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15 min read

Search engine marketing for small businesses

Search engines play an intrinsic part in our everyday lives. Looking for information on any subject? “Google it.” Looking for a specific product? “Google it.” Need directions? “Google it.” In fact, this expression has become so common that “Google” has been officially recognised as a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary. People conduct trillions of searches every year, often with commercial intent to find information about products and services.

Search is often the primary source of digital traffic for brands, and easily complements other marketing channels. Strong visibility in search results, and ranking higher than your competitors, can have a substantial impact on your bottom line. As a result, search engine marketing (SEM) is a vital marketing channel to consider at the very beginning of your business journey. So… where do you start?

How does Google decide what search results to show?

Google’s search works in three stages:

  1. Crawling: Google’s automated programmes – “Crawlers” – search the web for pages that are new or updated. The main way it finds these pages is by following links from pages that it already knows about.
  2. Indexing: Google analyses these pages to understand what each is about via its content, images and videos. It then stores this information in its huge database – the Google Index.
  3. Serving search results: Google’s mission is to deliver the best quality, most relevant results to its users. A number of factors can influence what search results it shows – from the user’s location, language, device (desktop or phone), as well as their previous search queries.

While it’s free and easy for your website to be automatically crawled and indexed by Google, the search giant does not accept payment to rank pages higher. All ranking is conducted algorithmically. Your job as a small business owner is to make Google’s crawlers’ lives easier in finding your website, and giving them a reason to rank you highly for your core keywords (more on that later). You can encourage this by: 

  • Ensuring your website provides helpful, relevant information to your target customers.
  • Presenting this content in a user-friendly way.
  • Optimising your key website “landing pages” (the ones you want to rank) for your core keywords.
  • Ensuring your website’s technical architecture is also optimised.
  • Encouraging other high quality websites to link back to your landing pages – helping signpost them to Google’s crawlers.

What is search engine marketing?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs). While previously the term encompassed both organic  (non-paid) search activities, such as search engine optimisation (SEO), it now almost exclusively refers to paid search advertising and includes marketing formats such as display, retargeting, shopping, and pay per click (PPC).

Let’s first take a look at the history of search engine marketing…

In the mid-to-late 90s, the number of sites on the web were increasing, meaning more search engines appeared to help people find information quickly. As they grew, search engines began developing business models to finance their services.

  • 1996: OpenText, a search engine based in Canada, ran the first pay-per-click ads. Ads appeared on its search results page, and were called ‘preferred listings’.
  • 1998: A big year for search. Two graduate students studying at Stanford – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – begin Google. In the same year, (another groundbreaking pay-per-click search engine from the Dot Com era) hosted a TED presentation about the first auction-based PPC program, discussing its move to auction its results to the highest bidder of a word or phrase. Those paying the most would top the rankings, while lower bidders would be listed further down the page.
  • 1999-2000: Google is processing 500,000 queries per day and at the turn of the Millennium, grew exponentially when it became the client search engine for Yahoo!
  • 2000: Google launches Google Adwords, with 350 customers. Initially selling as a monthly service to advertisers.
  • 2001: The term ‘search engine marketing’ is popularised by Danny Sullivan in an article for Search Engine Land. The term was coined to cover the spectrum of activities involved in performing SEO, managing paid listings in search engines, submitting sites to directories and developing online strategies for clients. Also in this year, rebrands to Overture.
  • 2003: Overture sells to Yahoo! (and now offers paid search opportunities for advertisers through Yahoo! Search Marketing).
  • 2004: Yahoo! ends engagement with Google at a time when it was being searched 200 million times per day.
  • 2007: Pay-per-click programs prove to be primary money makers for search engines.
  • 2009: In a market dominated by Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft announce the intention to forge an alliance.
  • 2010: The Yahoo! & Microsoft Search Alliance eventually receives approval from regulators in the US and Europe.
  • 2018: Google rebrands Adwords to Google Ads, to better encompass the type of ads they work with.
  • 2021: Google is the leading publisher in the search space.

As search engine marketing evolves over the years, more and more SEO consultants and agencies have expanded their offerings to assist companies in learning about and utilising the power of paid advertising on search engines.

