What is Search Engine Marketing?
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a type of online marketing that involves the paid promotion of websites by maximizing their visibility on the search engine results pages (SERPs). SEM also covers paid search such as social media marketing.
In highly competitive markets today where many businesses target the same audience and clients. SEM is a highly effective way marketing strategy that puts you ahead of your competitors. Search engine marketing helps you to advertise online and promote your products and eventually grow your business in a very competitive market.
Why do businesses use SEM?
There are many reasons why businesses, and especially small businesses use Search Engine marketing today.
SEM creates instant brand awareness
Compared to SEO and organic social media marketing, SEM creates instant brand awareness for your business. Using other means of marketing can take a while to get a quality site to scale the rankings of your business online, and this is significantly dependent on the strategies you are using to rise above your competition. When you use SEM, it puts your business at the first or last position of the first page making your business get instant recognition if it previously had no brand recognition or visibility.
SEM grows your business
Almost half of the world’s population has access to the internet and a large percentage of online experiences start with search engines. Search engines are ideal for creating traffic to websites regardless of the product or the service you are advertising. When your business is visible in search engines, it means that you’re one step closer to where your customers and prospective clients are. When someone searches for a product online, it means that they have high intent, or simply that they are in need of the product or service. Being among the first few businesses on the search engine to offer it to them, you have a better chance of being perceived as authoritative and hence have a higher chance of establishing trust with your client or customer.
Quick generation of revenue
When you adopt the right SEM strategies and attention-grabbing ad copy, it becomes easy for sales to start coming in. Search engine marketing allows your business to grow by using the right ads to attract prospective clients to view your products or services. It also gives you a competitive advantage over your competitors who may have yet to tap into the power of search engines.
SEM creates brand recall
The consistency of presenting your brand to the public is what leads to the brand recognition of your business, and subsequently brand recall. When your business’s name is repeatedly presented in search engines, it opens up your business to a lot of already interested customers online. Each time your prospects see your business name in the digital space – social media, email inboxes, websites, searches, and more – your brand’s image becomes reinforced in their minds. Subsequently, they develop some familiarity with you, which becomes very important when they are in the market for your offered product/service.
SEM helps you reach your prime target precisely and as it is also less expensive than traditional advertising, making it a perfect marketing strategy especially for new businesses. This mode of marketing helps you reach prospective clients in a way that the traditional mode of advertising can’t. By knowing exactly what your clients want most and how the service or product will benefit them, you have a higher chance of developing a meaningful relationship with your clients. Without putting a lot of financial strain on your growing business, you are able to reach out to your prospects at the right time and place. Further, as the performance of SEM, you become more aware of what works and what may not be so suitable for your business. In the long run, SEM becomes more cost-efficient as you optimize your campaign spending for your target audience, reducing wasted reach.
Hong Kong SEM Landscape
Hong Kong has a digital penetration of 89% of its total population of about 7.46 million. This means that around 6.67 million people in Hong Kong can access the internet and out of this number, 5.8 million residents are active on social media platforms totalling the penetration rate to 78%. The two official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese and English and they play vital roles in the economy of Hong Kong in the grand scheme of digital marketing. Facebook has an 85% penetration followed closely by YouTube and WhatsApp, while Google is Hong Kong’s main search engine.
2019 Hong Kong SEM trends
Digital marketing is ever-changing as a result of technological advancements. There are more ways being invented to help reach the Hong Kong digital audiences in various markets. Such marketing strategies that have been used in Hong Kong in 2019 are: video marketing, influencer marketing and consumer data analytics, for starters. Some of the most common marketing strategies in Hong Kong involve participation contests, user polling apps, coupon incentives and “instant winner” promotions.
In terms of digital marketing in search engines, Google has become very synonymous with web searching and it has risen above Yahoo. Google has gained a local market of 87% and is likely to increase its audience with the incorporation of voice search in search engine marketing.
