Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing

Step two in the ultimate solution of making search engines work for you is Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This step is the collective process of leveraging organic traffic to increase website visibility and brand awareness. In essence, SEM enables you to create demand out of the organic search traffic that your website receives. 

In the previous analogy of the bobbing bucket in a sea of businesses, SEM is the practice of enhancing, decorating and lighting-up your bucket so that, in addition to being easier to see from the sky, it can actually act as a bright, shiny beacon, literally attracting nearby customer-helicopters to your bucket like a huge value-magnet (think of the laser at the top of the pyramid-shaped Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.)  Yeah, SEM will make your business be that beam.

OK, So What is Search Engine Marketing?

SEM is 100% focused at generating demand for your business by disrupting and intersecting with the traffic that is coming daily from organic search. Once optimized, a business’s website can generate a lot of traffic, and SEM ensures that traffic is used to create a visceral need in the customers once they experience the power of your SEO. 

This demand is created by incentivizing search traffic to engage with the brand, beyond just the search and found dynamic. By matching brand values and extending valuable offers to each type of search traffic, a website can be used to create tangible business value. 

Why SEM for Your Business?

Optimization means nothing without creating results. And yet, even the greatest SEO strategy and implementation doesn’t generate tangible business results. 

Many businesses focus on SEO to grow their organic traffic, and then wonder why it doesn’t produce anything that truly impacts their business… like market response or sales conversion. 

SEM takes all your hard earned traffic and converts it into brand awareness and sales leads, which can be nurtured and turned into engaged customers, brand ambassadors, and other influential entities that will drive sales upward. 

Without SEM, any SEO traffic you enjoy will likely fade away before turning into something your profit and loss reports can track and measure. Without SEM, SEO is just a “mustard burp”… momentarily tangy and then forgotten.

SEM Basics

Organic traffic from SEO is coming, so now what do you do with it? 

Good SEM starts with segmenting and understanding the different types of traffic that you are generating, and then acting accordingly to engage with each type. This segmentation and management begins with TOFU. (Not the food group.)

Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

Top of the funnel traffic is at the exploratory stage of their journey. As it relates to your product or service, they are just exploring the high level concepts of what it is and why they might need it. 

This TOFU prospect is looking to learn more about your company and its products or services. While they are not ready to buy, they are hungry for more information. 

One of many ways of engaging this prospective customer is with highly informative content on your blog, and then evolving them into “qualified” leads with in-depth e-books and free downloads. Your goal is to inform them so that they can feel comfortable to make a decision about your product down the road. 

The focus when addressing the TOFU prospect is to answer the “Why BUY?” question.

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

Middle of the funnel traffic understands the topic from a broad perspective, and now seeks some finer details about the “WHY” of buying you. Typically this prospective customer knows about your product, though not necessarily all of the things that distinguish you from your competitors. 

This prospect is typically wrestling with one or two objections that are keeping them from moving closer to a purchase decision. They haven’t decided on which product to buy, though they are making the effort to get close to knowing they want to make a purchase. 

Engaging this channel with relevant content that displays your product in action and solves their problem works best. Whether it be a webinar or live demonstration on your Instagram channel, the goal is to overcome their objections. This prospect needs to be shown what makes your product unique, while also feeling comfortable with making a purchase decision. 

The focus when addressing the MOFU prospect is to answer the “Why Buy YOU?” question.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

Bottom of the Funnel prospects are ready to buy and grappling with the most difficult part of this process… making a decision. 

Organic traffic produces a lot of BOFU viewers, because the viewer is often comparing one brand’s features to another. 

Engaging this prospective customer often is served best through high touch product demonstrations, change versus status-quo comparisons, and time-limited offers. In all cases, you must clearly communicate the power of decisiveness. 

The focus when addressing the BOFU prospect is to answer the “Why Buy You, NOW?” question.

A Couple of SEM Techniques to Note

Lead Magnets

Turning traffic into leads starts with creating one or several lead magnets. These lead magnets need to add value to the target audience, and they need to be high impact. 

Different lead magnets work for different audiences. Some prefer video, while others like the more traditional PDFs, white-papers, and e-books. Most audiences are wary to share their information, while others are excited to engage with a helpful brand. 

Lead magnets also have to simultaneously guide the user closer to the brand and what the brand stands for. An offer that is trendy and gets downloaded frequently doesn’t always lead the viewer closer to the brand. 


Organic search attracts a lot of “eyeballs” and not all eyeballs see the same thing. If you treat all leads in the same manner, odds are most won’t take action and engage with your brand. 

Lead segmentation involves dividing your lead pool into smaller, more refined segments. These segments are usually based on groups that have similar characteristics, and allows you to speak more directly into their desires and needs. 

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