How does search engine marketing work?
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a branch of online marketing focused on promoting websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). This is typically achieved through a combination of paid and unpaid strategies. The term "search engine marketing" is often debated, as some say it's a broader concept to encompass just paid marketing (e.g., PPC), while others say it's meant to include both PPC and search engine optimization (SEO.)
Regardless of how you look at it, search engine marketing is one of the most powerful ways to bring more attention (and conversions!) to your business. Everyone uses search engines to get information about the products or services they want to buy -- and the more present you are in the search results, the more likely it is you'll attract their attention and convert them into customers.
What does an SEM specialist do?
An SEM specialist is adept at understanding the nuances of search engine marketing tactics and how to use various platforms such as Google Ads and Bing Ads. An SEM specialist is responsible for making sure your website ranks for your target keywords and phrases and that your paid search campaigns are converting into leads or sales. They must also understand the importance of keyword research, content optimization, algorithm changes, paid advertising tactics, and more.
What skills should your SEM expert have?
Your SEM expert should possess a collection of skills that help them navigate the continuously shifting nature of search engines. Here are some of the essential qualities to look for in your SEM expert hire:
As PPC is one of the main activities of a SEM specialist, you want to make sure your expert has a deep understanding of how it works and the different strategies they can use to get you results. Search ads are complex and require a lot of testing and optimization, so you’ll want to make sure your expert has a strong grasp on these skills.
In-depth search engine knowledge
A SEM specialist's main core of expertise revolves around search engines. This means your SEM expert should be extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of search engine marketing and familiar with the different algorithms used by major search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) They should also keep up-to-date on any changes that occur in the industry and how those changes can impact your campaigns.
Your SEM specialist needs to be proficient in reporting and tracking the performance of your campaigns. They need to understand how to interpret analytics data, such as cost per click, cost per impressions, and click-through rates, to gain insights into their campaigns’ performance.
Furthermore, they also need to know how to work with analytics tools, like Google Analytics, for example. This will help them drive a data-based SEM strategy (and it will also help inform other areas of your marketing - like content marketing, for example.)
A growth mindset is essential for any digital marketing or SEM specialist. A lot of people think PPC is a "quick" way to get more customers, but just like any other area of marketing, search engine marketing requires time and constant adjustments to work at peak efficiency. As such, you need to ensure your SEM expert has a growth mindset open to experimentation, testing, and learning.
Creative problem solving skills
Like everything else, search engine marketing comes with its challenges -- so you need to make sure your SEM expert knows how to navigate these challenges and focus on finding solutions, rather than dwelling on problems.
Strong organizational skills
Organizational abilities are a must for any SEM specialist as they often juggle multiple campaigns and tasks. Your expert needs to be able to structure your search campaigns and ads so they make sense and help your business achieve its goals.
Knowledge of A/B testing
A/B testing helps you know what works and what doesn't -- and since PPC isn't a one-size-fits-all recipe, making sure your SEM expert knows how to run smart, data-driven A/B tests is essential.
Understanding of SEO tactics
While not every SEM expert doesn't have to be an SEO specialist too, they should at least understand the basics and how it works. This can help them tweak their campaigns accordingly and get more out of their budget.
If your SEM expert will handle SEO too, they need to know how to select and implement the right SEO strategies, link building strategies, and content marketing approaches to help you get more traffic organically.
Search engine marketing specialists have to collaborate with other members of your marketing team. As such, they need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively so they can explain results, plans, and strategies, as well as participate in different marketing activities that help your business stand out.
If your SEM specialist handles advertising campaigns and organic search, they need to understand how to create educational, informative, and entertaining content that drives potential customers closer to your brand.
What's the difference between SEM and SEO?
SEM and SEO are frequently used as interchangeable terms, with both referring to digital marketing tactics. While they may overlap (according to some schools of thought, at least), they are two different
SEO is focused on optimizing your website for search engines, organically. SEM, however, is either used to describe search advertising or a combination of SEO and search PPC. Generally, the goal of SEM is to drive more website traffic through paid search ads.
Questions to ask your SEM expert before you hire them
Not sure what to ask your SEM digital marketing specialist? Here are some questions to consider when looking for the ideal candidate:
- Can you tell us of a successful search advertising campaign you created?
- Do you have experience in connecting SEM campaigns with other areas of digital marketing -- such as email marketing or social media marketing, for example?
- In your opinion, what place does search engine marketing play in an omnichannel marketing strategy?
- Do you have experience running campaigns for other advertising platforms?
- Aside from SEM campaigns, do you have experience in handling other types of online marketing campaigns?
- What do you estimate are the average monthly costs of running search ads for our business?
- What is your process for finding relevant keywords and ensuring your keyword planning is efficient?
- What are the most efficient digital marketing strategies you've used?
- How do you collaborate with other members of the marketing team to ensure your marketing efforts are effective?
- Do you have experience in running search advertising for other search engines, other than Google Advertising?
- In your opinion, what are some of the best advertising ideas in SEM at the moment?
How to hire the perfect SEM marketer
There are multiple ways to hire a great SEM marketer. Here are some of the best/ most popular ones:
Post on job boards
Job boards are one of the most popular ways to hire someone. Basically, you put together a job description, you publish it on a job board (like Indeed, for example), and then sift through applications using your internal process. The downside to this approach is that you may get a lot of irrelevant or less-than-perfect applications.
Post on social media
Posting your job on social media is a relatively easy way to tap into your network and see if someone suitable applies. Same as with job boards, however, sifting through the messages and applications can be time and energy-consuming.
Ask for referrals
If you want a quick way to hire someone who's already worked with someone you know, all you need to do is ask. When you hire through referrals, you can be certain that the candidate is well-suited for the role and has a solid track record.
Hire with Mayple
Mayple can match you with a vetted SEM consultant in a matter of days. We only work with digital marketing experts who can prove their track record of success in specific industries, so you can rest assured that hiring a SEM specialist with Mayple is an easy and efficient way to find the perfect candidate.