Published: August 10, 2019
Author: Martin William Harvey
Chapter 1: What is Search Engine Marketing?
Chapter 2: SEM vs SEO
Chapter 3: Google Ads Bidding Strategies, Networks and Goals
Chapter 4: How does Search Engine Marketing work?
Chapter 5: Who can help me with Search Engine Marketing?
Chapter 6: Search Engine Marketing of the Future
Running short on time? Want to read on the go? We've got you covered! Download this article to your device and read at your convience.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the strategy and process behind attracting a particular customer type to a specific web page (commonly referred to as a landing page) through search engine paid advertising efforts.
The most common type of SEM is Google Ads (previously Google AdWords). With over 4 million companies using the platform, Google Ads is the most used advertising platform in world, beating Facebook by almost 2 million advertisers. Other platforms include, Bing Advertising (which combines both Bing and Yahoo search engines), and DuckDuckGo.
In this article, we will mainly focus on the Google Ads platform since it is the most used and the most beneficial to small businesses in general. With that said, Bing Advertising and DuckDuckGo do offer advantages to those businesses targeting customers in a specific market. For example, due to DuckDuckGo’s privacy features, advertising on the platform would benefit businesses with customers older than 50, but wouldn’t benefit businesses only focused on advertising to millennials. This is because, those older than 50 generally place a higher priority on privacy than their millennial counterparts and in result are more likely to use a search engine like DuckDuckGo.
Search Engine Marketing is just part of the Pay-Per-Click marketing category but it is used to generate revenue to millions of businesses large and small – simply because it works. In 2018, Google reported that the average conversion value of a campaign was worth at least twice the price they paid for the click. Search Engine Marketing also benefits advertisers by allowing a range of budget options and flexible customizable advertising strategies that can be experimented and tested on a variety of markets.
In this guide we will discuss how Search Engine Marketing can (if done correctly) grow your business, the in-depth bidding strategies, networks and goals Google Ads offers and ways we can help you grow your business through Search Engine Marketing.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is similar to Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Both are strategies designed to result in business profit and both are aimed at attracting users to visit a website from a search engine. However, SEM is a strategy that attracts a certain customer type to a particular landing page through paid advertisements, while SEO accomplishes the same through non-paid advertisements.
So, if utilizing SEO doesn’t require payment to achieve the same results, why pay for SEM? The answer is simple, SEM such as Google Ads, is instant advertising that drives immediate results while SEO can take 12 to 18 months to earn the top spot in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). To read more about Search Engine Optimization and the 205 factors Google uses to rank web pages click here.
A balanced marketing strategy will have goals for both SEO and SEM, because as the website’s SEO improves the budget for SEM can be decreased without loss of traffic and profit.
Search Engine Marketing runs on an auction-based system to allow advertisers to compete for an unlimited number of keywords and phrases. There are several types of bid strategies that an advertiser can use on Google Ads that fall into three category types (Smart Bidding, Clicks, Impressions). Bidding strategies include:
The bidding strategies above can be used individually, however many successful Strategic Marketing plans use a combination of bidding strategies. Some strategies above are limited to the type of network the advertiser is advertising on. The types of networks Google Ads provides are:
It is critical that the advertiser creates a complete Strategic Marketing plan before choosing a single or combination of the networks above. Choose the wrong network or choosing the wrong combination of networks can make or break the outcome of your strategy.
In addition to Bidding Strategies and Networks, Google also allows advertisers to consider several goals when implementing a strategy. These include:
Depending on the Business Strategy, Bidding Strategy, Network and Goal, Google uses machine learning to reach and exceed the goals of the advertiser. With that said, it is important to note that Google is a for-profit company with millions of dollars’ worth of investment in advertisers and how they spend their money. Google will often times ‘recommend’ certain strategies or ‘recommend’ changes to campaigns. It is important to understand that these recommendations do not always have the business at heart and sometimes are recommended so the advertiser will spend more money.
This is a critical concept to understand and increases the importance of working with a company that is not only seasoned in Google Ads, but is also certified in their platform and understands what recommendations are in the best interests of the client and their business.
Search Engine Marketing runs on an auction-based system to allow advertisers to compete for an unlimited number of keywords and phrases. As discussed, advertisers have endless options when it comes to strategy, however Google’s system of delivering ads remains the same. In this section we will discuss the process of Google’s instantaneous on-demand auction that occurs every time a user inputs a search query into the Google search engine. We will also discuss how advertisers retarget customers across several platforms to increase conversion rates.
