Search Engine Marketing Guide (SEM): A Complete Guide For Effective Results

Search Engine Marketing Guide (SEM)
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One of the most effective ways to grow your business rapidly and competitively in a digital world is search engine marketing.

Also known as SEM, millions of businesses are open to showcasing their product and services out there in cyberspace. However, there is more to advertising online, search engine marketing guide is seen to be the most effective way to promote your product and grow it speedily.

This article is designed for you to learn an overview of search engine marketing basics as well as some tips and strategies for doing search engine marketing right.

What Is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing is one notable platform people market businesses using paid advertisements that usually appear on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

However, advertisers bid on keywords that people who use the services of Google and Bing might enter when looking for certain products or services. This gives the advertiser the opportunity which allows their ads to appear alongside results for those search queries.

Often, these ads are termed pay per click ads and they come in different formats. It is obvious that some are small, text-based ads, while others, such as product listing ads (known as shopping ads) are more visual, product-based advertisements that allow consumers to see important information at-a-glance, such as price and reviews.

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One of the greatest strengths of search engine marketing is that advertisers are given the opportunity to display their ads before their passionate customers who are willing and able to make purchases.

SEM is indeed considered one of the most effective advertising mediums with an edge over others, therefore it is such an influential way to grow your business.

SEM versus SEO: What’s the difference?

SEM is an abbreviation of Search Engine Marketing while SEO means Search Engine Optimization.

What makes SEO different is that businesses don’t pay Google for traffic and clicks; rather, they earn a free spot in the search results by having the most relevant content for a given keyword.

Note that both SEO and SEM are key and as such lay a foundation for online marketing strategy. More interestingly SEO is a powerful way to drive quality traffic at the top of the funnel, while search engine advertisements are a highly cost-effective way to drive conversions at the bottom of the funnel.

Largely, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) seeks to achieve high search rankings through backlines, optimized content, and other organic factors, while Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to paid search marketing, a system where businesses pay Google to show their ads in the search results.

SEO is more workable, though, it’s time involving, and much effort is required to achieve consistent results. Therefore, the most effective search marketing campaigns use both SEO and SEM in tandem, with SEM helping to reach the unused markets immediately before you can even start an SEO campaign for the new keywords.

Be rest assured that by using SEO and SEM together, you’ll be able to work on long-term campaigns without letting go of short-term results. Also, always use keywords and insights about your audience from SEM campaigns to upgrade and improve your SEO efforts.

Here we cover some of the key tools, terms, and strategies essential for any successful SEM campaign. Let’s get started!

Keywords: The Foundation of Search Engine Marketing

It is an established fact that keywords are the mainstream of search engine marketing. That is to say, a user can enter keywords (as part of search queries) into search engines in order to find what they’re looking for, and this forms the basis of search engine marketing as an advertising strategy.

SEM Keyword Research 

It is very important to conduct thorough research as part of a keyword management strategy before choosing which keywords to use in your search engine marketing campaigns.  How can you do that? 

All you need to do is to identify keywords that are essential to your business, knowing that prospective customers may likely use them when searching for your products and services. The best way to do this is by using various keyword tools such as Google keyword planner or WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool.

In another way, you can simply enter a keyword that’s relevant to your business or service, and then see related keyword suggestion ideas which can serve as the basis of different search engine marketing campaigns.

In a nutshell, WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool serves you with a variety of valued information like search volume for each individual keyword in Google and its general competitiveness.

Free Keyword Reseaerch Tool
Image credit: wordstream

Aside from helping you to find keywords, you should be bidding on, do you know that comprehensive keyword research can also unravel negative keywords that if left unchecked would have a negative bearing on your campaigns? If found, such terms should be excluded from the campaigns.

When we talk of negative keywords, that does not mean the keywords are negative by implication but rather they offer less meaning and are unlikely to bring about conversions in the end.

This concept is known as search intent or the likelihood that a prospect will complete a purchase or other desired action after searching for a given term. Some keywords are considered to have high commercial intent or a strong indication that the searcher wants to buy something. Examples of high commercial intent keywords include:

  • Buy
  • Discount(s)
  • Deal(s)
  • Coupon(s)
  • Free shipping

Keywords and Account Structure

Another fundamental aspect of keywords that is essential for the success of a search engine marketing campaign is account structure.

It is important to know that when you deal with logical keyword grouping and account structure, it will greatly help you achieve higher click-through rates, lower costs-per-click, and on the whole, overall performance.

Therefore, keyword research can help you think about how to best structure your account. Though, there are specific ways of structuring certain accounts.

