What is SEM? Search Engine Marketing Explained for Australian Businesses

Does your SEO not seem to be working, or not producing fast enough results? Maybe your site is languishing on the second page of search engine results pages (SERPs). Or worse still, it’s not even ranking on the first three or four pages.

Internet marketing experts often joke you could hide a dead body on the second page of Google search results. We hope you’re not looking to do that— you’ve come to the wrong website, although Big Barry down the local TAB says he knows someone who could help!

While traditional search engine optimisation may eventually allow your site to rise up the SERPs, good SEO  can still be very slow. SEM will help get your site noticed much quicker and cut out some of the steps of SEO.

In this article, we are going to look at what SEM is, how it differs from the SEO you may already be using, and how you can get started.

What Is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

“Not another three-letter acronym to remember!” I hear you groan.  Search engine marketing was originally an umbrella term for both SEO and SEM. Both are now so complex that SEM and SEO are split into separate entities.

The key difference is that SEO is a free online marketing tool, whereas SEM is a paid for advertising marketing method. Before you switch off, SEO can take a long time to build up a knowledge of. There are many different techniques to be aware of, such as backlinks, metadata, keywords and more.

How many SEOs does it take to change a bulb, lightbulb, light bulbs, lighting, lights?

What do an SEO expert and part-time chiropractor fix? Backlinks.

Search engine marketing may not be free, but it will generally be quicker and more accessible to somebody with less knowledge of internet marketing. You’re paying to climb the SERPs, essentially paying to serve your ad to users searching for terms and keywords you are targeting.

You don’t need to have a high authority, SEO abiding website to rank at the top of the page of Google if you’re ready to pay.

Do You Need Both SEO and SEM?

Strictly speaking, no, but if you use both, you will probably end up with more conversions and sales. It’s always best to optimise a website with the best SEO practices, and clicks from SEO are free, so why not? However, contrary to what the song says, the best things in life aren’t always free.

Using SEM will increase the speed of building up your site and your customer base.

Paying to use SEM on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis advertises you to an audience already searching for brands, services or products like yours.

SEM can put you at the top of your target audience searches very quickly and make it more likely you get the sale.

The local Chiropractors are trying a few new ideas in their pricing structure. Pay per click is one idea…

How Does SEM Work?

PPC advertising is by far the most common form of paid SEM. These are the ads you will often see at the top of a Google search with the word “Ad” discreetly placed next to a link.

Not all forms of PPC advertising are SEM. Facebook or other social networks also employ a PPC platform. These will merely serve your ads on a user’s page as they browse, rather than users who have searched for them.

SEM is a paid for advertising model used by the various search engines to target an audience searching for your keywords.

Advertising is the second most profitable form of writing...The first is writing ransom notes…

Search Engine Marketing Platforms

All the major search engines feature an ad platform used for search engine marketing. By far the most well known (and most effective too) is Google AdWords. You can also use SEM platforms like Bing Ads or Yahoo Search Ads.

Google dominates the search engine market with a 90.28 percent share. Australian businesses who want to increase their business really should be focusing on Google for the best results.

Keywords are Everywhere

In SEM, keywords you choose will decide which ads are shown on what search pages.

To run a successful SEM campaign, in-depth keyword research can be key—excuse the pun!

Start your list of keywords by writing down all the keywords you would imagine your targeted audience uses to search for your product or service. For example, if you were looking for a plumber in Sydney, would you type in “plumber Sydney”, “plumber in Sydney Australia” or “plumbing services Sydney”?

Did you hear the one about an SEM marketing exec who strolled into a bar, tavern, pub, public house, Irish bar, gin joint, licensed premises, beer shop, winery, liquor store…

How to Know Which Keywords to Choose?

Once you have your list of keywords, how do you know which to prioritise? You’re going to want keywords that have less competition but a high volume. This will bring your cost-per-click (CPC) down.

The good news is you aren’t shooting in the dark, with many keyword research tools there to help. GoogleAds has a keyword planner, which will show you search volume data or trends, the cost per click, and any competitive data.

Third-party tools, like SEMrush or Moz’s Keyword Explorer, can also provide in-depth data. The other option is to hire an agency or expert in SEM to manage your keyword strategy for your business.

Choosing effective keywords can be an important cost factor when using SEM pay-per-click marketing.

Bidding for Keywords

Here comes the fun part. The bidding war, or how much it’s going to cost your business.

For your ads to rank higher and create more revenue, you will need a successful bidding strategy, both cost and traffic wise.

The search engine marketing platforms all work with a bid for keywords. Whichever business bids more will rank the highest. The best part is you only ever have to pay enough to beat  the next highest bid, so you could bid $1000 but pay only $11.61 if the next lower bid was $11.60

How Much Should You Bid?

Can you afford to advertise your selected keyword?  While bidding $1000 on all your keywords to rank number one for all your audience searches sounds nice, there has to be a balance between profitability and ranking.

A simple formula which can tell you how much you can afford to bid for a pay-per-click is:

Max CPC = (profit per customer) * (1profit margin) * (website conversion rate)

Let’s take an example where the average profit from a customer is $300, with a profit margin of 20 percent.  If you manage to convert 20 people out of 1000 page visits, a conversion rate of two percent, the sum would look like this:

Max CPC = $300 * (10.20) * 2% = $4.80

In this example, targeting keywords with a CPC higher than your maximum CPC of $4.80 is going to leave you struggling to make profit—not really a successful SEM campaign!

Quality vs Cost

Good news! SEM platforms also take into account the ad quality, as well as the maximum bid. This will help you to rank higher than the competition even if you don’t have the available budget to bid more than them.

Google gives a quality score to each ad, which it then multiplies by the maximum bid to calculate which ad ranks highest. To determine the quality of an ad, SEM platforms will look at factors like a strong landing page and the relevance of the keywords selected for your ad.

A $2.00 bid can win the auction and rank higher than an $8.00 bid if they have a much higher quality score. The quality of your site or ad can greatly reduce the cost of your PPC search engine marketing.

Final Thoughts

Search engine marketing can put your ads directly in front of an audience that is already searching for the services your site has to offer. Australian businesses who are looking to increase their SERP ranking, and therefore traffic, will find SEM a great investment.

Outranking organic results of SEO is a huge benefit of SEM, even when paying for each click.

Have you ever invested in a search engine marketing campaign? Which SEM platform did you use? What worked best for you? Feel free to ask any questions.