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.

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