Search Engine Marketing: SEM Best Practices (And Why You Need Them) Jessica Lunk Search engine marketing, or SEM might sound intimidating, but really it just means promoting your business online. SEM best practices include keyword research and analysis, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), paid advertising, and organic referrals from search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.Using Search Engine Marketing to Find More CustomersActually, with search engine marketing, you don’t find more customers – they find you! Successful search engine marketing means getting in front of potential customers who are doing research online, searching for solutions to problems you can help them with. Keyword Research & AnalysisWhen you have question – whether it’s where to eat or what software is the best for your business – most likely you’ll type it into a search engine to learn more. Your customers are no different, and that’s why a solid SEM strategy starts with identifying the right keywords. Most advertisers use tools like the Google Keyword Planner to find those keywords and phrases that their potential customers are searching for.When thinking about your keyword strategy, think outside the box for terms that could attract customers early in the sales process in addition to when they’re ready to buy. These terms could be directly related to your business, or they could be an area where your customer’s problem and your expertise intersect.For instance, if you’re a crossfit gym, your keyword strategy might include phrases like “crossfit gym” as well as “workout of the day” or even “eating healthy around the holidays.”Search Engine OptimizationSearch engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of getting your website to appear organically in the top of the search results for the keywords and phrases you’re targeting. Once you’ve identified the keywords your customers are searching for, the next step is the build out relevant content. Valuable, in-depth content that relates to your keyword strategy will help your business rise to the top of the search results and get found online.While appearing organically in the search engine results is technically “free,” it does require time and resources to develop content. At the same time, organic traffic to your website is extremely valuable to your business. Think about how Pay Per ClickPay-per-click (PPC), or PPC advertising is one of the most common forms of paid Search Engine Marketing. With PPC advertising, you use your keyword strategy to bid on ad placement in the sponsored ad section of the search results. The single most popular PPC advertising system in the world is Google AdWords. AdWords turn up right in the sponsored link section of Google search results – your bid for a particular keyword determines when it shows up and for how long each day. Like everything else Google does, metrics are important. In fact, your ad’s placement is based on your keyword bid amount and a formula that multiplies your highest CPC bid by your Quality Score, which is based on click-through-rate, relevance, and the quality of your landing page.Geo TargetingIf you have a local business, another way to advertise online is by geo targeting. This means using location to help local searchers find you. For instance, if your business is in downtown Sacramento, Calif., you might mention that fact, or perhaps say that your location is across the way from the Golden Bridge in downtown Sacramento. You can also use geo location in paid advertising to serve up ads only to folks in your region. Creating Ad ContentPaying for ad placement is worthless if you don’t have ad copy that compels folks to click on your ad. To make sure your ad differentiates itself from others in the same business as you are, do:Note the pain-point your customers are facing.Highlight the benefits of your products or services.Make sure that the copy of your ad is relevant to the keyword that the ad corresponds to.Have the ad point to a relevant landing page on your website.If search engine marketing sounds overwhelming, you’re not alone! There are a ton of moving parts, and some you may feel comfortable managing in-house, and others you may want to outsource. Many small and medium-sized businesses hire experienced digital marketing firms to do the keyword research, write the ads, and do the metrics within SEM best practices. This leaves time for owners to do what they do best – run their business.