Site owners worldwide want to increase traffic to their websites, and knowing how to buy website traffic is just one of the many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools they use to keep building that traffic effectively. Buying website traffic sounds odd, as if you’re buying votes, but what it really means is purchasing targeted, keyword-rich ads on the best trafficked ad networks so that you can get the best results from your SEO work. Depending on your marketing goals, adding paid SEM to your organic SEO efforts may result in a great traffic bump for your website.

What Is Search Engine Marketing? (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an internet marketing method that uses paid advertising to boost your site’s visibility in the search engine results.

When users type keyword phrases into search browsers, both paid and organic results appear on the search engine results (SERPs) page. Organic results refer to websites indexed and returned in an order determined by the search engine – on Google there are 10 organic results per page. Paid results are automatically pushed to the top of the page, often in a box or a sidebar and marked “paid” or “advertisements” to set them apart from organic search.

Paid search engine marketing, like organic SEO, runs off of keyword phrases. Advertisements are aligned to selected keyword phrases, and users “bid” on them by setting the maximum cost per click (CPC) per ad. Search engines will provide you with an average CPC for the phrases you wish to advertise with, but the order in which the ads appear depends on the highest bidder, like an auction. The more you’re willing to pay, the higher up in the results among the ads your website will appear.

The good thing with search marketing is that you set the entire campaign budget and control the CPC you’re willing to pay. You also control the ad copy, call to action and landing page. Everything can be monitored, tweaked and tested for the best performance possible. After all, it’s all about return on investment (ROI) and maximizing the results of your campaign.

How Effective Is Paid SEM?

With all the talk online about organic SEO, you may wonder how effective paid ads are on search engines.

Jupiter Research discovered that 81 percent of website users discovered a site through search engines. These results underscore the need for site owners to focus much of their time and attention on SEO. When you know that 81 percent of your customers arrive at your doorstep through one channel, you tend to pay attention to it!

Between the two forms of search engine visibility, organic SEO and paid SEM produce different results. Organic SEO results in 8.5 times more clicks than paid SEO, but paid ads generate higher conversion rates. In other words, an organic search result among the first page of the SERPS will get plenty of clicks, but paid ads who DO get clicks tend to turn them into sales or leads.

It’s an interesting dilemma: should you prioritize clicks and hope you can convert later, or run ads with the intention of gaining more leads and then sales? The answer is, do both. You should continue to work on your organic SEO while testing paid ads on search engines to continually increase your site’s visibility. The more your site is visible on that first page of the SERPs, the better.

The Search Engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo!

Google, Bing and Yahoo! continue to dominate the world of search engines. Of course there are more options available to most consumers, but these three remain the ones that people turn to the most frequently when they need to find something online.

Google maintains a lead over the other search engines, earning 64 percent of the search market share. Microsoft’s Bing search engine comes in second, with slightly more than 20 percent, and Yahoo! trailed in third at about 13 percent of the market. The others made barely a blip on the search engine radar included Ask and AOL.

Whenever you’re buying ads, you want them to be seen by the most people. Buying ad traffic on websites used by the majority of consumers makes the most sense. Most search engine marketers choose to run ads on the top three search engines, testing each to see which performs the best.

Keyword Research Tips

As with organic SEO, keyword form the backbone of your paid search marketing programs. Choose keywords based on relevancy to your campaign and products, search volume, and competition.

If you’ve already done your keyword research for organic marketing campaigns, you can use those keywords as a springboard for paid ads. Narrow down your choices based on budget and your sense as to whether a particular phrase will get more clicks than others.

To research keywords, you’ll need an online keyword research tool. Google Keyword Planner is a free tool offered through their AdWords program. You’ll need to log into AdWords to use the keyword tool. Type your phrases into the AdWords tool, and use the keyword finder and suggestions to explore your keywords more.

SEMRush offers a paid option that’s similar to Google Keywords but provides a more comprehensive look at the world of keywords because it includes results from all search engines not just Google. It may be worthwhile to invest in a subscription if you plan to do extensive advertising across multiple ad networks.

Before choosing your keywords for your ad campaign, type the keyword phrases into the search engine network you intend to advertise on to see who comes up among the advertisers. If your competitors advertise based on the keywords, think about ways of wording your ad so that it stands out. Tweak your headlines or call to action to make it stand apart from your competitors’ ads.

Starting and Targeting Your Campaign

Think about the entire path you want customers to take once they click on your ad even before you set up your ad. Create a landing page that will receive traffic from your ad and convert visitors into leads or customers. Offer a free gift, such as a downloadable ebook or another resource, to reward people who complete the lead form. It’s important to make your landing page as effective as possible to maximize all of the traffic your ads might bring to your site.

The ad itself begins by opening up an AdWords account on Google or an account on Bing or Yahoo. Once inside your account, you will need to set a budget and deposit money into the account to pay for your ads. Search engine advertising is like an auction, where the highest bidder on the cost per click (CPC) wins the top spots. You deposit money into an account, like a checkbook or debit card, from which the payments are deducted every time someone clicks on your ad. You pay for the click, not just the display of the ad on the page.

You can choose your campaign type from among the drop down menu in the red box marked “Campaigns.” “Search Network with Display Select” is the best way to reach the most customers, but other options narrow down the audience for your ads. You may wish to test each type to find out which one works the best for you.

You can then edit the details of your campaign by keyword, CPC, campaign dates, geography, device type, time of day and much more. You create your ad and input it, then alert the system when you want it to run. Ads must be approved by the search engine, but most approvals go through quickly.

Once you ad goes live, data is available on the dashboards running behind the scenes. Data visualization tools can create graphs and charts to help you better understand the results.

Tips for Running Great Campaigns

Search advertising has been with us for years now, and fortunately some smart marketers have shared their best practice tips. The following tips can help you run an effective search engine campaign to learn how to buy web traffic and get the most from your investment.

  • Choose your keywords carefully. Keywords drive results. Do your research.
  • Select at least one long tail keyword to test. Long tails are specific phrases, and are often they get more clicks because they offer a more targeted focus than general phrases.
  • Time your campaigns according to traffic data from your website. If you know that most of your customers visit at 3 pm on a Wednesday, run your ads around that time to maximize traffic volumes.
  • Focus on writing the best ad you can write, and make your landing page Use big, bold headlines and a strong call to action.
  • Test campaigns as your budget allows. A/B split tests offer you the ability to test one variable against a control ad. Test keywords, time of day, audience and demographics one at a time until you’ve got the best combination for winning results.

Learning how to buy web traffic takes time. It’s both an art and a science. The best search engine marketers know that their job is never done. You’ll always be learning and improving, but you’ve got to start somewhere. This primer should help. Happy searching!