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The Ultimate Guide to SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

By Karl WMS / yesterday

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is one of the most effective ways to grow your business and reach new customers.

While it’s critical you employ organic strategies to attract traffic over the long-term, sometimes, you can’t properly compete on the SERPs without putting money behind it — and that’s where SEM comes into play.

For instance, consider what happens when I type “summer shoes” into Google:

Zappos clearly has an effective SEO strategy, since its “Summer shoes” page ranks first organically. However, their paid “Summer Shoes” ad, circled above, ranks as the first search result overall.

With 35% of product searches starting on Google, and the average Google search lasting only a minute, it’s critical your business’s product or service appear at the top of a SERP when a user is searching for it. This isn’t always possible organically, particularly when other businesses are paying to ensure their products appear above yours. When this is the case, it’s critical you invest in a SEM strategy.

Create a Google Ads campaign that makes money for your business using this  essential guide.

To ensure you’re able to use SEM to properly advertise your products or services on the SERPs, we’ve cultivated a list of the best SEM tools, as well as the components of a SEM Ad Auction.

1. SEMRush

SEMRush allows you to conduct extensive keyword research, keyword rank tracking, site audits, traffic analysis, and more. SEMRush is a fantastic tool for finding opportunities to rank for long-tail keywords organically, but additionally, you can use the tool for various SEM efforts. For instance, you can use SEMRush to figure out where your competitors are concentrating their marketing efforts, and analyze their regional presence, to figure out how much money you want to put behind certain keywords.

Additionally, SEMRush enables you to discover your main paid search competitors, figure out which keywords they’re bidding on, and study the composition of their ads. This is vital information when you’re cultivating your own paid strategy and are unsure how to out-rank other businesses on the SERPs.

2. Google Trends

Google Trends allows you to track search volume for a particular keyword across a specific region, language, or time frame — which can enable you to identify which search terms are trending, and which ones aren’t. Since you don’t want to put money behind a keyword that’s decreasing in popularity, this is an incredibly useful tool for your SEM efforts.

Additionally, particularly if you work for an ecommerce business, the ability to gauge interest in your product or service in a certain geographical area is undoubtedly powerful for ensuring you tailor your paid efforts to specific locations, saving you money in the long-run.

3. Keywordtool.Io

One of the most helpful features of Keywordtool.Io is its ability to tap into Google, Bing, YouTube, Amazon, Instagram, Twitter, and the App Store, so that you’re able to segment your keyword research through various channels and better target your efforts. Additionally, the tool takes your base keyword and provides you with variations of words and phrases, which allows you to cultivate a more extensive list of possible keywords you might want to include in a paid ad.

Using Google Autocomplete to provide relevant keywords for you, the free version of Keywordtool.Io lets you generate up to 750 long-tail keywords and keyword suggestions for every search term. Plus, you can use the tool to analyze search trends on Google, to ensure your desired keywords are increasing in popularity and will continue to serve you well over the long-term.

4. Google Ads Keyword Planner

Since Google is likely where you want your ads to appear, it makes sense to consider using Google Ads Keyword Planner to research relevant keywords for your business, and keep track of how searches for certain keywords change over time. The Keyword Planner will help you narrow down a list of possible keywords to ensure you’re choosing the most effective ones for your business.

Additionally, Keyword Planner will give you suggested bid estimates for each keyword, so you can determine which keywords work with your advertising budget. Best of all, once you’ve found your ideal keywords and are ready to launch an ad campaign, you can do it all from within the tool.

5. SpyFu

Ever wish you could see which keywords your competitors are buying on Google, or check out which ad tests they’ve run? With SpyFu, you’re able to do just that — simply search a domain, and you’ll see every keyword that business has bought on Adwords, every organic keyword for which they’ve ranked, and every ad variation they’ve had in the last 12 years. Plus, you can monitor your own paid and SEO rankings on Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

How an Ad Auction Works

Once you’re ready to invest in SEM, you’ll need to enter into an ad auction — for our purposes, we’ll focus on the ad auction in Google Adwords.

In simple terms, every Google ad you see goes through an ad auction before appearing in the SERPs. To enter into an ad auction, you’ll first need to identify the keywords you want to bid on, and clarify how much you’re willing to spend per click on each of those keywords.

Once Google determines the keywords you bid on are contained within a user’s search query, you’re entered into the ad auction.

Not every ad will appear on every search related to that keyword. Some keywords don’t have enough commercial intent to justify incorporating ads into the page — for instance, when I type “What is Marketing?” into Google, I don’t see any ads appear.

