SEA Marketing, What is It?
Paid marketing is a big part of online business success. In fact, paid ads are one of the most successful and popular methods of digital marketing.
So what is SEA in marketing? SEA in digital marketing refers to the strategy of paying for ads in search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
SEA, or “search-engine-advertising,” refers to a form of paid marketing that helps businesses get their ads in front of searchers by paying to have their ad copy at the top of search results. It’s a form of pay-per-click advertising (PPC) where marketers bid for relevant search queries and pay for each click that their ad receives. This definition of SEA refers to a style of marketing based on paid-ads, making it different than SEO (which focuses only on organic results based on better search algorithm performance).
Lots of marketers refer to this style of advertising as “PPC” or “paid-search” advertising, and SEA marketing is generally interchangeable with these terms. However, PPC refers to a generally defined model for advertising that is used all across the web – not just search engines. In fact pay-per-click styles ads appear not just in search engines but in popular social media platforms, search shopping channels, 3rd part ad partner websites, videos, and more.
SEA marketing’s meaning refers specifically to the style of PPC ads that search engines offer. This SEA definition is about ads that show up in Google or Bing.
What is SEA in marketing?
Bear with us here, because we’re about to use even more acronyms! SEA refers to “search engine advertising” that exists as a branch of SEM.
SEM refers to search engine management which is the umbrella term for the world of marketing that includes both SEO and PPC, where brands and businesses use search engines for business growth and to get more traffic to their site. SEM includes both SEO and SEA marketing (see what we meant about the acronyms?).
And as explained above, this definition of SEA digital marketing refers specifically to ads that function on the pay-per-click model. Every time a searcher clicks on your ad you pay the bid amount (usually anywhere from a few cents to a couple dollars at most).
By bidding on search keywords, marketers compete for the opportunity to have their ads listed in search results for important search terms relevant to their business. Because Google and Bing only offer these kinds of ads as PPC most people understand that “SEA marketing” and “search engine PPC” mean essentially the same thing.
How SEA marketing works online
Last year SEA paid-search passed organic search as the top revenue driving method in online marketing. Data suggests that as many as 65% of people click on ads when making purchases – particularly with search ads.
To do SEA marketing with Google, you need to use Google Ads (formerly called AdWords), and for Bing you’ll have to use a Microsoft Advertising account. Both platforms are free to use – but the ads themselves work based off a user-supplied budget that feeds the pay-per-click bid system.
Since these ads are based on bids and on the “cost per click,” then the cost of running these ads is just based on your personal budget. For business websites that want to drive revenue quickly, SEA digital marketing is a good strategy and they have the freedom to set their budget to whatever they want. Revenue growth and success happens nearly instantaneously compared to organic search marketing – but it will be better the more aggressive you are.
In fact, one of the best benefits of SEA marketing is that it gets results very fast.
For SEA online marketing on Google advertisers need an account to run ads through the Google Ads platform. For Google the actual position and performance of ads is determined by a ranking system called “Ad Rank” which uses both your bid amount and your site’s Quality Score, along with a few other factors. The ad system will calculate your Ad Rank using these factors along with expected ad performance, relevance, landing page experience, and more.
This means that bids are not the only way to get a top spot or to win the keyword auction – even if your competitors pay more, you might still win the auction if your ad or landing page is deemed better. The Ad Rank is recalculated instantaneously every time an auction happens (millions of times a day!).
SEA works on Bing largely the same way, but ads are created and run through the Microsoft Advertising platform.
SEA marketing with product shopping results
There is another style of advertising that eCommerce businesses and retailers can use for better product performance.
Google and Bing both offer paid “shopping” results for SEA marketing. These results work as a style of ads that display products and items for sale directly in search results. These types of adverts look like product listings and appear in search engines typically for search queries related to products or retail items. These ads function as a feature that allows users to view products from different retailers, all on one page, without having to navigate straight to individual websites (like they would on a eCommerce marketplace such as Amazon or Ebay).
Google offers shopping product ads only through its Merchant Center platform, businesses can set up their SEA paid-search campaigns through this free platform – after they port the required product details. Bing Shopping campaigns have to be created through the Microsoft Merchant Center (MMC).
Google Shopping SEA marketing offers 3 types of ads:
- Regular Product Shopping ads are the main form of listing and appear in the product listing section under the main “Shopping” tab.
- Showcase Shopping ads can be created in Google ads by grouping related products together in Ads or in the Google Ads API. One of the main benefits of Showcase ads is that they allow marketers to showcase a range of their products for a single broad search term, in effect showcasing their full range of options.
- Local catalog ads. These are created with feed data from local inventory ads to engage shoppers on the Google Display network. They help drive traffic for local stores.
Another option within Google Shopping is for ads to appear on “surfaces across Google.” This SEA marketing option means businesses can put their paid product advertisements across various areas of Google including image search, the main Shopping tab, Google Lens, and regular search carousels.
Businesses must set up their search-ad campaigns in Google Merchant Center or in Microsoft Merchant Center.
The importance of keywords in SEA marketing
Keywords are at the core of search advertising since ads are designed to show for specific, relevant, and often-times, manually selected search queries.
Searchers are literally the whole point of search engines – and Google’s PPC advertising system works based on displaying the right ads for the right searches. This ad model wouldn’t work if ads appeared randomly. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a construction equipment company to have their ads appear for something like “swimsuits for sale.” They wouldn’t get any clicks!
