We, as consumers, can’t help ourselves. We know what we want, and we want it now. Search engine marketing (SEM) embraces this truth, placing targeted ads in the right places and times. And, once you pair SEM with search engine optimization (SEO), you unlock a vast world of opportunities for your business. But SEM has its potential drawbacks, so you should carefully consider whether it’s the best move for your goals. Below, we dive into the advantages and disadvantages of search engine marketing to help you make the right call.
What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?
Search engine marketing, in its simplest form, is paying to have your website show up at the top of the search engine results page. In the late ’90s, websites were becoming increasingly abundant all over the internet. When search engines saw that consumers would use them to find what they were looking for, paid search became a business model that many started implementing.
In 2003, Google was able to rake in a little over a billion dollars in ad revenue. That number increased to a modest $224.47 billion in 2022. As you can see, search engine advertising is a big business. When you utilize it properly, you can bring your business’ site to new heights – even without investing in SEO.
Search engine marketing involves a few different types of ads, though we’re mostly interested in search ads and local service ads. These appear at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) for a particular keyword.
7 Advantages of Search Engine Marketing
A strong ad campaign has plenty of benefits to consider. Here are some of the most significant advantages of search engine marketing that help businesses drive traffic and conversions.
1. More Traffic
Perhaps the most obvious advantage of search engine marketing is an increase in your website’s traffic, which you can achieve overnight.
Sponsored ads for websites are one of the first things a user sees when they search for a particular keyword or phrase. As a result, they’re great for supplementing traffic you haven’t yet gained through organic SEO tactics, like content marketing.
But you’ll need strong ad copy to ensure you drive good traffic that converts. You may only have a few seconds to grab a user’s attention, but at least you’ll be in the limelight!
Unlike SEO and other advertising tactics, the results of an SEM campaign can be predicted.
Google and other search engines want you to spend money on their ad space. Knowing this, they can tell you how many clicks your ads will get based on your budget. From there, you can assume the number of leads you’ll get based on your conversion rate.
3. Brand Recognition Grows
When your business is more visible on search engine results pages, you put your brand name on the map.
This “SERP real estate,” as we call it, helps your brand rise to the top of the competition. Combined with other practices that grow your brand, SEM puts your business at the forefront of the options users see when looking for services.
4. Fast Results
Organic SEO campaigns take time and energy. There’s no way to rush them; you have to let them work their magic slowly. As you build your credibility and backlinks, your site becomes more of an authority in your niche. The natural influx of traffic that follows is long-lasting, but it takes some time (and luck) to achieve.
SEM, on the other hand, provides nearly instantaneous results. Your ad appears in front of a customer just as they begin looking for you or a specific keyword. That means SEM is a great short-term solution for bringing eyes to a product or service.
5. Low Investment, Big Results
Another key search engine marketing benefit to consider is cost. If you don’t want to spend much money on your SEM efforts, you don’t have to – there’s no penalty for you or your business. You can spend as little or as much as your budget allows and still see results. There’s no arbitrary minimum you need to hit to see a return on investment.
Estimates show that, on average, businesses make about $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords. And, since you only have to spend money when someone clicks on your ad, you won’t have to pay unless your ad gets the job done.
6. Target the Right Audience at the Right Times
One great thing about SEM is its flexibility. You can choose to set up ads to target specific audiences that make sense for your goals. For instance, you might decide to only show ads to people near the vicinity of your business.
You can also ensure your ads show up to people in a certain area when they look for general keywords that relate to your business. You might aim, for example, to ensure people from your city see your ad when they Google “pet grooming.” Considering that around 50% of people searching for something online are looking locally, it pays to make sure your business shows up.
An unintended benefit of this perk is that it encourages you to truly get to know your target audience. As you pinpoint audiences to focus your ad efforts on, you learn more about what your customers want and how to connect with them.
7. Measure Your Investments
It’s easy to assess the effectiveness of your SEM ads and track your results to use in the future. Google Advertisements grants access to detailed breakdowns of your best-performing ads. You can get a firsthand look at impressions, clicks, CTR, keywords, and more. When you can evaluate your performance, you can launch more successful and efficient ad campaigns down the line.
What Are the Disadvantages of Search Engine Marketing?
Knowing what you know now, search engine marketing seems like a win-win situation for your business. Unfortunately, that may not be entirely true. It’s important to consider search engine marketing drawbacks like these before you commit your time and effort to it:
- Equity – Search engine marketing will get more eyes on your website and lead to more traffic. There are, however, almost zero long-term benefits to running ads. It won’t boost your site’s authority or ranking the way SEO will.
- Cost Per Conversion – Every time someone clicks on your ad, whether they end up or even intend on using your services, money will still come out of your budget. Should competitors click on your ads, you may be wasting your money. There are some tools out there that can help you limit this risk, but they aren’t foolproof and can still create more work for you. In addition, the more competitive the market you are in, the more each click will cost.
- Management – Since many users skip right past sponsored ads, it’s critical that yours run on the right keywords for the right cost. However, navigating these challenges and managing your ads can be time-consuming. If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional, the costs could start to hurt your ROI.
How SEM and SEO Can Work Together
As with any advertising tactic, there are some disadvantages of search engine marketing that may limit its effectiveness. But where SEM falters, SEO thrives. The two go together like bread and butter, especially when it comes to local search rankings.
Strong SEO will help your website rank well regardless of whether you pay for ads. SEM helps by placing a strategic ad on the same page you’re already ranking well on, further boosting your odds of grabbing interested users.
Imagine your site already shows up in the top 10 search results for a query – you’ll already be one of the first options a user sees. And, once they’ve noticed your paid ad, which helps boost your legitimacy and puts your brand name in their mind, they’re more likely to head to your site.
Firestarter has been able to build multiple campaigns that have SEO and SEM working together in harmony. Search engine marketing can bring valuable leads while your SEO is ramping up.
Once you have reached the first page organically, run an ad on that same page, ensure you show up on Google Maps, and watch your click-through rate go through the roof. You have somewhere between 50%-80% of getting that user to your website. Just imagine what that could do for your business!
The Bottom Line
Clearly, there are plenty of advantages and disadvantages of search engine marketing to ponder as you decide where to focus your advertising and marketing budget. While SEM is a great tool for bringing in traffic fast, it may not be enough to bring the conversions you need in the long term.
That’s where other options, like SEO, come into play. Regardless of how you balance your campaigns, you’ll do yourself a huge favor by working with experienced SEO professionals.
Save yourself the headache and hassle of finding keywords, selecting ad spots, and managing campaigns. Trust the SEO experts at the Firestarter. We’ll work with you to determine which SEO or SEM tactics make the most sense for you.
See why clients have relied on our award-winning Denver SEO agency for over a decade. Contact us today to learn more and help your business outrank the rest.