Programmatic Media Buying 101: Combining SEM and SEO Strategies with Programmatic Marketing

Search engines meet an age old need for people who want to seek and find. Rather than look up businesses in a phone directory or go to the library, people use search engines — for research, shopping, and even just for entertainment.

Google alone processes 40,000 searches per second, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. With additional search engines and searches that are a part of platforms like Facebook and YouTube, people are seeking and finding information and products more than ever before.

What is SEM and Why is it Beneficial?

Search engine marketing — or SEM —  is a key part of marketing plans, estimated to have made up over 30% of digital marketing budgets in 2016.

Usually when marketers use the term SEM they are referring to Paid Search. Paid Search allows marketers to align brands and their products with relevant keywords through the purchase of impressions served for that keyword search. Typically, advertisers pay either on a CPM — or cost per thousand impressions — or a CPC or PPC — or cost per click or pay per click — model just as they would for a programmatic buy.

Companies looking to increase traffic and purchases on their websites will add SEM campaigns as part of their marketing strategy, so that their ads appear on searches indicating keywords related to their product. Typically, advertisers choose between 5-15 closely related keywords for one campaign or set of ads

While the chosen keywords would also appear on the search results page — or SERP — organically, without a keyword campaign, there is no guarantee that they’d appear on the first SERP or even the second or third.  Which is why most marketers pair their programmatic campaigns with search to get optimal results.

Why do Links Appear in a Certain Order or Rank on SERPs?

Additionally, SEO, or search engine optimization comes into play. SEO is a key marketing strategy on marketing plans, it’s the strategy that is used to increase the likelihood that a website or page link to increase its ranking on SERPs. As of 2016, it comes in at nearly 20% of digital ad spend.

But search engines don’t rank pages solely on keyword use and content analysis alone. Other factors include: user data, links, domain authority or credibility, social media signals, brand signals and associations, freshness, diversity, loading speed, and geography.

Transforming SEM with Programmatic Buying

SEM can be even more effective when paired with the basic types of targeting — geo location, time of day/day of week, device type, and other behavioral targeting. Search Engine Marketing and Programmatic are both effective advertising buying strategies, but they are not the same. Each method reaches the consumer at a different level of purchase intent, and advertisers need to consider both when planning their budgets. It is the combination of both that will provide the full funnel strategy a brand needs to thrive.

Search Remarketing has become a valuable programmatic tactic to increase customer acquisition. Search remarketing allows advertisers to target the competition’s keywords without actually buying those keywords. It’s different from display remarketing, where site visitors see ads for the site they visited when they go elsewhere online – and they may not be looking for anything remotely related to the advertiser.

  • With search remarketing, advertisers can target users who use specific keywords on search engines.
  • The first thing an advertiser does is build a list of keywords as they would for a regular SEM campaign.
  • Segment target audiences by keyword categories, then optimize based on performance.

To compliment SEM and Search Remarketing strategies Digilant has developed Search Engine +, a contextual targeting solution that uses an advertiser’s paid keywords to build a whitelist of URLs composed of Google’s top organic search results.

Benefits Include:

  • The ability to compliment current SEO and SEM initiatives
  • Target pages that users are already engaged with
  • Use strategically valuable search terms to advertise on sites users are likely to visit after searching

Digilant’s Search Engine + enhances the performance of programmatic campaigns by unlocking quality URL’s that rank highest in Google search and uncovering relevant ad placements that competitors are not reaching.


SEM is a highly effective way for advertisers to be found by interested users and is an important part of any marketing or programmatic buying plan.

  • 2016 digital ad spend for SEM and SEO is around 30% and 18%, respectively.
  • Paid Search puts advertisers in front of users at the exact moment they’re looking for them.
  • SEO can boost rankings on SERPs.
  • SEM and Programmatic both have a place on marketing plans and accomplish different objectives.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: YouTube Advertising Best Practices

Video has a lot to offer digital marketers and consumers. In 2017, video will account for almost 70% of all internet traffic. With additional advances in connectivity and mobile technology, streaming big video files is no longer prohibitive, enabling users to share a wide array of content.

Buying YouTube Advertising

As a medium for marketing, video requires more time and effort to produce than a Instagram Post, Tweet or Facebook Status Update, but the overall payoff can match or go much beyond the investment. Once efforts to produce content are made, marketers attempt to gain the most from their creative content by leveraging social media to make sure it gains visibility and recognition so they can earn return on their investment (ROI).

Of the top seven social media platforms, YouTube ranks as the 4th highest in usage by consumers, and of those seven, it’s the only platform specializing in video.

Topping the list of online video platforms, YouTube has made it easier for marketers in many ways by offering:

  • An easy to use format for posting and sharing videos on any social media channel
  • A wide reach and plenty of traffic: 1 billion users, who spend millions of hours watching videos daily
  • Global reach in over 70 countries and 76 languages
  • The ability to go anywhere the user goes – over 50% of video play comes from mobile audiences
  • A truly social video channel with options to share, like, comment and subscribe which helps to drive interest-based traffic
  • Search features makes videos the answers to consumers’ questions

And that’s all just a part of setting up a YouTube channel.

Brand Advertising Campaigns

When it comes to using the YouTube platform as a mechanism for brand promotion advertising campaigns, there are two ways to go about paid advertising:

  1. In-display ads: appear in YouTube search results, as related videos, or on websites that belong to the Google Display Network.
    • These display as the results of a search or appear on the right hand side of a video being viewed as related content.
  2. In-stream ads: appear as pre-roll before a video plays.
    • Pre-roll ads may have a “skip ad” or a “Your video will play in 10 seconds” notification to let viewers know the ad’s duration.

Advertising Targeting on YouTube

To target audiences for these ads, advertisers use a variety of targeting options that are also found within programmatic campaigns such as keywords, location, time of day, network, language and device type. While video offers marketers the opportunity to engage and provide value through things like demos, testimonials, and “how to” content – it’s not as easy to produce as a tweet, blog or white paper.
When setting up these campaigns in a programmatic self-service platform, advertisers set their maximum bid price even with no guarantee that the video will be viewed in its entirety.

Best Practices for Video Advertising 

Marketers need to keep in mind that with video, quality matters. Not only do the audio and visual components need to be high quality, but the content should follow as well. If these factors fall short, and your video isn’t useful or engaging, it’s not valuable.

For both advertising and brand channel pages, YouTube provides reporting analytics that help to quickly assess and optimize the posted video and it’s targeting on your programmatic platform. These video metrics give marketers a lot of insight into how much of the video is being viewed or engaged with. This information can be used as a way of gauging intent signals, for example, a video that’s been completed can indicate a qualified marketing lead and is also a re-marketing opportunity.

Best Practices Summary

  • Video is on the rise, and YouTube tops the list of online video platforms.
  • YouTube also ranks among top social platforms and provides real social features such as share, like, comment and subscribe.
  • Marketers can get a big return on investment by creating quality video that engages and provides value for users.
  • Video gives marketers insight into intent signals and the opportunity to drive qualified traffic from YouTube to sign up or purchase pages.
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