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  • Writer's pictureEmily Bingham

Search Engine Marketing For Newbies

Updated: May 7, 2023

Are you ready to grow your business BIG TIME? Do you want REAL results from your website? You, my friend, need to start using ads.

Search engine marketing, while not the most crucial part of a business, is extremely beneficial. If you want to start making a real profit from your business, you need to invest in SEM ads.

Unfortunately, when people think of SEM, they tend to get overwhelmed. But, I’ve made it as simple as possible with my guide to search engine marketing for newbies. Let’s get into it!

What Is Search Engine Marketing?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) involves using paid ads to get displayed at the top of the search results, above the organic results that are ranked through SEO.

The difference between SEO and SEM is that with SEM, you’re using paid ads. With SEO, your “ads” are unpaid.

How It Works:

Search Engine Marketing works like an auction, where bids are placed for the top spots on the SERP (search engine result pages) for a keyword.

The winning bid gets the #1 spot, followed by the runners-up and the organic results. When you place a bid, there is a max CPC (cost per click). Max CPC is the most you’ll pay for every click on your ad.

Don’t be fooled by thinking it’s all about the bid price. Relevancy is also a huge factor in determining who gets the #1 spot. Your ad is given a Quality Score, which rates it from 1-10 on how relevant it is to the keyword.

The Importance Of SEM For Small Businesses

SEM isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s highly recommended if you’re serious about growing your business to a level of true profitability. Here are some reasons why that is.

More Traffic

By purchasing ads, you’re putting yourself at the top of the list, which gets your website seen by way more people. Websites that use ads have significantly more traffic than SEO results.

More Sales

Ads drive sales, it’s that simple. Not only do ads get your products seen by a bigger audience, but they also present your products more enticingly.

Higher Conversion Rates

The traffic and sales that your ads bring will also give your conversion rates a boost. And because more people are seeing your offer, there are more opportunities for conversion.

Better Competitive Edge

When you’re at the top of the SERPs, you’re able to compete with other businesses. Even much larger competitors.

Planning a Killer Search Ad Campaign For Small Business Search Enigne Marketing

You already know how purchasing ads works, but now it’s time to strategize a good game plan for your ad campaigns. This starts with understanding ad structure.

Understanding Ad Campaign Structure

It’s useful to visualize the structure of an ad campaign as an upside-down tree.

At the top, you have the trunk of the tree. This symbolizes your Google Ads account.

Coming out of those limbs are branches. These are your ad groups, which are the collections of keywords and the ads that go with them.

You can have multiple ad groups for each campaign.

Finally, you have the leaves. Each leaf is a keyword and its ad.

Structuring your ad campaigns like this will help you stay super relevant. You can stay organized by using a spreadsheet or chart.

Choosing The Right Keywords For Search Engine Marketing

I won’t lie to you, finding the right keywords for your ads is a process of trial and error. Here’s what to look for in the right SEM keywords.

High Relevance

Your keywords have to be extremely relevant to your ad’s content and your business. Focus on keywords that closely describe what your ad is about. For example, if your ad is for your new handmade jewelry collection, make sure your keywords focus on that.

High Traffic

Another important factor in choosing keywords is the amount of traffic it gets. If you want your ads to be successful, choose keywords that get a lot of traffic. A good amount of traffic is 1k or more searches a month.

Low Competition

You don’t want to have to compete with every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the internet. Pick keywords that have a low level of competition. This way, you have a better shot at winning bids for your ads.

Low (Or Reasonable) Max CPC

Remember that you pay for every click your ad gets. And some CPCs can get pretty expensive. If you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for your ad campaign, choose keywords that have a low Max CPC.

Keyword Tools To Use:

Using these keyword tools will help you to find the right keywords with little effort.

  • Google Keyword Planner

  • Wordstream Keyword Finder

  • SEM Rush

Fine Tuning With Match Types & Negative Keywords

Search engines will sometimes show your ads for keyword variations. Keyword variations are things like misspellings and plural/singular versions of a word. For example, an ad for “cat toys” can be shown for a search query about a cat toy. This is called broad matching.

The good news is that you won’t have to create an ad for every keyword variation. The bad news is that it also means that you could end up being shown in irrelevant searches. You can avoid this by using really specific keyword match types and negative keywords.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are keywords that you don’t want your ad to show up for. For example, you make an ad for your content creation services.

However, you don’t offer video or social media content creation. So, you would use negative keywords like [-social media content] and [-video content].

You don’t always have to be super-relevant. It’s good to have a balance of broad and specific. Find match types that allow you to get plenty of traffic while deflecting irrelevant traffic.

Creating Magnetic Display Ads For Small Business SEM

Display ads are like digital billboards. They’re the images that pop up on the right-hand corner of a SERP. They display your offer to a much broader audience than SEO or search ads.

You can use display ads on SERPs, apps, social media, and related websites. For example, if you’re advertising a new perfume, then you can put your display ad on a cosmetics website that your target audience frequently visits.

Understanding The Customer Journey

The structure of display ad campaigns is the same as search ad campaigns. But in this case, it’s helpful to think of your customer’s journey. Here’s how the customer journey funnel works:

Creating Successful Display Ads

Here are some tips to help you create successful display ads for your search engine marketing campaign.

  • To create relevant display ads, use the search term or keyword right in the headline. For example, for an ad for the keyword, "freelance writer", a good headline would be “Hire a Freelance Writer”

  • For your ad to really stand out, create an offer that drives action. For example, “For A Limited Time Only.”

  • Have a clear call to action (CTA) that states exactly what you want your readers to do next, whether that’s visiting your site or buying your product. For example, “Read Now” or “Buy Now.”

Managing & Improving Your SEM Campaigns

As time goes on, you’ll begin to see the results of your search engine marketing strategy. You’ll notice what’s doing great, and what you need to work on. Here are some tips for improving your ad campaigns:

  • Use headlines and keywords that are highly specific.

  • Have relevant and useful info to back your ad up.

  • Your keyword must be relevant to your ad and landing page, and it all has to be relevant to your business.

  • Create a specific landing page for your ad to track traffic and conversions.

Retargeting Search Engine Marketing Ads

Retargeting is when your ads are displayed to people who have already visited your site. Doing this is extremely important to win back potential customers and when a current lead is in the “considering purchase” phase of the customer journey funnel.

This helps you nab those people who are already interested in your product or service. When a visitor leaves and then afterward, then sees your ad, they will be enticed to come back and follow through.


If the thought of ads makes you nervous, it’s okay. I know how you feel. It can get expensive.

Don’t forget that search engine marketing isn’t necessary. You CAN advertise your site without actually paying for advertisements. Read my blog, “Marketing your business without ads” to learn more.

This all being said, ads do have a high ROI. So, if you’re worried about spending money you don’t have, you should know that you will most likely make that back, and then some.

But to make a successful ad, you need a professional copywriter’s help. That’s where I come in. If you need help creating copy for ads that drive traffic and sales, let’s have a chat.

Fill out the form below to get started! I can’t wait to hear from you.

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