4-Step Guide on How to Create a Winning SEM Campaign

A feasible plan and the right strategies set the foundation for a successful SEM campaign. Next, we need to put it to the test and create a campaign that makes conversion happen. This is essential to any business trying to market and advertise online.

How to Create a Winning SEM Campaign

The following 4-step guide will teach you how to create a converting SEM campaign. We will explain each one in further detail.

  1. Plan for Specific Keywords
  2. Utilize Tools for Effective Keyword Research
  3. Budget-Control Your Cost Per “Click”
  4. Write Compelling Ad Messages

Create SEM Campaign in 4 Steps

Step #1: Plan for Specific SEM Keywords

Keyword research is vital to the success of your search marketing campaign. For example, if you advertise to someone who is searching for a "car" then good luck with going against the other 3,370,000,000 results that yield "car".

The problem is we don’t really know what this person wants when he/she is searching for such a broad term. Therefore, if your marketing campaign is targeting a generic or a single broad term like this, chances are, you may need to spend an obscene amount of advertising budget, and end up breaking your bank.

Take Advantage of Long Tail Keywords

To ensure your marketing dollars are put to good use, start by narrowing your keywords from ambiguity. Aim to create long-tail keywords which are short phrases made up of 3 or more words.

Try different variations and combinations of the keyword phrases that best represent your products or services. The right keywords can uncover new market shares.

Going back to our "car" example, now let’s try to target someone who is searching for a "2016 BMW M4 Coupe". From this new long-tail keyword, we can understand this person knows his or her car’s year, make, and model.

By applying more specific descriptions to a keyword, we have significantly narrowed down what a potential customer is looking for.

You can capitalize on this information and build a landing page specific to this search query. It can translate into increased opportunity of converting a lead or sale.

Winning Keywords Entail the Following Qualities

The key is to look for quality long-tail keywords that are unique to your business. With these keywords, you can discover and capitalize on more niche markets.

In summary, good keywords have the following three qualities:

  1. Unique and descriptive
  2. Relevant to your products and services
  3. Create call-to-actions

Step #2 Utilize SEM Tools for Effective Keyword Research

By now you might have this burning question to ask: "How do I find the most profitable and business-qualified keywords for my website?" Luckily, searching out these money-words don’t have to be a wild goose hunt.

There are many quality SEM tools out there that can take the guesswork out of the equation. Let’s explore a few from the top of our "tried-and-true" list:

Top 2 Free Keyword Research Tools:

#1 Google AdWords Keyword Planner:

Google AdWords Keyword Planner is one of the best keyword research tools you can find out there. It is free when you have a Google AdWords account, which by the way, is also free. You only pay when you start to run AdWords campaigns.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner does exactly what you need it to do – comprehensive keyword research. You can use it to brainstorm or research the best terms for your SEO or SEM ad campaigns.

The tool provides keyword suggestions and estimates the amount of traffic you would receive for each keyword within Google. Additional data are provided to help you determine the most suitable phrases to advertise.

For instance, it can show you competition level and the suggested bid price of each keyword.

A Google AdWords Tip: Remember to select your target area. For instance:

  1. Which Country: United States
  2. Language: English
  3. Date range: Normally the default setting of last 12 months is enough data.

#2 Bing Ads Keyword Research and Opportunities:




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Similar to AdWords for Google, Bing Ads provides a platform for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns. You can easily import most of your Google AdWords campaigns directly into Bing Ads.

It is free to sign up and the best part is that you can receive a $50 free ad coupon when you sign up with Bing Ads today. You can use the $100 to run Bing Ads. So basically, you get free money to try it out.

The Bing keyword planner allows you to input keywords and receive search volume data aggregated from Bing, Yahoo, and AOL search networks. All these data represent SEO organic search. The stats on the search volume are based on the previous 6 months of historical records.

This keyword research tool will generate keyword suggestions in different languages particular to their countries. It is helpful in targeting content to specific demographics.

Although search volume will be smaller than the data from Google AdWords keyword planner, it is still a reliable research platform to get great keyword search volume.

Top Advance SEM Tools:

Basic keyword research tools are sufficient to get the job done. However, when you want to win and consistently stay on top of your competition, you need advanced SEM tools.

They do everything from complete SEM audit, competitor analysis, to comprehensive keyword research. You can even peek into what your competitors are writing for their advertising content.

Advanced SEM keyword research tools that top our list are SEMRush, SearchMetrics, and Wordtracker. We will talk about each in detail.

SEM Tool #1: SEMRush Keyword Research



Starting Price


  • Research the right keywords and long-tail keywords appriopriate for your business
  • Reveal competitors SEM ads, spend, and advertising keywords
  • Gain insights to all your keyword's cost per click

$69.95 Monthly

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We love using SEMRush and would recommend this tool for SEM and SEO keyword performance tracking. It is especially handy in discovering lucrative and high-yield keywords for SEM campaigns.

Use this tool to uncover related keywords and phrase-match keywords to the original search phrases. This can reveal additional opportunities for long-tail keyword discoveries and show you different word mix.