PPC advertising: a quick overview

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is an online advertising model in which advertisers pay each time a user clicks on one of their online ads. There are different types of PPC ads, but the most common is the paid search ad. Businesses are only charged if a user clicks on their ad on a search engine results page (SERP).

It’s not simply a case of paying more and appearing at the top of your desired SERP. Ads are subject to an ‘Ad Auction’, which is an entirely automated process that Google (and other major search engines) use to determine the relevance and validity of ads. It’s a bidding system, where advertisers bid on the keywords that they’d like to trigger / display their ads for. 

It’s vital that you bid on the most relevant keywords to suit your business offering. You want to encourage clicks from users who are looking for your products / services to encourage the best return on investment (ROI) for your ad spend. There are keyword tools available online (some not too expensive) that can help you review which terms are the most appropriate for you to be bidding on, helping you select the ones that are most likely to drive sales or conversions. (Google offers its own Keyword Planner.)

PPC advertising: how do budgets work?

A PPC budget is how much money is committed to online traffic acquisition efforts. It isn’t necessarily the amount you’ll spend, as charges only accrue after a user clicks on your ad.

Here are some tips for working out what your PPC budget should be.

  • 1. Establish a profitability goal

    Is there a measurable outcome for your campaign? Ask yourself: 

    • What’s my average order value? (AOV)
    • What’s my gross margin percentage? (Revenue-cost of goods sold)
    • What’s my cost per acquisition? (If unknown, set a goal to remain profitable)

    Say you were looking for £5,000 profit in month 1 of running Google Ads.

    You know the average order value of your product is £450 per sale, and the gross margin is 55%.

    You would want to budget £7,375 per month for click fees, and never exceed a £147.50 cost per acquisition while running the ad campaign.

    Number of Sales x AOV x Margin – Budget = Profit

    50 sales x £450 of revenue per sale x 55% Profit Margin – monthly Google Ads budget = £5,000 in profit in the first month.

    Use this equation to determine your ideal budget.

  • 2. Identify keyword themes by intent

    Conduct keyword research ahead of budget planning to determine a realistic monthly budget. By using a keyword planner tool, such as the Google Ads Keyword Planner, you can forecast what the monthly spend could be, as the tool can estimate the cost per click for your keywords and click through rate, depending on volume.

  • 3. Analyse past performance

    If you’re already running a paid search campaign, review whether your budget is high enough to fully fund every keyword theme you’re bidding on. Look at the ‘impression share lost due to budget’ metric under the ‘competitive’ metrics section within Google Ads.

PPC advertising: how do bids and auctions work?

A PPC bid (or keyword bid), is a bid placed in a PPC auction to help secure ad placement at the top of search results. You can bid on specific keywords or keyword groups with the aim of securing ad space for important terms that are highly relevant to your business.

  • Bid modifiers

    Bid modifiers represent a certain percentage of the amount of the bid in terms of location, electronic device and scheduling. For example, you can set a maximum bid of £2 for a keyword, and ensure it only appears to users who are searching your keywords via a desktop computer. Geographic areas can also be specified, as well as certain times that your ads run. These are fantastic features that will ensure you are advertising in the most optimal way that fits with your target audience’s online behaviour. It’s a fantastic feature that ensures you’re making the most efficient use of your marketing budget.

  • Real-time bidding (RTB)

    Real-time bidding (RTB) is the buying and selling of online impressions through real-time auctions. As an ad impression loads in a user’s web browser, information about the page it is on and the user viewing it is passed to an ad exchange, which auctions it off to the advertiser willing to pay the highest price for it. The winning bidder’s ad is then loaded into the webpage nearly instantly; the whole process takes just milliseconds to complete. Advertisers typically use demand-side platforms to help them decide which ad impressions to purchase and how much to bid on them based on a variety of factors, such as the sites they appear on and the previous behavior of the users loading them. 

    Why is RTB worthwhile, we hear you ask? Here’s an example – historically, if you wanted to reach sports fans, you’d advertise on sports-related sites. RTB now enables advertisers to target their ads to specific users instead. If the advertiser knows that a user has previously been looking at products on its site, they might be prepared to pay more than bigger brands to advertise to them as they’re more likely to convert into a paying customer. It’s worthwhile taking the time to investigate this search engine marketing tactic as it ensures efficient spending of your budget by allowing you to cherry-pick only the impressions you deem most valuable to you, avoiding any wastage on the wrong users. You also don’t need to work directly with publishers or ad networks by using exchanges and other ad tech, which offer a huge range of inventory across a wide range of sites.

