Search engine marketing goals

SEM Guide: What are your Search Engine Marketing Goals?

What do you specifically want to achieve with your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign? What are your SEM goals? Do you want to increase sales? Increase traffic? Generate leads? To get an idea of how to set goals for your SEM campaign, it’s valuable to look at the state of the industry. Internet marketing goals are changing. Driving site traffic, generating leads and increasing click-through rates used to be the holy trinity of SEM goals. However branding has now become a significant goal.

The 2012 SEMPO Study on Trends in Search Marketing found that fewer marketers wanted to increase traffic, but found that brand/reputation had increased in importance, from 5% in past. This came at the expense of lead generation, which nevertheless remained the top goal. This is very significant. As SitePro news noted, the change in Google’s algorithm, and the maturation of the market means the emphasis is now less on pure search and more on an integrated brand strategy.

Increasing Traffic

The traditional goal for Search Engine Marketing has always been to generate traffic. This is where your Internet marketing has to start. There are many ways to increase traffic, and most of them depend on your product and your audience. Here are some of the ways you can increase traffic using SEM


Pay-per-click (PPC) is a great way to drive initial traffic to a new site. However, it can be expensive, depending on the keyword combinations you use. We’ll cover the mechanics of a PPC campaign in a later post.
According to the SEMPRO study, the following sites were most used by internet marketers as part of their PPC campaigns:

Pay Per Click Campaigns

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO, or organic search, usually takes time to start generating traffic. Depending on keyword competition and saturation, it can take from a month or two to almost a year to begin showing results in search engines.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

The SEMP study found that marketers are continuing to look at social media as an important source of traffic.


Mobile is the area to watch . The SEMPO survey found the mobile trend was the top concern for marketers, with 47% rating mobile as a highly significant factor in their future SEM efforts.

With almost 75% of consumers in the third world now accessing the Internet via mobile, and a significant number of teens use mobile exclusively, it should become an important part of your traffic generation efforts.
As you can see, there are many ways to generate traffic. What you emphasize in your SEM mix depends on many factors, such as:

  • Whether you’re a B2B brand vs. a B2C brand
  • What industry you’re in
  • Your target market
  • The geography of your market

But is generating traffic enough? For an interesting prospective on this, check out the ConversionXL article “Screw Traffic – Show me the Money.

Generate Leads

Another important goal in your SEM efforts is lead generation. In the SEMPO survey, lead generation came before sales generation. Why would lead generation trump sales as a goal in SEM? The conversion rate for generating immediate sales is very low. Only a tiny percentage of visitors will buy from you the first time they visit your landing page.

Lead generation, on the other hand, enables you to establish a relationship with your potential customers via an ongoing dialog, primarily through email. Brian Massey provides a useful series of formulas to help companies think through their online lead generation strategy. Massey says in addition to generating leads, you must also generate permission:

SEM Guide: Permissions

Figure 1 Source:

For a lead to truly become a lead, says Massey, your prospect has to take some action that proves they are a lead. This usually comes in the form of permission. Your prospect gives you permission to email them.

He provides the following formula for converting your leads into a permission-based relationship:

SEM Guide: Converting leads with Permission

Figure 2. Source:

What does “permission” mean in this context? Your prospect has opted-in to your email marketing system via a double opt-in system. They have subscribed to your mailing list, and they have confirmed that they intended to subscribe by clicking on a confirmation link in an email they received from your company’s email marketing software.


Selling your product or service is another important search engine marketing goal. However, marketers have placed this third in their goal priority for their SEM campaigns. Selling outright is important when the product you sell is relatively inexpensive and your customers have time to wait for delivery (many retailers are now experimenting with same day delivery). It’s also becoming increasingly common to order food delivery online.

For example, if you’re a student studying at the last minute for an exam in the morning, at midnight you might have a craving for a pizza delivery. It’s easier to go to your favorite pizza place’s website to place the order than to pick up the phone and call. However, for every online buyer who has an immediate need, there are many more potential buyers who can be programmed to buy from you in the future. Applying Massey’s permission formula mentioned above you should try to convert non-buying visitors into leads.

Increase Brand Awareness

Though marketers mentioned branding as fourth in their search engine marketing priorities, it is increasing in importance. If you sell a consumer good that is only available in stores, like soft drinks, gasoline and detergent, or if you are running a political campaign, a branding campaign might be your primary goal. You most likely won’t be selling Coke or Tide online, and voters cannot cast their vote by clicking on a “vote” button on your landing page.

However, driving brand awareness from a PPC campaign is completely different from the large TV-based branding campaigns of the past. Search Engine Land says you can’t just measure impressions like you would a TV ad. You need to establish some sort of metrics to measure the value of your SEM campaign. For example: “…create some sort of common value metric hopefully based on data, but minimally based on good intuitive reasoning…”

How to measure your goals

SEM Guide: How to measure your goals

How do you know if you are achieving your goals? According to Sweet Spot Marketing, there are three important metrics you need to track:

    • Site Traffic Metrics
    • Conversion Rates
    • Click-Through Rates

Site Traffic Metrics

Checking your Google Analytics (obsessively) is a common activity among first time internet marketers. Did your traffic go up today? Did it go down? Why did it go down? You can agonize over the most insignificant daily dips and crests. But it’s important to keep things in perspective. Are your site metrics gradually increasing? And most importantly, are your lead generation or sales landing pages seeing an increase in traffic?

But site traffic metrics are not enough. You can generate lots of traffic, but it may not convert, or it might convert poorly. This is bad traffic. If your traffic isn’t converting, you need to re-evaluate your traffic sources, and also look at your conversion rates.

Conversion Rates

Conversion rate optimization is a growing discipline. Internet marketers such as Bryan Eisenberg, Brian Massey and Peep Laja have become successful because the industry used to focus on generating traffic. But that traffic was generating anemic 1% or 2% conversion rates. Internet marketers needed a better solution, and the Eisenbergs and Masseys of the world showed what could be achieved by increasing conversion rates.

They found, for example, that by simply increasing your conversion rate from 1% to 2%, you literally double your conversions. Brian Massey, in his book “Your Customer Creation Equation,” says to measure conversion you should divide the number of conversions by the number of visitors to your landing page for a given period of time.

This is usually measured as a percentage. For example, if you generate 10 buyers out of 1,000 visitors, that would be 10/1,000, or 1%. What is conversion? Conversion usually means turning a visitor into a buyer. But it can also mean turning a visitor into a lead (see above). In the case of a branding campaign it could mean converting your visitors into viewers of your online video about how your company donates to charity.

Click-Through Rates

Finally, click-through rates (CTR) measures the effectiveness of your online ad or your search engine result. If thousands of web visitors view your ad, but very few click your ad, then your click-through rate is very low. However, if a large number of visitors who see your ad click on it, then you have a high CTR. Google says that CTR is calculated by dividing the number of times your ad is clicked by the number of times it is shown (impressions).

Double your traffic today with these landing pages

Your Search Engine Marketing Goals

So what are your Search Engine Marketing goals? Is it to generate leads? Drive brand awareness? Generate sales? Are you most interested in increasing traffic right now, or conversion rates? Before you launch your SEM campaign, decide what your precise goals are. As with any new endeavor, your initial goals might have to change when you launch your SEM campaign and you start to see real results, but you need to start somewhere.

Finally, you should track your goals and results using a spreadsheet. The website PPC Strategies provides free spreadsheet templates to help you set and track your SEM goals. And stay tuned for our Lander Academy webinar on “Buyer Personas,” our next installment in our series on Search Engine Marketing.