SEM: Looking to stay top of mind

By BrainStation January 3, 2017

You’ve likely heard of SEO, and may even be following some best practices when it comes to creating content that helps your brand’s search rankings.

While search engine optimization is a great way to build brand recognition and awareness, search engine marketing is the best way to stay top of mind.

After all, the stats don’t lie. According to one study, 85% of retailers surveyed said search marketing (including paid and SEO) was the most effective customer acquisition tactic. And according to, 70% of agencies predict client search budgets increased in 2015.

As demonstrated, more and more companies are undertaking more paid search engine marketing initiatives. Here’s why you should consider SEM for your brand.

What is SEM?

Before we move forward, let’s take a moment to establish the definition of search engine marketing. SEM experts Search Engine Land offer a robust explanation for novices new to this marketing tactic:

“‘Search Engine Marketing’ was once was used as an umbrella term to encompass both SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search activities. Over time, the industry has adopted the SEM acronym to refer solely to paid search. At Search Engine Land, we generally use SEM and/or “Paid Search” to refer to paid listings, with the longer term of search marketing used to encompass both SEO and SEM.”

So, while SEO and SEM activities are closely linked, the general sentiment across the tech industry is that SEM is relegated to paid search activities. Some of these kinds of campaigns might include:

  • Paid search ads
  • Paid search advertising
  • PPC (pay-per-click)
  • CPC (cost-per-click)
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions)

So while you may be familiar with the most common types of SEM campaigns, like Google AdWords campaigns, there are a wealth of options when it comes to build a robust SEM campaign to keep your brand top of mind in search rankings.

Ready to take the leap into SEM? Here are a few steps to help you get started.

Create Your Strategy

Before creating your campaign, it’s wise to think ahead and plan out a cohesive strategy. Does it may sense for your brand to focus on paid search ads? Or do you want to tackle a more robust strategy that also includes PPC ads?

Take the time to define your target audience for your SEM strategy, and take a hard look at their needs. This will better inform what types of SEM initiatives will give you the best bang for your marketing bucks.

Complete a Competitive Analysis

One of the first steps in building your SEM campaign is taking a look at your competitors. What are they doing with their SEM strategy? What keywords are they targeting with their campaigns?

Use this competitive analysis and the information you compiled on your target audience to establish a high-impact keyword list for your company. Build a list of phrases that are most relevant to your business, that have a solid amount of search traffic, and would be used by your potential customers. You can also lean on keyword research tools like Google Adwords Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, and Wordtracker to help you to compile your list.

Build Your Campaign

Now it’s time to pull the trigger on building your campaign. Bid on some of the relevant keywords from your list and ensure your campaign is appropriately tied to business results. While the campaign may be purchased as cost-per-click, you may want to measure your results from your SEM ads in terms of cost per lead or cost per sale to align with your business objectives.

Once you’ve established your campaign and launched it, ensure you measure your success. Incorporate a post-mortem into your workflow to examine the results and takeaways to incorporate into your next SEM campaign.

Moving Forward

While there are plenty of SEM tactics that can increase brand awareness, these aforementioned three strategies will help get you started. Be sure to check out our upcoming 10 week SEO/SEM & Analytics and request a syllabus