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Search Engine Marketing Promotes Your Business Via Paid Ads

Filed under Internet Marketing. Fact checked on May 24, 2012.

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Using paid ads that appear on search engine results is an excellent way to get new customers for your business. You have the ability to control the amount that you will pay based upon which keywords you use, how you want results measured and when the ads display.

Every business person knows that if you want to succeed, you have to reach your customers. Back in the day, this might mean taking full advantage of print ads and directory listings. While those are still important, ads placed on the major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing) are becoming increasingly important. The strategies and techniques of using paid internet text ads is known as search engine marketing (SEM).

To determine when your paid text ads appears in search engine results, you must select desirable keywords and keyphrases, and bid against competitors to determine which ads will appear. The order ads appear is influenced by bidding, relevance and other factors. As a result, launching an effective SEM campaign is a three-step process:

  1. researching the best keywords for your business
  2. establishing your search engine campaigns
  3. managing your SEM efforts on a consistent basis

Research in Critical to Uncover Effective Keywords

Developing an effective SEM campaign is a lot like managing any investment portfolio: You want to save as much money as possible while simultaneously investing as much money as possible in areas likely to achieve results. The first step in achieving this goal is to determine the most effective keywords for your business. The goal of keyword research is to identify as many keywords and keyphrases as possible and organize them into logical groups. The end result of keyword research is a "keyword portfolio" that can be used as the basis for all search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns.

To create your own keyword portfolio, you can follow a simple three-step process.

  1. Create a "seed list" of 30-50 keywords that describe your business
  2. Divide the keywords into mutually exclusive categories
  3. Expand the number of keywords in each category

Begin by creating your keyword portfolio by coming up with a keyword seed list of 30-50 keywords and keyphrases that describe the full range of your company's core products and services. For help in compiling your list, you can test keywords using the major search engines, or use free search engine optimization tools, such as those offered at or other SEO sites. If the keywords you chose take you to your competitors' sites, you're on the right track.

Then, separate your seed list into categories. Categories should be specific enough (mutually exclusive) so that keywords don't overlap. They should also be general enough to allow for an many groups within the category.

Once groups are established, you need to expand the keywords in each group to increase the size of your keyword portfolio. Although our coffee shop may begin with a seed list of 20-30 words, the number of keywords and phrases will grow based on iterations and combinations of different words. A typical coffee shop can easily end up with 500 to 1500 keywords.

Keyword Portfolio


Annie's Coffee Cafe is a cozy coffee shop that offers a full line of coffee and tea drinks, as well as light meals. Annie's also sells coffee and tea, supplies and equipment. The shop also offer free wi-fi and a room that can be reserved for meetings. Annie begins with a basic list of keywords (her seed list) that includes the following terms:

coffeeshop, coffee shop, free wifi, free wireless Internet, café, lunch, dinner, breakfast, bakery, organic coffee, barista, latte, espresso, keurig, coffee roaster, coffee supplies, cappuccino, coffee supplies, coffee grinder, coffee press, espresso beans, coffee pods, Kuerig cups, coffee cups, bistro

Annie then organized her the seed list into the following mutually exclusive categories:

coffee shop
coffee roaster
Internet cafe
Organic coffee
Keurig cups
coffee pods
coffee cups
coffee grinder
coffee press
espresso beans
coffee supplies
free wifi
free wireless

Next, each category is divided further into groups. Keywords within the same group must be related closely enough to share the same text ad. In the example above, "coffee pods" and "coffee grinder" are different groups within the "supplies" category. Each keyword group required a unique text ad. People who seek coffee pods aren't seeking the same thing as individuals seeking a coffee grinder.

Mapping Out Your Search Engine Campaign

To advertise on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, business owners specify the keywords that trigger their ads and the maximum amount they are willing to pay per click. This determines how their ad will be displayed within search engine results as "sponsored links."

The display order of paid ads is influenced by advertisers' bids and other less tangible factors such as the "quality score" of ads and the quality of destination landing pages on your site.

With 65.5 percent of market share as of June 2011, Google is the most popular search advertising program, followed closely by Yahoo! with roughly 16 percent of the market and Bing with 14.4 percent. (Source: comScore) As a result, most business owners will want to begin by creating and optimizing search engine marketing campaigns for Google. Thereafter, successful campaigns can be adapted for other search engines.

With Google, you can spend $10 and send your advertisement to 50 million people instantly. Marketeers who jump into Google Adwords for the first time often get a crash course in street-smart direct response marketing. Too often, the result is overspending. To prevent overspending, take these issues into careful consideration when planning an Adwords campaign:

  • Relevant ads are rewarded. Your position on the page is determined by the cost of your bid. However, the higher the percentage of prospects that click on your ad, the less you have to bid to keep your position.
  • Ads must be clicked on 0.5 percent of the time. This means out of 200 exposures, your Google Ad must be clicked at least one time. If it does not get clicked the minimum amount, Google will flag the keyword for removal and raise the minimum bid price. This means you suffer financially if you cannot write decent ads.
  • Take full advantage of features that control ad placement. If you are using Google's AdSense to serve your ads to other websites (and vice versa) you should take time to ensure that competitor ads are blocked from appearing on your homepage. You should also limit your placements to those types of websites that are likely to be frequented by potential customers.
  • Use keywords in your ad headline If the keyword is in the heading, the search engine will highlight it. This increases the likelihood that potential customers will spot your ad, which in turn increases click-thrus.
  • Write action-oriented ad copy. Use action-oriented verbs in your ad copy. "Buy," "act", "reserve" are all action verbs. Convey your brand value proposition clearly.
  • Provide a relevant landing page. Have many variations of your primary keyword under one campaign. Let them sort out automatically.

