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If your business could show up at the top of the results every time a user completes a search, that would be amazing, right? Unfortunately, search engines don’t work like that. But there is a way to show up first in the number one spot for searches related to your business, and that method is search engine marketing.

In this guide, we’re covering all things search engine marketing, including:

What Is Search Engine Marketing?

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, adds the right tools, tactics, and techniques to your paid advertising to boost your performance on search engines like Google or Bing. It’s every business’s goal to appear at the top of page one on Google. However, securing that coveted position doesn’t happen by accident. Showing up at the top of Google takes a calculated effort.

Companies large and small have to compete for their spot on the first results page whenever a user searches a relevant keyword, and strong SEM is the key to making that happen for you. With a competitive spirit and a thorough understanding of which tactics to employ, you can outperform companies similar to yours.

Search Engine Marketing is about improving brand visibility and increasing conversion rates. It generates clicks to your landing page, calls to your business, forms submitted to your company online, or purchases made through your website. You must implement a diligent strategy to rank well on search engines and increase your return on investment.

What Are the Various SEM Strategies?

With the right strategies for your SEM, you can see increased conversions, better click-through rates, and victory over your competition. Strategies should include:

  1. Well-planned budgets – You don’t have to pay tons of money to reach and keep the top spot on Google, but your budget should be well thought out and reflect your goals. If you want to capture 100 new leads, you need to plan for a budget that will achieve that objective.
  2. Highly optimized ads – From the copy to the design, your ads should be engaging enough to catch your target audience’s attention and convince them to click.
  3. Cohesive campaigns – Along with having a clear objective, your campaign must be cohesive and made of elements that work together to achieve your goals.
  4. Quality landing pages – The landing page is what users will see when they click your ad. Your landing page should feature informative, well-written content that convinces the user to act further and become a customer. Landing pages that are visually appealing and intuitively designed will push more conversions, as well.

There are additional factors to remain aware of throughout your SEM, including your ROI and Google Quality Score. Once you employ your strategies, use these metrics to adjust your SEM and steer your marketing efforts forward.

Design Winning SEM Strategies with Help from M&R! Talk to Our Digital Experts Today: 478-621-4491

How to Implement SEM

Are you ready to incorporate search engine marketing into your overall marketing plan? Here’s how you should begin:

Establish Your SEM Goals

Every successful SEM campaign starts with a defined plan in place before ads are set up. As mentioned, a thoughtful strategy is critical for the success of your search engine marketing. To get the most out of your SEM, start by understanding the different ad campaigns available and the outcomes each provides. From there, you can sharpen your strategy to achieve your intended goals.

The types of digital ad campaigns include:

Display Ads

Display ads appear on digital media like websites, social media platforms, apps, and videos. These ads aim to entice users to click through to a website or landing page. Once there, you want the user to follow through on an action, like:

  • Make a purchase
  • Submit a form
  • Click a phone number to call

Display ads can generate conversions, but they are best at increasing brand awareness. The more times a user encounters your display ad, the more likely they are to recognize your company name, digest the message in your ad, and carry out a conversion.

The Rule of Seven

Marketers believe that a person needs to see a company’s ad about seven times before they’ll take action on the product or the brand. Display ads are an effective way for your company to routinely appear in front of internet users, increasing your likelihood of turning leads into customers or clients.

Search Ads

Search ads—sometimes called paid searches, pay-per-click ads (PPC), or SEM ads—appear at the top of search engine pages like Google and Bing. The leading purpose of these ads is to drive conversions by presenting relevant information to the user. The success of your search ads depends on several factors, including:

  • Keyword relevance
  • Smart bidding strategies
  • Targeting
  • Quality content

When users encounter a relevant, informative, high-quality ad, they are more likely to click it and follow through with further action.

Google Local Services Ads

Google Local Service Ads are an effective way to reach your nearby audience and generate leads. These ads are different from Google Ads, as you are only charged if you generate a lead from the ad versus if your audience clicks on it. Your Google Local Service Ad will show up at the top of Google’s search engine result page (SERP), and it will include the following information about your business:

  • Name
  • Hours of operation
  • Review rating
  • Review count
  • Service area

Google Local Service Ads also boast a white checkmark in a green circle with the words “GOOGLE GUARANTEED” next to it, sure to catch your audience’s eye. Even better, Local Service Ads populate above other paid ads, which are fighting for this coveted spot.

