Remember when you actually had to show up in-person to a business to see if they offered the product or service you needed?
The idea seems antiquated, but this was the norm just over two decades ago. With the arrival of Google and other online search engines, this all changed—and allowed us to do our casual browsing and intentional purchasing from our most comfortable furniture. This is how we shop.
And for businesses and organizations trying to reach new customers, search engine marketing (SEM) is an essential way to do it.
SEM refers to the practice of improving how customers find your product or service on a search engine (like Google) through paid advertising. These search engines are how we look for every need that’s either essential or the result of curiosity, so it’s become a necessity that businesses are out there in this space to address these needs. If they are, they can be found, utilized, and eventually, find tremendous success for their products and services.
Now at the start of another holiday season, businesses of all sizes will look to maximize their online presence to garner maximum sales. According to a recent study released by digital marketing platform Constant Contact, more than half of U.S. small businesses earn more than 25% of their annual sales between now and New Year’s Eve.
That’s a big number, as well as a reason for SEM to be part of every business’s strategy. It may be too late to execute an impactful campaign for this holiday season, but whether in December or at the start of January 2024, what should you know about SEM and where can you start?
The Martin Group’s digital team has thoughts—and thankfully, plenty of actionable direction. Here are their suggestions.
Keywords are key to success
If you’re just becoming familiar with the benefits (and necessity) of SEM for small and large businesses alike, then understanding the importance of keywords is a great place to start. Establishing keywords—used in blogs, web articles, website copy, and more—to focus your SEM efforts starts with uncovering what words or phrases your desired customers are using to find what they want. Once established, you can use this language to match customers with your products or services. And these keywords are not just helpful for this realm of marketing; they can also inform your overall messaging, content strategy, and continuous inventory, based on customer interest.
One way to establish what keywords could work for you and your goals is to use a keyword planner, which can help build a strong keyword list for your campaigns or ongoing operations. And good news: Google has one.
Patience can pay off
Although we live in a seemingly instantaneous world—where everything can be found and/or purchased with a few clicks—SEM doesn’t work like that. According to the SEO/SEM-focused Uncommon Marketing Works, campaigns run via Google ads can take up to three months to mature and show significant results—and you may not learn that you’ve achieved your ultimate goals for up to six months. Will you see anything in the initial weeks of an SEM campaign? Absolutely—but anything shouldn’t be the aim.
Just like building a business and a customer base, garnering their consistent attention to your calls to action takes time. Work with your internal or external digital team, and be patient enough to let your campaign perform—and, ideally, peak.
Understand your budget—and when to increase it
Money spent on SEM efforts is not a whole lot different than money spent on other marketing efforts: the bigger the spend, the better the chance at making an impact. Seems easy enough, but figuring the spend into your overall marketing budget—and making it flexible, based on what you’re trying to accomplish—is essential to assuring the purpose of the spend.
Spending a nominal amount just to do it may not accomplish anything aside from wasting money that can be spent elsewhere. Instead, establishing an amount that can be adjusted based on market research, customer targeting, and testing different approaches (with varied keyword combinations) will give you the best chance at success.
Go where your competitors do not
Yes, we’ve referenced Google a lot throughout this post. The search engine has single-handedly changed the way we shop, live—and is now as much a verb as a noun. But note: It’s not the only place for businesses to solicit possible customers.
From Microsoft Bing to DuckDuckGo and other search engine options, businesses can find other bastions to execute their SEM campaigns—and to do it in places their competitors may not be utilizing. In the case of Bing specifically, the SE boasts a visual search tool to easier match customers to products based on imagery, can allow businesses to get more out of their use of their chosen keywords than Google, and most important for your budget, can provide SEM capabilities at a 70% lower rate than Google.
Looking for SEM help? Please feel free to drop us a line!