By now you know how to opti­mize your search cam­paigns for big bud­gets (More Money, More SEM Prob­lems) and for small bud­gets (SEM for the Bar­gain Mar­keter). If you’re an in-house search man­ager, you may have trou­ble when it comes time to actu­ally decide how and where you’re going to spend your dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing money. If you’re an exter­nal search firm, you may not know how to make fund­ing requests for your clients.

When con­sid­er­ing fund­ing for an SEM cam­paign, you need to allot money to each of the two buck­ets of search: direct response and brand aware­ness. Each of these sec­tions per­forms on dif­fer­ent key­words and pro­vides dif­fer­ent ben­e­fits. Cre­ate a bud­get pro­posal based on the needs for each of these buck­ets. If you only use SEM for one bucket or the other, you are not mak­ing opti­mal use of your bud­get and are being irre­spon­si­ble with your fund­ing. Your fund­ing dis­tri­b­u­tion will be uneven, and you will be putting too much stress on one side of SEM and not enough on the other. Find SEM balance.

Direct Response

SEM is pri­mar­ily a direct-response mar­ket­ing plat­form. Peo­ple search for what they want, find it through SEM, and buy it on the land­ing page in the SEM link. Obvi­ously this is a sim­pli­fied ver­sion of what SEM does, but it’s not too far from the real­ity of paid search.

When lead­ers con­sider SEM a direct-response plat­form, they likely mea­sure per­for­mance accord­ing to KPIs like click­through rate or con­ver­sa­tion rate. The pur­pose of SEM as a direct response plat­form is to make as much money as pos­si­ble on the money you spend on SEM ads.

When fund­ing for direct response SEM, you should focus on key­words that are closely asso­ci­ated with your brand or prod­ucts, such as brand terms and unique prod­uct names or descrip­tions. The peo­ple search­ing for these things are ready to buy from you in par­tic­u­lar.

The best way to find key­words for your direct-response bucket of SEM is to use a tool like Adobe Media Opti­mizer. You want some­thing that can show you how well your key­words are per­form­ing with regard to con­ver­sion rate, sales, and ROI.

The money you allot to the direct-response por­tion of your SEM cam­paign will likely yield con­ver­sions and results that you can mea­sure and see. But the ben­e­fits of SEM are not lim­ited to con­ver­sion marketing.

Brand Aware­ness

Searchers often use search engines to find solu­tions to their prob­lems. This is where brand aware­ness SEM is use­ful. The title is a bit mis­lead­ing as it indi­cates that SEM mar­keters only use the fund­ing in this bucket to cre­ate aware­ness for their brands.

In fact, the money you allot to this bucket of SEM does much more than brand aware­ness. It offers solu­tions to poten­tial cus­tomers who are search­ing away their prob­lems. Brand aware­ness key­words will likely be off-brand and solution-centric.

For exam­ple, if your com­pany sells replace­ment bat­ter­ies for smart­phones and some­one uses a search engine to find a “new bat­tery for smart­phone,” then your SEM ad that includes those key­words will offer a solu­tion to this searcher’s prob­lem. The brand aware­ness fac­tor in this exam­ple is the fact that the searcher was not aware of your com­pany and its solu­tions before searching.

When deter­min­ing how much money to spend on key­words in the brand aware­ness bucket of SEM, you first need to eval­u­ate the terms that you want to asso­ciate with your brand. How do you want to rep­re­sent your­self? If you are doing the SEM for a cater­ing com­pany, for exam­ple, you might con­sider bid­ding on terms like “buy food for par­ties” or “cater­ing for galas.” It all depends on your ideal demo­graphic and com­pany image.

You need to allot money to both buck­ets of SEM if you want to have an effec­tive search cam­paign, but to really opti­mize paid search, you should inte­grate your search strat­egy into the rest of your mar­ket­ing strategy.