Remarketing Ads

A remarketing ad campaign works by installing code on your website that captures information of your website visitors and builds a list that you can then serve unique ads to.

One of the strongest benefits of the Display Network as a whole is that it puts your brand in front of a large number of eyes. Remarketing ads up the ante for branding however, because you can be certain that all those who view or click your remarketing ads have previously interacted with your business. Your remarketing ads are a viewer’s second, third, or fourth impression of your brand, allowing you to cement yourself in the minds of your potential customers.

Remarketing ads benefit your brand by:

  • Boosting brand awareness
  • Targeting audiences with incredible precision
  • Increasing your likelihood of achieving conversions

Determine Your Preferred Bidding Methods

Keyword bidding is the process by which marketers compete for the featured ad space at the top of user search results. On each search engine platform, your keyword bidding strategy helps determine the success of your ad campaign. Bidding efforts affect your campaign’s reach and how well your audience will see and interact with your brand online. Win the bid, and you’ll find your ad at the top of the search results.

Manual vs. Automated Bidding

There are two approaches to a bidding strategy: manual and automated (sometimes called Smart Bidding).

Manual Bidding

Manual bidding requires setting bids and managing your strategy through platforms like Google Ads and Bing. Your ads manager has total control over the bid and will create a strategy based on all the different factors of the bid like past keyword performance, cost-per-click (CPC), current ad position, and more.

Manual bidding requires continuous involvement from the manager in charge of the account. They are required to stay on top of each bid, analyzing positions and performance to maximize outcomes. There are certain instances where manual bidding benefits a campaign, but on the whole, it’s a less effective management option.

Automated Bidding

Automated bidding takes the work off your team member(s) by giving the algorithm total bidding control. It automates the process to bring you the biggest ROI. No matter the size of your campaign, automated bidding puts in the hard work for you, maximizing your ad budget and minimizing guesswork or blind spots that are inevitable in the manual bidding process.

Automated bidding frees up your team and still provides you with the best outcomes in ad positions, conversion rates, and brand exposure.

How to Maximize Conversions Through Automated Bidding

You want tangible results from your paid ads campaign. Ad measurements like clicks, conversions, and impressions show your progress toward your goals.

If your company wants to generate leads, you’ll want your ad strategy to focus on increasing the conversion rate of people clicking your ad and following up with an action like completing a purchase, calling your company, or submitting a form.

When leads are your primary campaign goal, maximizing conversions is an automated bidding strategy that prioritizes conversions over metrics like clicks and impressions.

Partner with M&R’s In-House Digital Experts to Maximize Your Bidding Strategies! Call Us: 478-621-4491

Set Up Targeting Strategies

You need to utilize targeting strategies in your SEM to see more web traffic, higher conversion rates, and an even larger ROI ratio. Targeting keeps your ad campaign effective and efficient. It reduces budget waste and increases the likelihood of conversions.

Although targeting does not guarantee top-of-page visibility on Google the way bidding does, it’s still an essential factor in your Google Ads campaign. Three of the most effective strategies are:

  • Location targeting
  • Demographic targeting
  • Ad scheduling

Target Your Ideal Audience by Location

Location targeting allows you to set specific locations where your ads will appear on search engines. This helps capture your audience in those areas, reducing the amount of your investment that’s wasted on people outside the specified locations. Whether you’re targeting established service areas or areas you want to start reaching, location targeting is a highly effective strategy to increase brand awareness and conversion rates.

Target Your Ideal Audience by Demographics

Demographic targeting is a way to precisely specify your audience and appear more frequently in their searches. This strategy breaks down a user’s:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Household income
  • Parental status

Target your audience by specifying your preferences within these categories. Doing so will allow you to show up in front of more of your target audience, increasing your chances of converting leads into clients.

Target Your Ideal Audience by Time of Day

Ad scheduling isn’t for everyone, but it may benefit companies and businesses operating within specific timeframes or under particular conditions.

Take an after-hours emergency clinic, for example. Their ideal target is someone experiencing a medical emergency outside of regular office hours who needs a clinic immediately. Therefore, it makes the most sense for their ads to run during those times. Spending on ads to appear during normal operating hours, 9 am to 5 pm, would be largely wasted. Their most efficient and effective strategy is to show up when users need them, so they should schedule their ads to appear from 5 pm to 9 am.

