The priorities you should set before you prioritize SEM tactics

When a business considers using search engine marketing (SEM), the answer too quickly is, “Yes, of course.” You ought to be there, right? It’s among the least expensive of all online marketing tactics. But are you really well prepared for SEM? A few difficult questions might determine whether your SEM will succeed — even before a single cent is spent, keyword bid placed or optimization tactic pursued.

Your highest priority is to ask questions about what you are trying to achieve. Are you selling a product, service or cause, and just how do you know when you’ve made a “sale”? Then ask yourself, how do you know when a sale happens, or — for these purposes — how will you know when SEM has contributed to a sale? Too often there is disconnect when you move from another type of online advertising to search engine marketing to sale — especially when tracking breaks down at various points.

Knowing what costs lead to a sale should help determine what you’re willing to spend on SEM to make a sale, right?

Wrong! Enter the real world and your second priority: Does your product, service or cause exist within a distinctive product category and have a memorable brand name? If not, you may be in trouble because SEM is based on recall for both brands and category names of products. This should cause you to build brand and product category recall,  notably in relation to your competition. Your marketing mix needs to include advertising wrapped around awareness of the product category and brand.

If you are similar to your competition, ask why someone should choose your product over a competitor’s?
You might discover that your marketplace is driven by price points and promotions. Does this suggest that if someone is considering your product, they need to feel they’re getting a “deal”?

If you answer all these questions, you set the stage for SEM success by relating SEM to the realities of your product in the marketplace. SEM tactics are not secret, hidden or complex. Every business’ SEM program should include exhaustively researching keywords; creating and testing landing pages aligned with keywords; using bid management tools to meet spending limits; continually testing ad content and using a robust tracking tool to provide data to analyze what really leads to a sale and how much it really costs.

David Wright is an interactive media director at Click Here. Reach him at [email protected]

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