Developing a search engine campaign is just the beginning. If you truly want to be successful, you must constantly refine your SEM campaigns.

Monitor the Success of Your SEM Campaigns

Now that you have implemented your SEM campaign, you need to monitor your results and continually refine your campaign based on what you learn. The areas you should monitor and refine include:

  • Refining your keywords
  • Scheduling your ads for maximum impact
  • Improving your landing pages

Refining Your Keywords to Improve SEM Effectiveness

When evaluating your keywords, you should focus on determining which words provide the biggest "bang for the buck." More words are not better if it means that your ad will turn up in out of context results. It is very important to realize that "keywords" also include two- and three-word phrases. Use phrases to better target your keywords.


RGS Fishing Guide Service wants to increase the number of bookings for its fly-fishing trips. One of the keywords that the owner had in his original keywords portfolio was fish. However, this meant that his ad displayed on searches for

  • Disney movie about fish

  • making fish stock

  • best aquarium fish for beginners

None of these searchers were interested in guided fly fishing trips. He decided to drop fish and insert fishing guide service and fly-fishing guide.

Use Keyword tools to Find New Keywords

If you are using Google's AdWords, then you should spend time working with their Keyword Tool.

By entering one of your keywords into the tool, you can surface related words and phrases. Continue to add specific terms and filter them out, both through Google and your own market testing.

Leverage Available "Fine-Tuning" Features and Filters

Think like your customers and then fine-tune your keywords (and phrases) to display your ad only on the most promising searches.


While his new phrases fishing guide service and fly-fishing guide proved more successful, the owner of RGS Fishing Guide Service knows there is room for more improvement.

As it appears now, his phrase fishing guide service could allow his ad to show if any of the words were matched: fishing or guide or service. To get better results, he sets the phrase to be searched only as a phrase. He also realizes that fly-fishing guide could mean a book about fly-fishing. To solve this problem, he adds a negative keyword" he adds -book to his list.

When refining search engine marketing plans, there are always more keywords and untapped markets to add to your Google AdWords campaigns. It will require continual research and experimentation to add keywords drawn from new markets and keyword categories.

The key to the entire operation is having well written ads tested for actual sales conversion. You may test these conversions by adding third-party tools in order to track actual shopping cart sales.

Tweak Your Ad Placements and Your Landing Pages to Increase Conversions

When refining your search engine campaigns, you should consider scheduling your ads to run at the specific days and times that will produce the best results. Ad scheduling lets you tell Google (and the other search engines) exactly when you want your ads to run. It also allows you to modify keyword bids based on time of day and day of week. It also allows you to specify when your ad should not appear.


Ad scheduling gives you control over when your ad may appear, but it does not guarantee that it will appear. The usual rules for determining what ads display to the viewer apply—your ads compete with all the other ads that want that page space.

In order to use scheduling effectively you must have a good grasp on two types of information:

  • the demographics of your target customers and
  • when those target customers are more likely to be on the internet.

Each time slot on the internet varies based on usage levels, demographics and the type of content sought. As a simple example, if you are targeting the "tween" market, it would make little sense for you to be running ads during the school day when most tweens have limited access to the web. The major search engines have a variety of tools to help with this process—make full use of them.

Improve Your Landing Pages to Ensure Users Stay

If your ads result in a high number of clicks, but only a small number of people actually do something on your site (conversions), you should examine your landing pages carefully to make sure they are of the highest quality. A landing page is the destination page on your website where individuals go after clicking on your ad. For an SEM campaign, a good landing page is just as important as a good ad, good keywords and strategic bidding.

Google states that a high-quality landing page measures up on three factors:

  1. content that informs the user regarding products and services
  2. transparency regarding you and how your business interacts with its customers
  3. navigability which enables the user to find his/her way about the page and the site with the least amount of aggravation


The page should contain original content that is highly relevant to the keyword that triggered the ad placement. Effectively implementing this could mean that you will have separate landing pages for your most valuable keywords. Of course, you should follow web content best practices when creating the content for each of these pages. Remember, site visitors are impatient: They will abandon your page (bounce) if they don't find answers immediately.


Annie's Coffee Shop decides to have an ad for coffee-making supplies and one for her line of teas. She creates two separate landing pages: one that features her coffee-making supplies and one that describes the wide selection of loose and bagged teas that she has available. Annie takes care to include complete descriptions and images of the products. She also makes sure that the same text does not appear in multiple pages within her website.


Google stresses that your landing page should let the readers know the following information.

  • Who you are. The reader should be able to tell what your business is and what it does.
  • What are the terms and conditions of doing business with you. The landing page should clearly set out the prices, shipping/handling charges, refund policies, and delivery methods/dates for the products and services advertised.
  • What (if anything) your site will require in terms of personal information from them. For example, if you request an email address, you must explain why you need the information and what you will do with it. (Needless to say, you must be accurate and honest in these statements, or you will run into trouble down the road.)
  • What (if anything) your site will do to their computer. Most small businesses are not in the business of creating downloadable applications, but as technology becomes more user-friendly, this could change. If you are delivering your product be installing it or downloading it onto your customer's computer, then you need to fully disclose what changes will be made and what will be installed. Google's provided some software download principles to provide some guidance in this area.

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