  • Auction process

    Each time an ad is eligible to appear for a search, it goes through the ad auction. The auction determines whether or not the ad actually shows and in which ad position it will show on the page.

    Here’s how the auction works:

    1. When someone searches, the Google Ads system finds all ads whose keywords match that search.
    2. From those ads, the system ignores any that aren’t eligible, such as ads that target a different country or are disapproved based on a policy violation.
    3. Of the remaining ads, only those with a sufficiently high Ad Rank may show. Ad Rank is a combination of your bid, ad quality, the Ad Rank thresholds, the context of the person’s search, and the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats.

    Google states that the most important thing to remember is that even if your competition bids higher than you, you can still win a higher position – at a lower price – with highly relevant keywords and ads.

    Since the auction process is repeated for every search on Google, each auction can have potentially different results depending on the competition at that moment. Therefore it’s normal for you to see some fluctuation in your ad’s position on the page and in whether or not your ad shows at all.


  • Quality Score

    You can’t run a successful PPC campaign without having a solid understanding of Quality Score. This score has a substantial influence over the cost and effectiveness of your paid search campaigns. It affects how your PPC ads perform and how you pay for each click.

    Quality Score is Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and PPC ads. It is used to determine your cost per click (CPC) and multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process. Your Quality Score depends on multiple factors, including:

    • Your click-through rate (CTR).
    • The relevance of each keyword to its ad group.
    • Landing page quality and relevance.
    • The relevance of your ad text.
    • Your historical Google Ads account performance.

    These are the core Quality Score components. While it’s unclear about the exact proportion of influence each component has, the click-through rate is extremely important as it’s a strong signal to Google that your ads are relevant and helpful to users. As a reward, Google gives you higher ad rankings and lower costs. By optimising your Quality Score, you’re laying the foundation for a higher return on investment, as higher Quality Scores correlate with lower cost per conversion.

    Tactics for improving your Quality Score range from regular keyword research to ensure relevancy, organising your keywords into refined groups that can be more effectively tied to individual ad campaigns, testing and refining your ad copy, optimising your landing pages to fit with your targeted ad groups and continually researching, identifying and excluding irrelevant keywords that are wasting your budget.

SEO: a quick overview

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people search for your products or services in search engines such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing. The greater your visibility in search, the more likely you’ll attract new and returning customers to your business.

Unlike paid search ads, you can’t pay search engines for higher organic search listings. You must be prepared to put in the work. But imagine if you naturally ranked highly in organic search without having to pay every time a user clicks your listing?

Search algorithms are designed to surface relevant, authoritative pages and provide users with an efficient search experience. Optimising your site and content with this in mind can help your pages rank higher in the search results. Here are some other components to keep in mind for smart SEO:

  • Content relevance is used to point out how relevant a website is in relation to a specific search topic or term. What is your target audience looking for? Think about the user journey from the initial search query. Are you supplying the best information as quickly as possible once they reach your landing page on your website? If your page’s content matches the search query, the more chance it has of achieving a good ranking in natural search. Content relevance is considered to be one of the ranking factors when Google crawls and indexes sites so it’s important to develop your landing pages in line with your keyword research.
  • Domain authority (DA) is a metric created by the SEO consulting and research company, Moz, which measures a website’s likelihood to rank on search engines. Domain Authority is used as a predictive measure for PageRank, Google’s proprietary algorithm that plays a major role in determining search engine results. Due to the shroud of secrecy around PageRank, Moz’s DA metric is widely considered to be one of the best third party tools for evaluating domain strength. DA is created by combining more than 40 individual signals which are tracked and measured by Moz, many of which are Moz’s own inventions. The most important metrics include:
    • MozRank: This measures the aggregate popularity of a web page by counting both the number and quality of websites linking to it.
    • MozTrust: This focuses on the trustworthiness of websites linking to a page being graded. Being linked to by highly trustworthy sites, such as universities, large businesses or specialist government pages, results in a higher MozTrust rank.
    • Link Profile: Link profiling looks at both internal and external links to and from a website. A page which links to highly reputable sources, and is linked to by reputable sources, will have a good link profile. The relevance of anchor text to the link is another major factor here.

