You’ve already stuck into SEO, but really knowing how to use search engines in your marketing strategy can be difficult to get your head around. As such, we got in touch with Soso Sazesh, the man who has built a business around helping companies understand and harness the true power of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Soso’s combined his knack for understanding people’s buying behavior, his superior knowledge of business and SEM, and his realization that people needed some help in understanding this unknown realm of marketing to offer a service through his company Growth Pilots. Soso way of working as an extension of companies’ marketing team to help achieve efficiency, scale, and ROI from paid marketing channels, has proved consistently successful and so we asked him what it’s all about, how he does it and what you guys should look out for when starting your exploration into the world of SEM.

If you’re still asking yourself “Is SEM for me?”, turn up the volume and learn from S. Sazesh:

Q: “What types of businesses take the most from SEM?”

A: “It really depends on the business model. What you find is that some business models are very conducive to paid advertising; e-commerce being a no-brainer. Because you can measure the ROI very quickly – you can put X number of dollars in and get Y number of dollars out and measure it in very quick feedback. And that’s what I would say are the quintessential ingredients to paid advertising: any time you can measure what you’re getting back from the dollars spent in a quick feedback loop”

Q: “And how short is that feedback loop?”

“That ranges a lot too. For e-commerce, it’s nearly instant. But think about B2B SaaS companies, we work with a lot of those companies, and the feedback loop to getting a customer is longer, but there’s a pretty clear expected value which you can place on a lead which happens right away. While it might take 4 weeks or 6 months for a lead to convert to a customer, once you have enough data you can determine the quality of what your leads are upfront and so that lead usually happens right away after the ad click and so you can optimise something higher up in the funnel, so that’s a lead in this case. So that’s another kind of common business model you see in paid advertising; something where there’s a lead generation model where there’s a known value of what those leads are.”

As noted by Soso, your company just need to be able to track the entire sales process from attraction to sale, even if that process is very long. Some good advice here would be to think hard about the metrics that you’re able to capture to monitor the buyer journey – obviously, the people at Growth Pilots can help you with that, but it’s advisable to do what you can to prepare yourself for SEM before you dive in. On from this point, our CEO and all-around marketing badass Emilia Chagas makes an important point that it’s critical that you’ve established your marketing strategy before you begin to attack SEM. Without a strong idea of how you want to approach your target audience, you’re going to be shooting in the dark with SEM. Let your Marketing Strategy dictate what your plan of action will be. To discover the step by step instructions to develop your own Marketing Strategy check out this link.

How does my current strategy play into my SEM strategy?

Q: “How does the content strategy talk to the SEM strategy and vice versa?”

“Content plays a very large role. One role; social proof. If you’re clicking through to an ad to a company and you’ve read their content – if you’re in that scenario, you’re more likely to click on the ad to the company that you’ve already seen their content from, so click through rates will probably be higher, quality scores within Google will probably be higher and your cost per click will be lower, so you can end up seeing better efficiencies just from that brand recognition. We’ve also done some things where we actually drive people who are clicking on ads to content pieces – that can work really well”

Your content strategy will support your SEM strategy in giving people the familiarity with your product, but also, SEM is able to promote your content strategy too so that more people are filtered into your sales funnel.

“There’s twofold; one might be just to get the word out about a content piece like “we want to push this piece out and there’s a lead capture form on the content piece, maybe that works well, but what we’ve also found is sometimes a content piece will work better for a system than their landing page will – in that case we should be funnelling traffic to the content piece versus the landing page”

Knowing how your sales funnel works is mega useful when it comes to defining your SEM strategy. Soso makes it clear to use what you have already to inform your decisions intelligently.

Using what you have to inform what you need

If you’re reading on, then you’re probably quite sure SEM is for you. However, you need to know what tools you have that will determine your SEM strategy. Soso gives us some simple advice:

“In order to succeed with SEM you need to know what your customers are searching for and how your customers find you. The nice thing about Google Adwords is that you can determine that early on just using the platform itself. So you might not know that going into it, but you might see that “Oh wow! Somebody searched for this and ended up converting” so you find a really promising source of customers. So, yes you should know in general who you’re targeting but Google can help you figure that out” – especially for start-ups.

If you’re already tracking your customers and have a good idea of where they’re coming from, then let your existing data help guide you in your SEM strategy. It’s an obvious point, but a very important one.

In-house or outsourced?

Q: “How do I approach SEM? Do I search for someone who is doing that for a long time or do I do it in-house?”

