6 SEM Best Practices Growth Marketers Need To Master

Cecilia Nysing

Growth marketing and growth hacking are terms you hear loosely thrown around.

There are even job titles and functions that specialize in “growth hacking.”

But, what does growth marketing actually mean?

Simply put, growth marketing is finding and driving the right customers to your business. These are the people who are most likely to purchase from your brand – whether they’re at the top of the funnel or the bottom of the funnel.

So, what’s the key to growth marketing in today’s world?

Three words: search engine marketing (SEM).

Not to be confused with just PPC or SEO, search marketing has proven time and time again to produce successful results.

SEM is not a short-term effort: it’s an ongoing strategy to drive more qualified customers to conversion in the long term.

Below are six best practices for winning at SEM in today’s market.

1. Deliver Value Across The Decision Journey

As the behavior of your fragmented customers evolves, your growth marketing plan should as well.

Who are the customers behind all those clicks?

Research from Microsoft Ads allows us to better understand the five distinct stages of purchase intent all customers share:

  • Awareness: Getting background information and buying landscape to become a more informed researcher.
  • Consideration: Exploring buying guides, recommendations, and products that meet basic criteria. Comparing a handful of products that meet the customer’s criteria, including ratings, reviews, features, and cost.
  • Conversion: Finding where to buy, then seeing pricing and promotions, availability, and local stores – eventually making a purchase.
  • Maintain: While already having a relationship with a brand, they may come across products or services in different areas that you provide.
  • Expand: The user is a satisfied customer and leaves reviews for your business, word of mouth to peers, etc. These people then go into the Awareness stage.

2. Align Your Campaign & Business Goals

Search can impact, and help you measure, your business goals.

Be sure to align your SEM strategy with your campaign objectives:

  • Brand awareness and perception: Bid competitively on your non-brand, brand, and competitors’ keywords. Non-brand searches are the key to starting a journey: 69% of brand ad clicks are influenced by a non-brand search query. Searchers were 30% likelier to conduct a branded search after being exposed to a brand ad on a generic search query or a competitor’s branded query.
  • Win new customers: Consumers rely on search to inform purchase decisions. SEM can help with every stage of the decision process.
  • Drive sales: Search’s strength is driving conversions. It outperforms other marketing channels across devices in conversion rates.
  • Enter new markets: The ubiquity of search allows you to activate a cross-border marketing strategy that drives foot traffic with Location Extensions, gets more phone calls with Call Extensions, and increases ad clicks with Sitelink Extensions.

3. Expand Your Marketing Funnel

As our constant companion, search is no longer just a product – it’s a behavior.

We turn to search at all times and in all places, whether on our desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones.

Understanding how people search at different points on their purchase journeys opens the door to engaging your brand with this new audience.

Having become an engine of insights, search now delivers influence throughout the five buying stages (awareness, consideration, conversion, maintain, and expand).

SEM also reinforces your conversion funnel and unifies disparate marketing activities.

4. Take Audience Targeting To The Next Level

Right-time, right-place engagement alone is no longer enough to compel potential customers.

You need to reach as many unique searchers as possible utilizing audience targeting.

Step 1: Build richer buyer personas that consider these factors:

  • Behavioral: Past behaviors are useful for understanding consumers’ interests and their likelihood to purchase. To better measure user behavior, analyze activities across websites, searches, and content.
  • Demographic: Buying preferences are influenced by elementary but important factors that include age, gender, and location.
  • Contextual: Consumers often search at the moment. Analyzing where, when, and how they search can provide useful content for creating more impactful ad campaigns.

Step 2: Choose keywords that align with the key stages and mindsets of your target customers:

  • Awareness: Keywords such as “What is” and “Benefits of” work best at this stage.
  • Consideration: Keywords such as “Buying guide” and “Models” work best at this stage.
  • Conversion: Keywords such as “Where” and “Coupon” work best at this stage.
  • Maintain: Keywords such as “Support” and “Experience” work best at this stage.
  • Experience: Keywords such as “Reviews” work best at this stage.

5. Lift Other Investments With Paid Search

Optimize your search efforts by combining organic search with a paid SEM strategy.

  • Search and social: Customers who click your paid search and social ads are likelier to buy and spend more. Strengthen your keyword coverage to get more impressions, and tailor your bidding strategy for commercial-related PPC campaigns.
  • Search and TV: Search volume spikes for days after a commercial airs. In a Catalyst Digital study, search volume spiked over 30% vs. the same day and times when a commercial did not run.
  • Search and display: Running search and display simultaneously can allow you to make the best decision on which channel drives the best results, which may be both according to Investis Digital.
  • Search and other channels: When Microsoft Ads is alone in the purchase path, purchases have a 27% higher order average order value than purchases not including Microsoft Ads, which also generate value when paired with other channels.

6. Fight & Win The Battle For Paid Search Budget Share

SEM still competes with other channels for a share of your marketing budget.

So, bring along hard data that connects the dots between search engine marketing and business benefits.

Your budget share battle plan involves three elements:

Pick The Right Metrics To Measure SEM Impact

Metrics provide an easy way to see what is and isn’t working.

Your team can test, change, and optimize your brand’s SEM strategy for better results.

Focus your reporting by identifying and tracking key performance indicators that reflect your business goals:

  • Acquiring new customers.
  • Driving foot traffic.
  • Getting more phone calls.
  • Increasing ad clicks.
  • Building your brand trust.
  • Expanding cross-border strategy.

Separate SEM Impacts From Other Channels

Know which channels drive your marketing results.

Each sale is the culmination of a series of marketing touches that may involve several channels over the course of days, weeks, or even months.

Attribution gets quite complex at times, so if you can prove campaigns with paid search delivers ROI and bottom-line results, you’ll unlock more budget and further optimize search performance.

If you are still looking at conversions through a last-click attribution model, you could be vastly underestimating how other channels and tactics contribute to the overall success.

Apply The Same Process To Allocate Budget Between Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

This last piece falls into place when you analyze the paid click share and query that each SEM option represents within your industry.

You’ll not only get your business in front of a large audience, but you’ll also be confident that your paid ads will lead to clicks.

Conclusion

SEM is the backbone of today’s marketing mix and is crucial for growth marketing.

An expansion of channel availability, and multiple devices per user, can create a more fragmented customer journey.

One of the biggest challenges is getting the right message to the right customer, at the right time, on the right device.

In addition to these challenges, arguably the biggest challenge is measuring the success due to user-privacy limitations.

You no longer can afford to put all of your marketing dollars into one search ad network. If you want to grow your marketing, you must enlist other channels to expand your addressable market.

Follow the best practices outlined here to maximize the reach, impact, and value of your paid search campaigns with bottom-line results.

Utilizing these best practices will equip you when trying to obtain marketing resources or budgets.

More Resources:


Featured Image: suphakit73/Shutterstock


https://www.searchenginejournal.com/sem-growth-marketing/416934/

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