As with Google search results, a page’s Domain Authority will fluctuate on a daily basis. Those relying on DA in their metrics generally track it consistently, and take drops in DA as a sign that they need to fix a problem in their SEO.

The best way to impact your website’s domain authority is to ensure best SEO practices. Link building, on-page optimisation and social media marketing will slowly help a domain build authority.

Which is best for me – SEO or PPC?

Both SEO and PPC can get your brand in front of people and increase your visibility. And both can drive traffic to your website. As you can see from the table below, most businesses can benefit from using a mix of both:

Let’s look at SEO first…



Credibility: You earn your organic listing in search results via quality and relevancy. This looks better to users than those who simply pay to appear on the top.

It takes time and effort: It often takes months to build up your traffic and get a piece of content on the first SERP of a search engine. 

Better click-through rates: A high amount of users skip ads in favour of more credible natural listings.

Page one or nothing: Over 25% of people click the first organic search result.

Budget-friendly: Placement on merit. No payment involved.* 

Still requires a budget: Unless you have the time and expertise, you’ll need to seek the skills of an SEO specialist or agency to create content, optimise your website and increase your quality backlinks to encourage favourable listings in organic search.

Longevity: If you stop paying for PPC ads, any website traffic and visibility you derived from them disappears. But when you put the work into SEO and achieve good search engine placement, organic traffic is not going to just disappear overnight should you stop marketing for a period of time.

You can still usually expect better ROI from SEO over PPC in the long run for driving traffic and increasing brand awareness.


Reach: When you pay for PPC ads, your ad appears when people perform certain keyword searches. With SEO, you choose certain keywords when writing your content, however search engines can also pick up a wider range of organic content, which your site also has the chance of ranking for. It is not practical to pay for all the variations people may type into a search.


*Although any cost incurred to enable this organic listing such as technical website development, guest blogging, quality content creation, etc, will incur costs.

Now, let’s look at PPC…



Speed: Buy ad space and your PPC ad can be on the first page of Google within a day. If you’re launching a startup or new product, PPC ads are a quick, effective way to promote your new brand and drive traffic to your website. A great brand building exercise.

Lack of credibility: Paying to be at the top of search results, rather than being listed on merit.

Position: While your ads are flagged as paid for, it guarantees their prime position, in full vision at the top of a user’s search results. Even if they don’t click, again, it’s a great brand building exercise.

Time commitment: For your ads to deliver optimum results you need to regularly review and A/B test to ensure you’re investing in the best mix of ads for your target audience. Constant analysis will yield the best ROI.

Control: Greater control over the copy that’s read, and landing pages that are linked to. You can even control product images. Clearly highlight your phone number, an offer – anything that’s on your marketing agenda.

You can also control the targeting of your ads – keywords, audiences, times of day to run your ads, geographic locations, devices and more.

On or Off: There’s no self sustainability to paid ads. They’re either on or off. If you have a budget issue one month, it will immediately affect the results of your ads.

Better analytics: You can track paid search ads more closely than you can organic search results. For example, you can find out which keywords cause a customer to convert, then use this information to help boost your marketing.

Lower click-through rates: Users prefer to click on organic listings that are there for merit. Many users mistrust ads.


Can be expensive: Depending on the competitiveness of your industry, it can cost a lot to appear at the top of search for your core keywords. It’s a cost commitment to retain ongoing if you want to remain competitive. The niche you’re in will determine the value for money you’ll most likely achieve.


Controlled reach: Unlike organic search, your ads will only appear for keywords you’re bidding on.

It depends on your circumstances as to when you might want to focus on one more than the other. For example, you might want to focus more closely on PPC when you’re: 

  • Launching a new company or product to generate immediate buzz and build your brand
  • Working in an extremely competitive market and competing for a natural page one listing on Google feels very unobtainable

Consider SEO when: 

  • You have a strong library of content (or a talented content writer / team) and don’t have a massive budget for PPC
  • One of your goals is to build traffic that is sustainable over time, even during times when you can’t pay for marketing
  • Another goal is to receive the credibility that comes with prime organic search listings

Combining the two always has its benefits as they can support each other, for example: 

  • Invest in PPC ads at the beginning to get your brand out there, while at the same time start building your SEO foundations to encourage organic search listings down the line
  • Use PPC metrics to improve your SEO strategy
  • An audience might discover your business through organic search, but you can effectively retarget them via PPC ads.