In addition, SEMRush will:

  • Calculate every keyword’s competition level
  • Average each keyword’s cost per click
  • Estimate monthly keyword search volume
  • Provide historic monthly trends of keyword search volume

SEM Tool #2: SearchMetrics Keyword Research



Starting Price


  • Research complete list of keywords with current SERP results and display
  • Track your SEM visibility score 
  • Discover shared keywords that your competitors are bidding for

$69 Monthly

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SearchMetrics is best known for its enterprise SEO platform and search engine visibility trend. It offers complete insights into different aspects of your SEM campaigns. Best of all, you can have SEO and SEM performance monitoring in one manageable platform.

Let’s talk about SearchMetric’s powerful keyword research tool. When you research a keyword, SearchMetrics will provide:

  • Keyword search volume
  • Estimated average cost per click
  • Search volume trend over time. It allows you to visually see which month has a higher search trend. Knowing your most profitable keywords, you now have an edge to capitalize on that extra traffic.
  • Competition level. This helps you to determine whether a keyword has value and is worthy of bidding on. Highly competitive keywords in an SEM environment can get even more expensive in their cost-per-click.

Step #3 Budget-Control Your Cost Per "Click"

Now that you have a list of keywords to run advertisements with, let’s talk about how much you should spend on PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaigns. The truth is, it is different for every business and industry. So determining how much you should spend on SEM campaigns depends on many factors.

However, with relevant data and research you can come up with a workable budget to begin with.

Keyword Pricing is Dependent on Various Reasons

  • Industry
  • Seasonality
  • Market competition
  • Your advertisement’s Quality Score within AdWords. This is Google’s 1-10 ranking system. Quality score measures relevancy, click-through rate and overall user experience delivered through your campaign. Google uses this rating system to determine the quality of your ads and landing pages through the keywords you are advertising with. Learn more about how to improve your ad campaign’s Google Quality Score.

Focus on Quality over Quantity of Clicks

Cost-Per-Click in a PPC campaign is different for every industry. That is why you should spend the time to thoroughly research and discover unique niche markets with long tail keywords.

One of the best routes is to research for long tail keywords that do not have a large search volume but shows great user intent. For instance, it can be intent to make a purchase or to learn about a topic. Competition for those keywords will be comparatively less.

When your potential customers search on Google and have a good idea about what they want, they are more likely to respond to call-to-actions. Make sure your landing pages are highly relevant to the keywords in your ad content so you can maximize conversion.

Since Google AdWords assign keywords with a quality score. The higher your score is, the less you have to pay for clicks. Remember to keep your overall budget in mind and refrain from ego-bidding war with competitors.

Always focus on quality over quantity in keywords, and constantly try to improve your keyword quality scores to lower overall cost.

Get Help from SEM Experts

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Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords: How to Access 1 Billion People in 10 Minutes (Ultimate Series)

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Starting your first SEM Campaign can be confusing. The good news is you can get help from professionals for very little investment. Google AdWords for Beginners: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to PPC Advertising can guide you through the basics and make sense of AdWords in mundane terms.

The Author Corey Rabazinski is Director of Marketing at Code School and a seasoned PPC expert himself. He provides a straight-to-the-point explanation of Google AdWords and how it works. It is an informative and easy-to-read piece for beginners with limited technical background.

This book is rather short (65 pages) and explains Google AdWords in a simple context. It allows readers to quickly grasp the concept. The book includes a helpful 8-step process that generates optimistic results for many companies.

If you are just getting into the realm of running your own AdWords campaigns, this book can be very helpful.

Step #4 Write Compelling Ad Messages

Stand Out from Your Competition

You are up against more competition than you think. In the online space, your rivals are not just limited to your direct parallels. For example, a BMW dealership may be in direct competition with Mercedez Benz, Audi, and other BMW dealerships. When it comes to online advertising, non-dealerships such as CarMax becomes a fierce opponent.

Spend the time to research which competitors are advertising for the same keywords as you are. Highlight the unique qualities of your business in ad messages to entice the audience. Work to differentiate your ads from the competition. Learn more about SEM ad content writing for better conversion.

Include a Benefit Statement

“50% off”, “free gift”, “buy one get one free”. These are all eye-catching incentives or benefit statements to improve click-through rate of your ads.

Benefit statements encourage audience to click on your ad. So give your customers a good reason to come to your website. Make sure to highlight the best features of your products or services.

Focus on identifying and promoting your best selling points. These are the keys to closing a sale or converting a lead.

Keep Testing

There is never one good phrase you should stick to for all of your SEM advertisements. People appeal to different communication styles. So customize different campaign messages for different audience groups.

Test different variations of your ad messaging over a period of time. You will find the most profitable one with the highest return on investment, lowest cost per acquisition, and lowest cost per click.

Persistence is the Key to Long-Term SEM Success

Take control of your SEM campaigns. With good practice cost will eventually weigh down. Start with researching the right keyword phrases for your business. Make sure all your landing pages are relevant to what people are searching for.

Test your ad messages to gain the best ROI (Return on Investment), CPA (Cost-Per-Acquisition), or CPC (Cost-Per-Click). Search engine marketing will be one of the easiest ways to get traffic to your website fast. So start planning! Here is a helpful checklist item that can guide you to build a successful SEM campaign.

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