The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) in 2021

The article talks about the commonly used Google Ads terms, the different types of ad campaigns, keyword selection, and a typical Google Ad structure. In the end, it tells you about the working of an ad auction.

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If you are brewing some secret recipes to rank your web page on the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), then SEM (search engine marketing) is your special ingredient.

From all the ranking factors that decide your website’s potential to rank on the SERPs, Google plays a dominating role. Since 75% of the Internet users never look after the first page of the search results, Google ensures that they get the relevant information right on the first page.   

Hence, leveraging search engine marketing is the only recipe to grab the top ranking positions and Google Ads is your gateway to it. 

But, what is search engine marketing? 

Now that you know your growth hack, let us understand how you can capitalize it for your business’s success.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the practice of increasing a website’s SERP visibility by implementing paid marketing strategies. Earlier, when SEM was introduced, it used to refer to both paid and organic search optimization. But as the SEM strategy evolved, it specifically pertains to paid search marketing.

How Does Search Engine Marketing Work?

Here comes the most awaited question!

What makes SEM a successful ranking ingredient for your websites? 

In search engine marketing, organizations invest in sponsored advertisements for keywords that their target customers use to shop products online. For example, if you want to buy a pair of running shoes online, you will type something like, “running shoes” or “running shoes for men”. Once you hit “Enter”, you can see advertisements appearing on the top of SERPs that contain the keyword “running shoes” along with a link to the store where you can buy those shoes.

Google Search Result

This is how search engine marketing works. The ads you see on the right side of the SERPs are optimized for the keyword “running shoes for men.” For every click that the ad gets, the advertiser or the organization running these ads will pay a fixed amount to Google (or any search engine that allows paid advertising through its search results). 

Businesses use paid advertisements to market their product to their potential customers – people who are highly likely to buy their product once they see the ad. That said, paid search is entirely different from organic search, although they cater to the same purpose of ranking a business’s service on the top of SERPs. 

Let us take a detailed look at the differences.

Paid Search vs. Organic Search

Although organic search stands out as a cost-effective marketing strategy for businesses, 50% of online users who land on a e-retailer’s website via paid ads are more likely to purchase a product than ones who visit the page from organic links. Owing to these stats, paid search vs. organic search is a topic of debate for most of the businesses who are planning their marketing budget.

So, what is the difference all about?

The difference lies in the investment, of course, and an organization’s current position over the web. 

While paid search focuses on highly targeted audience/customers, organic search covers a comparatively larger audience base. In paid advertising, organizations invest a significant amount of money to show their ads to the Internet users and make them purchase their products. Organic search marketing, on the other hand, is purely based on optimizing web pages for targeted keywords. The organizations leveraging organic search need not pay for any clicks that their web page gets. 

When it comes to choosing the best of two, paid advertising dominates when organic search alone cannot bring results. The reason – paid advertising brings a consistent and immediate traffic for businesses by targeting the most relevant audience for their ads. Further, organic search marketing takes a considerable amount of time to bring results (from three to twelve months). 

In contrast, paid search can give you instant results if you implement the right SEM strategy. 

That said, choosing the right search advertising platform is the first step. 

With a market share of 96.32%, Google Ads tops the list of the most preferred search advertising platforms. 

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) is everything you need to get your products and services in front of your target customers and make them buy from you. It is an online advertising platform by Google where advertisers bid to display their offerings to web users on both SERPs and non-search websites like mobile apps or videos. 

Google allows businesses to bid for the most relevant keywords and the bids with a high ad Quality Score win the top spots on the SERPs. 

Apart from the search results, Google also enables businesses to display their ads on third-party websites which form the other side of Google Ads for business. 

Yes, Google Adwords offers two different advertising networks to businesses – search network and display network. 

Although both search and display advertisements combine to get you better results, each of them has a separate strategy to reach your target audience. Let us take a look at the difference between the two.

Search Network vs. Display Network

Search network or search ads belong to the search engine results pages. These ads help your business rank when an online user explicitly searches for your product and services on search engines like Google. In simple words, it is a direct way to reach customers who are interested in your products, based in your location, and are searching with the intent of buying the product. 

Hence, if you have a low advertising budget, zero organic traffic, and a high-intent target audience, search networks are your go-to advertising technique. 

Display network or display ads refer to advertisements that do not limit to the SERPs. Display ads are “displayed” across an extensive collection of websites, mobile apps, and videos partnered with Google to serve Google Ads. These ads can take the format of images, videos, rich media, or text, depending on the intent of displaying them.

Display advertising works best when your target audience is in the discovery stage – they don’t know if they need your product or not. Hence, if you prioritize brand awareness over your marketing budget, display ads can do the job for you!

Now that you know about advertising networks, let us get you well-acquainted with some must-know Google Ads terms so you can create better ads for your business.

Top Google Ads Terms to Know

1. Keywords

Keywords refer to the search terms that online users use to search for a product or service. It is the keyword intent that the organizations concentrate on while optimizing their advertisements. 

Look for queries that people type into the search field and then select keywords that you can bid for. Ensure that you eliminate irrelevant keywords because Google won’t let you bid for those terms.