Additionally, even if your keyword is a good fit for an ad, it doesn’t mean you’ll “win” the bidding. The ad auction considers two main factors when determining which ads to place on the SERP — your maximum bid, and your ads Quality Score.

A Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. You can find your Quality Score, which is reported on a 1-10 scale, in your keywords’ “Status” column in your Google Adwords account. The more relevant your ad is to a user, as well as how likely a user is to click through and have an enjoyable landing page experience, all factor into your overall Quality Score.

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The Simplified Guide to Google's RankBrain Algorithm

By Karl WMS / yesterday

Not long ago, if you wanted to find a place to eat, you needed to search for a term like “Boston restaurants”. But, today, you can instantly find a good restaurant that’s nearby if you just search for the term, “Where should I go for dinner?”

That’s because Google is sophisticated enough to recognize your intent or the implications of your query. However, prior to 2015, you needed to type the most straightforward queries into the search engine to find the answers you were looking for.

So how did Google evolve to understand their searchers’ intent and implications so quickly? Well on October 26, 2015, they confirmed that they updated their algorithm with a machine-learning artificial intelligence system called RankBrain.

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What Is Google’s RankBrain Algorithm and How Does It Work?

RankBrain is a core part of Google’s search algorithm. By leveraging machine learning, it helps Google understand how specific web pages relate to certain concepts and, in turn, serve web pages that are relevant to a searcher’s query but don’t include the query’s exact words or phrases.

In other words, RankBrain helps Google understand a searcher’s intent and serve the most relevant content to them. To accurately determine a searcher’s intent, Google feeds RankBrain a massive amount of data. Then, RankBrain analyzes it and teaches itself how to serve the most relevant results based off certain search signals, like search history, device, and location.

For example, if you type the query “Where should I go for dinner?” into Google, the search engine will first pinpoint your location and detect the device you’re using. Then, it’ll use these factors to interpret your query’s intent, which Google will translate to “Which restaurants are currently open for dinner within walking distance of my current location?”, helping it serve the most relevant results to you.

Another example of RankBrain’s capabilities is how it analyzes your past search history to serve you relevant content. For instance, since I work at HubSpot and I’m always on our website, every time I search for marketing related topics, Google usually ranks content from HubSpot’s marketing blog near the top of my search results.

How SEOs Can Adapt to RankBrain

Even though RankBrain helps Google adapt to changing search behavior, most marketers still haven’t adapted their SEO strategy to this transformation.

“One of the main reasons we keep drilling our audience with the idea of topics over keywords is that search has evolved but our customer’s content marketing strategies are lagging behind,” says Victor Pan, HubSpot’s Head of Technical SEO. “Practices like purposely creating pages with misspellings and poor grammar just because there is search volume need to go.”

Today, people rely heavily on Google to provide accurate and relevant answers for most of their questions, so the search engine needs to understand the intent and context behind every single search.

To do this, Google has evolved to recognize topical connections across users’ queries, look back at similar queries that users have searched for in the past, and surface the content that best answers them. As a result, Google will deliver content that they deem the most authoritative on the topic.

To help Google recognize your brand as a trusted authority, consider implementing the pillar-cluster model on your blog. Using this strategy, you’ll create a single pillar page that provides a high-level overview of a topic and hyperlinks to cluster pages that delve into the topic’s subtopics. This signals to Google that your pillar page is an authority on the topic.

Hyperlinking all of the cluster pages to the pillar page also spreads domain authority across the cluster, so your cluster pages get an organic boost if your pillar page ranks higher, and your cluster pages can even help your pillar page rank higher if they start ranking for the specific keyword they’re targeting.

On the editorial side of things, RankBrain has pressured content marketers to scrap a tactic that they should’ve abandoned years ago — prioritizing volume over quality. Nowadays, spending more time and effort crafting insightful and compelling content at a lower volume is one of the best ways to bolster your standing with Google.

“If you have a huge inventory of 2000-era SEO tactics, I’d highly recommend consolidating the pages that are driving zero value to your business with 301 redirects,” says Pan. “It’s not that less is more, but better is more. It’s very common for a strong piece of content to rank for over hundreds of long-tail keywords of the same intent.”

RankBrain has advanced Google’s search engine to the point where people can interact with it like they’re chatting with their friends — and it’s time for content marketers to catch up.

If you apply the lessons learned above to your SEO strategy, however, you could adapt faster to RankBrain than Google’s search algorithm evolved after they implemented the AI system.

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