“So this is usually dependent on the stage of the company. The reason why I started my company was that I was finding that companies in the very early stages were trying to make it work in-house, and they were usually failing because they didn’t have the time or expertise to do it right. Then they would go external and try to work with an agency. But the agency model is not very well suited for early-stage companies who need to move fast, break things and learn very quickly. Agencies are well suited for companies with large budgets who don’t really want to rock the boat too much… So the short answer is; when you’re at the earlier stages and have somebody smart who has the time to figure this stuff out and manage it, or if you can work with a really hands-on external consultant, an agency is usually the wrong approach for companies in the earlier stage. And as your marketing span grows and you find your leads increase choosing to go with an agency is a business decision at the end of the day”

The decision is a complex one, and so should combine rational judgment with intuition. Ask yourself “Will this provider give me agility, expertise and practical know-how? Can I do it effectively and efficiently in-house?” Find out who the providers are already working with. Do they have similar size companies with similar marketplaces? Are they offering something generic or something more specialized? Don’t just settle for the first one you find – do some homework and compare what you find.

What cost should I put behind this?

Q: “How much to start and to start testing? And how much sense does it make to start testing?”

“This is so funny, because when we’re bringing companies on, the number one thing that I always hear is that “Oh, if we can hit our target there’s no limit; we’ll spend 10 million dollars a month!” It’s like, of course, you will if your economics are positive, naturally you’re going to continue spending. Now, doing that is a different story – that’s why we exist in the first place. If you’re first starting with a channel, there’s no hard and fast number that you should spend this much; I tend to find that if you spend $10,000 a month you’ll learn a lot about the channel and what the viability is and what’s converting”

That might sound like a big number for some, but if the return is there, then it’s worth every buck. However, as Soso notes, it’s not such a simple ‘one size fits all’ deal:

“The amount of search volume that’s available is based on the market you have already. If you’re in one of these new markets that people aren’t looking for, you don’t have the option to spend money, but if you’re one of these super competitive markets that have a lot of search volume then maybe you need to spend more than $10,000…The context and industry you’re operating in matters a lot”

After getting the scoop on SEM we went further into the details of what sort of content Soso recommends to push through your SEM strategy. We asked about the prominent debate of Facebook vs Youtube.

Youtube versus Facebook

Q: “Why are Youtube ads is so important right now? For some cases and strategists, it gets cheaper than Facebook ads right now.”

A: “For sure. The cost per view on Youtube is far lower than the cost per view on Facebook ads. I think that’s around a couple of things: 1) The thing to keep in mind with Youtube is that this person is on Youtube property; you’re kind of disrupting their flow – this is someone who’s watching videos and they’re on Youtube so there are kind pros and cons. Pros: It’s cheap and you get that distribution. The Con is getting somebody to leave Youtube to take an action is very challenging. So the click-through rate from somebody to watch a video to click through to your website it’s just tiny, whereas Facebook you pay more for the cost per view, but the click-through rate is much higher. So again, there’s pros and cons there, but in general, if you’re going after exposure and the other content pieces that you want to get out there that’s in video format use the Youtube channel”

Your content type and the intention of your marketing will strongly determine which channel you decide to choose. Like with all of your Marketing efforts it will be a carefully monitored test to see which produces the most desired results. Think hard about what you’re trying to achieve and where you think the most valuable impact will come from.

The infamous Google Display Network (GDN)

Finally, we wanted to get the expert’s opinion of the GDN. Many companies are unsure of whether this is a profitable marketing tactic or theoretical money-waster.

Q: “We also have GDN – Google Display Network, how do you approach that?”

“In the GDN, the traffic quality is notorious for not converting very well, so I think the best approach there is that you need to really know who your customer is and align the targeting. First of all, you need to line the target level for your customers, but when it comes to content we’ve done things like push white papers, and you can run an ad for a webinar, for a content piece and drive people to that. Distributing actual content; I can’t say that we’ve ever done that like using an ad unit to push the content itself because I mean it’s pretty small and you can’t wait for the content, but it’s kind of fascinating and I wonder if that might work, but in general you’re trying to generate awareness on the display network typically, so it’s more for brand building, but if you have something that really resonates with your audience and you have the targeting down there you can get some of that direct response carryover”

SEM is not something that is typically used to drive traffic, rather to raise awareness – so be clear on the intention if you decide to you use it. And if you do, be sure to make the necessary precautions and recommendations given here to make sure you’re getting it right the first time.

To summarise the takeaways; 1) Make sure that SEM is worth looking into by knowing who it works best for, 2) set yourself up for success by integrating it into your current strategy, doing your research and using your existing data, 3) work out how much money you should spend and where you should spend your energy based on your market, and 4) analysis whether you’re going to be best doing it yourself or getting it outsourced.

We’d love to know what your experiences are with SEM and the other topics we discussed in this piece – so get in touch or leave a comment.

If you want to find some more expert opinion on how to be an authority in your field, check out our other interviews on our blog!