Understanding SEO, SEM, PPC, and Google Ads

Aug 29, 2022 | 9  min
author Pramita Pramod
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In the world of marketing, you may have heard the words SEO, SEM, PPC, and Google Ads being thrown about. With so many acronyms it may seem hard to keep everything straight and understand how they work separately, and together. They are indeed quite relevant to a brand since a cohesive relationship between them can help your business succeed. To establish a relationship with them, you first need to understand the basics of each and how they can be used to drive traffic to your business. 

In this blog, we will discuss each term and how each digital channel is unique to building your business’s brand. Then we’ll discuss why it’s important to incorporate all these channels in your marketing to create a cohesive and strong digital presence. 

  1. What is SEM?
  2. Organic results-What is SEO?
  3. Paid results-What is PPC?
  4. Top PPC platform-Google Ads

What is SEM?

A search engine marketing (SEM) strategy can be defined as a set of techniques and strategies used to rank your website higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, therefore increasing the visibility of your brand and website. The ways to rank higher on the search result pages involve:

  • Organic results: This relates to SEO, or search engine optimization that allows your pages to rank organically, aka for no cost.
  • Paid results: These are the paid advertisements that appear on SERPs and therefore allow your page to rank high for relevant searches based on the best bid. When you’re looking to increase your site visits and conversions, paid media can be used to supplement organic traffic.

Top SEM tools

Let’s delve deeper into both organic and paid results.

Organic Results – What is SEO?

Simply put, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing the visibility of a website by acquiring more visitors to your website organically. In essence, organic means free. Providing solid content that meets the needs of your audience and a healthy website is all that’s needed to rank high and for free on relevant pages. While good SEO is something every business strives for, as it’s cost-effective and long-term, it does take time and a good website reputation to be able to compete against competitors with high domain authority.

Let’s take an analogy to explain this better. Getting a picturesque view from a mountain requires climbing up. SEO follows a similar logic. The higher your website ranks on the search engine results pages (SERPs), the more people will see your brand and click on your content to learn more. In fact, a study found that only 71.33% of Google search traffic goes to the first 10 search results. 

The ranking system is based on keywords. In essence, keywords are the words that are associated with your website and describe what your content is all about. In the case of online store selling shoes, keywords such as sports shoes, hiking shoes, casual shoes, etc. may be the relevant keywords your website would like to appear on the results page when searched. It is important to note that, your website will rank higher if appropriate keywords are used, but it will always be below the google ads as they are paying for the top spot.

One of the best aspects of SEO is that it targets people at the consideration stage of the buyer journey (people looking for a solution), as they are already aware of the keywords needed to search for your product or service. You have to show them that you have what they are looking for!

Let’s explore the types of SEOs you can work upon:

Technical SEO

Technical SEO entails all the behind-the-scenes work necessary for a website’s SEO ranking capabilities. The purpose of this is to ensure that your website meets all the technical requirements that enable a search engine to crawl and index all the pages of your website successfully:

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing the website content itself to rank higher in search engines and generate more relevant traffic. Creating SEO-rich content for your website is one of the most important elements of content optimization. It is possible to optimize both the content and HTML code of a page for on-page SEO. On-page optimizations may include:

  • Brief and descriptive URL
  • Meta title
  • Meta description
  • Keyword usage(Spread the keywords across the content and avoid keyword overstuffing).
  • Internal linking
  • External linking
  • Structured content in the form of H1, H2, H3, and H4 tags
  • Image alt text
  • Content length(In order to help Google understand your content’s purpose, your content should have a minimum of 300 words).
  • Product pages that are keyword rich (the bonus is, it can serve as a landing page for your paid campaigns!)

Off-page SEO

As the name implies, off-page SEO refers to actions you take outside of your own website in order to boost your ranking on the search result pages. This can be done by building a backlink strategy. Backlinks are other websites linking back to your website pages. This is a great way to establish relevance and trust that the content is of high quality. It’s important that your site be associated with many sites with high domain authority to help boost your site’s credibility with Google.

While beneficial, off-page SEO can be very tedious as it may require reaching out to other websites to establish that link connection, or even link removal if other sites’ backlinks are hurting your backlink score.

SEO terminologies you must know:

  • Crawling, Indexing and Ranking:
    A search engine provides all three of these functions. As soon as a search query is entered by the user, the search engine searches across the web (through a program called web crawler or spiders) for the appropriate content that matches the query. This is called crawling. As soon as the search engine finds the content it is looking for, it processes and stores the information so that it can be displayed to the user. Finally, the ranking phase of the process is where the user is shown the most relevant content based on the content that has been indexed.

Source: neilpatel.com

  • Keyword Research:
    Keyword research can be defined as the process of finding the most appropriate keywords you can use to promote your business on the web. It answers key questions like what your business is about, what you sell, etc. In order to determine exactly what your audience is looking for, it is vital that you conduct solid keyword research. It is also possible to get an idea of how easy it is to target a keyword and how much search volume the keyword is searched for in a month. For sites with high domain authority, ranking for difficult or competitive keywords might be easier than businesses just starting out who may need to use a long-tail keyword strategy to start gaining traction with Google. 

Paid Results – What is PPC? 