Most businesses want to appear in searches after hours or on days they are closed because brand awareness and lead generation are beneficial components of SEM. Consumers who interact with your Google Ads after hours can fill out a form or leave a voicemail with your office. However, in a case like the emergency clinic, the best strategy may be for ads to appear when they are most useful.

Choose Winning Keywords that Fit Your Business

Your business provides a specific set of goods and services. When people search Google for the solutions that your company offers, you want to show up over your competition.

You don’t want to waste time, money, and energy appearing on searches that have nothing to do with you. That’s why performing keyword research and applying relevant, strategic keywords to your Google Ads is essential.

Keyword research reveals a wide set of data regarding the terms, phrases, and questions related to your business. It helps analyze your audience and clarifies your strategy to start appearing over your competitors in searches.

Research Reveals Common Searches Related to Your Business

Through keyword research, you can discover the different words and phrases people are using to find  companies like yours online. Though you may have an idea of what terms your audience is searching for to find you, their actual searches could look a bit different.

There are helpful tools like Keyword Planner that show the most effective keywords to use and their estimated cost-per-click. The keywords and phrases you find during the research phase should guide your SEM strategies on Google and reshape your SEO-focused content moving forward.

Research Reveals How Many People Search for Your Products or Services

Keyword research does more than analyze the words people use to search; it gives you an idea of how many people conduct these searches. This information helps you identify the size of your audience and the potential reach of your campaign, helping you to better shape your targeting strategies.

Research Reveals Your Audience’s Search Intentions

When someone turns to Google for information, they are looking for one or more of the following:


The user is looking for more information about the topic they searched for.

Commercial investigation

The user is looking into a product or service, potentially becoming a customer of whatever business they find.


The user is looking to make a purchase. (This search tends to involve words like “buy,” “for sale,” “discount,” and other transaction-related terms.)


The user is looking for a company’s contact information or a specific route to their web page.

Start researching the intentions of different keywords and phrases related to your company. Doing so will allow you to guide your keyword strategies based on what actions you want users to take when they encounter your ad. Do you want users to make a purchase online? Submit a contact form? Give your company a call? Visit your location? By understanding search intentions, you can shape your ad strategies to achieve these outcomes.

How to Apply Keyword Research to Your SEM

Once you’ve uncovered the best keywords and phrases for your ad campaign, begin establishing ad groups, creating ad bidding budgets, and incorporating the right keywords into your online content to optimize your marketing efforts on search engines.

Beat the Competition with Help from M&R’s Expert Keyword researchers! Call Us: 478-621-4491

Create Quality Content

In 1996, Bill Gates stated that “content is king.” Nearly three decades later, his assertion is still true. Content is a key factor in a marketing campaign because it contains the overall message. Your content should speak to your audience in an engaging, informational way that encourages them to choose you over your competition.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when developing your content:

Create Content that Is Consistent Between Ads and Landing Pages

It is crucial to maintain consistency between your ads and landing pages. A company that displays information, imaging, or even brand colors that change from one place to another could see their campaign suffer.

Why Is Brand Consistency Important in Digital Ads?

Consistent content adds legitimacy to your campaign. It tells the user that you are serious and knowledgeable about what you are advertising. Inconsistency eliminates trust and sends a message to the user that your business may be sketchy or unreliable.

How to Maintain Consistency with Content and Branding

Consistency means that the same branding and messaging appear on both your search or display ad and your landing page. Stick to your brand’s colors, use the right logo, and create copy for the landing page that matches or noticeably complements your ad’s copy.

You’ll also want the content on your landing page to be well-written, clear, and eye-catching. Users will often leave a landing page if the content is low quality.

Emphasize the Human Element of Your Brand’s Voice

Your brand’s voice shapes how consumers perceive your products, services, and company as a whole. Gone are the days when businesses were expected to maintain an impersonal voice, detached tones, and lofty language.

Whether you provide B2B or B2C services, consumers want to see and feel the human element of your company and connect with the people who run it. Human2Human marketing (H2H) uses natural language and humanizes your business, helping you stand out against the AI-created aspects of today’s digital landscape.

Natural Language Benefits Voice Searches

As more people transition to voice searches, an H2H approach also puts your company in a better position to appear on search engines. With smartphones and virtual assistants, people are searching the internet by simply talking. It’s now common to ask Siri, Alexa, or Google a question out loud and receive an answer.

Voice searches are only getting more popular. According to Oberlo, more than 70% of people would rather utilize the microphone for a search than type out their query. By writing more conversational language and incorporating more commonly spoken keywords and phrases in your ad text and landing page content, you’ll increase your chances of securing a higher position in searches.

