Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an immediate way of getting new customers to your web site.  Your cost is directly related to how many visitors you are trying to get and the level of competition for the search phrases those users are searching for. The level of effort is not unlike, the level of effort for Search Engine Optimization.  Once your campaigns are running, you spend your time optimizing your promotional messaging to potential visitors and optimizing landing pages to convert those visitors to customers.

How to get started

When you search at Google and on other search engines, you will see areas labeled Sponsored Listings or something like that. These are search engine ads and the focus of Search Engine Marketing. The process is very simple, you go to your preferred search engine ad solution and you:

  • Create an account
  • Create a campaign
  • Create ads consisting of a title, a link and a short message
  • Set a budget of how much you want to spend
  • Activate your campaign


Once your ads are running, you will be figuring out which ads are performing well. Its easy to get trapped into thinking that the ads the lowest cost per click are best performing. While that is an important piece of information it is only a small part of the picture. What you are really trying to figure out, is what is the lowest cost for a desired action on your web site. This requires you to be able to track clicks all the way from your ads to the completion of the action you desired. Fortunately, there are free tools that make this possible, if you use them correctly.

Ad design

To be successful with Search Engine Marketing requires User Centered Design. The most common reasons ads don't perform well are due to a disjointed user experience.  You must make sure that the ad:

  • reflects what your business is about
  • goes to a landing page that dovetails with the messaging in the ad
  • has sufficient tracking so that you can evaluate its performance

If all of the above are true, you can make adjustments and determine whether you have made improvements or not.