SEM - Search Engine Marketing (Paid Search)

The 3 steps of SEM

To achieve positive SEM results and reach a strong advertising position on a search engine results page (SERP), several steps are necessary:

  • Define relevant key phrases or messages for your ads
  • Define placements according to your audience
  • Move from click-throughs to conversions by optimizing landing pages

It is a semi-standard in SEM to address different user groups with specific ads because users may have different motifs for buying or may prefer a different language. Various ads might be sorted into groups for each key phrase or target group.

Once the Ad-groups are defined, the next step is to define the targeted placement (Google, yahoo, Bing, etc.). The message of the ad should be relevant to the environment it will be displayed in.

The key phrases - and accordingly the ads - should also be close to the content they describe on the landing pages. The more detailed the pages are, the easier it will be to find relevant key phrases, like with SEO. Many tools are available to check terms competitors use and find similar terms.

Equally important is to fit the ad message to the landing page to turn visitors into buyers or subscribers. If users do not find what they expect on a landing page, they are very likely to go back to the former site in less than 10 seconds.

SEM and Target Groups

To identify the best messages and key phrases as well as the best places for ads, it has proven very helpful to use personas, and even better, use cases. Use cases describe in more detail how users gather information or how buying funnels work.


SEM seems to be made for short term results as well as for terms and keywords for which a site has not been able to achieve top organic rankings. Reasons for this can be that it is easier or more economical to increase visitors using SEM rather than with SEO, which might require hundreds or even thousands of detailed content pages. SEM can capture visitors even for top SEO performing pages who are not using the organic listings.

SEM, Content and Conversion
  • The connection from ad placement to ad content is relevant for the conversion from viewer to visitor
  • The connection from ad content to landing page content is important for the conversion from visitor to buyer

This chain of action implies that content is sd relevant for SEM as it is for SEO. This definitely holds true for long-tail campaigning, although competitive areas show that there are ways to influence user behavior with less content and more design and messaging.

SEM often left out of online strategy

Most online marketing specialists are exactly that - specialists. For online marketing, it is very helpful to build strategies integrating all aspects into mid- and long-term planning. At times or for certain elements, SEO will be the first tool used to be supported later by SEM, or the other way around. Other plans will not work with SEM at all or focus on organic rankings and SEO only. Companies are better off consolidating these aspects with content and social net usage in integrative strategies, planning and implementations to target highest earnings without big surprises when allocating budgets.

Long-tail SEM success

Long-tail SEM focuses on the task to have very detailed, specific content. Some long-tail SEM projects I managed had to be paused at times because the businesses were not able to satisfy the resulting customer demand.

SEM success with competitive phrases

Even for competitive key phrases, our sites ranked extremely well and increasingly strong against competitors. We were able to clearly identify the best conversion rates and reached results and traffic volume similar to 10-times larger competitors. 

If you want to use SEO for your success too, please contact me to find out how I can help.