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Search engine marketing is essentially paying to generate web traffic to your site. The goal is to purchase ad space throughout the Internet, which in turn leads people to click on the ads and then visit your site. The most common mechanism for doing so is through Google AdWords, although there are other options on search engines like Yahoo! and Bing.

It’s also referred to as pay-per-click advertising, and in the past, SEM was a blanket term for both SEO and paid search engine marketing, but the two have become differentiated. SEO refers solely to organic search engine efforts, as opposed to paid techniques.

The Myths Surrounding SEM

Regardless of how murky the waters of SEO may be for many small and medium businesses, SEM seems to be shrouded in even more uncertainty, and the reason for this is often because of the huge number of myths and misconceptions floating around, including:

  • Pay-per-click advertising is extremely expensive. This doesn’t have to necessarily be true, and using something like Google AdWords is going to allow a business to create their own budget, specific to their needs and resources. Even if you have a small SEM budget, you can see big results if you choose the right keywords and target effectively.
  • SEM isn’t important if a page already has good organic SEO rankings. It’s actually important to use both SEM and SEO to increase your web traffic, your visibility, authority and sense of legitimacy.
  • SEM also automatically improves organic SEO rankings. Again, this can be a highly detrimental misconception. Paid advertising is viewed very differently than organic SEO in the eyes of Google, and simply paying for ads isn’t going to improve organic efforts.

What You Shouldn’t Be Doing

While there are certainly lots of ways to do SEM correctly, there are just as many ways to do it incorrectly, leading to wasted time, money and resources. For many small businesses, the first step to successful SEM is developing an understanding of the “No-No’s.”

  1. Don’t base your PPC or SEM on too many unfocused keywords. As with SEO, keyword choice is extremely important, and before starting a paid-per-click campaign, it’s important to choose the best keywords. Do research to find words that are going to appeal to the needs of your targeted audience.
  2. Don’t create an SEM campaign and believe it’ll be effective if it’s on autopilot. SEM is all about testing what’s going to work, and finding ways to adequately measure the results and impact. If you simply create a campaign, without any sense of how well it’s going to work, and then go on autopilot, you’re wasting your money and time. It’s important to always monitor performance, and remove those ads that aren’t performing adequately, while sticking with or slightly altering the ads that are seeing the best results.
  3. Don’t rely on generic text and images. It’s important, as with any advertising, to be creative and appeal to the sensibilities of your targeted audience. Take the time to create something that’s really going to draw attention, and lead to quality clicks.
  4. Don’t lead clickers directly to your homepage if it’s not relevant to your ad. It’s important that people feel as if they’re being directed to something related to the ad they clicked on. It may be necessary to create multiple landing pages that are directly tied to your specific ads.

Ultimately, there are similarities between SEO and SEM, but because of the fact that SEM costs money, it’s important that small businesses focus on not just doing it, but doing it well. It can certainly be an effective tool that can reach a highly targeted audience, but only if done correctly. There’s no definitive formula of what’s going to work, and it often relies on taking the time to experiment and discover the best methods for your individual business.

Read More: The Necessity of Having a Great SEM.