Search Engine Marketing 101

by Keri Honea on May 26, 2011

Search Engine MarketingIn its most basic definition, search engine marketing (SEM) is advertising on search engines, where ads are triggered to appear by a search engine user’s search terms. Anyone who has used Google has undoubtedly come across these types of ads in a right sidebar and occasionally in a banner above the search results. All of these ads are pay-per-click ads, meaning that the advertiser is only charged for the ads when a search engine user clicks on them.

To run search engine marketing ads on Google, one needs an Adwords account; to run them on Bing and Yahoo!, one needs a Adcenter account. They are very easy to acquire and set up. They also make it just as easy to create ads and start campaigns. However, that is where the ease stops.

From there, the user can be easily overrun by all of the details of managing a search engine marketing campaign. Keywords. Adgroups. Ads. Extensions. Display Network. And that’s all before getting to the Adwords reports. Before you get too far in over your head and try to make sense of the not-so-helpful Online Help, here’s a quick run-down of this terminology and how you should use them to make the most out of your search engine marketing efforts.


Keywords are never what anyone really thinks they are, and because of this, they are often difficult to fully grasp without some experience with (costly) trial and error. Keywords sound like they are describers of what a website/company/product is about, but in reality, keywords are what search engine users type in for searches. In other words, your keywords should be what customers use to search for your product/service/brand/etc. For example, keywords for a church should not include “God” or “angels”, even though such terms are associated with a church. Why? Searchers using these keywords will most likely be looking for information on God or angels and not about finding a church, so your ad is at risk for two poor scenarios:

  • Ads for these keywords will never run because they don’t match the relevance to your website, which will result in a low quality score.
  • Your ad will receive a click to your website, but the user won’t convert because your site does not have what they are searching for. It’s a wasted a click and wasted money.

In terms of a store, such as a coffee shop, using the single keyword “coffee” will most likely not bring in future customers, because searchers for just “coffee” are probably researching coffee and not trying to find a store. The use of phrases, such as “coffee shop”, “coffee house”, or “local coffee shop”, are far more conducive toward bringing your ad in front of potential customers. As a rule of thumb, never use single word keywords in search engine marketing; always use two to three word phrases.

Adgroups and Ads

Think of your search engine marketing campaign as your entire store and your adgroups as individual services or products. Going back to the coffee example, if you are selling coffee beans, you may want to set up adgroups for your different types of beans. One adgroup could be set for gourmet coffee beans, another for espresso beans, another for decaffeinated beans, and so on.

Once your adgroups are set, you can group your keywords in a similar manner. Group your gourmet coffee bean keywords with that adgroup, espresso beans with that adgroup, and so forth. Once your groups are set, then it is time to create your ads based on your keywords for the adgroup.

There are two different types of ads: text ads and media-rich ads. Text ads appear in both search engine results and in websites that have partnered with Google in the form of Adsense. Media-rich ads only appear on partnered websites, called the Display Network, a topic I will cover at a later date. Text ads can be written and approved in minutes, and they are best for promoting products and services, whereas media-rich ads are better for brand recognition.

Tips for writing text ads that will be approved:

  • Use only one explanation point per ad and not in the headline.
  • Headline should contain target keywords.
  • Avoid any boastful language such as “best” or “top”.
  • Set your destination URL to the page that contains the product/services mentioned in your ad and not the home page.
  • Make the last line in your ad–not the displayed URL line–a clear call to action, such as “Buy now!” or “Call today!”

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are simple little search engine marketing tools that are free to implement and help your ad stand out from the crowd. The most common one to use in Adwords is from Google Places, which will link your Google Places account to your ad. Doing so will automatically show your address with the ad in Google Search, and the ad will appear in Google Maps. If you haven’t claimed your business on Google Places, it’s free, very easy to do, and very worth your time to add to your ad campaign.

In blog posts to come, I’ll share a few bidding tactics, tips for using reports to measure your campaign’s success, and information regarding using media-rich ads and display networks.

Of course, if you need any assistance with your search engine marketing campaigns instead of managing it yourself, we would be very happy to help. Just drop us a line, and we will see how we can get the most out of your SEM ad campaign!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nicola Blagden May 26, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Vedry useful informaiotn to help new and existing clients to get to the top of the SEO. Thank you.

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