It’s considered best practice to utilise the benefits of both PPC ads and SEO when it comes to search engine marketing.

How do I get started with search engine marketing?

Having a well-thought-out SEM plan is key to making paid advertising work for you.

  • Tie it in with your marketing strategy/plan

    Define your goals in line with your wider marketing strategy and business plan.

    • Once users click on your paid ads, what do you want them to do?
    • Are you looking to build a loyal customer base?
    • Could you therefore direct users to sign up to your e-newsletter?
    • Are you looking to increase sales?
    • Can you direct them to an offers page?

    The list goes on! Don’t forget, split testing is key to refining your ads and learning what’s most effective. If you have a number of goals, run different types of ads. You might discover that those who are searching your specific keywords are more likely to click on offer-based ads compared to ones where they have to submit their email address to download a whitepaper or exclusive offer (for example). Learn and refine as you go, always keeping your wider business goals in mind.

  • Asses the competition

    Look at the current paid ads landscape for your niche.

    • What’s it like?
    • Are your competitors employing aggressive PPC campaigns?
    • Which conversion metrics are they targeting?

    Once you know what you’re competing with, you can plan a bid strategy that makes it easier for you to accomplish your goals.

  • Pick your PPC platform

    Each has its benefits – Google has the highest search volume, but with that comes tougher bidding competition. Bing isn’t as expensive, but you get less search volume compared to Google. Your choice of platform depends on your unique business needs and audience. Run exploratory tests initially to work out which platform provides the best quality traffic.

  • Keyword planning

    The backbone to an effective PPC campaign. What keywords would your target audience use when looking for your products/services? Spend time finding the very best keywords that fit with your business offering. Depending on your goals, you might decide to focus on a few higher volume keywords if they’re the most suitable, or spread your coverage across a larger number of low-volume, highly specific keywords. A good mix of short and long-tail keywords is a great place to start, then you can analyse the results and refine and optimise from there.

    Google’s Keyword Planner helps you research keywords for your search campaigns. It’s a free tool to discover new keywords related to your business and see estimates of the searches that they receive and the cost to target them. Keyword Planner also provides another way to create Search campaigns that’s centred around in-depth keyword research.

    • Discover new keywords: Get suggestions for keywords related to your products, services or website.
    • See monthly searches: See estimates on the number of searches that a keyword gets each month.
    • Determine cost: See the average cost for your ad to show on searches for a keyword.
    • Organise keywords: See how your keywords fit into different categories related to your brand.
    • Create new campaigns: Use your keyword plan to create new campaigns centred on in-depth keyword research.

    It’s important to bear in mind that while Keyword Planner can provide insights into keyword targeting, campaign performance depends on a variety of factors. For example, your bid, budget, product and customer behaviour in your industry can all influence the success of your campaigns.

    A quick Google will also serve up a selection of additional keyword planning tools that will help refine your strategy.

  • Spotting opportunities

    Again, there are a number of tools online that you can use to help spot new keyword opportunities for your business. For example, Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest not only suggests hundreds of keyword ideas (showing you volume, the competition and seasonal trends), but it generates a list of keywords based on what’s working for your competitors and what people are typing into Google.

  • Budget and ROI

    As mentioned previously, a PPC budget is how much money is committed to online traffic acquisition efforts. It isn’t necessarily the amount you’ll spend, as charges only accrue after a user clicks on your ad. See above PPC Advertising – How do budgets work  for a useful formula to follow when planning your PPC budget. Understanding your figures at the very beginning will ensure you’re releasing the right amount of budget to encourage the best ROI from your campaigns.

  • Website landing pages

    Ensure the website landing pages that your ads are pointing to hold up their end of the bargain. The page content needs to have a clear call to action, while providing the user with content that’s relevant to their initial search term. If your landing pages don’t fulfil the user’s search query, then your bounce rate will go through the roof (a user arrives on your website then immediately leaves). A high bounce rate sends negative search signals to Google, which could result in poor search visibility.

