January 01, 2016 | in Paid Search & Media Buying

What SEM Can’t Do

How to Play to Its Strengths

Search Engine Marketing is a type of digital marketing that involves the promotion of websites through increasing their visibility in various search engine results pages. As you may know, the most popular search engines are Google and Bing. SEM, as part of the glamorous world of online marketing, is a terrific tool and our core business, but it is a tool, like any other, with strengths and weaknesses.

SEM can’t stimulate searches, its strength is (if done right, of course) in collecting traffic available through the searches made. Display Ads, however, can raise awareness for a product/website and from this awareness, searches are stimulated. The Search ad, seen in search engine results pages, is click-bait; however, this metric isn’t an all-encompassing panacea because it does not necessarily directly lead to an uptick in sales. SEM can gather all the clicks in the world but if the website is not a good experience, the sales won’t come.

SEM is at its best when it is capturing the demand for the offering from the advertiser, matching the users’ expressed demand for the offering to an ad catered to advocate the advertiser’s offering to them. But SEM cannot be used to generate the demand in the first place. So how do you get a user who has never heard of you to visit your site even before they search? You can use the myriad of display ad options:

  • Real-Time Bidding (RTB) is best suited to direct response aims combined with stimulating searches and raising awareness with the right audiences.
  • Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP) are great at reaching out to users who are mentioning relevant terms in their emails.
  • Native ads do a good job at inserting your brand into the browsing life of user populations relevant to your target customer.

Once you have all these kinds of display ads running, you can track their contribution to sales (and whether or not they cause SEM or Organic Search clicks) using a multi-channel tracking tool. This is a step up from basic analytics and gives you a much truer sense of how your investment is performing.

Conversely, whilst SEM can’t generate searches, Display is not terrific at closing sales – traditional Display ads normally lead to further actions like direct visits, researching review sites or searches for the brand. RTB can close sales but the combined use of RTB display and SEM will produce results greater than the sum of the parts. Even beyond being the last click before a sale, SEM can play a significant part in earlier stages of the sales cycle. The multi-channel analysis will reveal how these complementary marketing efforts work together best for you.

It doesn’t stop with online efforts, you can also generate demand offline – TV, Radio, Print, Billboards, etc. Even these can be factored into the online performance when carefully tracking the timing of the delivery of the offline ads and seeing if sales and search performance fluctuations correlate to them. Tactics like using custom URLs in offline ads (e.g. yoursite.com/TVoffer) can help narrow down offline-stimulated visits better whilst recommending search terms (e.g. “Search ‘Beattie’s kitchen offer’ today”) against which you ensure SEM ads show will help you monitor offline ad response too.

Whether it’s SEM, SEO, RTB, or GSPs, it is important to incorporate all facets of a digital marketing campaign to drive sales and conversions in an online environment. To maximize potential, this takes a unified global view of performance, budgeting and a fully joined-up, cross-channel messaging strategy. Tracking the user paths to those sales can be the most difficult part of a campaign. Fortunately, we offer a tailored analytics overview of your brand and website. Have any questions? Send us an email at contact_uk@esvdigital.com.

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