Becoming Conversational in the Digital Age

How can you satisfy people’s desire for more authenticity from your company? Talk like a real person.

Your online ads and social media messaging should sound as if they were spoken by someone who lives alongside your consumers. Language that is too robotic, academic, or perfect is often a turnoff. People want to engage with professional content that sounds fluid, familiar, and easy to understand.

Find the human tone that best represents your brand and begin shaping your content around it. Not only will you develop a recognizable voice for your audience, but you’ll also appeal to users looking for a company they can trust.

Ready to Take Your Company’s Voice to the Next Level? Our Agency Is All in to Help Elevate Your Brand. Call Us: 478-621-4491

Optimize for Mobile Users

Smartphones have changed the way we use the internet. Mobile devices account for over 60% of internet traffic as of March 2023. That’s a 4% increase from 2021, an 8% increase from 2020, and a 16% increase from 2016. Mobile searches continue to trend upward and show no signs of decline any time soon.

To cater best to mobile users, it’s essential to start developing a mobile-first mentality around your PPC ads, websites, and other online marketing efforts.

Optimize for Mobile with Responsive Web Designs

Whether it’s a website, landing page, or email, your designs should be responsive. By building your site with a responsive design, every page will work on all devices, actively changing to fit each device.

A responsive design presents your content to mobile users in a way that best fits their phone screen, and then expands it to fit larger desktop and laptop screens. This helps optimize users’ experience with your brand and encourages conversions.

Become Mobile-Friendly Across the Board

Along with responsive websites, you also want to create a mobile-friendly approach to your digital ads’ content, structure, and flow. Mobile users want info fast, so make sure pages load quickly. Strive to create content that’s engaging but to the point. Optimizing the overall user experience (UX) will keep your audience on the path toward conversion.

Check Your Ad Accounts Regularly

Once you launch your ad campaign, you’ll want to perform routine check-ins to ensure it is working properly. Regular ad maintenance allows you to identify and correct any unexpected hiccups in the strategy.

Monitoring Search Term Performance

Digital strategists can generally predict how the ads will perform once the campaign goes live, but monitoring keyword performance also allows you to see the focused keywords that are either working well or aren’t performing as expected.

If a poorly performing keyword is detected, your digital ads manager can apply changes to improve your results.

Specifying Negative Keywords

Negative keywords stop your ad from appearing in searches that use certain words or phrases from your campaign, but do not apply to your company.

For instance, an orthodontist advertising braces does not want to appear in searches for “knee braces,” “back braces,” “ankle braces,” or anything similar. In this case, they would list knee, back, and ankle braces as negative keywords.

By regularly checking the campaign’s search terms, you’ll see if adding any additional negative keywords would help improve performance.

Track Your Conversions

As part of your account monitoring, you can rely on tools like Google Analytics to track your conversions (or interactions that users will ideally complete). Conversion tracking is an excellent way to see how well your SEM is performing so that you can make adjustments in any areas for further improvement.

Tracking your conversions allows you to:

  • Identify the actions that matter most to your company
  • Analyze your bidding decisions and improve bidding to optimize your SEM performance
  • Compare your GA4 data with data from other channels to further analyze a user’s pathway to conversion
  • Hone in on users who did not convert and create effective remarketing strategies

Watch Fluctuations in the Campaign and Pivot When You Need To

There are plenty of factors that would cause your campaign’s performance to fluctuate month to month, like:

  • Changes in a keyword’s cost-per-click
  • Competitors’ ad practices
  • Updates to Google’s policies

As you monitor your campaigns and evaluate performance, you should pivot your strategy whenever necessary.

Let’s go back to the orthodontist advertising braces. If their search ad for “clear braces” regularly outperforms their ceramic braces ads, the account manager may want to rework the ceramic ad to better match the clear braces ad and improve performance moving forward.

SEM Guide Wrap-Up

Search engine marketing can seem complex and daunting, but SEM success is achievable with the right strategies. Whether you’ve created campaigns before or have never given SEM a shot, follow our advice to shape your search engine marketing plan and take the top positions on search engine results pages.

Partner With the Team that Knows Search Engine Marketing! Talk To Us About Our Digital Services Today!

M&R’s in-house digital strategists are experts in search engine marketing and can help bring your campaign strategies to life. If you want to increase visibility and generate conversions through SEM, call us at 478-621-4491.