SEM for Small Businesses

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Here’s a question: Did you search for something online today? If so, you probably looked at the results, clicked on a few links, and hopefully found what you were looking for. The website links you saw on the top of the search page appeared because they are optimized for search. If they weren’t optimized, you might not have seen them. And website pages not written and designed for search engines are at risk of not being found online, meaning fewer clicks. Simply put, businesses need their website pages to rank high to generate clicks and attract customers. That is where search engine marketing (SEM) can help.

If you are looking for ways to market your business’s website, it is vital to have a basic understanding of SEM. This can help you make informed decisions when it comes time to invest in online marketing. Keep reading this blog article from Balboa Capital to learn more about SEM for small businesses.

What is SEM?

Many digital marketers and business owners think search engine marketing (SEM) only applies to paid advertising, but that is not the case. SEM is a form of digital marketing that involves paid advertising and optimizing website landing pages so they can get traffic from organic search results. When done right, SEM can be an effective way to reach potential customers actively searching for the products or services your small business offers.

With SEM, small businesses can target specific audiences with meaningful and relevant website content and paid advertisements based on their interests and demographics. In addition, business owners can calculate their return on investment (ROI) by looking at the number of leads (organic and paid) generated in a specific period and how much revenue was generated from leads.

How to create a good SEM strategy.

A well-planned and executed SEM strategy starts with planning, research, budgeting, and a list of your marketing goals. It is important to be realistic with your goals. For example, if your company is a startup with a ten-page website and a small marketing budget, you can’t expect your landing pages to appear on the first page of search engines. Plus, you might need more capital to invest in a paid advertising campaign that will produce the results you want.

Conversely, if you have a long-established company with a website that has hundreds of pages, and a large budget for paid advertising, don’t assume that the website traffic and leads will come pouring in. So, when developing your SEM strategy, come up with realistic goals that can be achieved based on your website’s online presence/page ranks and your budget, among other factors.

Typical SEM strategies include keyword research, content writing/creation, internal linking, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

SEM versus SEO.

Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are two of the most important digital marketing strategies companies use. While both SEM and SEO aim to increase the visibility on search engine results pages, they have different approaches and objectives.

As we mentioned, SEM encompasses several facets of online marketing designed to boost organic and paid website traffic. SEO is vital to SEM; it focuses on optimizing landing page content for search engines to improve rankings and visibility in organic search results. SEO is a highly specialized digital marketing field that changes frequently. As a result, most businesses hire capable SEO specialists or digital marketing firms to create their website content and keep their websites optimized.

Search engines’ algorithms constantly change, companies add new content daily, and keyword search queries go through ebbs and flows. These are just some of the many things that determine which landing pages appear on the first page of search engines. If you have pages that do appear on the first page of a search, the goal is to have titles and meta descriptions that encourage users to click. If they do, they expect a well-designed landing page that loads fast and serves unique and benefit-driven copywriting. These are the hallmarks of excellent SEO.

How much does SEM cost?

Every business has its unique situation, goals, and budget. That being said, it is essential to remember that SEM comes with a cost. Developing a digital marketing plan, designing and optimizing your website, and bidding on paid advertising require some financial investment. In addition, just because paid ads do not drive organic website traffic does not mean it’s free.

Well-written landing pages and blog posts with original copywriting, appropriate use of keywords and headers, meta descriptions, title tags, alt attributes, and internal links are expensive. It takes an expert to write optimized content that ranks high in search, and the most sought-after SEO writers and agencies are in high demand and charge more.

In terms of paid advertising, it is crucial to have a budget in place. A well-planned pay-per-click (PPC) budget can help you maximize your return on investment and ensure you get the most out of your advertising dollars. Unfortunately, there is no universal price point for an SEM budget because every business is different and has its own needs, goals, and budget.

The amount of money you should allocate for your paid advertising budget depends on several factors, such as the size of your business, the type of products or services you offer, and the number of leads you want to generate. Plus, it would help if you considered the cost of the paid keywords you wish to bid on. For example, keywords with the most search queries are often the most expensive to bid on, whereas keywords with fewer search queries are more affordable.

Bidding on paid keywords.

Google’s™ paid advertising auction is a complex system that determines how much an advertiser pays for a given ad placement. It is based on the advertiser’s budget and other factors, such as the quality score. The auction, accessible via a Google™ Adwords account, determines which ads will be shown and how much each advertiser will pay for them. This helps ensure that advertisers get the best value.

Finally, your PPC advertising campaign can only be effective if your ads send users to landing pages that address their needs and expectations. The ads need to communicate a benefit or product offering and, when clicked, take users to a landing page that seamlessly continues the buyers’ journey and features a solid call-to-action message.


Small businesses have a lot to gain from using search engine marketing. First, it allows them to reach potential customers actively searching online for the products or services they offer. Additionally, it helps them build brand awareness and trust with potential customers by appearing in the top results of search engines.

Balboa Capital, a Division of Ameris Bank, is not affiliated with nor endorses Google™. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.