- Sarath S Ram
INTRODUCTION TO SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
So, before we begin our journey to learn and explore SEM i.e. Search Engine Marketing we shall ask a ground-level question to ourselves…some of you might have guessed it already…
What is Marketing?
Dr. Philip Kotler defines marketing as “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures, and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.”
Lengthy huh! This is a common question that can be answered in different ways but all the interpretations stumble into the same meaning. Simply put together “Marketing is the art or talent of promoting the product and services of a company/brand in such a way that it will successfully reach the target audience causing the required conversion or effective ROI (return on investment)”.
From barter systems to modern digital marketing methods, marketing has evolved tremendously over the years. The consumer journey of decision-making and buying has changed as well due to the induction of the internet and technology. Procter & Gamble, the American multinational giant on consumer goods introduced the concept ‘Moment of Truths’ in 2005. P&G introduced 3 moments of truths
First MOT – The point when a consumer sees a product/ service for the first time and formulates an opinion about it. This stage is also known as ‘Stimulus’
Second MOT – After knowing or reaching a product, the consumer will make a decision whether to buy or not. According to P&G, the second MOT is known as a purchase.
Third MOT – The final MOT is the experience a customer gets after buying a product or service. The next purchase design will solely depend on the outcome of this stage.
But over the years two new additions entered into the MOT levels - they are ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) and UMOT (Ultimate Moment of Truth).
Zero MOT – The idea of Zero Moment of Truth is a more recent addition to the concept and was introduced by Google in 2011. This stage was formed due to the modern online consumer journey and happens right before First MOT. At this stage, a customer will research a particular product or service which includes online reviews, YouTube reviews, Influencer videos, etc. If a customer gets positive reviews he/she will proceed towards the next stage.
Ultimate MOT – Ultimate MOT happens after Third MOT and at this stage, a customer may choose to share their experience by writing a review, creating a blog/video, or even by giving their opinions to family, friends, and colleagues. These takeaways will influence the purchase decisions of other audiences.
These MOTs combined together to create the modern customer journey.
What is SEM?
Now you know what is the MOT’s. The ultimate aim of every marketer is to successfully grab the attention of their target audiences, make them buy the product or services, and ultimately generate a positive review from their customers.
Search Engine Marketing is an online paid marketing method of promoting products or services by making them appear in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Google Ads is a widely used SEM platform and this can be used to promote the business in search, display, and video platforms.
Google is the most popular search network or search engine in the world. Google ads is an online advertising platform developed and launched by Google in 2000 where companies/brands/advertisers pay to display brief advertising texts, product listings, images, and video content within the Google Ad network to internet users. Google Ads is the most popular Digital Marketing platform in the world and is the major revenue source of Google. Being the largest search engine in the world the amount of traffic coming to Google is enormous and it is the core reason for the popularity of Google Ads. If you are advertising through Google Ads you have the potential to reach almost 80% of the population on the internet, the rest are scattered on platforms like Bing ads from Microsoft.
Why Google Ads?
We all know that Google is the largest Search Engine in the world, nowadays Google has become a synonym for the word Internet. It is estimated that 4 billion people browse the internet using Google, this is a mammoth figure and is the main reason for the popularity of Google Ads. Using Google Ads your business can reach the right set of audiences from this infinite pool of users. Also, Google Ads is equipped with advanced targeting options, which help you to choose your advertising location, type of target audience, the network in which you want to display your ads (search, display, video, mobile app), etc. Advertisers will also have total control over budget, i.e. it is totally possible to set a budget that is comfortable for you. Also, there is no minimum spending requirement. With Google Ads, you can monitor and track the impact of your advertising campaigns and can make optimizations (modifications) to improve the performance if needed.
Google Ads Network can be divided into
How Does Google Ads Work?
As we said earlier, Google Ads is a paid advertising platform. Ads will be displayed as search results whenever a potential customer enters keywords or phrases matching your ad. For example, if a user is searching for sports shoes online and if your ad contains keywords matching the search query, then the Google Ad system will pick up your ad. Then your ad will compete with numerous competitor ads. If your Ad Rank is better than the competitors then it will be picked and displayed at the top of SERP (Search Engine Result Page). If your Ad Rank is lower, then your ad will get rejected. So the display and positioning of your ad in SERP totally depend on your Ad Rank.
