SEM Course Resources

These resources are to be used in conjunction with the slides for Brainstation’s ‘Search Engine Marketing’ course.

However, they can be used on their own as a way to explore current SEM resources, and this is why I’ve now made them public.

The page will remain live and accessible for students even after the course has finished.

The course is 30 hours long and contains five full units (days) of lessons. Each day has a different focus but covers SEO, Google Ads, and Analytics.

2 – Advanced SEO

3 – Google Search Console & Intro to PPC

4 – Advanced PPC

5 – Google Analytics & Presentations

Intro – Website Strategy

There are 4 main types of websites:

  1. E-Commerce
  2. Lead Generation
  3. Informational
  4. Media & Communications

What makes a good website?

  1. User Experience
  2. Effective at what it does (i.e. it converts)
  3. Mobile-Friendly
  4. Fast

What is a CMS (Content Management System)?

Google Specific Tools


Unit 1 – Intro to SEM & SEO

Learning Objectives

The big outputs from unit 1 will be keyword research and SEO audits for your selected business / domain.

But first some general context…

How I got into SEO?

Bodwell High School landing pages – 16 different language pages targeted for a particular country.


  1. Get access to a website to test things on as well as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business, Google Ads
  2. Get access to tools such as Moz, Moz bar, Screaming Frog, Keywords Everywhere, Ubersuggest
  3. Shared Google Drive Folder
  4. Final Project – create slide template to use/examples of good ones

Definition of Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

“Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the use of search engines to increase visibility and clicks to your website and online marketing platforms. SEM strategy has to consider all search engines that are used by your target audience, as well as all websites, platforms and advertising that rank high in search results for your target and industry keywords. SEM includes SEO, search advertising, as well as platforms like Wikipedia, Google My Business, review sites, and social media that appear in SERPs that affect your authority and reputation.”

A broader definition of Search Engine Marketing

The Importance of SEM

“93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine and 91.5% of all clicks take place on the first page of Google.”

Sources: Propecta and Reputation 911
SEM and User Intent
SEM helps you match content to intent, which is shown by the user’s search terms.

Types of SEM

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Search Ads (PPC / PPM)
  3. Owned Media Platforms (Google My Business, Twitter and Facebook).
  4. Third Party Reputation & Authority Sites (e.g. Wikipedia, online review sites e.g. Yelp, Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor for hotels)


The Difference Between SEO & PPC

SEO is akin to a long term healthy diet and balanced lifestyle whereas Google ads can provide a much needed boost for campaigns or time-sensitive promotions. SEO takes time, even with best practices. Google Ads (and PPC) can have more immediate results and so that’s why we recommend using both. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

If your goal is a healthy, engaged and sustainable website then SEO is the best way to go in order to build something long-term that doesn’t require a huge advertising budget to sustain. 

SEO can be boiled down to 3 essential things:

  1. Great Content – that serves a specific audience with info they need.
  2. User Experience – that provides fast and secure webpages, especially on mobile.
  3. Backlinks – from relevant industry & authoritative sites.

If you get 1 and 2 right, 3 should eventually follow but if you add some SEO wizardry and promote your site well, you can get better results, faster.

Keyword Research

See example slides below and notes to explain steps:

  1. Confirm objectives of keyword research e.g. explore all parts of website/business or one specific area
  2. Confirm target areas
  3. Confirm main target keywords
  4. Research historical data
  5. Use website as input into Google Keyword Planner to find other keywords
  6. Research competitor, branded and alternative keywords as well

Click here for an alternative approach to Keyword Research using a spreadsheet.

SEO Links & Resources

SEO Audit Tools

Click here for an extensive audit list by Annie Cushing in spreadsheet

“Build good content for the users and you’ll be fine”

Martin Splitt, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google

Unit 2 – Advanced SEO

Learning Objectives

The outputs of this unit will be to come up with your own backlink promotional strategy for your website, as well as learning how to create SEO optimized content for your website.

The Importance of Links from Other Websites: Video on PageRank, Google’s Master Algorithm from 1998:
Watch this 5 minute section on Google’s PageRank algorithm taken from a full length documentary ‘The Secret Rules of Modern Living – Algorithms’

How to check links?

  1. Google Search Console
  2. Moz Bar
  3. Ubersuggest Chrome Extension
  4. Screaming Frog

Activity 1 – Where to get Links for your Website?

