tools. For example, your average cost per click can be 10% or more above your average spending on a rainy day. It can burn through your budget quickly without delivering exceptional results such as converting leads or creating an eCommerce sale.
So how do you fix it? Having the right SEM tools can help you combat unpredictable market fluctuations. Imagine having powerful SEM analytics at your disposal to precisely predict when to be aggressive or conservative with all your advertising goals.
Take complete control of your return on investment (ROI) by increase bids on keywords when visitors are actively browsing, and pause campaigns to control cost-per-acquisitions at low traffic hours. In addition, SEM tools help you discover new keywords. It uncovers more market shares within a given industry so you can consistently improve marketing campaigns for better results.
With SEM tools to track and optimize marketing campaigns for the best return on ad money spent, you can finally sleep a little better at night.
Explore 5 Best SEM Tools for Search Engine Marketing Campaigns
SEM Tool #1: Semrush (Paid)
Semrush has been our keyword research “secret weapon” for effective and result-driven keyword research, and it is our go-to SEM tool. Semrush delivers a powerful research platform to help identify an estimated volume of keywords that any website advertises for. This SEM tool enables you to keep tabs on competitor campaigns. You can quickly uncover competitors’ ad content as well as their ad copy position distribution in search. In addition, discover competitors’ advertising history and check for keywords you are losing out on. For a comprehensive, powerful SEM tool, Semrush starts at $99.95 a month.
Gain SEM Traffic Intelligence for Competitors
Semrush provides SEM traffic intelligence to help your website rise above the competition. Enter the URL or website of a business you are researching for through the Advertising Research tool with Semrush to gain insight on the top keywords businesses are running paid search campaigns on. Semrush is extremely useful when comparing yourself against competitors. It also helps to identify any keyword gaps that could be missing from your SEM campaigns and learn what offers or messaging are presented in the ad’s destination URL. Additionally, you will gain the following insights:
- Keyword advertising position
- CPC of the keyword
- URL of the landing page the SEM ad is pointing to
- Estimated traffic for advertising per keyword
- Estimated total advertising spend per keyword
Semrush SEM Ad Copy Insights
Semrush’s SEM Ad Copy Insights uncovers the SEM messaging that similar businesses in your industry create across their entire product line’s ad copies. Through Semrush’s Advertising Research Ad Copies module, you have visibility to competitors’ ad messaging. This powerful feature provides insight into the key offers presented in competitor’s advertising copy. The next step for your SEM ads is to analyze and improve the messaging to articulate a better proposition while adding creativity to drive more traffic from SEM ads.
Semrush Display Advertising Insights
When you run display ads or retargeting ads, Semrush’s Display Advertising SEM tool gives you an edge by revealing competitor websites’ display ad campaigns with insights into what was recently published. This critical data shows the competitor’s ad message, design style, call-to-action, and the presented offers.
Additionally, Semrush provides demographic details on the display ads targeting criteria, giving you data on competitor’s target market.
Semrush’s demographic data contains the following categories:
- Audience Interests
Overall, the data available from Semrush’s SEM tool pays for itself by providing valuable insights necessary to improve the ROI of your SEM and display ad campaigns.
SEM Tool #2: Google Ads Tool (Free)
Google Ads is a well-rounded starter tool for those getting started in SEM campaigns. Inside Google Ads, the keyword research tool increases exposures of ads being run to improve the opportunity to gain clicks. The tool allows users to explore keyword search volume and discover long-tail keywords related to the initial search. It also reveals the average cost per click rate for every keyword to help you efficiently cost control PPC campaigns. Best of all, this tool is free to use when you sign up with Google Ads (sign up is also free).
Also, the “Opportunities” tab guides you to discover new keywords that will continuously improve campaign efficiency. “Recommendations” like adding site links, considering different match phrases for keywords, and including negative keywords are additional options to enhance campaign outcome.
Maximize Your Advertising Goals through Bidding Strategies
We all face the challenge of dealing with a finite budget, and most of us are at the beg-and-call of our allotted advertising spend. To that point, the Google Ads SEM tool allows you to optimize and maximize the given budget to achieve desired advertising outcome. Let’s discuss a few top bidding strategies for winning SEM campaigns.
Top 6 Winning Google Ads Bidding Strategies for Winning SEM Campaigns
CPA stands short for cost-per-acquisition. What is the maximum dollar you are willing to spend to acquire a lead or customer? Evaluate this question analytically while taking into account the average sale and additional costs involved in a transaction. Through a target CPA model, Google Ads will do its best not to spend over the assigned cost-per-acquisition to capture a lead or customer. Let’s say your CPA goal is $10. Then Google will advertise your search ad between $0.01 to $10.00.
It all sounds great from a profit-and-cost control perspective, but what if a lead aquisition requires stretching the budget to $10.50 or $12.00? For fifty cents or two dollars more, you have an opportunity to convert an additional customer. However, based on the preset CPA modeling, you would have missed out on this opportunity. Therefore, be mindful that the cost-per-acquisition budget threshold could be a double edge sword. Target CPA could get restrictive in costing you quality leads that are slightly above the budgeted allowance.
ROAS stands for return on ad spent. Meaning, the percentage of return you anticipate for every sale that converts to a customer. Generally, this modeling will work better for eCommerce or direct-to-consumer versus business-to-business (B2B) products or services which typically require a longer sales cycle. Be reasonable with the ROAS percentage, as you can freely set an unrealistic percentage such as 1,000% or more return on ad spent. Why is this a bad practice? You do not benefit from an unattainable conversion rate perspective because Google Ads does not show your ad campaign unless the total sale from a customer reaches the percentage you’ve set forth for the entire ad spent. Carefully measure the minimum acceptable ROAS percentage when a sale occurs for this type of modeling.
The core focus of the maximize-clicks model is to gain the most clicks from a set budget. Based on your total allowance assigned to an ad campaign, Google Ads’SEM tool will try to maximize the clicks on the advertisements run.
For the conversion model to work appropriately, you will first define what is considered a conversion for your business. Depending on the industry or vertical, a conversion could be a type of call-to-action such as a form fill, a demo request, or a cart checkout for eCommerce. Based on this value, the bidding strategy in Google Ads’ SEM tool will determine how ads are served to what groups of potential customers so that the conversion rate of all visitors clicking through on the ads is maximized. This model’s blind spot is the potentially high cost of acquiring a customer, as the goal is to generate a conversion regardless of the price.
Maximize Conversion Value
The conversion value model focuses on each conversion’s profit or sales growth for the SEM ads run. This model takes into account the sale price of the transaction. However, maximizing the conversion value also ignores the cost-per-acquisition. While the difference between this model and the maximizing conversion models is that the conversion value model can better justify the ad spent based on the profit margin of the sale.
Target Impression Share
With target impression share, Google Ads will maximize the daily budget to show the ad as much as possible for the targeted keywords. This is a very straightforward model, and most advertisers prefer this strategy for brand awareness. Be thoughtful as this model can quickly burn through the total daily budget in order to deliver impression shares of your ads.
Test, Test, and Continue to Test Ad Messaging
Continuous testing and repetition are the best way to develop the most effective messaging that will bring potential customers to your website. Unless you already have ample supporting data and extensive survey studies on your ideal customer profile, Google Ads SEM tool effectively test-driving all your great ideas for messaging to land a potential conversion.
Through Google’s machine learning, you can also test headlines and short descriptions of ads. Google Ads will optimize the best headline and description to help you achieve campaign goals. With options to create up to 15 headlines and 4 short descriptions, Google Ads will consistently test the messaging and optimize the campaign’s click-through rate (CTR) for the best return on investment.
Maximize Your Budget on Day-Parting and Device Targeting
With the Google Ads SEM tool, you can pull back on advertising spending during off-peak days or hours of your business. For example, suppose historical sales over the weekends for an ecommerce store are typically low. In that case, you have the option to restrict spending on the weekends in order to allocate more advertising dollars to weekdays when sales peak. Furthermore, the same ad targeting customization goes for device types such as desktop, mobile, and tablet. Be data-driven when considering the dates, times, and devices to focus on so that you are maximizing budgets to create the most value out of the ad campaigns.
SEM Tool #3: Microsoft Bing Ads Webmaster Tools (Free)
Similar to Google Ads, the Microsoft Bing Ads Keyword Research tool within the Microsoft Bing Ads Webmaster Tools kit provides the same benefits to understanding search markets for Bing and Yahoo. The tool reveals search volume by keyword and displays the average cost-per-click. The comprehensive keyword reports show keyword suggestions based on historical data during a six-month range. The tools also make keyword suggestions according to different languages as well as geolocations. Use it in conjunction with Google Ads to help you with preliminary keyword research for both SEO and SEM. You can sign up for the Microsoft Bing Ads Keyword Research tool for free as long as you have a Bing Ads account.
SEM Tool #4: Google Analytics (Free)
Google Analytics is one of the best free tools to track Google Ads and Microsoft Bing pay-per-click campaign performances. Google Analytics can be integrated with Google Ads to measure overall landing page quality as well as conversion rate. It is a powerful tool to tracks where visitors are coming from, their time on site, and calculates the bounce rate. These valuable insights allow you to manage and allocate ad spend accordingly. Through the Google Analytics platform, you can monitor the conversion and growth of each ad campaign, so it is executed and tracked effectively while lowering campaign costs over time.
SEM Tool #5: Google Ads Editor (Free)
Google Ads Editor is another free tool within the Google Ads arsenal. This tool makes bulk uploading and managing thousands of ads and keywords in your Google Ads campaign easy to accomplish. This tool is a time-saver and is especially helpful when making revisions to more than one ad campaign. You are able to group keywords together by assigning ad groups to each PPC campaign. For example, instead of doing the hard work to adjust keywords and cost-per-click price one ad campaign at a time, you can efficiently bulk upload all your PPC changes at once to save time and effort.