In Google AdWords, your ad's position on the search page depends totally on the Ad rank. If your Ad Rank outmatches the competitor Ad Rank, it will get displayed on the top position of SERP. If the Ad Rank is low then your ads won't get displayed. The Ad Rank value depends on two factors:
The Bid Amount
The Bid Amount - It means the amount of money you are willing to pay for a click on your ad.
Quality Score depends on 3 factors
Expected clickthrough rate (CTR): The likelihood that your ad will be clicked when shown
Ad relevance: How closely your ad matches the intent behind a user's search
Landing page experience: How relevant and useful your landing page is to people who click your ad
Quality score is measured out of 10. QS =>5 is considered as average and QS=>8 is considered as good. If you want to know more about Quality Score and how it will improve your Ad Rank, I highly recommend referring to this Google help resource.
It has to be kept always in mind that spending a huge amount alone won't increase the Ad Rank, Quality Score plays a major role as well.
Basic Google Ad Terminologies
Impressions - It is the number of times your ad is shown in the Google Network.
Clicks/Interactions - It is the number of times users click on the ads.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) - CTR is the ratio between clicks and impressions, meaning, out of the total number of times your ad is shown how many times people clicked on it. CTR thus can be calculated by dividing clicks by impressions and multiply by 100 to convert into a percentage. CTR determines the performance of your ad. Higher CTR means your ad is performing well.
Cost - It is the amount of money spent on Google Ads.
Budget - It is the amount of money spent on a campaign on a per-day basis.
Conversions - It is the desired action taken by the user on the website post the ad click. Conversion examples are purchase, sign-ups, subscriptions, etc.
Importance of Keywords
Keywords are basically words or phrases describing your product or service that you choose to help determine when and where your ad can appear. Keywords are also used to match your ad to sites in the Google Network that are related to your keywords and ads. It is critical to have the right set of keywords before launching a campaign, I'll explain why. The basic steps of a Google Ad process are given below.
User Query > Keywords > Ad > Auction > Impression > Clicks
When a user searches for a product or a service online, the Google Ad system will search for ads having matching keywords. The Ad with matching keywords will be selected and goes for auction. If the Ad wins the auction it will be displayed on SERPs. When the user sees the, ad it will become an impression, and if the user interacts it will become a click. So keywords are the words or phrases connecting your ads with the customers, and that's why it's so important.
Keyword Match Types
According to Google, "The keyword match types dictate how closely the keyword needs to match with the user’s search query in order for the ad to be considered for the auction". There are three different match types you can choose from for your campaigns.
Broad Match is the default match type of Google AdWords. Broad match keywords can match the largest number of variations of the keyword or phrase you add.
Suppose you are running a campaign with the keyword 'Nike Shoe'. Broad Match says that if a user comes to Google and searches for your keyword or a plural version of your keyword or a misspelling of your keyword or a synonym or a variation of your keyword then there are chances that your ad might be shown to the user.
Google Ads updated Phrase Match keywords in February 2021 to combine the “the control of phrase match, and the expanded reach of broad match modifier1" Ads will be shown to the queries containing the same meaning, exact phrases, or close variants of the phrase match keywords. For making your keywords Phrase match, you have to put your keywords in-between " ".
For Example, let's say "cricket shoe" is our phrase match.
Ads will be shown for the queries- cricket shoe, shoes for cricket, buy cricket shoes on sale, red cricket shoes, comfortable cricket snea kers. So ads will be shown to an exact phrase, close variations, plurals, and having the same intent.
Ads won't show on searches for - cricket bats and training shoes, can you wear running shoes for cricket.
If a user visits Google and searches for the exact math of your keyword or the intent of the search query is the same, then there are chances the ad might show. If you want your keyword to behave like an exact match you should put it in square brackets [ ]
For Example, let's say [cricket shoe] is our exact match.
Ads will be shown for the queries - cricket shoe, shoes for cricket and cricket shoes.
