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How to Construct Winning SEM Ads

How to Construct Winning SEM Ads
  • January 30, 2023


You may hear more about SEO reaching the most relevant of billions of searchers every day (3.5 billion a day on Google alone) actively looking for your product or service. However, search engine marketing (SEM) offers the same opportunity with a higher ranking in the results (because you pay for it!). That means you're not just visible on the first couple of pages due to your organic SEO but at the top of the first page with a winning SEM ad. You can expect a click-through rate (CTR) as high as 7.94% when you invest in the first-position placement with Google Ads. 

By now, marketers aren't fighting it. Everyone knows that SEM and SEO are crucial to attracting and converting customers. You must start by making great ads when developing SEM campaigns. To help you get started, here are our expert tips on creating SEM ads that will make you stand out. 

Decide on Your Goals  

Choosing your goals for SEM campaignsDevelop a central goal for your ads to focus ad copy around, whether you want to increase sales or web traffic. Your overall content and call-to-action (CTA) should center around that central goal. We recommend following the SMART goals framework (or something similar) to ensure your SEM campaign goal is as defined and detailed as possible. 

For SMART goals, you make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. This way, your goal (which will be the foundation of every decision you make hereafter) is organized, offers your team a sense of direction, and can be tracked and measured for more informed real-time & future decision-making.  

Choose Which Platform You Will Use  

Selecting your platform for SEMEvery search engine is different, requiring different formatting and, therefore, different approaches. Although Google is the most trafficked by a long shot — Google accounts for 75.34% of searches, Bing (9.97%), Baidu (9.34%), Yahoo (2.77%), and Yandex (1.19%) — it can be worth exploring your options in addition to Google. However, you will need to become intimately familiar with each platform you use.  

Take, for instance, Yahoo compared to Google. Yahoo's search engine is classified as a type of 'directory,' searching websites and content for general information to put it in a category (i.e., clothing, furniture, music, etc.). Google's algorithm is more complex, using a type of search engine called indexing. That means Google's search engine sends in 'crawlers' to examine your entire site and identify text that matches the searcher's inquiry.  

While that may be an oversimplification, each platform will fall within the categories of directories or indexes. 

Develop a List of Relevant Keywords  

Developing keyword targets for SEMLike how keywords help your website and blog content rank for relevant search queries, the right keywords ensure the right people view your ads at the right time. Use your audience and their buyer journey as a basis to develop a keyword list that will help your ads show up when people are interested. 

An example of general keywords for each stage include: 

  • Awareness Stage — how, what are, why should, guide, etc.    
  • Consideration Stage — good value, best, popular, etc. 
  • Decision Stage — how much, cost, for how long, package, pricing, what the purchase includes, promotion, discount, etc.  

Note that these keywords typically combine with other industry and goal-specific keywords. These keywords alone won't get your search engine marketing ad where you want it to be. 

Write Your Ad Copy  

Writing good ad copy for SEMA lot goes into boosting your brand's visibility and ads to attract interest from your target audience. However, it will be for nothing if your ads are seen but miss the mark in the copy. Create ad copy that's concise and informative to get your audience's attention. Make sure it is specific to your target audience (using their language), relevant to their needs/interests, aligned with your brand (makes it more memorable), and attention-grabbing.  

Make sure you also include a clear CTA. Without real direction, your audience won't know what you want from them. A CTA directs them straight where they need to be to complete your desired action. When done right, the average CTR is 4.23%; however, the best call-to-action CTR recorded was 70%! 

Create a Designated Landing Page  

Creating a landing page for your SEM campaignSend people to a designated landing page based on where they click. That will do at least two valuable things for you: 

  1. Allows you to track analytics further — many marketers struggle with tracking where traffic is coming from and what marketing method prompted visitors to take action. Having a landing page helps you measure the success of your SEM ad campaign. It also allows you to track the movements that follow.  
  2. Provide special/helpful information — there's only so much information you can put in the content of your ad. Directing visitors to your landing page gives them more details and information. It details where to go, what action(s) to take, and whatever else they need to know. 

Test Success and Revise  

Use analytics to see how ads perform and adjust copy accordingly to improve performance. You can do this for real-time improvements and guidance on future campaigns. Some standard SEM ad metrics to track and measure include: 

  • Return-on-ad-spend (ROAS), and more. 
  • Impressions 
  • Cost-per-click (CPC) 
  • CTR 
  • Cost-per-conversion (CPC) 

The best SEM ads incorporate the best practices, trends, and insights. McClatchy can help! Contact us now to discuss your goals for an upcoming SEM ad campaign and what McClatchy can do to help you achieve them! 

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