A Simple Guide To Understand How Search Engine Marketing Works

A Simple Guide To Understand How Search Engine Marketing Works

Search engine marketing or SEM can help businesses become more visible and thrive in the competitive environment. Find out more about how search engine marketing works.

By: Akshata Shirsath | 7 mins read
Published: Aug 6, 2021 10:15:21 AM | Updated: Apr 19, 2024 12:45:21 AM

Every business has to deal with competition irrespective of what industry they belong to. Consumers have many choices when it comes to buying a product. Once a consumer enters a search query on Google, he/she will have a variety of options displayed relevant to their search. According to Datareportal, 81% of people search for a product or service. Consumers like to do their own research about the type of product or service they need, and businesses should provide relevant information.

To thrive in this competitive environment, businesses need to be more visible to their audience. Search engine marketing or SEM is one of the ways that can help businesses become more visible and thrive in the competitive environment.

Search engine marketing helps brands build brand awareness, promote their products or services and ultimately grow their business. In this article, we will discuss what search engine marketing is all about and its various strategies.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing leverages paid advertising to ensure that your business’s products or services are visible on the search engine results page. When a consumer uses a certain keyword in the search query, SEM enables the relevant product or service to appear as a result.

The online advertisements are called pay-per-click ads. These ads have various formats like search ads, display ads, video ads and shopping ads. SEM allows advertisers to reach potential customers who are looking for products they sell. With SEM, businesses can enable their ads to be more visible to their target audience. This drives more conversions and helps the business grow.

Difference between SEO and SEM

Search engine optimization or SEO focuses on optimizing your website so that it can rank higher on search engine results page organically. SEO does not require businesses to pay money to help them rank higher. While in SEM businesses have to bid on keywords to help their ads rank better on the search results page.

Both SEO and SEM are an important part of any digital marketing strategy. With SEO, businesses can build a credible website, drive more traffic, create a great user experience and more. And SEM can help businesses place their ads before their target market, get quality leads, and drive maximum conversions.

Important Aspects of SEM Strategy

SEM strategy focuses on optimizing paid search ads. To create a successful SEM strategy, you need to know how it works. Here are some key elements that make up your SEM strategy.

Relevant Keywords

Keywords are the building blocks of any pay-per-click ad campaigns. Before starting out with a PPC strategy an in-depth keyword research is required. Keywords are the search queries your audience is looking for. These are the terms people key in when they are looking for a product or service on a search engine. Your ads will then show up for the keywords that you use. Hence, it is important to spend some time on researching relevant keywords.

Start by looking at what terms the consumers use when searching for the type of product or service you sell. People can use different variations of a search term related to a product. You need to be sure to include some of them in your campaigns. Any keyword related to the product or service you sell can be leveraged.

When choosing your keywords, you need to ensure that there is enough search volume for them. Because if people are not using those keywords then your ads might not show up. Also, look at the competition for them. Too much competition will not give your ads an opportunity to rank higher. Ideally, it is good to select keywords with a high-volume and low competition.

Keyword intent

Keyword intent is an important aspect of keyword research. This helps you find relevant keywords that match the user’s needs. Sometimes it is easy to understand a user’s intent, but other times it can be a bit more complicated. Let’s look at these four most common types of search intent.

Informational intent

This search intent is to acquire information on one or more web pages. The user could be looking for any information like the weather, food recipes, or any other content to educate themselves. Google can understand a user’s search intent and provides most relevant information. For example, for certain ‘How to’ searches, Google will include videos or images that can help users understand something better.

Navigational intent

Audiences with navigational intent want to visit or are looking for a specific web page. For example, people searching for ‘Facebook’ are looking to access Facebook website. This type of search intent is only beneficial if your site is something the audience is looking for.

Transactional intent

In this type of search intent people are browsing the internet to find the best purchase. They want to buy a product or service and are searching with the purpose of purchasing something. For example, keywords with the terms buy, deal, discount, sign-up, product names.

Commercial intent

This is when people want to purchase something but in the near future. They are gathering more information to purchase what is best for them.

You need to understand the search intent of your audience, otherwise you may end up exhausting your budget quickly. Search intent helps you target better quality leads who are ready to make a purchase. To optimize your ads, use high commercial intent keywords on your landing pages. Understanding keyword intent can help you create relevant ads that are cost effective and have a high click-through rate.


The next important factor is bidding. For ads to have a higher rank, you need to bid on your keywords. This bid is a contributing factor to the ad rank, along with quality score of an ad. Before an ad appears in the SERP, it goes through an ad auction. To enter this auction, you will need to first select the relevant keywords and then place a bid on them. Once Google determines that the keyword you bid on matches the user’s search query then your ads enter the auction.

