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What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

88 percent of consumers research products online before purchasing online or in-store. Wonder how you can take advantage of these searches? Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has grown with the number of consumers researching and shopping for products online. It may sound intuitive, but according to Wikipedia, Search Engine Marketing is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising. SEM may incorporate search engine optimization (SEO), which adjusts or rewrites website content and site architecture to achieve a higher ranking in search engine results pages to enhance pay-per-click (PPC) listings.

As defined by Wikipedia, here are the definitions of some SEM activities and terms:

  • Paid search advertising: When Ads are set up using an auction-based, PPC model which show digital ads on search engine results pages such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. How often your ads appear, the rankings, and how much you pay per click — are all determined from your bid and Quality Score.
  • Quality Score: Once you create an ad and connect it to a post-click landing page, each respective search engine ad platform will calculate a Quality Score to determine positioning.
  • Paid search ads: Typically shown above and below organic search results. They include three main components — a headline, display URL, and description text — all of which are used to convince users to click. Text ads can also include ad extensions to expand your ad with additional information.
  • PPC (pay-per-click) also known as CPC (cost-per-click) is when advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked.
  • PPC (pay-per-call) happens when some ads, particularly those served to mobile search users, may be charged by the number of clicks that resulted in a direct call from a smartphone.
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) (also called cost per mille), is a term used to denote the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on one webpage. If a website publisher charges $2.00 CPM, that means an advertiser must pay $2.00 for every 1,000 impressions of its ad.
  • SMM (social media marketing) is the use of social media platforms and websites to promote a product or service.

Common SEM task list: There are a few bits of information about your customers you might want to look up before you start your SEM journey. This can help you decide what kind of special you want to offer, and what kind of information you want your customers to learn about your business.

  • If you have a rewards card, you can use customer reports with data that can help you decide. A few basic customer reports would include: age, zip code, trip frequency, basket size, product selection and lost customers.
  • You can also ask your customers what websites or blogs they like to visit for information about food.

Use this data to decide what kind of offer or offers to use on your ads. For example, what if you want to focus on attracting new customers? With your store branding, include some bullet points about your store offerings and a link which takes you to a landing page where they can sign up for your email club and get an introductory offer bounce back email. Make sure when you entice your customer with an offer, follow through by linking to a landing page on your website that has more info on that offer and/or gives the customer the tools to redeem the offer. Don’t get your customers excited by announcing on an ad they can register for a prize then only link to your sites home page thinking they will find the form using the navigation. This can have a negative effect on your website ranking if customers click on your ad, then abandon your website immediately.

The most popular paid search platform is Google Ads. This is where you determine your keywords or search phrase as well as the amount you are willing to spend (per click and/or per day). Keywords are constantly changing, especially since the introduction of voice commands where questions are asked verbally. Text searches vs. voice searches can conjure up a whole new set of words. Include the most successful keywords and phrases used in your Google Ads in your website content as well to drive more traffic to your site.

The advantages of SEM over SEO? You only pay for impressions that result in visitors to your website. SEM results are also immediate.

When working on your store’s digital marketing budget, it’s best to invest some time and money in both SEO and SEM. Both processes overlap and complement each other in the task to increase traffic to your website. Consider the age of your website. If you have a new website, it makes more sense to start up a PPC campaign, then follow through with your SEO.

Go learn more about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) >

Why do I work at AWG? “It’s hard to find a native Kansan who doesn’t have family living in a small town community... and I am no exception. My family tree is full of farmers who have helped put food on our tables for over 100 years. So when I hear of a small town’s only grocery store closing down it hits home. Even though I now live in a big city, I like to know through my work I can help keep small independent grocery stores stay open for future generations to enjoy.” -Sharlyn