Tried and Tested Case Studies
A/B testing involves testing two different forms of a page on your website to determine which one performs better to achieve your conversion goal. It aids in improving your conversion rates and gives you a better understanding of your users, as well as adds in your prior list of customers. Some of the statistics that back up the use of A/B Testing in your SEM campaigns are:
Conversions improve by 11.5% after adding Stats, FAQs and social proof on your website
This was meant to provide more information to visitors visiting a page. The page was designed to answer all questions the visitors had by having an information box at the page’s bottom which helped the visitors understand the organization better, their statistics and the services they provide. This was found to increase the trustworthiness and credibility of the site.
Altering the subject line of an email; 2.57% increase in Open Rates 5.84% Higher Click-through Rate
This test was carried out to explain the importance of having a powerful subject line. When the subject line has enough power to entice the readers to open the mail and learn more about your products then this is a marketing success. A good choice of words for the subject line and laying out your logo design to ensure that only vital information pops up ensures SEM success.
Using an image rather than a blank background; increase conversion rate by 7.46%. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words as verified by this case study. Most people prefer a page with visuals to a blank one which is why visuals are good for increasing marketing for your page. Include pictures of your products or service as a background to your site to help clients visualize what they will be getting and hence become more attention-grabbing.
A mobile-optimized landing page increases leads by 256%
A landing page that does not take too much time to load is preferred over slower landing pages that have too many graphics or animations. The design of a simple page has only basic information on the front page, which increases leads by 256%. Having a drop-down menu is a tested way of improving mobile navigation.
Why You Should Invest in SEM
Drive traffic to websites
As mentioned already, SEM is a great way of attracting a huge traffic influx in your site. As most search engine users rarely go beyond the first page of a search engine page, it is important to get your business on the first page to get organic traffic. This makes the users visit your website, becoming potential clients as these users align themselves with your business advertisement instead of them redirecting to your competitors.
Increase online sales
By driving traffic to your page, you get more online recognition and ultimately more online sales. SEM helps get your products and services out to the online world and as more people view the products, more will become interested in them.
Many online users use search engines to find out about brands and services. When online users are looking for your brand name, it is vital that it is within the top 5 results on the search engine. Most people rarely look beyond the first 5 results and SEM helps your page to have a strong Call To Action message by using Pay Per Click (PPC), which is a great way of increasing your brand awareness and ranking your page above others.
SEM creates consistent traffic on your page which drives more people to view your products and services. It creates awareness for your products and services by positioning your site at the top of the search engine.
Three Steps to Develop a Killer SEM strategy
Understand your target audience
Understanding and knowing your target audience helps you understand how best to market them. It is advisable to do thorough research and create personas for your niche market or target audience. These personas aid you in making a marketing plan and to know how best to reach your audience.
SMART Goal setting
Use SMART goals for your SEM strategy by setting goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. The key to developing a killer SEM strategy is to be as SMART as possible. Have a specific goal and have a measurable plan to help you track traffic and sales for your search campaign. Also, the goals you set should be very attainable and realistic after considering all factors that are in play. Timing is very crucial for direct response campaigns especially if your products have a short life span.
Set a budget
Having a budget is paramount in ensuring that your finances are not misused or overused so that it doesn’t strain the business financially. A budget helps you keep tab on your financial situation and stick to the funds allocated for specific spending.
9 Most Important SEM terminology
- Quality Score: a metric used by search engines to influence ad ranks and cost per click of ads in the ad auction process. It is a rating of the relevance of your PPC ads and your keywords.
- Landing Page: the first page a visitor views upon arriving at your website after clicking on your ad that appeared in the search results. It should contain relevant content to the user’s query.
- Conversions: any action that is counted when someone interacts with your ad and completes a desired goal such as making a purchase or filling out a form.
- Remarketing: a strategy to connect with visitors to your site who have not necessarily made an immediate enquiry or purchase by allowing you to place ads you’ve targeted in front of a specific audience who visited the website previously.
