What Is A Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Agency?

A search engine marketing agency is a company that uses paid advertising strategies to help businesses increase their website visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

In the past, the term search engine marketing (SEM) used to integrate both organic and paid search engine strategies. However, today it encompasses paid search advertising or pay per click (PPC) ads only.

These specialized agencies will promote their clients’ products or services through paid ads. Their goal is to generate leads and conversions. To achieve this goal, they will generally follow these steps:

  • Conducting keyword research and selecting specific key phrases related to their clients’ businesses
  • Selecting a geographic location for the ads to be displayed within
  • Developing text-based advertisements to display in the search results
  • Bid on a price businesses are willing to pay for each click on their ad

Once placed, these ads appear on the top of the SERPs and contain an “Ad” designation to let web users know that they are paid placements. Brands are only charged if users click on the ads.

Google paid ad
[Source: Google]

Search Engine Marketing Agencies vs. SEO Companies: How They Differ

Interestingly, 81% of consumers search for products or services online.

To make their offerings available to these users, businesses should consider hiring SEM and SEO agencies to increase their online visibility.

But how do these types of companies differ?

Search engine marketing agencies and SEO companies are two different types of specialized firms that have strategic approaches to improving their clients’ online visibility.

They use different tactics to help businesses achieve success online.

Unlike search engine marketing (SEM)companies that leverage paid methods, an SEO company focuses on using organic methods to increase the visibility of websites.

In other words, they focus on optimizing websites following various best practices like optimized content, mobile responsiveness and page load speed to increase organic web traffic.

In fact, as Backlinko states, there are more than 200 Google ranking factors that organizations should use for a successful SEO strategy.

As opposed to using strategies specific to organic traffic, a search engine marketing company uses advertising platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads to help businesses reach their target audiences online.

Their job involves setting up and optimizing paid ads as well as managing their clients’ accounts to generate the desired conversions.

Search engine marketing agencies: the number of people who search for products or services online
[Source: DataReportal]

How Much Do Search Engine Marketing Services Cost?

Considering that every business is different, ad strategies will also differ for each unique client.

Thereby, the cost of search engine marketing (SEM) services will depend on:

  • Your company’s approach
  • Your ad budget

There are several common pricing models that SEM companies may offer:

  • Percentage of ad revenue: You pay your agency for the delivered results or generated revenue
  • Percentage of ad expenses: You pay your agency a specific percentage which depends on your monthly ad expenses
  • Flat rate: You pay your agency a flat monthly rate which allows them to optimize your budget

On average, search engine marketing services may cost you between $250 and $10,000 per month.

Why Should You Hire A Search Engine Marketing Agency?

According to MediaPost, in 2020, commerce traffic was generated:

  • Directly (48.9%)
  • Through organic Google searches (20.6%)
  • Through paid Google searches (14.1%)

These numbers indicate that paid advertisements are the third-largest traffic driver on Google.

Search engine marketing agencies: share of commerce traffic generation
[Source: MediaPost]

When done right, SEM can generate quick results and bring benefits for your business by increasing your:

  • Online visibility
  • Website traffic
  • Conversions
  • Sales rates
  • Site’s influence

A professional search engine marketing company can help you leverage this marketing channel and create effective campaigns to help you achieve success online.

These are the primary reasons why you should consider outsourcing this service:

Reason #1: Have Access To Competitive Keyword Research Tools

Search engine marketing agencies have access to cutting-edge tools needed to conduct proper keyword research vital to the success of your ads.

We are talking about expensive tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs that can cost up to $1,000 per month.

Using a combination of such tools, these specialized companies can drive valuable insights to better understand customer behavior.

They will be able to track, organize and understand your business-related keywords that can improve your marketing campaigns and drive the results you need.

Reason #2: Get Real-Time Reporting

When it comes to search engine marketing (SEM), it truly matters that you get access to data that will show how your ads are doing. That way, you can adjust your budget based on the results you receive.

