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Cracking the Code: A Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

If you want to get your brand's messaging in front of relevant online audiences, search engine marketing (SEM) is an essential strategy to understand. SEM involves paying to advertise on search engines like Google and Bing so your business appears prominently to people searching keywords related to your products or services. While it requires an investment, optimizing SEM can deliver quality leads and customers when done correctly.

The backbone of SEM is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. With PPC ads, also called search ads or sponsored listings, you bid on relevant keywords and craft short descriptive ads and landing page links. Whenever someone searches your targeted keyword phrases, your ad may appear at the top or side of the search results page. You only pay when someone clicks your ad listing.

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Major search engines like Google and Bing run their own platforms to manage PPC accounts, like Google Ads and Bing Ads. These platforms simplify the SEM process through streamlined account setup, research and reporting tools, and auction-based keyword bidding. Some key steps include brainstorming target keywords, setting daily budgets, designing compelling ads and destinations, and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) like clicks, impressions and cost-per-click (CPC).

SEM is an auction - the higher your maximum cost-per-click bid, the more prominently your ad may be displayed. But landing the top spot isn't guaranteed, as ads also factor relevancy and quality scores based on history. Keep bids low until you optimize. Evaluate top competitors’ ads for inspiration too. Landing page experiences must also match ad copy quality to drive conversions from clicks.


Location targeting lets you show ads to people searching in specific regions, while remarketing allows reaching past website visitors. Tracking conversion goals like phone calls or form submissions tells if your SEM efforts are aligning to business objectives. A/B testing different headlines, descriptions and destinations further refines performance over time. Automated bid management tools now optimize bids dynamically based on preset conversion goals.

When properly optimized, search can deliver qualified leads for a fraction of traditional marketing costs. But SEM takes time, testing and data analysis to master - don't expect overnight success. With persistent testing and refinement of ads, keywords and landing experiences, your SEM strategy will continuously improve ROI. Bringing online eyeballs to your brand through search is a tried-and-true pathway for modern commerce.

Widepot's SEM service:

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