It is advisable that Google Ads and Bing Ads accounts should be structured in the following way for better results:

Google Ads Account Structure
Image credit: wordstream

Looking at the above figure, it is good for a perfect Google Ads account structure to have five distinct elements:

  • Ad campaigns
  • Ad groups
  • Keywords
  • Ad text
  • Landing pages

Ad campaigns primarily focus on products and services that are related. It is therefore common to say, if you are running a hardware store, one of your ad campaigns should basically focus solely on autumnal products like rakes and leaf blowers while another ad campaign focuses on power tools, etc.

Your ad campaigns can gain relevance majorly when it is been subcategorized using Ad groups. Using our previous example of a hardware store, one ad group could be for different types of rakes or varying models of leaf blowers. For the power tools campaign, one ad group should centre on power drills, while another be focused on the area circular saws. 

Though this kind of arrangement is time-consuming at the beginning but trust me, the reward will be great in the end, looking at the higher CTRs at a lower cost which makes this effort useful, especially in the long run.

The Search Engine Marketing Ad Auction 

It is obvious that when it comes to search engine marketing, whoever has the largest advertising budget wins. However, it is beyond this mere notion where a larger advertising budget wins all, though this can undoubtedly be advantageous, most importantly when targeting highly competitive keywords.

This is to say, it’s far from being a benchmark for counting success with search engine marketing. This is because all ads go through a process known as the ad auction before appearing alongside search results. 

For the purpose of clarity, we’ll deem it necessary to focus on the ad auction in Google AdWords.

How does Ad Auction work

The ad auction work is simple. This process takes place every single time a user enters a search query into Google. While they entered into the ad auction, advertisers identify keywords they want to bid on and state how much they are willing to spend (per click) to have their ads appear alongside results relating to those keywords. 

That is to say, if Google realized that the keywords you have bid on are contained within a user’s search query, then your ads are entered into the ad auction.

How Ads ‘Win’ the Ad Auction

It is not shocking news that not every single ad will appear on every single search. The reason is simple, the ad auction takes into cognizance several factors when it comes to the placement of ads on the SERP.

This is because not every keyword has a satisfactory commercial intent to warrant the display of ads next to results. However, Google has some basic evaluating tools as part of the ad auction process regarding your maximum bid and the Quality Score of your ads.

What then could be the maximum bid? The maximum bid is said to be the maximum amount of money you have stated and are also willing to pay for a click

While the Quality Score on the other hand is a metric based on the overall quality of your advertisement. With this, Google calculates these metrics during the ad auction to determine the placement of advertisements. It is the result of this calculation is called ad rank.

Google determines Quality Score
Image credit: wordstream

The Importance of Quality Scores in SEM

If Google AdWords Quality Score is considered to have constituted half of the ad rank formula, it would have been one of the most crucial metrics search engine marketers could focus on.

Therefore, High-Quality Scores can help you better to achieve ad position at minimal costs, since Google favors ads that are highly relevant to user queries.

No doubt, Quality Score is an essential metric in search engine marketing. 

Succeed at Search Engine Marketing

SEM tools like WordStream has come to stay to give you a breath of fresh air in the world of search engine marketing not minding whether you’re a newcomer to paid search marketing or a seasoned professional.

Be ready to enjoy everything you need to succeed at search engine marketing while your journey with WordStream last.

WordStream’s Google Ads Performance Grader

Just like any other business platform with challenges, search engine marketing undoubtedly has a challenge in the aspects of which parts of your campaigns requires attention and which are performing well. 

For a better understanding of how perfect your account is, check WordStream’s free Google Ads Performance Grader.

Wordstream Google Ads Performance Grader
Image credit: wordstream

Expect your result within or less than 60 seconds, for the Google Ads Performance Grader will perform a thorough audit of your search engine marketing account and subsequently identifies key areas that will require urgent improvements to make.

Accounts are graded against 10 key search engine marketing benchmarks, including:

  • Wasted spend
  • Click-through rate
  • Quality Score
  • Negative keyword usage


Search engine marketing is indeed the backbone of digital campaigns. Though not every marketer uses it, it was one of the first digital marketing techniques to emerge way back and it’s still the first line of defense for many businesses and brands. 

Therefore, for effective search engine marketing campaigns, both SEO and SEM will help you to achieve consistent results in the long term without affecting short-term results.

Simon Orshi

Simon Orshi

Simon is a creative copywriter focused mainly on digital marketing and related topics. He loves sharing his expertise with our audience to help improve their blogging and traffic growth skills. He also loves reading, football and blogging.

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