Both SEM, or paid search advertising, and SEO can be valuable search marketing strategies – here’s how we define the terms, and some advice on how to use each. But SEO can have its limits: depending on your strategy, your products, and a host of other factors, it could be smart to invest some money into your marketing efforts instead of spending all your time on SEO. Here’s what to look out for:
If your audience is searching for products like yours with the intent to complete a transaction (such as buying a product or service), they’re not going to be researching intensively. People searching with high commercial intent are more likely to click on paid ads that are there conveniently at the right place and the right time – more likely, one study found, by a factor of 2 to 1 (WordStream).
Say you’re selling laptop covers online. Think about your value proposition (durable, variety of designs and colors, inexpensive) and invest in some keywords for an ad. The next time a potential customer searches for a “durable blue laptop case” and your ad pops up in front of them, you’ve just gotten closer to making a sale.
Local searches are a form of transactional queries – according to Forbes, 61% of local searches result in purchases. If you’re a local coffee shop in Boston, you don’t need someone in Los Angeles searching for coffee to discover you – maybe you just need a strategically placed ad to show up in front of someone searching for “coffee shops in Boston.”
Realistically, there are some keywords that are simply too competitive to bring you organic results. In those cases, you may have to pay for keywords in order to reach your audience at all. SEM allows you to compete more effectively in competitive spaces.
Tip: use tools like SEMrush and Google AdWords to help you analyze what keywords are being searched for, decide on keywords you can potentially rank for, and plan a budget that hits the sweet spot between affordability and profitability. Check out WordStream’s guide to keyword competition here.
Every marketing initiative should start with a clearly-defined goal you can measure and improve upon. What are your goals? This will help you decide what your strategy should focus on. Here are some sample situations:
Of course, you need to strategize carefully to make sure that your SEM efforts will turn into a cash machine. And even if you’re spending money on paid search results, SEO is still worth your time: if you’re not incorporating good SEO practices, you may find that you’re spending more money than you should. So what do you do next? You need to stop wasting money on SEM.