- Keywords: words that describe your services or products. Keywords are chosen carefully based on a set of factors. They include search volumes and competitiveness as they determine when and where your ad appears in search engine results, as well as how much you pay for the ad.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR): a metric used in measuring the success of an online campaign. It is used in link with organic and paid impressions by showing the percentage of those clicking on a link out of the total number who view the link.
- Cost-Per-Click (CPC): the dollar amount that a business is required to pay per click in a Pay Per Click campaign. This system ensures that advertisers pay for each click on their site.
- Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): this metric allows you to assess the effectiveness of your ad campaigns. It is a measurement of how many dollars you will receive for every dollar you spend on advertising.
Types of Search Engine Marketing Ads
- Search Engine Text Ads: These are the most common form of Pay Per Click ad which show up in the SERPs ahead of the listings that are organic depending on the ad’s cost and the search engine.
- Google Shopping Ads: These ads work based on keywords. They are highly measurable and targetable and they are perfect if your products are constantly returning lower Cost Per Conversion than text ads.
- Google Display Ads: These are ads that appear at other times, for example the ads that play before you watch a YouTube video or the banners that are on a website, alongside the original content.
Setting your SEM Budget
It is important to have and stick to a budget for SEM to prevent overspending and unintentional additional costs. In order to set an effective SEM budget, it is important to understand what should be included in the funding for your time and money.
Use Google Keyword Planner and/or the Bing Keyword Planner to set a good SEM budget to work with. Keywords are very important when determining an SEM budget and so are the Cost Per Click expectations. There are certain keywords which convert and provide value at a higher percentage than others and there are others which don’t convert at all. The management fee of the SEM agency helping you with your budget is also vital when coming up with the budget.
Search Engine Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Some of the common mistakes to avoid in the SEM include;
The ad doesn’t match the landing page
Having a proper landing page is extremely important. Directing a customer to the right landing page is not enough for your campaign. You can make sure that the ads have specific landing pages which have titles to maximise the returns on the advertisement investment you made. This makes it easy for the customer to quickly and conveniently find what they are looking for. Thus, there are more likely to purchase the product, recommend the site to a friend and even come back to check the site again.
Poor website navigation
You have to ensure that the customer is easily directed to the most relevant landing page on your website when they click on your ad. The page should not be crowded or messy to avoid them getting flooded by too much information. Instead, guide the customer to the site containing the site name. They need to move around the site without assistance and explore the options depending what they searched for, with the navigation choices at their disposal. Incorporating relevant page titles, and an easy to find search bars into the site will make help greatly.
Mobile unfriendly landing pages
To ensure this service is efficient, enable all websites to load correctly on the phones with less text, well-organised images and simple navigation bar. This will evidently maximise your profits and efficiency in this part of the marketing. Things like brand name, the search bar and topic names need to be configured so that they are displayed neatly for the user.
Using expensive keywords
Expensive keywords are generated by high levels of traffic. The CPC bids for these words with high interest are usually inflated. These high-value keywords could be bid by businesses using exact matches. This is advantageous as it ensures that the budget is not stretched too far the ads were also visible and more likely to be clicked through.
Exclude irrelevant and bad keywords.
These are words that you don’t want to generate your ad, for several reasons. Having to pay for irrelevant keywords when your ad shows up to the search will increase costs for your business. For example, when you have an ad that prints calendars with a steam train theme, you wouldn’t want your ad to be generated when users seek search terms like online calendar or model steam trains. You can, therefore, add these words in your frequently updated list of negative keywords in Google’s Keyword Planner
7 Tools for SEM Campaigns
These tools help marketers to manage and optimize the paid search ads thus bringing the target audience to your website. These tools are advantageous as they help to set a budget, run paid ad campaigns, research keywords, automate bidding and copy generation, analyse and estimate performance forecasts, and to act on intelligent bidding recommendations.
Editor (Google Ads)
This is an advertising program on Google where you pay per click. Here, the user sets their budget and chooses where their ads appear in the search listings.
