What is Search Marketing? Google ads for business explained.

Marketing is full of buzzwords and all of the shiny new things. It’s all fun and games and awesome ROI if you know what it all means, but if you don’t it’s really just a recipe for overwhelm. We’re going to tackle one of the BIGGEST marketing buzzwords and demystify it: Google Ads – or, Search Engine Marketing.


When a business talks to me about Digital Marketing, they 99% of the time ask about Google Ads. But, when they’re asking, they more often than not…in fact maybe never…actually know what that even is.


Google Ads ARE a very powerful tool for digital marketing. In fact, they have one of the highest conversion rates. So, let’s talk about them and demystify what they are and how to use them effectively.


What exactly is Google Ads?

First things first…Google Ads is actually a whole bunch of things. It’s Display marketing, remarketing, and Search Engine Marketing. Today we’re going to talk about Search Engine Marketing, since that’s normally what people mean when they ask about Google Ads.


Calling it Google Ads is like calling tissues Kleenex, so we are going to call it by its actual name: Search Engine Marketing – often shortened into SEM because BUZZWORDS!!!!


Search Engine Marketing is the PAID placement of text-based ads that are initiated by words and phrases people are searching for on search engines. They are pay-per-click, which means that you only PAY if someone clicks on them.


What’s amazing about them is that, like SEO, only prospects that are ACTIVELY searching for something will come across them. That means that you are reaching people who are already interested in what you are offering.


SEM tends to have one of the lowest costs per conversion among paid tactics. This means that as far as getting your prospect to complete an action – whether a sale or contact or signup – it is one of the most effective and least expensive.


You can do SEM on Yahoo, Bing, or Google. Google is the main one and dominates as the search engine of choice for users. Within Google SEM, you can choose to appear on their search partners, which would give you a bit more reach.  We often focus on JUST Google when we are doing SEM campaigns – particularly when we have a more limited budget.


How to use Google Ads effectively

SEM is not the easiest tactic to use. It requires a LOT of management in order to be effective and a comfort in looking regularly at data and statistics. There are a few parts to SEM:

Keyword selection

You need to choose the right keywords for your business and your customer. Think in terms of how prospects and customers actually search for what your service or product is. Think about what language they would use.

You also need to ensure that you are not being too general or people who are not looking for you will see your ad, which can lead to wasted spend or a poor ranking of your ads.

Bid management

For any chosen keyword, there will be a number of brands and companies competing to have their ad shown and to have their ad shown FIRST. You need to decide on how much you want to bid on a keyword.



A well written ad is essential to get users to click on it AND to get the SEM platform to rank you higher. You will want different ads for different groups of keywords so that you can include those keywords in your ad to be more effective.


Landing pages

Search Engines are all about the end user. They want to make sure that wherever they send a user, that person has a GREAT experience and it was just what they were looking for. Think of it as when you refer a friend to a business or restaurant. You want to have faith in your recommendation!

When a search engine sends someone to a page, if that person has a GREAT user experience, then the Search Engine will rank that page higher and want to send more people there. If they have a bad experience, the opposite happens.

You want to make sure your landing page for an ad has the right keywords on it and is relevant to what the searched keyword and the ad are about.

Testing, measuring, and tweaking

A BIG part of SEM is data and analytics. You need to be on top of always checking your keywords, your ads, and what happens when a user lands on your page to tweak and optimize your campaign.

Make sure you have a measure for conversion – whether that is a purchase made online or a contact made with you to complete a purchase offline. This data can be pulled INTO SEM platforms and can help you hone and tweak your campaign to be more effective. This is also an essential part of measuring your ROI.


What can I expect Google Ads to cost me?

A benchmark cost per click – or per visit to your website from an ad – is $1. It can be more or less depending on the popularity of your keyword. A MINIMUM amount to spend per day is $10. A better amount to start with is $20 per day.


If you choose to hire someone to set up and manage your campaign for you, the cost would start at $200-$300 for set up and $300 per month for management. Some agencies charge upward of $1000 per month for management.


While this definitely can feel high, remember that when used effectively, SEM can have one of the lowest conversion cost since it’s targeting people who are warm leads and already searching for something that you are selling. Because of the cost, I recommend using SEM for targeted and shorter-term campaigns rather than year-round.