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    The Complete Guide To SEM Strategy: Definition, Tactics, Tools

    You may have heard about the SEM strategy many times but do you know what it really means?

    Don’t confuse it with SEO (search engine optimization)! Although both refer to search engines, SEM (search engine marketing) is a separate marketing direction that requires a unique approach and strategy. 

    I’ve already explained the basics of SEO writing, as well as the local SEO, so now let’s complement our knowledge base with a guide to SEM strategy

    You’ll know: 

    • What does SEM stand for?
    • What is the difference between SEO and SEM?
    • How to create a search engine marketing strategy for your business from scratch
    • What tools you should use for running effective SEM campaigns

    Let’s start!

    What Does SEM Stand For: Difference Between SEO Strategy and SEM Strategy

    Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a process of attracting target users via paid ads that become visible on the top positions of Google’s search results. 

    Here is how SEM works: When you search for a specific product or service,  the first search results are promoted and paid links marked as “Advertising.”

    SEM example

    For example, when you enter Pandora into the search bar, the first result you see is paid advertising, while the second is an organic search result. This is where the major difference between SEO and SEM is detected. 

    Let’s compare SEO and SEM strategies in detail using a comparison table:

    SEO vs SEM

    But still, search engine optimization and search engine marketing strategies have something in common. For example, to succeed with an SEM campaign, you should pick up the winning keywords in the same way as you do for SEO promotion.

    Benefits of SEM Strategies

    How do you select which direction to use?

    Well, by using search engine marketing strategies, you’ll get these benefits:

    benefits of search engine marketing

    • Quick reach. The payoff from SEO promotion cannot be instantaneous as the idea is to attract as many referring domains as possible to increase the site’s Domain Authority and improve website ranking. SEM offers completely different strategies to market your business. Paid search marketing advertising brings you to the top results immediately after launch.
    • Flexible SEM campaign settings. Google Adwords offers very flexible settings for your search engine marketing campaigns. You can choose the desired language, location, audience, and budget, plus customize and personalize your advertisements.
    • Affordable pricing options. Google Adwords also allows managing your marketing budget in the way you like. For example, you may choose a pay per click (PPC) or pay per impression (PPI) option. 
    • Measurable results. Google Adwords + Google Analytics integration provides you with clearly measurable results in a convenient interface. 
    • The quick way to bypass competitors. It’s quite difficult to compete with companies who are at the top results in the organic search. SEM strategy is one of the best ways to get discovered by your key sales queries on the first page immediately. 
    • 100% automatization. Being one of the top SEM tools, Google Adwords allows you to improve and relaunch your SEM campaigns on autopilot. 

    Search Engine Marketing Tips to Create Your First SEM Strategy

    The benefits of having an SEM strategy for your business are already clear, so let’s find out how to come up with search engine marketing strategies step-by-step.

    how to create an SEM strategy

    1. Select the product or service you are going to advertise

    If you are just starting to develop your search engine marketing strategy, start by choosing the product you want to advertise. 

    The best option is to opt for a bestseller, although your choice of product will largely depend on the audience you are targeting. For example, if it is a custom audience, then the product should match their interests and previous behavior on the site.

    2. Take one more look at your target audience

    Next, you need to refine the category of your target users again. Google Adwords allows you to both set up an audience based on location, demographics, and behavior, as well as create a custom audience from your customers.

    3. Set your budget limits. 

    It’s better to start with a small budget and a test run of your ad. Further, after analyzing the result, you can raise your bets or change your strategy.

    4. Land on Google Adwords. 

    This is the core tool you need to get started with your SEM campaign. Get registered on this platform, specify the information about your business, and proceed to set up your first campaign. 

    5. Set up your first campaign and launch it. 

    This is the most difficult part of the whole venture. Google Adwords has a lot of settings that are confusing. What’s more, your ad copy is also very important. 

    You should be aware of numerous search engine marketing tips. For example, pay attention to the headline – you will have only 30 characters to tell the most important thing about your business and motivate users to proceed to your website. 

    6. Measure results. 

    Google Analytics integration will help you with tracking your results and measuring your ROI (return on investment – the main SEM metric). Surely, you should keep these results in mind while running the next SEM campaigns. 

    7. Repeat.

    Was your SEM campaign a success? Well, why not continue it? Refine the possible flaws and keep it going to repeat high results!

    Winning Search Engine Marketing Strategies You May Implement Right Now

    Do you want more practical search engine marketing tips? Here are seven proven ways to make your SEM campaigns even more effective! 

    SEM strategy

    #1 SEM Strategy – Keep local search in mind

    46% of Google searches are searching for local businesses. So, if you are selling goods or providing services locally, the SEM campaign is one more chance to get discovered. 

    Just add your location to the text of your ad, its headline, and don’t forget to specify the audience – it should reside in your location and search from it as well. 

    local SEM example

    Our ultimate guide to local SEO will come in handy since a lot of rules are interconnected here. For example, an approach to selecting the geo-oriented keywords.

    #2 SEM Strategy – Spy on your competitors

    I bet that your top competitors are actively using search engine marketing. It’s a brilliant practice to analyze their campaigns and take the best insights for your SEM strategy. 