This is a search engine for marketing and advertising campaign management by Microsoft. It runs on pay per click paid listing campaign across the Yahoo! Platform.
This provides a free tool for the performance analysis of your ad words used in your campaign. You can access it for a fee, though a free trial is also available.
Google Keyword Planner
Build new search network campaigns by new or experienced advertisers with Google Keywords Planner. It helps you to choose competitive bids and budgets to use on your campaigns. You can also use it to test for keywords on a list of keywords to see how they perform.
This is a keyword research tool that helps you to find the most relevant short- and long-tail keywords to target. The tool allows you to filter by search volume and keyword difficulty, to assess the feasibility of using the keyword for your campaign.
This is another keyword research tool that tracks strategies used by your competition and other functions such as running SEO audits of your blog.
Carry out keyword searches and quantify keyword search volumes with Google Trends to discover event-triggered spikes. Google trends provides keywords related data such as geographical information and volume index on the search engine users.
5 Tips to Boost Your ROI on SEM
It is expensive to run ad campaigns all the time. Therefore, steps need to be taken to optimize your AdWords ROI which translates to higher revenues at relatively lower costs.
Optimizing landing pages
If the site on your ad is slow, hard to navigate or looks crowded with information, then you are wasting the clicks and resultantly money spent. Hence, you need to optimise on your website experience to avoid low-quality scores on AdWords. This leads to more charges per click and cuts into the returns at an outstanding rate. You can optimise by checking your speed, ensuring ease of navigation and testing the site on various devices.
Improving keyword targeting
Keyword targeting is the use of relevant keywords to your product or service to achieve a top listing in the search engine. Every website is unique and improving the keyword targeting impacts websites differently. The appropriate keyword is crucial when determining the target your business should meet.
Campaign and ad group structure
Reviewing the ad group structure to find the keywords that have low-quality scores is helpful as various words perform better in different groups. You can consider removing them or placing them somewhere else to help track the better performance of the keywords.
Relevant ad copy to keyword intent
Your ad should align with the keyword chosen and correspond to that on the landing page. The keywords that you select for your ad copy affects the click-through-rate of your ad, and hence how successful it achieves the conversion goal you set for it. For better results, it is generally better to use exact match keywords.
A better ad copy can improve each benefit in the campaign. An ad score is assigned to each ad to tell you how good or effective it is on Google. Quality scores ensure greater benefits.
Reasons to engage an SEM Ad agency
Knowledge about Industry Practices
An SEM ad agency helps to give you valuable insight into the customers and also assess your competitors from an objective and professional view. Ad agencies can also help to view your competitors’ ads and their keyword targets so as to increase the effectiveness of your own campaign.
Experience in budget optimisation
You can get great conversions even on a small budget by using SEM. Local marketers achieve incredible advantages in SEM results in Google. SEM is available to even limited budgets and helps to spread the budget amongst numerous locations based on the ad campaigns. Engaging an agency that has experience handling search marketing campaigns will help to minimise your costs and maximise your returns.
Through SEM marketing, you can accurately measure the performance of the campaign while looking at the investment and comparing the efficiency. It will help to measure the amount of return on a particular investment in relation to the investment cost by dividing the benefit across the cost of the investment and is usually expressed as a percentage or ratio. An agency would be able to report such metrics into actionable insights for your campaign, especially with their own paid advertising tools.
Learn from the Expert
SEM can broaden your horizons in that it helps to not only create and launch various kinds of ads for your campaign type, but it is also good to engage a professional consultant at an agency to guide your ads on achieving your business marketing objectives.
Free up employees’ time to complete other tasks
When done right, SEM specialists at an agency can generate more income and reduce the workload of your employees to set up the advertising campaigns. Hiring an expert in search engine marketing alleviates the work intensity especially during crunch times, allowing your workers to complete other crucial tasks.
