It is apparent that Search Engine Marketing (SEM) becoming far more common as companies continue to engage, build intent, and convert users online. Many industry experts refer to SEM as PPC (pay-per-click). However, SEM is actually both PPC and SEO.
In many ways, SEM is an ongoing experiment for many businesses, as it has only been fully embraced since late 2000’s. Although still in its infancy compared to other marketing tactics, SEM captures the largest share of online spending at 47%. And with mobile ad spend surpassing desktop, and Bing taking over 60 million of the 170 million searches in the US, we’re going to see the market landscape evolve rapidly in 2016.
So, what does this growth mean for future?
Since my business currently operates on both ends of the spectrum (with SEO and PPC services), I thought I’d share some of my favorite insights and thoughts on making the most of your SEM work, especially PPC, and how it can help grow your business.
The Case for SEM
Great SEM can become a multiplier. It acquires customers at a low-cost, creates an opportunity to geotarget your audience, and amplifies the impact of your ad campaign.
Playing to the strengths of SEM involves knowing what you’re working with and what you’re competitors are working with around you. However, if you haven’t used Google Adwords or Bing Ads before, while powerful, they can also be overwhelming. If you go into this jungle without questions, you can easily get lost and never bring home the audience that is out there and waiting for you.
Peep Laja from ConversionXL says that “If you’re not using PPC, you’re making a conscious decision to not use all channels at your disposal.” But is there really that strong of a case to be made for SEM, especially PPC, in 2016?
There have certainly been a few big headlines on the subject in 2016:
- Google’s Local 3-Pack Now Includes Paid Listings
- Google Removes Right Hand Sidebar Ads
- Bing Says 25% of All Searches Are Voice Search
As I briefly mentioned in our article on local Adwords, Adwords is one of the most successful marketing channels if the right sort of strategy is in place. The same goes for SEM across the board in 2016.
In addition, a more industry experts are coming out with their predictions for PPC in 2016. Here are some of its surprising findings from Wordstream when they survey 10 different thought leaders:
“Consumers want—and respond to—advertising that is customized to their interests,” says Lisa Raehsler. “Advertisers who evolve to strategies such as in-market audiences, retargeting and demographic targeting will see positive performance results.”
While strategies continue to change, “be the change” as they say, so how do we analyze the effects of our SEM decisions?
Greg Sterling says that in terms of ad sales, “data will be more widely and effectively used to improve efficiency and reduce churn, in part by identifying and segmenting prospects based on their individual needs or challenges.”
This is all great, but where should I spend my ad budget?
Mona Elesseily points out that Bing Ads has also integrated search functionality into various Microsoft products like Xbox, Microsoft Office, and Cortana, and is “attempting to understand search/user behavior from different platforms, different device types, etc.”
With a large majority of PPC analyst having similar feelings, it’s safe to say that SEM has the potential to be just as successful as SEO for many companies — it just lies within the strategy created and the needed adjustments.
That brings us to our next question: what exactly should you include in SEM targeted PPC strategy for 2016? What do SEM and PPC teams need to do in order to thrive?
Embrace the Changes
Many of the advantages lie in growing your PPC and SEO into one holistic SEM strategy. This idea was beautifully illustrated by Anthony Coraggio on Moz. Beyond Anthony’s advice, SEM changes constantly. Let’s walk through some highlights of 2016 so far:
- SEM teams must create strategies to unite mobile. Marin analyzed $7.8bn of annual ad spend to discover more than 50% of budgets are spent on mobile ads.
- A survey by Bizrate Insights (a division of Connexity) said 73% of online buyers use mobile devices to shop online. Extra Space Storage retailer increased ROI by almost 100 points using SEM.
- SEM teams will need to become app-friendly and they need to be indexed. In a study by Searchmetrics, 84% of the 100 most visible websites in Google US searches offer an Android App. While only 30% of these had executed app-indexing.
- Local search within ads is going to continue to get bigger and better. As Bing ties half of their mobile voice searches to local places and Google states mobile makes up 88% of all ‘near me’ searches, we’re going to see mobile local ads get more competitive. After one month of working on SEM, All Things Aquarium received more than 200 qualified local visitors to their website, resulting in many phone calls and several new clients, according to this case study.
As you can see, mobile is really dominating 2016. It’s now more important than ever to being putting together your mobile ad strategy on multiple search engines.
If you’re able to adapt to these changes of 2016, the result will be a more meaningful interaction with your consumer and more conversions.
To sum it up, your SEM process should be influenced by your growing business, competitors, and the ever-evolving market landscape of PPC and SEO. One of the best articles on PPC in 2016, the aptly named 10 of The Most Effective Ad Campaigns in 2016 by my fellow SEJ team member Meg, should help you get started.
Featured Image: Image by Anna Crowe
All screenshots by Anna Crowe. Taken July 2016.