Not all ads appear in every search. Your bid amount and quality score determine the placement of your ads. Even if you bid more but have a low-quality score, your ads still would not show up. Hence, appropriate bidding along with relevant ad copies is a way to rank higher than your competitors.

Do you want to get started with Google Ads campaign? Click here to learn more about how Google Ads work. 

Account Structure

To create a successful ad campaign, you need to know how the account structure works. This structure helps you to group your keywords and organize campaigns. Account structure allows you to control how your ads are triggered and where they appear. It ensures that the search queries triggering your ads are relevant. In addition, it improves your quality score and reduces costs-per-click. A well-structured account simply improves the overall performance of your ads.

Here is what an account structure consists of:

Campaign: Ad campaigns have their own budget and settings that will help you determine where your ads would appear. One campaign usually focuses on similar products or services. Each campaign will include ad groups.

Ad groups: Each campaign will have relevant ad groups that are more specific to a product or service. Each ad group will contain its own set of keywords.

Keywords: Keywords are part of an ad group and control how your ads are triggered.

Ad text: This is the actual ad that will appear when your ad is triggered. Each ad group should include 2-3 ads that direct to the same landing page.

Landing page: This is the destination page where your users end up after they click on your ad. A landing page should be relevant to the keywords and ad copy in an ad. This is an important factor in determining the quality score of your keywords.

Ad Copy

Ads that you create should be enticing enough for your target customers to click on them. Enticing and relevant ad copies can drive more engagement with the ads. Ad copies also have a structure. You need to ensure that you create an ad copy that is relevant to your keywords and includes some of the keywords in them.

Title: This is the title of the ad and should include come keywords.

Display URL: Ensure that you use the correct URL of the landing page.

Description: Write a quality and relevant description of your product or service.

Good Quality Score

Quality score gives you an estimate of the quality of your ads. This metric is determined on a scale of 1-10 for each keyword in your account. It is an important metric as your ad rank depends on quality score along with the bid amount. Quality score is determined by three factors:

  • Expected clickthrough rate
  • Ad relevance
  • Landing page experience

Having a high-quality score implies that your ad copies and landing pages are relevant to the keywords you bid on. A good quality score can help you rank better than your competitors and reduce you cost-per-click. Ensure that you have relevant ad copies to the search terms. Also, monitor your landing pages and keep improving them to create a good user experience.

How Does Ad Auction Work?

When you start investing in Google Ads, it’s important to understand how an ad auction works. Every Google ad seen on the search engine results page goes through an auction. To enter the Google ad auction, the first step is to identify the keywords you want to bid on. When you choose these keywords, you also need to consider your budget and determine how much you are willing to spend per click for each keyword.

Google then enters the keywords from your account it considers most relevant into the auction. Not every ad will make it on every search. There are several factors that determine the position of your ads. Even if you bid high, that does not mean that your ad will show up for the search. Here are 3 factors that determine which ads appear and in what position.

Bid: It is the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click on your ad. The amount you end up paying is often less, and you can change your bid amount anytime.

Ad quality: Google looks at how relevant and useful your ads are and the landing page they link to. This quality is determined by your Quality Score, which we discussed above.

Ad extensions and other ad formats: When you create your ad, you have the option to add additional information like address, phone number or links to specific pages. These are called ad extensions, and they make it easier for your audience to access important information. Google Ads considers these extensions and other ad formats to determine your ad’s performance. With relevant keywords, ads and extensions you can get a higher position on the search results page.

Key SEM Tools

HubSpot’s Ad Tracking Software

With paid ads marketers and advertisers aim to generate quality leads and boost ROI for their business. HubSpot’s Ad tracking tool enables you to analyze your ad campaigns. HubSpot lets you analyze various ad metrics that can help you determine the success of your ad campaigns. This enables you to monitor the progress of your ads and how it impacts your buyer’s journey. You can monitor your expenses and see if your ads are worth the investment.

Google Ads Keyword Planner

Google Ads Keyword Planner can help you find relevant keywords that allow your ads to show up on search engine results pages. You can see the historical trending and search volume data for keywords. In addition, it helps you identify which keywords will work better for your business and narrow down the list. Google Keyword Planner also gives you a performance forecast for keywords when you provide an average bid and your budget.


SEMrush enables you to conduct in-depth keyword research, keyword rank, site audits, analyze traffic and more. This is a great tool to use in your SEM efforts. With the help of this tool you can also conduct a competitor’s research to find out about their marketing efforts, regional presence and how certain keywords can be beneficial for your ad campaigns. It helps you to determine your main competitors, and which keywords they are ranking for. It is a great way to get more keyword ideas that can help you rank better on SERP.

Search engine marketing has the ability to improve revenue for a business. It is also important for brand awareness and helps in overall growth of a business. With the above knowledge, you can get started with your SEM efforts and create a successful strategy.

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