Top 20 Most Popular SEM Agencies in Hong Kong
The most popular SEM Agencies in Hong Kong include:
Helmed as one of the top digital marketing agencies with over hundreds of SEM campaigns in their portfolio, MediaOne offers SEM campaign services as one of their strengths. Awarded as the Top SEO in Asia and also verified as a Google Partner, MediaOne’s professional team delivers only ROI-focused campaigns for your business.
New iMedia offers a comprehensive host of digital marketing services to Hong Kong’s business scene. Amongst SEM, they also specialise in China Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing as well.
Specialising in performance-based digital marketing, AsiaPac brings their 13 years of experience in marketing to their clients to help you grow your market reach.
Having worked with a number of industry-leading clients, Cogney’s data-focused approach to SEM and digital marketing has brought about transformative results for many marketing campaigns.
The full-service digital agency in Hong Kong specialises in web design and development, but also offers clients SEM services as well.
A leading B2B marketing agency in Hong Kong, Boss digital works to help their clients craft brand strategies that are ROI-focused.
There are so many options when it comes to choosing a digital marketing agency to work with in Hong Kong. Here are some other notable mentions:
- Search Guru
- One Media
- PRDA Asia
- Sekkei Studio
- Adams HK
- EOI Digital
- Go In Marketing
Estimated costs of SEM Agency Packages
On average, small to midsize businesses pay $9,000 to $10,000 monthly on SEM campaigns and services. This is inclusive of ad spend and costs of management. There are many factors, however, which influence the pricing of SEM for different SEM Agencies. Different agencies use different pricing models as they have unique factors shaping their agency’s pricing – such as their experience in your industry, as well as the number of members on their team to work on your project.
3 Common Metrics Measured by SEM agencies
- Quality score: the rating of quality and relevance that Google gives to your site based on your keywords and PPC ads.
- The number of clicks from Ad: the number of visits to your site from the ads that appear on the search page.
- Conversion rate: the percentage of visitors who visit your website and complete a conversion which is the desired goal out of the total number of visitors.
SEM Training Courses
It is advisable for all business owners to attend an SEM training course once they have confirmed the availability of their domain and have a website name already locked down.
Reasons to take SEM Training for Your business
SEM training helps you to remain competitive by staying up to date on matters of digital marketing. It helps you work on the same level as your competitors by keeping you informed.
SEM training is also very cost-effective and the costs can be taken out of your marketing budget portion. This training helps you in expanding your business as it helps you learn better marketing strategies which are good for creating brand awareness.
SEM training equips you with skills that are very vital for your business. You can carry out training sessions both in-person and online as well, for those who prefer flexibility in arranging their classes to their schedule. You can choose to do the training online as you run your business.
10 popular SEM Training courses in Hong Kong
Among the most popular training courses for SEM in Hong Kong are the following;
- Introduction to Search Engine Marketing
- Search Engines and Marketing
- Exploring SEO
- Introduction to Quality Score
- Creating Campaigns and Ads
- Campaign Optimization and Tracking
- Introduction to Google AdWords
- Google AdWords Account
- Bidding and Budget
- Introduction to Keywords
Other Search Marketing Resources
As search engines constantly update their algorithms and systems, it’s crucial to know where to get the best marketing resources.
- Blogs which can be used by the customer to get the latest on current information.
- E-books offer information on specific topics in a detailed piece of work.
- Online courses which offer interactive and structured educational content that include video, audio or text resources.
- Social media groups facilitate interaction with peers who can create insight and offer advice in real-time.
- Live events can also be a great resource as you can not only be more involved in the activities but also use them as opportunities for networking.
A Summary of SEM
SEM is a form of internet marketing that involves the promotion of a website through increasing the noticeability on search engines. SEM is a highly effective form of digital marketing and is a pragmatic and cost-effective approach to reach highly targeted audience groups. With so many users constantly searching on search engines, the results of SEM are almost instantaneous. The right tools and strategies, guided by a professional SEM agency can do wonders for your business’s goals — no matter the conversion that you have in mind.
So if you’re looking for SEM services in Hong Kong, don’t hesitate to contact our team at MediaOne for professional advice!