Search Engine Marketing (SEM) can be a great way to boost traffic to your website or compound the positive effects of one of your latest marketing campaigns.
But it’s all too easy to sink a sizable portion of your marketing budget into SEM without any real results.
And, unfortunately, a lot of companies are doing just that.
To be clear, SEM is distinct from search engine optimization (SEO). Although SEM was once an umbrella term for every type of marketing initiative involving search engines, marketers now typically use “SEM” to refer to paid search marketing and PPC marketing, while SEO refers to organic search engine marketing.
According to one study, small businesses waste about 25% of their PPC budgets because they aren’t doing SEM correctly. Less than half of the businesses surveyed in the study didn’t even have conversion tracking installed on their landing pages, and 95% of them didn’t have call extensions set up to capture leads more effectively.
There are two ways to avoid wasting money on SEM. One is to follow best practices to ensure you have a good ROI from your spend. But you can also divert some of those funds to organic content marketing strategies and SEO.
Why Your SEM Campaign Isn’t Working
When we talk about search ads and PPC, let’s be clear: We’re usually talking about Google Ads (formerly known as “Google AdWords”). In 2017, Google earned 78% of all search ad revenues and is expected to earn over 80% of them by the end of 2019.
Google tries to make its Google Ads interface as intuitive as possible, but don’t be fooled. Running SEM ads is a skill that must be learned and practiced. That’s why Google offers digital training courses to teach users how to do it.
In the meantime, here are some of the reasons your Google ads may not be working:
- The ads or keywords were disapproved
- You added Negative Keywords that nullify your target keywords
- The search volume for your keywords is too low
- The keywords you’re targeting are too competitive
- Keyword bids exceed your daily budget
- Your ads aren’t scheduled properly and show at bad times of day
- You’ve placed your bid adjustments incorrectly
- There’s an issue with your payments or billing information
- You haven’t given your ads enough time to work
Of course, another reason your ads may not working is that what you’re advertising just isn’t appealing to your audience. If you’re trying to boost a landing page, it may not get many click-throughs if the offer it houses doesn’t provide visitors with value.
According to Harvard Business Review, search ads “work best when they alert consumers to something they’re not already aware of.” Consider advertising more value-added resources like original research and content, white papers, checklists, how-to guides, free tools, and templates.
Of course, if you don’t have those types of content assets, you can advertise sales and specials, events, or even a link to new features on your website.
How Content Marketing Helps
As far as search traffic is concerned, there are three types of website traffic: paid traffic, direct traffic, and organic traffic.
Direct traffic is when someone types your website address or the address of one of your pages directly into their browser. If you operate a service or you generally serve customers through your website on an ongoing basis, you may have a lot of direct traffic.
Paid traffic is the traffic you earn through your paid advertisements, like Google Ads. It’s easy to determine your ROI with paid traffic. Every dollar you spend should correlate to someone who lands on your website, converts or becomes a customer. You can even calculate how much revenue you’ve brought in through your paid traffic.
If you have a robust analytics suite, you should be able to segment different types of traffic coming through your website. If you discover that most or all your traffic is coming from paid sources, you’ve found a problem.
That means you’re paying for most, if not all, of the activity on your website, which just isn’t sustainable. Ideally, you should get most of your traffic naturally by people finding you in search results — this is organic traffic, and this is where content comes into play.
If you want people to find you online, you need to offer them something worth finding. Blog posts, web pages, pillar pages, landing pages, infographics, and other assets can all be indexed by search engines when they are made live on your website. Each piece of content represents an opportunity to drive organic traffic.
To create great content, consider some of these types of posts and pages:
- Numbered list posts
- How-to posts
- Expert Q&As
- Success stories and case studies
- New product or feature releases
- Press releases
- Industry insights and news
Make sure the content you create is written for a specific buyer persona. Research the keywords your customers type into search engines, then use them in your content to attract visitors.
If you find that your organic content isn’t getting much traffic, try this: Find the page that ranks #1 for your topic in search, then create a page that’s 10 times better than that one. This is what’s known as “10X content.”
Naturally, you’ll need to invest some budget into content marketing — but it pays dividends. Well-written blog posts that cover evergreen topics (topics that don’t grow irrelevant with time) will account for 38% of your web traffic into the future.
Balancing SEO and SEM
According to the Association of National Advertisers, only one-quarter of all digital ad spend ever reaches actual people. While this also takes banner ads, native ads, and other types of digital advertisements into account, it’s still a sobering statistic when you consider how much money most firms spend on advertising.
If you want to draw real ROI from your marketing budget, don’t sink it all into paid advertisements. A healthy website has a balance of traffic from multiple sources, including organic search, paid search, email, and social media.
As a goal, you should try to become successful without any paid SEM at all. Then, you can use paid search ads to enhance your campaigns on top of your steady organic traffic.