2. Cost-per-click (CPC)

As the name suggests, cost-per-click is the amount you have to pay for each click that your ad gets. Hence, it is recommended to estimate how keyword cost is calculated before you place a bid. 

Similar to CPC, CPM (Cost-per-mille) refers to the amount you have to pay for one thousand ad impressions when your ad is shown to these people.

3. Ad Rank

Based on how well you interpret keyword intent and provide value to the online users, Google gives you a rank – the position of your ad. It depends on your maximum bid amount and the Quality Score of your bid. The more value your ad has, the better will be the Ad Rank.

Quality Score is a metric Google uses to rate the relevance of your keywords, landing pages, and the ad as a whole. A quality score of 7 to 10 is considered the best.

4. Bid

A bid refers to the offer or the maximum that a business is willing to pay for the services offered by Google Ads. It contains all the details of the offer, including the bid price, its elements, and the model (CPC or CPM).

5. Click-through rate (CTR)

CTR gives you the number of clicks your ad gets from the number of views it grabs on a platform. The higher is the CTR, the more relevant and targeted is your ad. 

Conversion rate (CVR), on the other hand, refers to the number of actions taken after landing on the web page; be it form submissions or booked calls.

6. Ad Copy

Ad Copy is the content you write to describe your ads. A typical ad copy consists of a title, a display URL, and the description.

The title highlights the intent behind running ad campaigns, the display URL is the landing page where users will be directed after they click on your ad, and description is what tells your audience to click the ad and take action.

Once you comprehend the above-mentioned terms right, structuring your advertisements is not a tough affair. Here’s a typical Google Ads structure for your reference.

Google Ads Structure

Google Ads is organized in three major layers – accounts, campaign, and ad groups.

Google Ads Structure

1. Account

Google Ads account is your official business account that you use to create and manage all your ad campaigns. It consists of a unique email address, password, and the billing information. Ensure that you have a verified, official email address to use Google Ads for business.

2. Campaign

The ad campaign is a set of advertisements with a well-defined message and a specific goal to be accomplished. You can run one or more ads within a campaign but all of them should commit to one particular objective. 

Further, a campaign can consist of search ads, display ads, call-only ads, or remarketing ads – the four types of ad campaigns that you can choose as per your business goals. Post selection, you need to decide a budget for your ad campaign which is the total amount of money you will pay Google every month for the clicks on your ads. 

The budget can be calculated as – daily budget (amount you can spend every day for each click on your ad) x 30.4 per month. Even if you create a small business SEM strategy, setting a clear budget is paramount for your campaign’s effective working.

3. Ad Group

An ad group is a set of similar ads and targeted keywords. It gives a structure to your campaign where you can organize your ads and the keywords based on a theme. 

Every campaign can have a maximum of 7 to 10 ad groups and each ad group can have a maximum of 20 keywords. These keywords can be organized into 2-3 ads. 

Let us understand each of them in detail.


The ad or the advertisement is the copy that is displayed on the SERP when people search for keywords you have chosen. They can be texts, images, videos, carousels, and more depending upon your selected network. 

Since you can add 2-3 ads per group, A/B test different ads to see which work the best for your business. But make sure you create all the ads keeping in mind their effectiveness for your campaign because anyways you will be paying for all of them.


Keywords form the most important part of an ad group. There are four types of keywords to consider while using Google Ads for business.

Now, the question is, how will you find keywords – the broad match, the phrase match, and exact match ones?

There are several search engine marketing software available across the web that help you find relevant keywords for your ad campaigns. Some of them include SEMrush, Google Trends, WordSteam, Keywordtool.Io, and Google Ads Keyword Planner. You can leverage these tools not only to look for keywords but also to analyse your ad campaigns and gain insights from the results.

You know the keywords, the advertising budget, and you have set up the ad campaign. Now what?

Google will start showing your advertisements when an online user searches for your target keyword, right?

Your ad will participate in an ad auction with other ads from different businesses in the same product category.

What is an Ad Auction and How Does It Work?

An ad auction is a built-in system used by search engine marketing platforms to decide whether your ad can be shown on the SERPs when it competes with similar keywords from different brands. 

In the ad auction, platforms like Google Ads compare your ad with other ads against the following three parameters to confirm its appearance and schedule.

1. Maximum CPC Bid

Maximum CPC (Cost-per-click) bid is the highest amount you are willing to pay for each click that your ad gets. It indicates the commercial value of your ad and gives a clear idea about your advertising budget.

2. Quality Score

Based on your ad’s quality score, Google understands how well the ad is going to perform on the SERPs. It takes into account the keyword intent, the click-through rate, and how relevant the landing pages are to the keywords.

3. Ad Rank

The ad rank defines where your ad will be placed on the SERPs. That said, your search ad will have a better placement if your ad rank is higher than that of others. It is calculated as, Maximum CPC Bid x Quality Score.

These factors together make an ad win the ad auction and get it the best placement on the SERPs.

Win the Ad Auction Today!

So, if you are ready to invest in a profitable SEM strategy and grow your business revenue, get in touch with us at Vateko. We provide actionable search engine marketing services to help you accelerate your lead generation process, and eventually, the sales. 

Contact us today to participate and win an ad auction on Google Ads.

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