Search Engine Marketing

By Fredrick Rowling · Updated January 5, 2023

As a startup, you know that promoting your business is essential to success. But with so many marketing channels, it can be tough to know where to start.

SEM (search engine marketing) is a great way to promote your startup in front of potential investors and customers, and in this blog post, we'll show you how.

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For example, using debt to bridge the gap between equity rounds can help you maintain momentum and keep your business moving forward while you're raising equity capital.

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a paid search marketing system that helps businesses promote their products or services on search engine results pages (SERPs).

When a user types in a particular keyword, SEM enables businesses to appear as a result of that search query above organic results.

SEM involves using paid advertising on search engines like Google and Bing. You create ads that appear at the top of the search results page, and when someone clicks on them, they're taken to your website.

This can be a great way to get more traffic and leads for your startup. You can promote a demo, a landing page, your product new features, and so on. 

If, for example, you're promoting a new CRM tool for startups, you can create an ad that appears when someone searches for "best CRM tools."

When they click on your ad, they'll be taken to your website, where they can learn more about your product.

Here is an example of how an SEM ad would appear on a Google search results page:

CRM tools

How Does SEM Work

To use SEM to advertise your business on the SERPs properly, you’ll need to understand how SEM Ad Auction works.

The three main components of an SEM ad auction are quality score, maximum bid, and ad rank.

Quality score is based on click-through rate (CTR) and relevance, which helps determine your maximum bid. The maximum bid is the highest amount you are willing to pay for a click on your ad.

Your quality score and maximum bid determine ad rank and where your ad will be placed on the SERP.

There are many different tools available to help you with your SEM campaign. Some of the most popular SEM tools include Google Ads, Bing Ads, and Wordstream.

These tools can help you set up your campaign, track progress, and optimize your ads for the best results.

How to build a winning SEM Strategy

Your SEM strategy should help you achieve a specific goal: 

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Generating leads
  • Driving sales
  • Attracting investors

To create an effective strategy, we will cover how paid search ads work and how you can manage the variables that affect performance. These include budget, keyword, copy, etc.

Once you have a clear understanding of the SEM landscape and a well-defined goal, you'll be well on your way to developing a winning SEM strategy.

So how does search engine marketing work? Here are some factors to incorporate into your strategy for successful SEM campaigns:

Keyword Research

To be successful with paid ads, you need to have a strategy for choosing the right keywords to bid on. This is known as Keyword Research.

The first step is brainstorming terms related to your brand, product, and competition. Once you have a list of potential keywords, research their average monthly search volume (you can find it in the Google Keyword Planner tool).

This will give you an idea of how popular the keywords are and how much competition there is for them.

After you have a list of relevant keywords with high monthly search volume, you need to match them to the different stages of the buyer's journey.

This will help you create ads that are relevant to each stage and more likely to be clicked on. 

The buyer's journey can be broken down into three stages:

  • Awareness: The customer is aware of a problem or need
  • Consideration: The customer is considering options to solve the problem
  • Decision: The customer has decided on a solution
Buyers Journey

Your keywords should match the stage of the buyer's journey that they are in. For example, someone in the awareness stage may be searching for "best CRM tools."

If they're in the consideration stage, they may be searching for " CRM tool comparisons." And if they're in the decision stage, they may be searching for " CRM tool reviews."

Ad Creative 

Ad creative is the headline, description, and image of your ad. Users will see this when your ad appears on the SERP, so ensure your ad is creative and eye-catching. 

Your headline should be clear and concise and accurately describe what you're advertising.

The description should elaborate on your headline and give users a reason to click on your ad. Your image should be high-quality and relevant to your ad.

There are many ways to create ad creative that will help you achieve your SEM goals. Some popular methods include images and calls to action (CTAs).

An example of an effective CTA would be "Get a free trial of our product." This tells users what they will get by clicking on your ad and drives them to take action.

Images are a great way to stand out on the SERP and grab attention. You can use images of your product, employees, or customers to humanize your brand and increase click-through rates.

Calls to action (CTAs) are buttons or text encouraging people to take action, such as clicking on your ad or visiting your website. CTAs can be used in conjunction with images or videos to increase conversion rates.

When creating an ad creative, it's important to keep in mind the following tips:

  • Use high-quality images that represent your brand well
  • Make sure your CTAs are clear and easy to see
  • Experiment with different types of creative to see what works best for you

Keyword Bidding

When it comes to paid ads, your success is determined by how much you're willing to spend on keywords. The bid you set for each keyword will determine your ad's placement.

Generally, the higher your bid and the better your ad, the more likely you will win the best placement. However, this also means that high-competition keywords can be quite expensive.

To find the right balance, start bidding on less popular keywords relevant to your product or service. As you get more experience with paid ads and if your budget allow it, you can gradually increase your bids for more popular keywords.

Keep an eye on your competition. If they are bidding on a similar keyword, you may need to increase your bid to stay ahead.

You can also use negative keywords to help you save money on your SEM campaign. Negative keywords are words or phrases that you don't want your ad to show up for.

For example, if you sell CRM tools for startups, you might want to add "free" as a negative keyword.

That way, your ad won't appear for searches like "free CRM tool," and you won't waste money on clicks that are unlikely to convert.

Account and Campaign Structure

One way to structure your Google Ads account is to create separate campaigns for each product or service you offer.

That way, you can laser-focus your keywords and ads for each campaign rather than trying to be everything to everyone with a single ad. 

You can also create different ad groups within each campaign, targeting different keyword sets for each group.

For example, you could have one ad group for branded keywords (including your company name) and another for generic keywords related to your products or services.