Ads won't show on searches for - cricket shoe for men, cricket shoe for boys.
Negative keywords are technically not a keyword match type. You can add negative keywords into your keyword list to exclude your ads from showing on searches with that term. Negative keywords filter irrelevant traffic and direct your ads to the right traffic. Suppose you are a sports shoe seller and if your company doesn't sell military boots then you can add it as a negative keyword.
If you want to learn more about keyword match types you can refer to this Google help resource.
Keyword Planner Tool
Keyword planner is a free tool that helps you to research keywords for your search campaigns. With Keyword planner, you will get keyword ideas that can help you to reach the target audience interested in your companies product and services. You can also view keyword statistics and performance metrics like Avg. monthly search volume, Competition, Bid estimates, etc. which will help you to select the right keywords for your campaign. With the selected keywords you can make a keyword plan and can view performance forecasts. A forecast example is shown below for your reference.
You can select and add keywords to a plan to forecast its performance. You can change the average daily budget and can view changes in metrics like clicks, impressions, cost, CTR, etc.
Now we know that it is through an auction an ad is shown in the Google Network. Each auction decides which ad to show and in which position it should be placed in SERPs. It is your bid that puts your ad into the auction and helps to obtain search keywords related to your product and services. Due to this reason, choosing the right bidding strategy is vital to accomplish your campaign goal. An advertiser can set desired Bidding Strategy in the Campaign Level Settings while creating a Google Ads Campaign.
Bidding strategies can be bifurcated into Manual and Automatic Bidding methods.
With Manual Bidding, an advertiser can assign bids manually to each and every keyword on the Google Ads platform. All bid decisions and actions will be taken by the advertiser on their Google Ads account without any assistance from AI or Smart Solutions. Cost per Click (CPC) is the only available Manual Bidding method in Google Ads.
Manual CPC - It is a Manual Bidding method in which the advertiser assigns bids for each and every keyword in his PPC campaign.
As you can see Google Ads will always recommend you to use Smart Bidding (Automatic Bidding) methods as a default setting, but you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of Manual CPC and decide accordingly.
With Manual CPC, you'll always have full control over your keywords bidding.
If you are a newbie into Google Ads and you've just created your Google Ads account then Manual CPC is a good option because smart bidding methods won't perform well in a newly created account with zero performance and conversion data.
Performance of Manual CPC is poor when compared with Smart Bidding Strategies. Automatic Bidding methods have the privilege of tapping into advanced AI of Google Ads, which helps to determine the behavior of users.
If you opt for Manual CPC you shall monitor your campaign performance closely and shall make necessary optimizations like bid adjustments to improve ad performance. In a nutshell, you have to be an experienced PPC professional.
Manual CPC is more time-consuming, meaning you have to spend more time continuously optimizing Keyword bids.
Automated CPC - It is an Automatic Bidding method in which the Google Ads algorithm will set bids for the keyword.
Maximize Clicks - It is a type of bidding in which the Google Ads system tries to get you as many clicks as possible within your budget. This bidding method is ideal if you are focusing on attaining more traffic to your website, blogs, etc. Maximize Clicks strategy will help to improve brand awareness.
Maximize Conversions - It is a type of bidding strategy in which the system tries to get you as many conversions as possible within your budget. It will look into your historical conversions and will try to get more in the future.
Maximize Conversion value - In a business, the value of conversion differs, all conversions may not have an equal value. Conversion value basically means the price of a product. In this strategy, if you have multiple products, the product with the highest value will be shown to people more, thereby trying to increase its conversion. As an example let's take Apple. Suppose Apple is running a Google Ads campaign for getting more conversions for its high-end MacBook, iPhone 12, and iPod and the selected bid strategy is Maximize Conversions. With this bid strategy, Google will try to generate more conversion for MacBook since it is their highly-valued product followed by other products based on their value.
Target Impression Share - Impression share (IS) is the ratio between actual impression versus potential impression.
If your campaign IS is 10%, it means that you have lost the remaining 90% due to lack of budget or because of low Ad Rank. If your campaign IS is 90%, then it means you just lost 10% and your campaign is performing well.