    Conduct competitors’ PPC analysis and find out what keywords, bidding strategies, and writing tactics they use. Using SEMRush, you’ll be able to compare your advertising efforts with the efforts of your competitors, and such SEM tools as SpuFu and iSpionage will give you access to their ads’ copies (I’ll tell you more about the helpful SEM tools later on).

    iSpionage review dashboard

    iSpionage review dashboard

    #3 SEM Strategy – Create some urgency

    The feeling of urgency is a great trigger to motivate people to buy so you should use it throughout your marketing strategy, particularly, in paid advertising. 

    Just add some urgency-provoking works to the headline of your ads, for example, “Special Offer – 24 Hours Left” or “Ends {when}.

    urgency in ppc

    #4 SEM Strategy – Use the “Similar Audience” feature

    This Google Adwords feature allows showing your advertising to a group of users that have the same behavioral patterns and interests as your audience. The idea is to expand the reach of your best-performing audiences by targeting new users with similar characteristics to your site visitors.

    similar audiences adwords

    This is a great way to generate more leads and attract qualified traffic to your website.

    #5  SEM Strategy – Segment and personalize your ads

    As I have stated, Google Adwords allows very flexible settings to personalize and segment your ads campaign. For example, you may set up your ads in a way that it will be shown to mobile users only. 

    Or you may segment your users in a more sophisticated way. If you use a custom audience uploaded to Google Adwords, you may divide your users into those who have abandoned a cart recently and show them a highly personalized remarketing ad with a very special offer. 

    ads for card abandoners

    #6  SEM Strategy – Find the most efficient approach with A/B testing

    A/B testing is a versatile marketing technique that helps you determine the winning visual/textual solutions for any campaign. 

    When it comes to testing paid ads, first off, you should decide on what part you want to test. For example, you can test two different headlines, descriptions, extensions, or separate words such as urgency triggers on a limited target audience. 

    A/B testing example

    Then, compare results and determine which phrasing motivated the experimental audience the best. Apply the winning version to the rest of the audience.

    #7  SEM Strategy – Set Up Automated Rules

    Good news – it’s not necessary to constantly track statistics and make changes to the ad campaign manually. Google Ads’ automated rules allow you to manage your account using criteria that you configure yourself: show ads on a schedule, bids by the time of day, season, position in the search results, etc. 

    By setting up automation in your account, you can eliminate the human factor in certain situations. This is especially true when massive changes need to be made and nothing to be overlooked.

    However, make sure that you did everything correctly before setting automated rules – otherwise, there is a risk of wasting the budget. 

    The Must-Have SEM Tools for PPC Specialists

    Using these affordable (or even free) SEM tools, you’ll be able to create a truly fruitful SEM strategy: 

    Foundation – Google Adwords

    As you have already understood, you should create and set up your SEM campaigns in Google Adwords. This SEM tool is quite flexible, however, it may be challenging to use it for the first time. 

    What’s more, there is a risk of missing an important detail and wasting your advertising budget. That is why it makes sense to have SEM consultants nearby when you are just getting started with search engine marketing. 

    For Keywords Research – Keyword Planner, SEMRush, iSpionage, SpyFu

    These are all-in-one PPC management tools. The selection of the winning keywords is only one of their top-notch features. Apply the selected keywords to your targeted ads, local and on-page SEO, and generate hashtag ideas for your social media marketing. 

    semrush keyword research tool

    SEMRush keyword research tool

    What’s more, with the help of these SEM tools, you can create, distribute, and optimize your content, research the market, get your competitors’ SEO/SEM insights, and leverage your SEM strategy. 

    For Content Enhancement – ChatGPT,  Paraphrasing Tool, Bard, Copyblogger

    These tools are extremely handy when it comes to using them for your content writing tasks.

    Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, Claude and many others help you with research and generating ideas while tools like reword generator, copyblogger and paraphrase online help you enhance content quality. You can use these tools for free to take your SEM efforts to the next level.

    For ROI Measurement – Google Analytics, WordStream, OWOX

    WordStream, Varos and OWOX great alternatives to Google Analytics because of their simplified interface, better reports visualization, and overall user-friendliness.  

    owox dashboard

    Using these SEM tools, you may analyze your click-through rate, conversion rate, quality score, impression share, and account activity, plus compare the results from each of your campaigns to find the best strategic insights ever. 

    Good to know: For efficient execution of your SEM campaigns, consider utilizing project management templates. These files can help streamline your workflow, track tasks, and implement your SEM strategy effectively. Whether you’re working with a team or managing campaigns independently, project management templates can be a valuable resource to keep everything organized. They provide a structured approach to planning, executing, and monitoring your SEM efforts, helping you achieve better results and optimize your advertising budget.


    Despite all its seeming simplicity, creating a highly-effective and result-driving SEM strategy for your business may be challenging. Our full-service digital marketing agency has a team of qualified SEM consultants on-board who are ready to help you with all the subtleties of search engine marketing. 

    Get in touch with us right now to see your PPC ROI skyrocket! 

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