Keyword research helps brands choose which searches they show up for.
Keyword research is a critical part of SEA online marketing – since marketers will get better results with more accurate, higher-traffic, and less competitive keywords. Fortunately search engines give marketers tools for keyword research (like Google’s Keyword Planner).
Plus for more effective PPC campaigns, PPC ads can be fine-tuned using performance feedback from click-through-rate, impressions, cost-per-action (CPA) and estimated return-on-ad-spend (ROAS), helping marketers understand how well their ads are performing, and how good their keyword research is. This means that performing in depth keyword research, and isolating high-value, intent driven keywords is important for SEA marketing.
SEA online marketing’s high ROI
One of the reasons that paid search engine advertising is so common is that it is one of the most successful forms of digital marketing. Its popularity is driven by great ROI.
Google famously declares that pay-per-click based SEA marketing generally results in $2 in revenue for every $1 spent, on average. This 100% ROI comes from the fact that search ads can be fine-tuned to target specific audiences, specific keywords, and they appear in the top 3 spots of search, meaning there they get as much as 40% of all clicks coming from search engines.
Plus, site visitors that come from SEA paid-search traffic are 1.5X more likely to convert. According to research from Wolfgang Digital, SEA digital marketing is now the single top revenue-driving channel there is. That’s why PPC marketing is important for so many online businesses.
Should you hire an advertising agency?
Many businesses might be aware of the value of pay-per-click advertising but might not be sure where to start. It is possible to run search engine ads in-house and for businesses to manage their PPC on their own
That doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.
Google and Bing provide ad services that let businesses run their ads as broadly or as narrowly as they wish. And since there is no minimum budget required for pay-per-click style SEA advertising, it’s easy enough for some business to run small campaigns on their own. Since SEA marketing is such a valuable and successful strategy – many businesses choose to outsource efforts to an agency that provides PPC advertising services.
But why hire PPC management experts?
The main advantage to hiring a PPC agency is that they offer knowledge and experience that your team might not have. They’ll be able to set-up a campaign quickly without having to fumble through the process. They’ll also have access to tools and technology needed for professional campaign management, performance tracking, and reporting that can help you understand how SEA paid-search ads are helping your business reach it’s KPIs.
Another big part of why many businesses prefer getting PPC services is that an agency will offer a dedicated account management team that can provide:
- Google Ads account set-up, management, and campaign handling (starting and ending campaigns).
- Monitoring for campaign factors like keywords, negative keywords, bids, ads, and landing pages.
- Adjustments for your ads and content suggestions for Quality Score optimization and better Ad Rank.
- Budget recommendations, forecasting, and ad testing to target your business’s goals.
- Monthly reporting on account performance.
- Removing/replacing low-performing, costly ad keywords to reduce inefficient ad spend and to save budget.
How do SEA marketing and SEO go together?
Obviously there’s a big difference between SEO and SEA. Search engine advertising relies on paid-results, custom-written ad copy, ad approval and various other factors. But SEO functions in the world of “organic” traffic and works on principles designed for optimizing a site and then letting the search engine algorithm do the rest.
Businesses have a lot more control over their PPC ads, and not as much direct control over whether search engine algorithms deem their SEO very good.
However these two marketing strategies go together well and they can actually help each other too. Most businesses agree that it’s best to do both. Afterall, you’re targeting the same searchers in both instances.
Even though there’s no direct link between SEA marketing on Google/Bing and SEO, businesses that optimize both are more likely to improve their organic traffic too. This is because there is actually a lot of overlap between SEA and SEO. If you are performing the same keyword research, and keyword density, then you are already half-way to completing key strategies for both SEO and PPC.
Businesses that optimize their website and their on-site content for a better Quality Score often inadvertently end up optimizing their site for better SEO. Plus a paid-search ads campaign can help businesses increase backlinks, gain brand recognition, and lead to more shares – all of which can potentially improve SEO.
SEA online marketing boasts fast results
Search engine ads have another benefit in that they start bringing results almost immediately. This is a big part of their popularity in marketing. Once an ad has been approved and goes live, it starts appearing in search engine results pages right away.
And because ads are more prominent, they offer very good CTR and, that means, much faster traffic growth. For search ads on Google or Bing, advertisers set up their ads through each platform’s portal, they set-up their ad campaigns/ad groups, set-up a budget, and then determine their ad parameters. And that’s it! Once that’s done they can start running ads.
This speed does come at a cost – that’s just part of the definition of SEA. But it all means quicker sales and the opportunity to appear to millions of search engine users right away.
Also, this style of marketing is ideal for specific KPIs where slower types of digital marketing wouldn’t work. It’s ideal for:
- Launching a new business or new site that does not have a brand reputation.
- Releasing new products and getting product recognition.
- During seasonal events, short-term sales, or holidays.
- When expanding to a new industry niche.
- To generate cash-flow or sales quickly.
- To generate interest in an event or a deadline.
- To help promote brand recognition when competing against a dominant competitor.
- Or just in general, to subsidize a multi-channel internet marketing strategy.
Contact us to learn more about SEA in digital marketing and to learn how our team can help your business grow. We offer complete PPC management services with years of experience in the best SEA marketing strategies.