What’s Trending and Tanking in Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing

So, you think you understand search engine marketing (SEM). You may have been had success with it.

The reality: The world of SEM is changing so fast, it may no longer be what you think it is and it’s probably not generating the kind of results for you that it could.

That’s why we developed this guide to what’s trending — and tanking — in the world of SEM.

What IS search engine marketing?

Let’s start with the basics. Search engine marketing is a practice that helps businesses, individuals and organizations increase and enhance their presence on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo using both paid and unpaid tactics. The goals for most search engine marketing campaigns are to do things like build brand awareness, increase traffic to websites, generate leads and make sales.

To be successful, search engine marketing strategies and campaigns should leverage both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid advertising tactics. At one time, both fell under the umbrella of search engine marketing. Today, paid advertising is generally equated with SEM, while SEO is considered a separate discipline.

  • Paid advertising involves using bidding, keyword selection, copywriting and other tactics to improve the positioning and visibility of ads on search engines across all types of devices including computers, tablets, smartphones and virtual assistants.
  • Search engine optimization includes the strategies and tactics involved in earning (not buying) web traffic by improving the context and positioning of listings on Google and other search engines across all devices.

The most effective search engine marketing campaigns find the ideal balance between earned and paid strategies and tactics that maximizes business results and reduces costs. The earned SEO results build brand presence and credibility while paid SEM tactics get people to take action.

How do search engines work?

The biggest mistake many marketers make is that they take an old-school view of how search engines operate. They consider them technology that can be tricked into generating beneficial results.

A better way to think of search engines is as service businesses that can only succeed if they use cutting-edge artificial intelligence to deliver the best, most meaningful recommendations for their users. This has become especially true as people have started developing “relationships” with virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri and expect the devices to know and understand them.

Search engine optimization

It used to be true that you could cheat the system and use tricks to improve organic search rankings. However, Google and other search engines got smarter than the tricksters… A whole lot smarter.

The most effective way to improve your rankings is to build a better, more SEO friendly, website. The goal is to make Google and other search engines know that if they deliver users to your site, they’ll have a satisfying experience. This builds trust and helps ensure dependable traffic flow.

Here are some proven ways to achieve this.

  • Be the best. Offer the highest quality content possible on your website. It must outshine that on other sites. Deliver it in formats and media that people prefer. Use language that website visitors understand delivered in a style they find appealing.
  • Offer clues. Your content and web data (including headlines, key word usage, subheads, photo descriptions and meta tags) must make it clear to search engines what your overall website — and individual pieces of content — are about.
  • Send signals. Use social media to drive traffic to your content. Collecting likes and getting people to share it sends signals to the search engines that the material is good.
  • Smooth the way. Deliver an optimal experience across all devices including laptops, tablets, smartphones and virtual assistants. No unnecessary waiting, endless scrolling, delivery hiccups or pinch-and-zoom.
  • Earn respect. Get reputable websites to link to yours and provide natural links on your site that point to respected ones. Getting into a virtual dialogue with other quality sites will raise your profile.
  • Explain yourself. Provide clear and complete information about your business on your site and through Google Business.
  • Rate it. Provide opportunities for customers to offer ratings and reviews. Nothing signifies credibility more than positive reviews from real customers.
  • Provide answers. People tend to ask their virtual assistants questions, which is an emerging way of searching for information. Google and other search engines look for the top, most authoritative answers to them to serve up to their users. FAQs used to be an afterthought. Today they’re a leading traffic driver.
  • Be an expert. More and more, Google delivers its own content on certain subjects to eliminate the middleman. Still, there are countless things the search engine behemoth can’t be a credible expert about. If your business has expertise in its space, make it clear on your website and through your blog.
  • Keep it fresh. Provide new content regularly. Static websites typically sell things. Dynamic ones deliver fresh insights. Google abhors the former. It prefers the latter.
  • Keep it simple. Featured snippets became more common as the majority of searches happened on phones. If you have a great insight, keep it short and sweet.
  • Leverage Google Trends. It could point the way toward what people will be searching for tomorrow… And the day after.

Taken together, these tactics contribute to a good digital experience. In the end, Google and other search engines are the ultimate arbiter of what the optimal online experience is. That’s because they need to keep their users satisfied and coming back for more.

Search engine marketing

Trying to cheat the system no longer works for paid advertising, either. You’ve got to build better ads and back them up with smarter SEM strategies to succeed. It’s the only way for SEM to deliver consistent and dependable paid results for your business.

Here are some things you can do to become a search engine marketing expert.

  • Choose the RIGHT keywords. (Not all the keywords.) Figure out what the people you want to reach are really looking for and select words they’re most likely to use in a search. Constantly monitor the effectiveness of your keyword basket and test new ones to optimize it.
  • Use the right match type. If it’s too broad, you’re wasting money on bad clicks. If it’s too narrow, you could be missing out on valuable traffic. Find the right balance.
  • Bid smart. Constantly monitor and optimize your bids. Set-it-and-forget-it is no longer a valid strategy. Things today can change on a dime and yesterday’s dead word could be tomorrow’s top trend.
  • Test it. Constantly A/B test ad copy and landing page creative. You may have a powerhouse combination. However, you never know when it will go stale or a competitor might come up with something better.
  • Never settle for “good enough”. Is your click through rate beating industry benchmarks? You could improve it. Search engines often underestimate benchmarks. Constantly work toward better click throughs.
  • Quality is job one. Always work to up your quality score. Improving your ads, keywords and landing pages will bring the number up, which results in lower ad costs and better positioning.
  • Don’t bottom feed. Some businesses think they’ll get decent search engine results at a reduced cost if they only bid on lower search volume keywords. This can be a big mistake. It’s often worth bidding more for better-searched terms. When it comes to SEM, you get what you pay for.
  • Location. Location. Don’t waste your money paying for searches in places where you don’t do business. It’s that simple.
  • Think BIG picture. It’s important to pay attention to things like click through rates and cost per click. Its even more critical to understand how these things ladder up to determining the return on your investment in search engine marketing. That’s the ultimate key to SEM success.
  • Think like a marketer, not a search technician. Define your target audience. Understand what they need and how your products and services can meet their needs. Then base all your SEM strategies on that information. Search is about delivering good experiences, not exploiting technology.

What’s next in the world of SEM?

No one has ever been able to predict the future of search engine marketing.

  • Who could have known that broad back linking strategies would eventually lead to almost insurmountable Google penalties?
  • No one could have guessed that the once smart concept of keyword packing would be frowned upon by search engines.
  • Who could have seen a time when searches would involve talking to machines?

Rather than trying to predict the future, it’s smarter to stay aware of what’s happening in the world of SEM right now and regularly monitor your results. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends by connecting with respected experts (not pundits looking to get famous). Watch your metrics. If you see shifts or sudden changes, it could be a sign that Google or other search engines are updating algorithms and you may need to adjust your strategies accordingly.

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