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Paid Search Engine Marketing or SEM is the action of advertising inorganically (paid) on a search engines (Google, Yahoo!, or Bing) for visibility of a website in the search engine marketing results pages (SERPS). Paid SEM can be referred to as paid search, Pay Per Click (PPC), or Cost Per Click (CPC).

The power of paid advertising is the ability to hyper target your potential customers and place your advertisements in front of them. You are also able to look at the data to optimize your campaigns to get the best performance. A lot of companies find this a lot more cost effective than using other traditional marketing channels such as TV, Radio, outdoor advertising, etc to serve their ads but I believe the best way to use PPC is to integrate it into your marketing channels.

You will want to make sure that you have a a PPC Management company who is going to get you results. Make sure to do your due diligence when selecting as there are a lot of companies who provide the service but do not know what they are doing.

One great thing about paid SEM is that you are able to drill down and hyper target your consumer. An example could be that your consumers are 18-24 year old males who are searching for red skateboard wheels in Los Angeles between 5 pm and 8pm on Wednesday or 34 year old females who is looking for water diapers in Anaheim at any time on a Saturday.

Paid SEM for the most part works based on a bidding system similar to that at of an auction with a few other dependents:

  • Bidding: You have a bid range that you input into the ad platform and if no one else is bidding as high as you are you will be placed in the first position. The amount you bid is not the only thing that can be taken into account by a search engine advertiser.
  • Relevance: Certain ad platforms will rate the quality of your content in relation to the ads, keywords, and landing page to the visitor seeing your ad. Adwords uses “quality score” to calculate how relevant your ad is to the visitors search intent. A higher quality score can lead to lower ad costs.

The advertising you purchase is served by the search engine based on the keywords you bid on that are entered into the search.

  • Keywords are an individual or string of words used to search for something online.
    • If you were selling a red dress you may bid on the keywords summer dress, strapless red dress, short red dress, or any combination of words that could drive a potential sale.
  • Negative keywords are a set of keywords that give you unwanted impressions.
    • An example would be that you would exclude “summer dress” if you are selling a wedding gown.

Keyword analysis will be one of the most or the most important thing to research for your paid digital advertising campaign. You will need to do a lot of keyword research to make sure that you are competing for the terms that will drive sales and not have you draining money. Google provides a great keyword planner that will help you identify the right keywords.

SEO Moz has a great beginner article about how to perform keyword research.

Frederick posted helpful information about how to research negative keywords

Below is a list of tools to use for researching keywords:

One of our favorite tools you can test out is SEMRUSH:



Each search engine has its own site section for being able to purchase ads on their network. Below are links to some of the major online advertising companies:

We have also been featured as a top 30 digital agency in San Diego on DesignRush. Contact us for a free SEM consultation.

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