​​In Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, advertisers pay for the click-throughs they receive when users click on the ads that appear on search engine result pages. There are several benefits to using PPC:

  • The outcomes of these campaigns are measurable and can be tracked.
  • The use of PPC in conjunction with other marketing strategies is highly effective.
  • Campaigns that are conducted using PPC have a high degree of control.
  • It is highly customizable with multiple targeting options available.

Learn about the top PPC trends and best practices you can use for your campaigns.

Types of PPC

  • Paid search:
    In Google, these PPC ads are text only and appear at the top and bottom of the search results. You will see that these ads have the word “Ad” to the left of their listing, which indicates that they are paid advertisements. Businesses will bid to rank higher for those pages/keywords.

  • Display:
    There are a number of ways in which you can use display ads as part of your PPC campaign to reach people interested in your business. These Advertisements appear on partner websites of Google. Ads in this category come in many different sizes and forms and usually include a photo, banner, button, or rich media with text.

  • Social media:
    A social media ad is an advertisement that appears on various social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Instagram, etc, in the form of an image, a link, or a video. It is a great way to reach your target audience at scale, connect directly with them on social media, and gain their trust. For advertising, you should select the social media platforms that your target audience is using.

Source: hootsuite.com

  • Remarketing:
    These types of advertisements are aimed at people who have already visited your website once and have already shown interest in your business. The purpose of remarketing is to target relevant users and increase the likelihood of them returning to the website in order to convert or make a purchase once again.

Source:HubSpot.com

PPC Ad platforms

When it comes to choosing the PPC ad platform, you have many options. Your selection of platform would be based on your budget, target audience, and creative capabilities of the platform. Some of the most popular PPC ad networks include Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

PPC metrics

Once you have chosen your platform and set up the PPC campaign, you’ll want to know how it has performed. PPC metrics give you a clear insight into how the campaigns have performed based on your specific goals, and where there may be room for improvement. Some of the commonly used metrics are:

  • Clicks:
    The number of times that a paid search ad has been clicked.
  • Conversion:
    The frequency with which a click is followed by a sale.
  • Click-Through Rates (CTR):
    A measure of how often your ad is clicked upon after it has been shown in the search results.
  • Impressions:
    This is the number of times that the advertisements for a specific keyword appear on the screen.
  • Rate of Conversion:
    It is a measure of the cost that would be incurred for each conversion.

As mentioned above, there are many PPC platforms to choose from. Google Ads is one of the top PPC platforms, and therefore requires a solid understanding of how to rank against the many businesses competing for the top spot.

Working of the Google Ad auction:

1. In order to begin an ad auction, businesses need to select the keywords that they would like to target and bid on.

2. Next, the bid budget must be set up in order for them to participate in the bid process.

3. After the budget has been determined, the next step is to create the ads for the campaign based on the budget.

4. Once a user enters a search query into the search engine, the actual bidding process begins.

5. The search query is analyzed by Google Ads, which finds all the keywords associated with it. The entire process takes only a few seconds to complete.

6. In addition, Google Ads rejects any ads that are not suitable for that geographic location, as well as any ads that have not been approved.

7. Once the ads are filtered, the remaining ads are evaluated based on their ad rank. There are several factors that contribute to the ad rank, including the max cost per conversion bid, ad quality, search context, ad extensions, and ad formats.

8. In the SERP, relevant ads that win the auction are displayed according to the Ad Rank they received during the auction process. 

Google Ads glossary

  • Ad rank:
    This is the position at which your paid ad would be shown on Google’s results page. It is based on the amount you bid and your quality score.
  • Bidding:
    You are able to set a bid in Google Ads based on the amount of money you are willing to spend for a single click on a given keyword. In search engine results, your ads will be displayed according to the bids you set. 
  • Keywords:
    The keywords that you choose for your Google Ads campaigns form the basis of your Google PPC campaigns. The keyword limit for a campaign is 10,000 keywords per ad group. Each campaign can have up to 20,000 ad groups. 
  • Quality score:
    A Quality Score is a tool that lets you know how well your ad quality stacks up against those of your competitors. Based on the keyword level, this score ranges from 1-10. When your Quality Score is higher than that of other advertisers, it indicates that your ad and landing page are more applicable and beneficial to someone searching for your keyword.
  • CPC (cost per click):
    The amount of money you pay when a contact clicks your ad. Ideally the lower the better as you’ll be able to receive more clicks (leads) per your budget.
  • CPA (cost per acquisition):
    This indicates the revenue to ad ratio, or a metric used to determine how much it costs to get a customer from the first touch point. This can be calculated by dividing your total ad spend by the number of new customers in the same time period.
  • Display network:
    There are over 200 million sites, apps, and videos that are part of the Google Display Network, where your Google ads can appear. The whole idea is to place advertisements on specific websites, so that they can be seen by users while they are browsing, shopping, or reading.

Here’s a full glossary of ad terms you may need to know.

It is true that SEO, SEM, PPC, and Google Ads are all interrelated with each other: It is essential to have a solid SEO strategy in place to make SEM and PPC successful. As a matter of fact, SEM and PPC begin with keywords and SEO. Similarly, organic search engine marketing can serve as an accompaniment to a business’s PPC efforts. All of these aspects though focus on different things at times but are critical to the business and should be strategically used.

Contact Pyxl

Is it time for you to take control of your SEO, SEM, PPC, and Google Ads campaigns? We would love to help! Pyxl helps businesses create robust strategies that combine all of these factors to create a perfect combination. Let’s talk!

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

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