  • Ongoing: Review best practices

    Unless you employ the expertise of a PPC specialist or agency, it will be up to you (or a marketing employee) to regularly review SEM best practices. Nothing stays still for long in the search-osphere. Keep up with trends to improve performance. For example, Microsoft (Bing) ads recently released video extensions, which appear next to an ad as a thumbnail and expand into a full video when clicked. Additionally, Google recently made changes to keyword match types including discontinuing broad match modifier (BMM) and expanding the reach of the phrase match. 

    It is critical to review technical keyword changes and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume. Ensure you: 

    • Brush up on everything you need to know on Google phrase match, as it has evolved and changed over the years.
    • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

SEO: 4 strategies for a better ROI

Whilst SEO can be seen as somewhat of a ‘dark art’, there are some pretty good rules of thumb when it comes to refining your SEO strategy

  • Website sign ups
    Create genuinely useful content (and optimise it)

    For the best ROI from SEO, you need to create content for both users and search engines. Create helpful, informative content such as blog posts, product pages, videos, guides and whitepapers (subject to your industry/audience) and ensure it follows SEO best practices e.g. include a keyword in its title tag. Prioritise evergreen content as it will last longer – should it rank well for popular keywords, it will ensure a steady, ongoing stream of traffic back to your site. The gift that keeps on giving!

  • Hand typing on phone
    Ensure your website loads quickly and is device-friendly

    A mobile-friendly (responsive) website is essential. Mobile friendliness and page speed are key factors that Google looks at when finding and ranking websites. You can speed up your website by compressing site images, using external video hosting sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, enabling browser caching and more. This is the technical side to SEO and it’s recommended using a specialist to run an SEO audit of your website and implementing any technical updates required for optimal SEO compliance.

  • Google screen
    Long-tail keywords

    A long-tail keyword is 3-4 words such as ‘efficiency software for lawyers’. (Short-tail is 1-2 words e.g. ‘legal software’.) By researching and targeting long-tail keywords, you ensure your SEO strategy caters for more specific searches. While these keywords have lower search volume, you’re more likely to convert as your landing page will provide exactly what the user is searching for. It’s the best way to direct the most relevant, qualified traffic to your website.

  • Coffee shop business
    Optimise local listings

    While local SEO might have more significance to some companies over others, it’s still an important element to your SEO activity – especially when it comes to increasing your ROI. Local listings act as a discovery hub for users. Whether you sell sandwiches or software, Google generates a list of businesses in its search results that are local to the user who is searching. For the best return on this strategy, you need to claim and optimise all your local listings, ensuring your contact information is clearly provided. Make it easy for searchers to visit your website, learn about your products / services and find out how to contact your team. This leads nicely onto our next section…

PPC: 4 ways to optimise for better ROI

Running PPC advertising campaigns should be treated as an ongoing learning experience with the aim to maximise your ROI over the time. Here are some of the ways you can optimise your campaigns to help you achieve better results.  

  • Ad copy

    Compelling ad copy ensures that your users actually click on your paid ads. This is one of the elements that needs to be continuously tested and optimised to improve click rates further, subsequently increasing traffic to your landing pages. Use clickthrough data from your PPC campaigns to determine copy variations that work best with your audience. When writing your ad copy, Search Engine Journal provides a useful best practice guide to keep in mind. Ensure you:

    • Know what your target audience wants
    • Address your audience with “you”, “your”. Being more directive and personable helps form a connection
    • Use emotional triggers. Identify the core problem or desire that brings customers to you, then think about ways you can appeal to the emotion contained in it.
    • Use numbers: Figures and statistics have a way of getting people’s attention and have proven to increase CTR. You can include your product’s price, advertise a sale, or talk about statistics e.g. We’ve helped accountants improve efficiency by 98% with our software.”
    • Address potential objections. Is there a common reason why a user might not click on your ad? Do they think you could be too expensive? Or couldn’t deliver within a certain time frame? Address these objections head on in your ad copy e.g. “Starting from £xx”, ‘Free no obligation 7-day trial available’, ‘Speedy delivery within 48 hours’.
    • Use your space allocation. Google Ads allows for three 30-character headlines and two 90-character descriptions. Pack your ads with information. Don’t forget about your display URL and ad extensions, either. Your display URL doesn’t have to match the actual URL that your visitors will land on – its purpose is to show people what kind of page they’ll be taken to, so creating a custom URL that includes your keywords is a smart move. Ad extensions can be another valuable way to get more real estate in search results. (Don’t rely on them to carry your message, though, since Google can’t guarantee that your extensions will show up every time your ad is run.)
    • Emphasise your unique selling points
    • Keep it local. People like and trust local businesses. Emphasis your location to appear approachable. If you have multiple locations, run separate PPC campaigns in different geographical locations. Use specific location-based terms for each campaign. Use local phone numbers in your ads if you can.
    • Use strong, creative calls to action.
    • Split test your PPC ads frequently…
  • A/B testing

