Google Search Engine Marketing Ads: SEM Basics of a Google Crash Course

With Google search ads, you can’t escape them. For almost every product or service search you conduct on Google, you’ll see them. SEM basics will be covered in this post. Think of this post as a Google search engine marketing crash course!

Google Search Engine marketing is so well-known, that they are treated as being synonymous with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising itself. Really the world of search engine marketing is dominated by Google.

You know, those sponsored text ads that appear at the top of the highest-ranking organic results. Many marketers and business owners wonder how other businesses always seem to take the main stage in the Google Ads spotlight – and that’s why we’ve written this post.

Key takeaways

1. Optimize your SEM efforts: Regardless of the size of your business, SEM can provide a significant boost in visibility and customer acquisition. Regularly monitor and adjust your campaigns to ensure they’re delivering the best possible return on investment.

2. Location, location, location: By targeting your ads to specific geographic locations, you can significantly improve your local visibility. SEM allows you to reach potential customers right in your area, increasing the likelihood of them using your services or visiting your physical store.

3. Play to your niche: SEM can be particularly effective for niche businesses. Use specific keywords aligned with your unique market to reach highly targeted audiences. With less competition for these keywords, your ad spend can often go further.

4. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help: Managing an SEM campaign can be time-consuming and requires a certain level of expertise. If you find it overwhelming, consider hiring a professional. They can help save time, increase your results, and potentially even save you money in the long run.

Here in the second edition of our SEM Crash Course series. We’ll take you through the fundamentals of Google Search Ads and search engine marketing (SEM). You will get everything you need to know.

Google Ads? What Happened To Adwords?

Google Adwords tips

Before we really get into this Google crash course, we’ve got to address one important issue some of you will have already thought of:

Although they are often still called AdWords in the popular vernacular, Google announced the platform’s name would be changed to Google Ads as part of a rebranding initiative in June 2018.

Old habits are hard to shake! Despite the revamp, the iconic name ‘AdWords’ still gets used very frequently to refer to Google Search Ads. So if you ever overhear or run into people talking about AdWords as one of the basics of SEM, they definitely mean Search Ads and vice versa!

Now that’s out of the way…

What Are Google Ads? How Do They Work?

basics of sem

So, let’s start with one of the basics of search engine marketing! Google offers “real estate” on search engine result pages (SERPs) for bidders to advertise their services. When users enter keywords you’ve nominated your site to show up for, there’s a chance your ad will be displayed.

Usually, the base anatomy of a Google Search Ad contains a headline and catchy ad copy with a call-to-action (CTA) that tempts you into clicking it. The advertiser is only charged when someone clicks on the ad, meaning having your ad displayed (officially called making an impression) doesn’t cost you anything. It’s literally free exposure!

To add more value for searchers and maximize your text ads’ performance, advertisers can add extensions to perform certain functions. These can take the form of:

  • Call extensions, enabling one-click calling from the SERP
  • Text message extensions
  • Additional text e.g. “free delivery” or “24/7 support”
  • Price extensions displaying product categories with costs accordingly
  • Location extensions with links to your Google My Business profile
  • Plus many more

The extensions you choose should depend on the goals you have in mind for your campaign.

Whether you want people to visit your physical store, give you a phone call or even download your app, choosing the right extension for your Google Ads can deliver you much more campaign success.

When And Where Do Google Search Ads Appear?

Google crash course

Now you can identify Google Search Ads, you might be wondering how their position is decided concerning the other ads displaying for those keywords. This now is one of the most important foundations of the basics of search engine marketing.

You can focus on a few factors which determine ad position, including:

1. Bid Amount

When you bid on keywords, you’re nominating the maximum amount you’re willing to pay in cost-per-click (CPC). As common sense would dictate, if you bid a higher amount you’ll have a better chance of winning a higher ad position.

2. Quality score

This number represents Google’s algorithmic assessment of your ad and landing page’s usefulness and relevance to the key terms it displays for. Advertisers have complete control over improving their quality score too.

3. Ad value and impact for searchers

The more targeted your ads to the intent of the searchers viewing them, the better. The algorithm takes factors such as ad format and any extensions used into account when evaluating your ad position.

This means that even if your competitor bids more than you, you’ll still have a chance to score a better ad position based on merit rather than money alone.

What Can They Accomplish For You?


To properly address the question of what Google Search Ads can achieve for you, let’s take a look at the numbers. Google Ads’ click-through rate (CTR) sits at roughly 8% total.

For searchers who are ready to buy, Google Search Ads take 65% of the clicks. Essentially, Google Search Ads are the perfect tool to target potential customers at the exact moment they need what you offer.

As outlined in our infographic above, Google Ads incentivize customers to act.

This gives advertisers better odds of converting the searchers, whether a conversion is defined as a contact form, phone call, software download or even a sale.

Another big draw of Google Search Ads is that it gives advertisers access to 90% of internet users, providing brands with unrivalled exposure and high visibility.

For small to medium enterprises, this opportunity is nothing short of golden. Why? Because it gives you the chance to eclipse your competitors’ position in the SERPs!

Final thoughts

Google is always on a mission to improve its platform for its advertisers and end-users alike. What makes

Search Ads so successful is that they fulfil the goals of both parties: accessible information at the exact moment a user needs it, and unrivalled exposure for the advertiser – along with complete control over the parameters of their campaign. Now, what could beat that?

Thanks for reading our rundown of Google Search Ads! Still feeling a bit lost?

If you want to find out more about SEM and what it can achieve for your brand, check out the first edition of our SEM Crash Course Series

To gain access to bespoke, professional assistance with your Google Ads campaign, have a chat with the First Page Digital team

Frequently asked questions – SEM for small businesses.

I’ve just started my small business. Is it too soon to use SEM?

Absolutely not! In fact, SEM can be a highly effective tool for new businesses looking to gain visibility and attract their first customers. It allows you to position your ads in front of potential customers who are actively searching for products or services like yours. You also have the ability to target your ads based on location, demographics, and even the time of day, so you can focus your efforts on reaching the people most likely to be interested in what you’re offering.

Can I run my SEM campaign myself, or should I hire a professional?

Both are viable options, but it largely depends on your familiarity with SEM and the amount of time you’re able to dedicate to it. Managing an SEM campaign requires regular monitoring and adjusting to ensure you’re getting the best return on your investment. A professional can help save time and potentially increase your results due to their expertise and experience. However, if you’re interested in learning and willing to invest the time, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started with managing your own campaign.

My business operates in a niche market. Is SEM still beneficial for me?

Yes, SEM can be particularly advantageous for niche businesses. By using specific keywords that align with your niche, you’re likely to face less competition in the ad auction process, making it potentially more cost-effective. Moreover, you can reach a highly targeted audience that’s actively searching for your specific product or service, increasing the chances of converting them into customers.

Can SEM help improve my business’s local visibility?

SEM can be a great tool for boosting local visibility. With Google Ads, you can target your advertisements to show only in specific geographic locations. Whether that’s a particular city, state, or even a radius around your business location. This allows you to focus on the customers who are most likely to visit your physical location or use your local service.

I have a tight budget. Is SEM still a viable option for my small business?

Definitely! One of the key benefits of SEM is that it’s highly customizable, including the budget. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad, and you can set a daily budget cap to ensure you never spend more than you’re comfortable with. Moreover, you can adjust your budget at any time based on the performance of your campaign or changes in your business needs. Remember, it’s not about how much you spend, but rather how wisely you spend it.