Search engine marketing agencies can track key metrics like impressions, clicks and top-performing keywords, and provide you with real-time analytical reports.

These will help you optimize your budget but also adjust your reach, competitiveness and relevancy with your target audiences online.

Considering that SEM is a diverse marketing channel, these reports can help your agency understand what type of ads work best for you. Based on these insights, they may use:

  • Text-based ads
  • Display ads
  • Retargeting ads
  • Call tracking
  • Google shopping ads

Ultimately, real-time reporting will help you generate the desired results faster.

Reason #3: Perform Effective A/B Testing

Also known as split testing, A/B testing is a vital process that helps you determine which versions of your search campaigns will perform better for your web users.

It allows you to optimize your advertisements by focusing on data-driven decisions, which are critical to your success.

When used consistently, this type of testing can improve your conversion rates in the short term and over time.

However, when it comes to paid search ads, even the tiniest details like an exclamation point can matter, so keeping an eye on every part of your campaign is vital.

Search engine marketing agencies understand this and are familiar with the elements that work for specific businesses and industries. They are uniquely positioned to deliver campaigns that generate results.

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How To Choose The Best Search Engine Marketing Company For Your Business

Follow these key steps to make your search for the best search engine marketing agency easier and quicker:

  • Check their past work: Determine the quality of work each prospective agency can deliver by checking their portfolios. This proof of past work will showcase their strengths and highlight the results they have delivered for other clients. In addition, check their website to learn more about their processes, campaign characteristics and how they ensure a positive return on investment (ROI).
  • See if they have experience in your industry: Find out if the search engine marketing (SEM) agencies have worked with clients in the same or similar industry before. This matters because the SEM experts who have been involved in similar projects will have a deeper understanding of your offerings, audience, key competitors and the best keywords to target. That way they can recommend the best and tested strategies, helping you accomplish your business goals quicker.
  • Find out how they create their campaigns: SEM is a marketing channel that cannot be based on one-size-fits-all strategies. Instead, it relies on proper research based on the specific clients, their type of businesses, sectors and audiences. Therefore, it is important to pick a partner that can create bespoke campaigns considering your particular website goals.
  • Learn how they stay on top of Google algorithm updates: One of the major reasons why businesses struggle with penalties is that they fail to fully understand how Google algorithms work. However, it is vital to avoid these as they can affect your website, causing loss of traffic and overall rankings. Partnering with a search engine marketing agency can make all the difference since they are very well familiar with Google and the updates it does on a constant basis.
  • Ask how they measure ROI: With any investment you make, you want to see a positive return. Having said that, it truly matters that the agency you hire has a specific plan to measure your ROI. This process will determine how well their strategies work and if there is room for improvement, which will ultimately ensure the financial success of your project.

10 Questions To Ask Search Engine Marketing Agencies Before Hiring One

  1. Have you ever worked on a similar project? What was the outcome?
  2. What tools do you use to create and manage your campaigns?
  3. What role does keyword research play in SEM?
  4. What ad networks do you manage?
  5. How do you measure success?
  6. Will you provide me with analytical reports and what will they include?
  7. Who will work on my project and are these experts Google Adwords certified?
  8. What is your pricing model? How much will the project cost?
  9. What is the minimum contract term for the campaign?
  10. Can I review the contract before signing it?
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Takeaways On Search Engine Marketing Agencies

A search engine marketing agency can increase your online visibility, drive more traffic to your website and more conversions using paid advertisements.

They can assist you with setting up and optimizing ads for the right keywords and users.

Search engine marketing services may cost you between $250 and $10,000 per month.

The major reasons why you should invest in a professional SEM agency are:

  • Having access to competitive keyword research tools
  • Getting real-time reporting
  • Performing effective A/B testing

Before you decide on a partner, make sure you ask the right questions to each prospective search engine marketing (SEM) company since they can help you make a smarter choice.

Best of luck!

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