The Google Auction
The Google Auction is an instantaneous process that takes place behind-the-scenes every time a user enters a search query into the Google search engine. Unlike SEO, which is dependent on a long-term content and authority building strategy, Google Ads uses relatively few factors when determining which paid ads to show and what order to show multiple paid ads in.
Before we look at the process, first let’s discuss the factors Google takes into consideration when determining which paid ads to show and in what order. Google uses two major factors – Max Bid and Quality Score.
Max Bid is based on the maximum bid the advertiser gave Google in the Google Ads campaign. The Quality Score is a little more complicated and more importantly cannot be bought. Quality Score is based on a scale of 1-10 and is made up of three components:
Once an ad has a Quality Score and a Max Bid that has been approved in the Google Ads campaign, the auction can begin.
Once the user has entered a search query in the Google search engine, Google goes to work not only determining which paid ads to show and what order to show them in, but also how much each advertiser pays based on the strategy they are using and the value of their Quality Score.
For example, let’s assume a user enters the search query “dentists near me that take delta dental insurance”. This is a pretty specific request by the user and in addition to finding the best organic search results, Google also has to find paid ads that also meet the requirements of the user’s request.
First, Google finds all ads that qualify for this search query by locating the user’s approximate location based on the computers IP address or mobile signal. Only advertisers that target the location of the user will be filtered into the Google Auction.
Next, Google takes the Max Bid multiplied by the Quality Score to determine the ad rank (seen example auction below). Finally, to determine the cost of each ad (assuming they are using the CPC method), Google takes the Ad Rank of the ad that appears below you and divides it by your Quality Score adding an extra $0.01 for commission.
As you can see from the example above, Google rewards advertisers with higher Quality Scores with higher ads rank, even if the Max Bid is lower than the competition. At the same time, an advertiser that has a high Max Bid, but low-Quality Score will pay sometimes twice as much as the advertiser with a high-Quality Score and low Max Bid even if the advertiser is ranking in 3rd or 4th place.
This is why we always recommend working with a certified company that understands the Google Ads platform when choosing to use Search Engine Marketing to grow a business. It is clear to see that by working with a professional, time and money can be saved in the long-term.
Google Display Network
The Google Display Network is commonly used for remarketing and brand awareness purposes. By linking Google Ads to Google Analytics, the possibilities for remarketing are truly endless. Based on goals set up in Google Analytics, advertisers can remarket to people who browsed their website from social media, organic search, referral traffic or even paid search. They can determine which exact ad the user will see and approximately when they will see it. Advertisers can target by language, demographic, location, device used and even browser used when browsing the website.
When a user visits a website, a discreet “cookie” is placed on the user’s browser. This allows Google to track the user as they explore products, read blogs or fill out forms. This also allows Google to let the advertiser know if the user created a Conversion or reached a desired Goal.
When the user leaves the website, Google (through Google Analytics or Google Ads) determines if the user needs to be remarketed to based on how the advertiser set up the strategy and campaign. If the user falls into a remarketing category, then the user will see an ad from an hour to 90 days after they initially visited the website based on the advertiser’s campaign settings.
Remarketing, like the Google Auction, requires a Google Ads professional and a strategy to truly see a return-on-investment. We recommend working with a certified Google Ads professional when running remarketing campaigns.
Although Google boasts that business owners can manage their own Google Ads account (which is technically true), we do not recommend it. Business owners that manage their own Google Ads accounts tend to spend more money and achieve less business growth over time.
We recommend working with a Certified Google Ads Professional or Company that understands the advanced inner-workings of the Google Ads platform. Google recommends advertisers hold several certifications including:
Altogether that is 61 hours of training to earn the Google Certifications above, and those certified are required to recertify ever year for proficiency. At White Whale Web Design, we take these certifications seriously and we currently have all of the certifications above including seven others than ensure we are equipped to create some of the best strategies and marketing plans for our clients.
Before partnering with a professional of company, ask them if they have the certifications above to ensure they have the most up-to-date information that comes with the Google Ads platform.
In 2019, Google introduced nine massive changes to the Google Ads platform to help advertisers further engage with audiences around the world. The changes include: