Online marketing is always changing—and one of the most significant evolutions is the transition from search engine optimization (SEO) to search experience marketing (SEM). In this post, we’re going to highlight that journey, and also explain what makes SEM such an invaluable paradigm, not just for online marketing companies, but for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
SEO and Beyond
You’re probably familiar with SEO already. Essentially, it’s a part-art, part-science approach to maximizing visibility within search engine algorithms, positioning your company website to be found by search engine users.
By its definition, SEO maintains a fairly narrow focus on the organic search listings that show up on the search engine results page (SERP). And don’t get us wrong: That’s invaluable. Your brand needs to be visible in those search listings. SEO is still a non-negotiable part of any online marketing practice.
However, it’s really best understood as one component of a broader, more integrated approach—and that leads us to SEM.
SEM and the Customer Journey
One of the best ways to think about SEM is in terms of the consumer’s search journey. It’s not always as neat and as straightforward as a person initiating a Google search, seeing a business listing in the organic search results, clicking it, and immediately buying a product. It’s nice when it happens that way, but usually there are some additional steps involved.
For larger purchasing decisions, in particular, the consumer is more likely to spend some time doing research—scanning the SERP, looking at reviews, perhaps even consulting social media. In this process, the consumer is likely to see a lot of different brands mentioned. You need yours to stand out, and also to foster confidence and trust. That’s what SEM seeks to address.
How SEM Works
SEM is about maintaining brand visibility throughout the search engine journey—creating multiple touch points and chances for conversion throughout the consumer’s research. This is achieved through organic search results, but also through placement on other parts of the SERP—that is, paid ad spaces. Social media (and especially paid social media ads) can also play a role here. The goal is for the consumer to see your brand recurring throughout their search journey, from the initial inquiry all the way through the point of conversion—and even past that, via remarketing and follow-up.
There are some significant benefits to this approach. One is that you build trust. Having your brand placed across the SERP and present throughout the search journey, instills a sense of confidence in the consumer; your brand becomes available to them on a consistent basis. Additionally, you’re increasing your impressions. Rather than just being present in the organic listings, you may also cover some paid ad space on the SERP—thereby providing more opportunities for the consumer to connect with your brand.
Research shows that providing these multiple touch points from your digital marketing management can have a real effect, and that effect can sometimes mirror the convoluted nature of the consumer search journey. For example, a lot of the conversions attributed to paid ads actually come through other channels, like SEO. A consumer might see a paid ad for your brand, hold it in their head for a while, then conduct a proper search for your brand later on—and that’s when the conversion happens. Even if the ad doesn’t get clicked on, it was responsible for planting the seed and getting the ball rolling.
Get Started with SEM
To establish your brand as a brand of choice, you’ve got to invest in the search experience—and that means SEM. We’d love to talk with you more about what this looks like on a nuts-and-bolts level. Reach out to Driven2020 today to have that conversation.