Is Small Business SEM Worth It? 3 Things You Need to Know

Search engines such as Google are fickle, funny things. The algorithms seem to change daily, and what worked great yesterday might be a flop today. If your small business is struggling to climb the search rankings with little to no success, search engine marketing — or SEM for short — might be right for you.

SEM is a type of paid advertising — think a Google AdWords campaign — that makes your website more visible in keyword searches. You’re essentially paying a fee to cut ahead in line, rather than waiting for your (presumably awesome) site to climb its way to the top organically.

Sounds easy, right? Not so fast. While SEM can and does work very well for many small businesses, there are a few things you need to know.

It’ll Cost a Pretty Penny

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and there’s no such thing as a free trip to the top of the search rankings, either. SEM can cost you plenty, so you need to make sure you’re ready to pay to play.

Typically, SEM is billed three ways:

  • Cost-per-click (CPC): You pay a set rate for each click your ad gets through the search engine.
  • Cost-per-thousand (CPM): You pay one price for every thousand times the search engine shows your ad (even if no one is clicking on it).
  • Cost-per-action (CPA): You determine an “action” (say, signing up for your emails or newsletters) and pay each time someone clicks through your ad and performs that action.

Each of these methods has pros and cons, and it might take some time for you to figure out which one works best for your 15business. Our advice: Start with a small budget, and measure, measure, measure!

You Still Have to Work at It

While SEM can (probably) get you to the top quicker than you could on your own, that doesn’t mean your job is done.

All SEM does is get the traffic to your site — you still have to deal with it once it arrives. More than half of your visitors are going to spend 15 seconds or less on your website, so you need to capture their attention quick. A glitchy, hard-to-navigate site isn’t going to work here. They want to find what they came for now, and if they don’t, they’re headed for the door — and all the money you spent getting them there is essentially wasted.

If your website isn’t up to par, hold off on the SEM until it is. Otherwise, you’re flushing money down the toilet.

There May Be Trust Issues

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but most people don’t trust advertising in general. When there’s a big “sponsored” sign right next to your (presumably legit) ad, they trust you less. In fact, only 3 percent of people in a recent survey said that sponsored posts on social media encouraged them to try a new product.

This isn’t to say that SEM doesn’t work. It does, and for some people, it works very well. But if you haven’t established a name for yourself before you begin, your results may fall a bit short of your expectations.

While SEM is a great option, it’s not one you should take lightly. Although it sounds easy (and the people taking your money certainly reinforce that idea), there’s a lot more to it than just paying to cut the line.

Ready to start your first AdWords campaign? Give Mischa Communications a call and let us know what we can do to help!