Any small business with an effective SEO strategy can launch their website with search engine rankings ahead of the competition. But as the web grows, ranking higher gets harder. However, there are ways to boost your ranks ahead of your opposition, specifically Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns.

Joe Mann, senior search analyst at Compulse Integrated Marketing, believes that the question of how often companies should run SEM campaigns differs on a case-by-case basis. While the goal of every business is to rank on the first page in Google’s search engine, updated keywords will only get you so far. According to Mann, “Even if a site is well-optimized and usually wins organic search, the formula which determines search results changes often, so organic results cannot be counted on. Search ads will generally be predictable and consistent.” As such, an SEM campaign can help.

How SEM campaigns work

In the past, Google would show ads on a page that didn’t always have significance to the search. Google has since restructured its ad serving structure, introducing “relevance” to search ads. The old method would give the top slot in a search result to the highest bidder. The ads would show a high number of impressions (the number of times the ad shows on the page) but didn’t do much for click-through rates. Nick Kappra, paid media supervisor at Compulse Integrated Marketing, knows that “relevancy is the true advantage of running SEM campaigns. Because of the pay-per-click (PPC) shift, search engines now make a significant portion of their revenue if the ad they served received a click. No clicks, no revenue.” Google made this shift in the development of their ad-serving system because relevancy was so crucial to the click-through rate.   

Companies run the risk of demoted ranks on the results page when relevancy cannot be established. That doesn’t mean businesses have to put all of their budget into one campaign, or that they have to run the same priced campaign each time. Instead, companies should pay more attention to their successes and spend their budget during the quarter that holds the record for their most significant sales.  

SEM, clicks, and impressions – what happens when it doesn’t go as planned?

So what happens when companies pour all of their money into an SEM campaign and still don’t get the clicks and impressions they desire? Well, it may not be a match for that business, but before swearing off SEM altogether, the company should look at its competitors. Are they getting the click-throughs and return on investment? If so, perhaps the unsuccessful business is losing to its competitors because their website isn’t as strong. “If the website is weak, we won’t be able to get great results, even with the strongest of SEM campaigns,” says Kappra. 

If your business is struggling to come up with a solid SEO or SEM strategy and you don’t do anything to improve or develop your website further, you’re not going to win business. Your landing page is where your customers first find themselves when they click on your advertisement. Think about what your business is. Mann puts it simply: “If someone searches ‘new pickup truck prices’ – I guess the question is ‘how much should I expect to pay for a new pickup truck,’ or something along those lines. If they click through an ad and do not find the answer to their question, they are not going to stick around and hunt for it. There are better pages, and Google is great at doing that kind of hunting. So, think about each keyword you want to show advertisements against, and carefully consider which page on your site answers the question behind that search best.” 

How best to use keywords to generate search

Be sure to take your searchers directly to the page by only including keywords that have corresponding content on the pages of your website. Don’t throw keywords around unless you’ve decided to develop a corresponding page that answers the question behind the search. Once you’ve decided and deployed the page, you are free to add the keyword.  

SEM campaigns: Putting it all together

What does all of this mean in terms of how often you should run your SEM campaigns? Jason Moore, Compulse’s SEO analyst & specialist, proposes a different question: “How do I find the right time to run an SEM campaign for my business?” Seeing how no company is the same, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to either of these questions. If your business sells seasonal products, you would want to time your ads around the seasonal changes. For example, the car industry would want to push their ads out around the holidays when the big sales are coming around, or the end of the year when they’re getting in the new inventory! 

Moore points out that “another major factor businesses need to consider is past success and failures. You should monitor your analytics and see which ads were most successful during which times.” If you’ve run a winter campaign and a spring campaign, and the spring campaign outshone the winter ads, you know where to put your money during next year’s budget.  

There is a lot to think about when you’re putting together an SEM campaign. Luckily, Compulse Integrated Marketing, located in Hunt Valley, MD, as a full team of experts ready to help you rise above your competition.