Target Impression share is a bidding strategy in which we can set an IS for the campaign. The idea is through this Bidding Strategy we direct the Google Ads algorithm to main a particular IS. Google Ads then will try to get the maximum IS, but the IS can be lost due to two factors, budget and Ad Rank.
IS lost (budget) means you have lost IS due to insufficient budget. This can be corrected by increasing the budget.
IS lost (Ad Rank) means you have lost IS due to low Ad Rank, and the reason may be due to poor ad quality, low CTR, and bad landing page experience. This can be corrected by improving the aforementioned parameters.
IS above 50% is considered to be above average since half of the time your ad is shown in SERPs. Target Impression Share is ideal for boosting brand awareness.
Target CPA - CPA means Cost Per Acquisitions. CPA can be calculated by dividing total cost by the number of Conversions.
Target CPA will help you to get more conversions on one hand and reduces bids on the other. While running a campaign, target CPA will monitor and look for good options where your chances of getting a conversion are high and push ads in those options. But in the other options where your ads are not that great compared to other ads, this method will reduce the bid, thereby saving the money. This bidding strategy is good for getting sales. Most e-commerce companies opt for this targeting method since it drives sales and at the same time puts control on the budget. In a nutshell, Target CPA gives more profit on investment.
Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) - Before explaining this bidding method I'll show a simple match example for understanding ROAS better.
Suppose we are running a Sales campaign for a Smart Phone for 30 days.
Per day budget is = INR 100
Total Budget of the campaign = 100 * 30 = 3000
At the end of the month, I was able to sell 2 Smart Phones valuing INR 6000 each.
My Revenue = 6000 * 2 = 12,000
ROAS = Revenue / Cost * 100 = 12,000/3000 * 100 = 400%
So for every 1 Rupee, I spent I got a return of 4 Rupees (400%)
Target ROAS is therefore a bidding strategy in which you can target a required ROAS. This bidding strategy is good for getting conversions.
Other Bidding Strategies
eCPC - Enhanced CPC or eCPC is a hybrid Bidding Strategy, meaning it is a combination of Manual and Automatic bidding methods. This bidding strategy focuses on conversions by increasing the bids of good keywords & by decreasing bids on the bad keywords. Good keywords are the ones having high Impressions, Clicks, CTR, Conversions, Quality Score, etc.
CPM - CPM or Cost Per 1000 Impressions is a bidding strategy in which you are willing to pay money for showing the ads every 1000 times. This bidding strategy is good for getting Brand Awareness.
CPV - Cost Per View is a bidding strategy in which you are willing to pay money for every views or clicks you get on your video ads.
How to Create Google Ads Account?
Creating a Google Ads account is a simple task. The video given below explains a step-by-step process of creating a Google Ads account from scratch. Don't forget to subscribe and like :)
Setup Billing Method
After the creation of the Google Ads account, the next step is to set up the billing method. For this click on Settings & Billing (gear icon) and you will get the dropdowns as shown in the picture below. Click on the Billing setting and you will be directed to a new billing setup page where you can set up your billing method.
There are two types of billing methods, Automatic and Manual.
Automatic Billing Method - It is a post-paid billing method in which you provide your bank details (credit card/debit card) and Google Ads will charge you after your ads have completed running for 30 days or once it reaches the set threshold limit.
Manual Billing Method - It is a pre-paid method in which as an advertiser you will pay a lump sum amount in advance and then you can start running your ads. As your ads run, the cost will be deducted from the lump sum payment, and once this prepaid amount gets exhausted you can add money.
Google Ads Account Structure
In this blog, we already discussed how to create a Google Ads Account. Each Google Ads Account will have a unique Account ID, email address, password, and billing information. A Google Ads Account structure consists of 3 levels.
Ad Group Level
Ads & Keywords Level
Campaign Level - It is the foundation level where you begin by selecting a goal and campaign type. According to your business goal, you can select the campaign type. If you want to generate sales, leads, or traffic to your website you can select a Search Campaign. If your goal is to soar brand awareness then you could opt for a Display campaign. If your objective is to get an App promotion then you can go for a Universal App Campaign. Like these, multiple campaign types are available for fulfilling multiple business goals.