    The most efficient way to establish effective PPC ads is by regularly testing ways you can improve them. Data is your friend here. The more information you collect, the more patterns you’ll spot, helping you identify successes (and failures) so you can adjust your ad strategy accordingly.

    Split tests can include different types of calls to action and where they’re placed in your ads, different display URLs, and the type of information included in your ads e.g. empathy, statistics, offers. You can also try highlighting different products or services, or if you offer one product or service, you could compare ads that focus on different benefits to the customers.

  • Budget

    Again, this boils down to the equation mentioned previously to work out your profitability goal and ensure the best ROI. (See PPC Advertising – Budget section)

  • Impression share

    Impression share tells you how many times your ads have been displayed. Without impressions you won’t get clicks, leads or conversions. To improve your impression share: 

    • Focus on your ads’ Quality Score. Improve specific areas of your ads e.g. copy, keywords, audience segmentation.
    • Stay relevant to keywords. Using broad match type keywords risks budget wastage on irrelevant clicks (but they do earn more impressions than phrase match!). Phrase match generates more than exact match. Focus on a good balance of match types to improve impression share.
    • Filter out any negative keywords to earn higher impression share as a result of advertising to more qualified users.
    • Increase your keyword bids for short term wins. This isn’t a great long-term strategy but is a useful tactic to boost impression share and assist in time sensitive campaigns such as launches, events and offers.

    A quick Google will provide you with even more ways you can improve your impression share, such as geo-targeting and time-targeting.


What is local SEO and PPC?

There are a number of local marketing techniques that you can utilise within your SEO and PPC strategies. Our 17 ways to do effective local marketing article lists ways you can improve your local SEO and PPC to increase your visibility in local search results. From Google Local Services Ads to Google Ads targeting geographic locations, to claiming and setting up your Google My Business account, there are smart tools and tactics available to you to encourage long term local SEO traffic, as well as competitive paid ads.

Should I use an agency or do it myself?

It ultimately boils down to your marketing budget. An agency or independent consultant will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to your SEM strategy – but it of course comes at a cost. It’s very much a chicken and egg scenario – you want to increase your profit by selling more of your products/services. To do that, you need to increase traffic to your site. If you have limited knowledge of SEM marketing, you could struggle generating the traffic you need to convert the proportion of users required to meet your profitability goal.

There is a vast amount of learn-on-the-go resources online, but with learning comes time – do you have enough time to learn and implement as well as run your business?

If you’re on a tight budget, a smart approach could be to enlist expertise at key points. For example, if you’re building your business website, consult with a technical SEO specialist to ensure you’re considering SEO before your site is built. This will save you time and money as you avoid having to rectify any red flags to Google as an afterthought.

Could you pay for a certain amount of time from an SEO specialist to construct your keyword list, which an in-house copywriter could then bear in mind when writing product pages and blog posts for your site?

PPC is a trickier task as it’s going to be far more successful being managed by the person/team who sets it up. It’s a marketing channel that requires ongoing testing and long term refinement, and that’s only going to be achieved by someone who knows what they’re doing and has the time and expertise to dedicate to it. Otherwise you run the risk of throwing money into the wind with poorly targeted ads, which could do more harm to your brand than good.

PPC isn’t easy. The terminology can be overwhelming, keyword and competitor research takes time, as well as ad creation, landing page optimisation, technical SEO and keeping up-to-date with the latest Google algorithm updates. As a business owner you no doubt wear many hats, however PPC in particular is a hat that’s worth passing over to the specialists to wear. Get your search engine marketing right and you’re giving your new business the very best chance of being a success.

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