Another crucial consideration is where you target your ads. If you're a local business, it makes sense to target your ads to people in your geographic area.

But if you sell products or services online, you can expand your reach by targeting people in other cities, states, or even countries. 

You can also target specific demographics like age, gender, or income level. The key is experimenting with different targeting options and seeing what works best for your business.

Structuring your Google Ads account properly may seem like a lot of work, but it's worth it in the long run.

By creating separate campaigns and ad groups, you can control where your budget goes and make sure the right people see your ads.

Take the time to plan out your account structure before running ads—it could make all the difference in your paid search success.

Search Engines

There are many different search engines available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

The three most popular search engines are Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Each one has its own way of incorporating SEM into a search engine results page(SERP).

  • Google: Google is the most popular search engine, handling over 3.5 billion searches per day. They have a program called Google Ads, which allows businesses to create ad campaigns that target specific keywords. These ads will then appear in relevant SERPs, giving the business more exposure.
  • Yahoo: Yahoo uses a platform called Gemini to serve ads on Yahoo Properties and Verizon Media Properties. Businesses can create search engine marketing campaigns and target them to specific keywords, websites, mobile apps, and more.
  • Bing: Bing has a program called Microsoft Ads (formerly Bing Ads), similar to Google Ads. Businesses can create ad campaigns and target them to specific keywords and locations. These ads will then appear in relevant SERPs on Bing.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Vs Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

If you're involved in online marketing, you've probably heard of both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Both are essential components of a successful online marketing strategy, but they are quite different.

SEO is optimizing your website and content to rank high in organic search results. On the other hand, SEM is a paid form of marketing where businesses pay Google to show their ads in the search results. (first results on the page, above the organic results)

While SEO is a long-term strategy that can take months or even years to bear fruit, SEM is a much faster way to get your website seen by potential customers.

And because SEM is pay-per-click, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, making it a cost-effective way to drive traffic and conversions.

As with most things in business, the best approach is usually a mix of SEO and SEM. Using both techniques together, website owners can achieve the best possible results. 

Paying for ads might be an effective way to get people to visit your website but it’s limited by your budget. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps ensure your website appears high in organic search results and drives relevant FREE traffic.

In other words: SEM = immediate results; SEO = long-term ROI.

5 Best SEM Tools

There are many different tools available for SEM, but these five are some of the best.

HubSpot's Ad Tracking Software

HubSpot's Ad Tracking Software is a powerful SEM tool that helps you understand how your ads perform and influence your prospects.

The software provides detailed insights into ad performance, including click-through rates, conversion rates, and cost per conversion.

It also allows you to track the buyer's journey and see how ads influence prospects at each stage.

This information can be precious in justifying SEM as a marketing channel and integrating your advertising with the rest of your marketing efforts.

SEMrush

SEMRush is a powerful SEM tool offering a variety of features designed to help you improve your search engine ranking.

The tool provides extensive keyword research capabilities to identify the best keywords to target for your SEO or PPC campaigns. 

SEMRush offers keyword rank tracking, site audit, traffic analysis, and more. This makes it a precious tool for businesses of all sizes who are looking to improve their online visibility. 

The tool's competitive analysis features can help you identify your main competitors in the paid search space and study their ads. This information can be precious as you look to create your SEM campaigns.

Keywordtool

Keywordtool.io is a powerful SEM tool that can help you generate a comprehensive list of potential keywords to target in your SEM campaigns. 

Keywordtool.io can tap into multiple search engines. These include Google, Bing, YouTube, Amazon, Instagram, Twitter, and the App Store.

This allows you to segment your keyword research across various channels to ensure you're targeting the right keywords for your business.

Keywordtool.io also provides variations of words and phrases related to your base keyword. This helps you expand your list of possible keywords beyond just the basics. 

The free version of Keywordtool.io lets you generate up to 750 long-tail keywords and keyword suggestions. This works for every search term - more than enough to get you started on your next SEM campaign.

Google Ads

Google Ads Keyword Planner enables businesses to research relevant keywords for their business. This creates more effective Google Ads campaigns.

Before using Keyword Planner, businesses would create a list of possible keywords and test them out to see which ones performed the best. However, this process can be time-consuming and often ineffective.

With Keyword Planner, businesses can research keywords to create ads more likely to be seen by potential customers.

Keyword Planner provides businesses with suggested bid estimates for each keyword. This helps determine which keywords fit within an advertising budget.

Once a business has found its ideal keywords, it can launch its ad campaign from within the tool. Google Ads Keyword Planner is an invaluable tool for startups wanting to create more effective Google Ads campaigns.

Wordstream

Wordstream is an excellent tool to consider if you're searching for one to assist with PPC campaign research, evaluation, and optimization.

It's ideal for time-constrained PPC specialists because it focuses on assisting you in identifying quick wins and cutting down on management time.

The "20 Minute Work Week" process, which consists of 9 clearly defined activities, can be activated using the WordStream Advisor tool.

By doing this, you may finish your reports within 20 minutes while optimizing your account and producing a fresh ad creative.

The software also analyzes your PPC campaigns and provides recommendations for improving them. Wordstream lets you build:

  • Campaigns 
  • Identify positive and negative keywords
  • Adjust budgets
  • Create optimized landing pages
  • Track and report progress

Whether you're a seasoned PPC pro or just getting started, Wordstream is a tool that can help you get the most out of your campaigns.

Bottom Line

So there you have it: a startup search engine marketing crash course. You can promote your startup by understanding how SEM works. Use the techniques we've outlined above.

With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, your SEM campaign might be the thing that takes your business to the next level.

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