The acronym SEM translates into Search Engine Marketing. It is a method of online marketing which you pay a price for advertisement to show up in search results when people look up keywords relating to your products or services.
The dollar amount you pay for ads to show up in search engine results will vary. It is dependent on the keyword you wish to bid for and how many advertisers are also bidding on the same keyword.
The more search volume and competitiveness a keyword have, the more expensive it is to bid for the desired keyword. Depending on the industry, Cost-Per-Click (CPC) rate of an advertisement can go from a few pennies to tens of dollars per a single click.
Yes, it can add up to be really expensive. This is why you should have a step by step SEM strategy to run a successful SEM campaign.
12 Key Elements of a Winning SEM Campaign
1. Lower Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
No, that is not the same as your accountant, but it does have much to do with your bottom line. CPA, as Google AdWords explains it, is the method of bidding that focuses on maximizing conversion rate while reducing spending. CPA simply means how much it will cost you to capture a lead or close a sale
You will first need to create a Google AdWords account and a Bing Ads account in order to have ads show up in Google and Bing search results. They are both free to set up. With Bing Ads, you can now take advantage of a $50 free Bing ad coupon with first time sign-up.
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Within AdWords and Bing Ads, you are able to set an appropriate CPA and take full control of how much to allocate towards each acquisition (i.e. getting a sale or receiving a lead). In turn, your overall campaign budget can be bettered managed. Here is a complete guide to how CPA works from Google Support.
2. Evaluate Ad Content Performance
Content is the essence of advertisement, and it is the focus of any marketing piece. The verbiage you use to present an advertisement is an important piece of content that should never be overlooked. High performing ad content increases ROI or return on investment.
3 Components of Effective Ad Content
- Relevant keywords
- Audience appeal
- Captivating call-to-action
These 3 ingredients bring together a targeted ad message that increases CTR (Click-Through-Rate). This means you have more opportunities to successfully complete a conversion. Periodically test these components for optimal ad performance.
3. Improve Keyword Performance with Analytical Tools
Conversion of an advertisement ties closely with the keywords you choose to target in a campaign. Analytics data is the key to SEM campaign’s keyword performance success.
4 Criteria of High-Performance Keywords
- Returns high sales volumes
- Generates the most clicks
- Produce the lowest bounce rate (when a visitor takes no action on your website and leaves) Leads to the most time spent on the website
Use SEM tools to discover profitable keywords. Make sure to check for search volume and competitiveness of every keyword periodically. Focus on raising the quality scores and CTR (Click-Through-Rate) of these keywords within ad content. Refer to our complete guide to winning SEM keyword Research.
In addition, if you are using Google AdWords, sync it with Google Analytics to receive better analytics insights.
4. Divert Ad Traffic Segment and Test
Getting visitors to click on your ad is only half the job done. Turning that click into revenue is the ultimate objective of a successful SEM campaign.
So how do you ensure that the ad’s landing page is effectively converting sales? Or can it potentially be more effective? This is when we turn to A/B testing.
Basically, A/B testing tools such as Optimizely allows you to divide traffic from the same ad content onto two different landing pages. Test ad elements such as keywords one at a time to perfect both ad message and landing page content for maximum conversion.
Now you are able to test out what components of the advertisement work best. You can also monitor how different page components can improve the conversion rate. Keep testing and perfecting the ad campaigns for better ROI over time. Here are the details on how to properly run A/B testing from Google Support.
5. Simplify Checkout Funnel on Landing Page
This can apply to both e-commerce and B2B websites. You can improve the conversion rate of the website by setting proper checkout funnels on the landing page.
Whether you are promoting email signups or running a sale, if you are collecting information from customers, make the landing page where they input information as easy as possible.
For e-commerce websites, you want to guide visitors through the checkout process in a few simple steps without confusion. Making an efficient checkout funnel improves user experience and ultimately leads to better conversion results. An efficient checkout process has the potential to turn ready-to-buy visitors into committing customers.
However, building an e-commerce website can be challenging and expensive. Esthetics, usability, and marketability of every component on the website affect conversion. E-commerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce offer an extensive range of powerful front end and back end tools. It makes theme designing, managing inventory, marketing, reporting, and even accounting easy to execute and track. The platform provides large collections of resources for webmasters. It can be a more budget friendly option versus a completely custom-coded website.
6. Increase Conversion Rate
The conversion rate is the percentage of total volume of sales, leads, or any other conversion values divided by the total number of visitors. This is one of the most important metrics in SEM you need to monitor. The higher the conversion rate is in an SEM campaign, the better the advertisement is performing.
3 Key Factors that Control Conversion Rate
- Keyword performance
- Ad content optimization
- Landing Page efficiency
This means, the keywords you are targeting, the message you are using to describe ads, and the webpages that your advertisements lead to should be optimized to convert sales.
Refer to data from Google AdWords and Bing Ads to track and improve your campaign’s performance. You can refine the marketing messages, benefit statements, or call-to-action statements according to analytics data.
Use keyword research tools to help you find, track, monitor, and refine keywords with the lowest Cost-Per-Click (CPC) and the highest Click-Through-Rate (CTR). High performing keywords can uncover unique niche markets while better control overall campaign budget.
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As for landing pages, continue to test out visuals and different ways to structure content to improve conversion.
7. Decrease Bounce Rate
When visitors come to your website and hit the “back” button too soon, you know there is a bad case of high bounce rate. Bounce rate is one of the most negative metrics affecting SEM campaign’s success.
When a visitor leaves your website right away after clicking an ad, advertising dollars are wasted because no conversion resulted from this transaction. It is a sign to make some serious assessments.
Unless you have got technical issues or broken links, content is the first thing to be evaluated. Ambiguous, irrelevant, or misleading ad content can contribute to bounce rate in a negative way.
Make sure there are adequate data supporting the advertisement’s landing page. What customers see on the landing page should be exactly what the ad is pitching for. Sales pitches may earn you a click, but it can turn into a click wasted when you lose a customer over a low-quality landing page.
8. Target Geolocation Performance
Picking the right location, but not every location, can significantly increase ad targeting precision. In both AdWords and Bing Ads, there are options to select which physical locations (i.e. county, state, city) the advertisements target.
Adjusting your bids according to ad performance in different locations. It is a cost conservative way to push out the campaigns to the right audience for maximum exposure.
Utilize location-specific keywords in landing pages (i.e. New York City, Los Angeles) to better respond to location-specific search queries. Make educated predictions of visitor demographics by researching into your analytics reports.
Here we have the best practices to help you improve AdWords geolocation targeting.
9. Monitor Time on Site
Once a potential customer clicks on an ad and lands on your webpage, the time a customer spends on your website ties closely into the likelihood of a conversion. The longer visitors linger on your webpage, the more likely they will take action. The action can be anything from clicking on another page, responding a call-to-action, or making a purchase. More dwelling times equals to lower bounce rate, which can increase your website’s Google quality score rating.
How to keep visitors from ditching your page too soon? Factors like content engagement, keyword relevancy, and ad message are big influencers. They are good predictors of how much time visitors are willing to invest into your website.
10. Customize Ad Schedule Performance
With Google AdWords and Bing Ads, you can customize the time period advertisements turn up in search results. This is a great way to improve targeting as you narrow down the window of the highest search traffic.
Both AdWords and Bing Ads have “day parting” options that allow you to customize ad scheduling. It makes ads appear in search results at your selected days and times.
How do you determine when is the best time to show ads? Look into your analytics reports. Pinpoint the peak periods when you receive the most views and conversions. Keep an eye on the day parting schedule and adjust it periodically according to traffic flow.
Here is our comprehensive guide on how to set up ad scheduling in Google AdWords and Bing Ads.
11. Reduce Cost Per Lead
Cost reduction is definitely one of the biggest goals and challenges of SEM. This is the metric that quantifies the value created through SEM campaigns and ultimately determines ROI (Return On Investment). Knowing the cost and return of each lead generated can help businesses to balance marketing effort between SEO and paid SEM campaigns.
You can lower cost per lead by utilizing keyword research tools to seek out long-tail keywords with high quality scores. It is a much more cost effective than going into a bidding war with generic keywords that every competitor wants to rank for. Learn more about how to better budget SEM Pay-Per-Click campaigns.
12. Accelerate ROI
ROI (Return on Investment) is measured by the percentage of converting sales divided by cost. It is one of the most direct and perhaps difficult performances you can measure through SEM.
It is difficult because it is challenging to correctly pinpoint the elements that contribute to the conversion. For example, there can be incidences where visitors see your ad for product A but bought product B instead.
So how can you track and increase ROI conversion? Most of the answers lie within the analytics data collected on the back end of your website. Data about how visitors interact with your advertisements are extremely valuable to your marketing campaigns. This is the core information you need to increase conversion rate. Use SEM tools to better track and analyze data for the most profitable ad campaigns.
Win with the Right Strategies
The key to a successful SEM campaign lies within the right strategies. Optimize campaign strategies to align with marketing goals can greatly accelerate online marketing efforts. Learn the best strategies to run a successful SEM campaign.