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Making Search Engine Marketing (SEM) “Click” for You

Although practically all purchase and business decisions begin with an online search — an estimated that 93% of all B2B purchases last year started in a search engine query — we continue to meet prospects who haven’t done any form of search engine marketing (SEM), mainly because they’ve never understood the benefit. If you’re not doing it, either, this blog entry, hopefully, will convince you to get on it!

One of the biggest misperceptions we see is that they the listings at the top and to the right of a page of Google search results are natural. They’re not! Those are paid ads — specifically pay-per-click (PPC) ads related to your query. Sneaky, huh?

SEM Paid vs. Organic

Businesses pay Google, Bing and Yahoo! to display these ads alongside organic search results. Organic results are unpaid, and their respective positions on the results pages are determined by proprietary algorithms, which are a closely guarded secret of the search engine companies — but that’s another blog entry for another day.

PPC campaigns are driven by keywords, which are words or phrases that an advertiser thinks its target audience is most likely to use when searching for a product or service. The effectiveness of a PPC campaign isn’t just in the keywords, however; it also depends on how much you’re willing to pay for them — almost like an auction.

A Bid of This, a Bid of That

Companies bid on the keywords they want to associate with their PPC ads. A bid is the amount a company is willing to pay each time someone clicks on an ad that appears after he or she searches on the specific keyword.

The placement of your ad — how high on the first page, or how many pages deep into the search results — depends on the amount that’s been bid, as well as your quality score. Your quality score is based on the density, frequency, prominence and proximity of keywords on your website. Although each business can have dozens of ads set up for thousands of keywords, the highest performing ads are those triggered by keywords that 1) appear most on the company’s website/ad, and 2) are popular among search engine users.

So, how can you dip your toe into PPC? Come up with a list of keywords you think best exemplify your business and how you think your customers will search for you. Keywords can be simple ("Westchester gym") or long "personal training in White Plains, NY." The more specific your keywords, the higher the quality of your click-throughs. On the other hand, the broader and simpler your keywords are, the more impressions you get. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a mix of short and long keywords.

Don’t Try This at Home

SEM companies like Berlin can help you set up ad groups, develop ad copy, and build landing pages, which are pages of your web site that are tailored specifically for your ad traffic. Sure, you can set up PPC ads yourself, but if you don’t do it correctly, it could cost you a lot of money and still not lead to the conversion rate you want.

Stay tuned for future blog entries covering more in-depth SEM topics with more specific instructions and advice. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? Similarly, you can’t build your business with a single click.