9 Top Link Building Strategies for 2020 by Brian Dean of Backlinko (watch video below)

  1. For your website, brainstorm where to get backlinks from
  2. Authority + Relevancy + Local
  3. The ones with the most unique ones win

Activity 2 – Local SEO

  1. Google My Business
  2. Bing Places for Business
  3. Apple Maps
  4. Review Sites e.g. Yelp for Business, Yellow Pages for Business
  5. Find directories or listings for your area, industry and add your business e.g. in US: Express Update, Neustar, BBB
  6. Do search for ‘add business to directory’ in Google and put your location in the search or try with industry e.g. variations might include ‘add business to directory Toronto’ or ‘add business to financial diretory’

Hubspot Blog on Local SEO in 2020

Activity 3 – How to Write SEO Titles & Descriptions

  1. Use Screaming Frog to capture current page SEO titles and descriptions
  2. Put them into a spreadsheet
  3. Use analysis from keyword research to rewrite the titles and descriptions for your most important SEO pages. Note: the strategy is to put your main keywords in the title and description while making the copy enticing to get people to click through from Google search results. Try not to use the same main target keywords on different pages otherwise they compete against one another. Your main SEO pages are the ones that you use as landing pages, your most popular pages and articles.
  4. When you have done this, bulk update your website by adding the SEO titles and descriptions into each page. Note: how you do this is dependent on your CMS. Tip: For WordPress use the tools for bulk editing on the Yoast plugin.

Best Practices for SEO Titles & Descriptions – Extensive Article from Cognitive SEO

Activity 4 – Schema/Rich Results

Watch this 7 minute video below to understand what Schema is

  1. Find out which categories of schema can be applied to your website
  2. Find out whether you have to add schema manually or if your CMS has an app or other way of doing it
  3. If you have to do it manually use this awesome tool and add the code manually to the header of the appropriate page on your website.

The Importance of Content to SEO

Creating SEO Optimized Content

Not all content works the same way on a website. Different pages have different goals and different potential to rank for SEO. Consider how these pages differ:

  1. Homepage
  2. Cornerstone Content
  3. Landing Pages
  4. Other Pages e.g. contact page, about page
  5. Posts / Articles

Use this checklist to create and test your page/post

Neil Patel’s Guide to updating content

More resources and guides on content creation

10x Content

The most important thing for SEO is creating great content for your users. This means unique, informative, interesting content. This content can be created in different ways.

The video below outlines one intensive research-based approach to content creation from Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz.

Rand Fishkin on 10x content

Examples of Blog Articles That Drive Traffic

These posts didn’t do the 10x content approach i.e. it doesn’t have to be exhausting! You can sometimes just hit upon something very useful or that is trendy that people search for.

  1. Brands for the Heart –
  2. Nikolas Badminton –
  3. North Shore Digital –

How to Research Content Creation

  1. Skyscraper Technique – do search for content that ranks then beat it
  2. Buzzsumo
  3. Answer the Public
  4. Quora
  5. QuestionDB

Content Strategy Slides by Alex Leung

Foundational SEO vs Targeted SEO

Foundational SEO is about building up the foundations of your website to rank on Google and create the best user experience across all devices.

Targeted SEO is where you target specific keywords and then build content specifically to rank for those keywords.

SEO / SEM Configuration Checklist – Foundational SEO for Your Website (WordPress focus)

Advanced SEO Resources

  1. Google Drive Folder on SEO
  2. Guide to E-Commerce SEO
  3. Guide to Shopify SEO / Shopify SEO Tips
  4. Guide to Ranking for Position Zero
  5. Video – Complete SEO Checklist
  6. Guide to SquareSpace SEO
  7. Guide to Joomla SEO

More SEO Resources are contained within this Google Drive folder

The best resources on the web for SEO are:

  1. Neil Patel’s Blog
  2. Brian Dean & Backlinko
  3. Search Engine Land
  4. Search Engine Journal
  5. Alex Chris & Reliablesoft

Unit 3 – Google Search Console & Intro to PPC

Learning Objectives

The outputs of this unit will be being able to set up and use Google Search Console, learn and apply formulas for Google ads bidding, and set up campaign in Google ads.

Google Search Console / Other Resources

  1. Google Webmasters Video Channel
  2. Google Search Console Training
  3. Google Free Online Training

There is an alternative to schema or manual structured data in Google Search Console that you may be able to use:

Google Ads

93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine

There are 3 types of keywords:

Informational / Navigational / Transactional

Google Ads can be used to find and target the most important transactional keywords for your industry.


Google Ads Rebranding

  • 65% of all paid search is done through Google
  • 70%+ of Google revenue comes from ads

“A staggering $24.1 billion of Google’s $27.77 billion revenue for Q3 2018 was from advertising – roughly a 22% increase from $19.8 billion in Q3 2017.”


