SEM 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.


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 AnalyticsGoogle Search ConsoleGoogle My BusinessGoogle Ads
  2. Get access to tools such as Moz, Moz bar, Screaming FrogKeywords EverywhereUbersuggest
  3. Shared Google Drive Folder
  4. Final Project – create slide template to use/examples of good ones

SEM and User Intent

SEM helps you match content to intent, which is shown by the user’s search terms.

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

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.

How does Google Work? Watch the video below for about a minute.

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

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 SE0

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’

Activity 1 – Where to get Links for your Website?

9 Top Link Building Strategies for 2020 by Brian Dean of Backlinko

  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’
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.

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