It is at the campaign level where you can set Location Targeting, Language Targeting, Budget, Bidding Strategy, Conversion actions, Ad Extensions, etc.
Ad Group Level - Within each campaign Ad Group creates a flow structure and usually are organized by a theme. Ad groups consist of Keywords and Ads. You can create a maximum of 20,000 Ad Groups per Campaign, but I would suggest restricting within a range of 7 to 10.
Ads & Keyword Level - Within each Ad group you can set your Ads and Keywords. Using Google Keyword Planner, a tool within your Google Ads account you can shortlist the keywords for your campaign based on the factors like keyword avg. monthly searches, competition, top-of-page bid range, etc. This process is known as Keyword Researching. You can also do this using third-party paid tools like SEM Rush. Writing an Ad copy is one of the most important parts of this level. It is important to create a conversation-friendly Ad copy since it is the part your customers are going to see and engage in their SERPs.
Google Ads Extensions
Ad extensions will help you to get more clicks/interactions without incurring any extra cost per click (CPC), in fact, ad extensions will help you to bring down your CPC. By adding ad extensions you are including more information about your product and services in your ad copy. More information and clarity in your ad copy attracts more customer clicks, thereby increasing the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) of your ads. Higher CTR means your ad is highly relevant for the user and hence your CPC goes down. Higher CTR improves your Ad Rank as well. So including relevant Ad Extensions can be a game-changer, which overall improves your ad performance. Let's discuss the different types of ad extensions below.
Site Link Extension
With site link extension you can add additional website links under your ad. When users click on these links you can direct them to the respective landing pages in your website containing important information about your product and services. This will make the process hassle-free and cut short the user's efforts of visiting the landing page in order to get the required information about the product.
As shown in the picture above you can add a site link text with 25 character limit and two description lines, each with 35 character limits. You need to add a final URL as well, which on clicking will lead the user to the respective landing page. An example of a site link extension is given below for your reference.
Callout extensions are another excellent way to provide additional information about your product and services to potential customers. With the callout extension, you can add additional snippets of texts directly under your ad headline which showcases the USPs, additional benefits, special offers of your product and services. You can add a callout extension to your Account, Campaign, or Ad Group level.
The callout extension structure is given above and in the callout texts, you can add your business USPs or additional benefits like 24*7 Customer Care, Free Shipping, 5 Year Warranty, etc. An example is given below for your reference.
Structured Snippet Extension
Structured snippet extensions can be used to showcase the varieties or different attributes of products and services you're offering.
While you create a structured snipped extension, you can select a header type suiting your business. Some available header types are brands, models, styles, destinations, etc. Suppose you are advertising for the brand Rayban, and while you create a structured snippet extension for Rayban you can select the 'style' header type to showcase different shade styles like Aviator, Wayfarer, Clubmaster, Round, etc. These styles can be added in the Value fields.
Call extension helps users to call directly to a business/service by clicking the contact number or call button given in the ads.
Call extensions are suitable for businesses like hotels, service centers, showrooms, etc. An example is given below for your reference.
With location extension, you can add and show the physical address of your business on your ads. Customers can click and redirect to Google Maps but in order to include location extension, it is essential to have a Google My Business Account. Once you link your Google Ads with My Business Account you can add location extensions to your ads.
Lead Form Extension
Lead form extensions enable advertisers to include a lead generation form directly to a search ad and thereby can generate leads by running campaigns. Lead form extension is the latest extension type joining the others in the google Ads extension club. Lead form extension is highly useful for businesses like real estate, online admissions, etc.
Price extensions allows you to enrich your Search network text ads by showcasing the prices for the relevant products and services offered by your business in the form of cards as shown below. When clicked, they take the users directly to the product that mostly interests them on your site.
Promotion extensions are really useful if you’re running live offers, discounts and other promotions for your product and services. These offers and discounts in the ads will grab attention and will entice users to click your ad over others if they see that your options are discounted compared to your competitors.