Due to the breadth of companies advertising through the network, entire businesses depend on AdSense as their primary source of income.

A staggering $24.1 billion of Google’s $27.77 billion revenue for Q3 2018 was from advertising – roughly a 22% increase from $19.8 billion in Q3 2017.

Sources of Info

  •” data-type=””} –>” target=”_blank”>Statista

Google Ad Formulas

Ad Rank = Max CPC x Quality Score

CPC = Next Ranked Ad's Ad Rank / Your Quality Score + 1c

AdWords Auction; How Keyword Bidding Works

Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google

Setting Up Google Ads

  1. Put together a campaign brief
  2. Use a spreadsheet to plan multiple campaigns
  3. Use steps 1 and 2 and begin creating search campaigns

Google Ads Tools & Resources

  1. Google Ads Editor
  2. Google Ads Blog
  3. Wordstream
  4. SEM Rush – Advertising Tool Kit

Unit 4 – Advanced PPC

Learning Objectives

The outputs of this unit are to learn the advanced features of Google Ads, how to write good ad copy, and how to build an effective campaign.

Google Ad Extensions

Examples of AdWords ad extensions

5 Tips for Writing Text Ads

Best Practices for Writing Ad Copy

Activity – Google Ads Research for Your Industry

  1. Do Google Search and find interesting best practice for creating Google Ads
  2. Do search for your industry keywords and see what the ads are like. Are they compelling? Do you want to click? Is there a lot of competition?

Still in need of some copywriting best practices. Check this article on Search Engine Journal

What are the most expensive keywords on Google Ads?

Keyword Match Types & Modifiers

AdWords keyword Match Types 1

AdWords Keyword Match Types

Creative Ad Campaigns

Google Display Network

How to Improve Your Quality Score

Activity – Analyze your landing page for improvements to increase your quality score

Use the Unbounce Landing page analyzer

Top 5 Client Google Ads Mistakes

by Ira Thomson, Director of Ads & Analytics at North Shore Digital

1.     Configuring keyword match type

Sticking with the default match type can blow your budget fast. The “broad” type will show your ad for very loosely related search terms where you pay dearly for irrelevant clicks.

2.     Not measuring conversions

If Ad A has a 20% CTR that leads to a 1% ecommerce sale conversion rate & Ad B has a 10% CTR that leads to a 4% ecommerce sale conversion rate Ad B is the clear ROI winner (twice as many rales for the same budget!) but if you aren’t tying ads to conversions Ad A is what you’ll pay for.

3.     Poor targeting

Not paying attention to which audience, location and demographic is converting can be hazardous to any campaign. Targeting too narrowly can also limit your options.

4.     Set & forget

Setting up a campaign then not analyzing data is throwing away budget.

5.     Not testing or experimenting

Advanced Techniques

  1. Single Keyword Ad Group Method (SKAG) – Neil Patel’s guide on this one thing he did to improve his Google ads accounts
  2. Dynamic Ads
  3. Alpha Beta Campaigns: Intro to and How to run
  4. Alex Leung’s Slides on Advanced Bidding & Campaigns


  1. Google Data Studio

sample google ads report

Sample Google Ads Report

Activity – Google Ads Research for Your Industry

Set up a report for your Google Ads account using Google Data Studio

Behaviour Models (courtesy of Alex Leung)

  1. Fogg Behaviour Model – What Causes Change?

Fogg Behaviour Model Behaviour Change

Fogg Behaviour Model – Behaviour Change

Focus on high motivation and easy to do.

2. Jobs to Be Done Framework

Jobs-to-be-Done Theory provides a framework for defining, categorizing, capturing, and organizing all your customers’ needs.

Moreover, when using this framework, a complete set of need statements can be captured in days — rather than months — and the statements themselves are valid for years — rather than quickly becoming obsolete.

Example: imagine you were selling a skateboard. What would you highlight? It’s wheels, what’s it made of? The precise dimensions of the materials? Or would you talk about the benefits? The freedom for you to get out and do tricks? How does what you sell make them better

Focus on the benefits not the specs.

‘Know the rules in order to break them’ = best practice as a creative and effective marketer

Other Google Ads Links / Resources


Unit 5 – Google Analytics & Presentations

Learning Objectives

For the final unit, we will work on learning how to use Google Analytics to track important business and website metrics. It’s also the final unit so we’ll get to see presentations and case studies from the group.

Google Analytics Resources

Presentation Resources

General Marketing Resources

Thanks for doing the course. Contact me if you have any questions

And connect with me on LinkedIn

Or leave a comment below… Your choice 🙂

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