6 SEM Best Practices Growth Marketers Need To Master

Growth marketing and growth hacking are terms you hear loosely.

There are even job titles and jobs that specialize in “growth hacking”.

But, what does growth marketing actually mean?

Simply put, growth marketing is all about finding and driving the right customers for your business. These are the people most likely to buy from your brand – whether they’re at the top or bottom of the funnel.

So, what is the key to growth marketing in today’s world?

Three words: search engine marketing (SEM).

Not to be confused with PPC or just SEO, search marketing has been proven time and time again to deliver results.

Search engine marketing is not a short-term effort: it is an ongoing strategy to get more qualified customers to convert in the long term.

Here are six best practices for winning SEM in today’s market.

1. Delivering value through the decision-making journey

As your segmented customers’ behavior evolves, so should your growth marketing plan.

Who are the customers behind all these clicks?

Searching from Microsoft Ads allows us to better understand your Five distinct stages of purchase intent All customers share:

  • consciousness: Get key information and purchase landscapes to become a more informed researcher.
  • consideration: Explore buying guides, recommendations, and products that meet essential criteria. Compare a range of products that meet a customer’s criteria, including ratings, reviews, features, and cost.
  • transformation: Finding where to buy, then seeing prices, promotions, availability and local stores – finally making a purchase.
  • preservation: While already in a relationship with a brand, they may come across products or services in different areas that you offer.
  • broadens: A user is a satisfied customer who leaves reviews of your work, word of mouth to peers, etc. Then these people move to the awareness stage.

2. Align your campaign and business goals

Research can influence your business goals and help you measure them.

Make sure your search engine marketing strategy is aligned with your campaign goals:

  • Brand awareness and perception: Bid competitively on non-brand, brand and competitor keywords. Non-brand searches are key to starting the journey: 69% of clicks on a brand ad affected by a non-branded search query. Researchers were 30% more likely to perform a brand search after they were exposed to a brand advertisement based on a general search query or a competitor’s brand search query.
  • Gain new clients: Consumers rely on research to inform purchasing decisions. SEM can help at every stage of the decision-making process.
  • Increase Sales: Search power increases conversions. It outperforms other device marketing channels in conversion rates.
  • Enter new markets: Search Ubiquity allows you to activate a cross-border marketing strategy that drives traffic with sitelink extensions, gets more phone calls with call extensions, and drives ad clicks with sitelink extensions.

3. Expand your marketing funnel

As our constant companion, research is no longer just a product – it’s a behavior.

We go searching all the time and all the places, whether on our desktop computers, laptops, tablets or smartphones.

Understanding how people search at different points in their buying journey opens the door to engaging your brand with this new audience.

Having become an engine of statistics, search now drives impact through the five stages of purchasing (awareness, reflection, conversion, preservation, and expansion).

Search engine marketing also enhances the conversion path and unites disparate marketing activities.

4. Take audience targeting to the next level

Engagement at the right time and right place alone is no longer enough to compel leads.

You need to reach as many unique searchers as possible with audience targeting.

Step 1: Build richer buyer personas that consider these factors:

  • behaviorism: The above behaviors are useful for understanding consumers’ interests and their purchasing potential. To better measure user behavior, analyze activities across websites, searches, and content.
  • Demographics: Buying preferences are influenced by primary but important factors including age, gender, and location.
  • Contextual: Consumers are often searching right now. Analyzing where, when and how you search can provide useful content for creating more impactful ad campaigns.

Step 2: Choose keywords that match the key stages and mindsets of your target customers:

  • consciousness: Keywords like “what is” and “benefits” work best at this point.
  • consideration: Keywords like “guide to buy” and “models” work best at this point.
  • transformation: Keywords like “place” and “coupon” work best at this point.
  • preservation: Keywords like “support” and “expertise” work best at this point.
  • expertise: Keywords like “comments” work best at this point.

5. Leverage other investments with paid search

Optimize your search efforts by combining organic search with a paid search engine marketing strategy.

  • Search and social networks: Customers who click on paid search results and social ads are more likely to buy and spend more. Boost your keyword coverage to get more impressions, and customize your bidding strategy for business-relevant pay-per-click campaigns.
  • Search and TV: High search volume for days after the commercial broadcast. In a study by Catalyst Digital, search volume has increased exponentially 30% vs. the same day and times when a commercial was not played.
  • Search and display: Running search and view simultaneously can allow you to make the best decision on which channel brings the best results, which may be depending on both Investis Digital.
  • Search and other channels: When Microsoft Ads alone is in the purchase funnel, purchases have an average order value of 27% higher than purchases that do not include Microsoft Ads, which also generates value when paired with other channels.

6. Fight and win the battle for paid search budget share

Search engine marketing (SEM) still competes with other channels for a share of your marketing budget.

So, bring hard data that connects the dots between search engine marketing and business benefits.

Your budget share battle plan includes three components:

Choose appropriate metrics to measure the impact of search engine marketing

Metrics provide an easy way to see what works and what doesn’t.

Your team can test, change, and improve your brand’s SEM strategy to produce better results.

Focus your reporting by identifying and tracking key performance indicators that reflect your business goals:

  • Acquisition of new clients.
  • Driving traffic on foot.
  • Get more phone calls.
  • Increase ad clicks.
  • Build your brand trust.
  • Expanding cross-border strategy.

SEM effects separated from other channels

Know the channels that lead to your marketing results.

Each sale is the culmination of a series of marketing touches that may involve multiple channels over days, weeks or even months.

Attribution gets quite complex sometimes, so if you can prove that campaigns with paid search deliver ROI and bottom line results, it will unlock more budget for you and further improve your search performance.

If you are still looking for conversions through the last click referral model, you may be greatly underestimating how other channels and methods contribute to the overall success.

Apply the same process to budget allocation between Google Ads and Microsoft Ads

This last piece falls into place when you analyze the share of paid clicks and the query each SEM option represents in your industry.

Not only will you get your business in front of a large audience, but you will also be confident that your paid ads will lead to clicks.


Search engine marketing is the backbone of today’s marketing mix and essential to growth marketing.

Expanding channel availability, and multiple devices per user, can create a more fragmented customer journey.

One of the biggest challenges is getting the right message to the right customer, at the right time, on the right device.

In addition to these challenges, the biggest challenge is arguably measuring success due to user privacy limitations.

You can no longer put all of your marketing money into one search ad network. If you want to grow your marketing, you must enlist other channels to expand your addressable market.

Follow the best practices outlined here to maximize the reach, impact and value of your paid search campaigns with bottom line results.

Using these best practices will equip you when trying to obtain marketing resources or budgets.

More resources:

  • 10 most common SEM errors and how to avoid them
  • Current market trends for the fastest growing SMEs
  • A Complete PPC Marketing Guide for Beginners

Featured image: suphakit73/Shutterstock

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