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Search Engine Marketing (SEM) definition

Search Engine Marketing (© arthurhidden /

Search Engine Marketing (© arthurhidden /

Search engine marketing (SEM) refers to the practices of marketing a business online using paid advertisements that appear in search engine results pages. Marketers bid on keywords that people would use to search for products and services in search queries. This gives marketers the opportunity for their ads to be displayed along with search engine results for queries that contain the keywords they have bid on.

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a highly effective way for business owners to grow their companies in a marketplace that is growing more competitive by the day. There are literally millions of businesses within any given industry and all of them are trying to attract customers. This makes the competition pretty steep and if a business isn’t getting noticed, it won’t see the success that it hopes to. As such, it is more important now than ever before for companies to develop an online presence and advertise online. Engine marketing SEM is a proven way to promote the product or service your business offers and stand ahead of the competition.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing is the process in which a business markets the products and services it offers on the internet, primarily through paid advertisements, so that they will appear on search engine results pages (SERPs). Marketers bid on keywords that they have targeted that people would most likely use to search for the products or services that a business offers in a search engine query. It gives marketers the chance to have their advertisements appear next to, on top of, or below the results that search engines list for user’s queries.

These advertisements, often referred to as pay-per-click ads, are offered in various formats. Some ads are small and text based, while others contain more visual elements that allow searchers to see the most pertinent information at a glance, such as the way a product looks, its price, and any reviews.

The biggest advantage that search engine marketing offers is that it allows advertisers the chance to have their ads placed in front of targeted and motivated consumers that are ready to convert. There is no other form of advertising that offers this opportunity, which is the exact reason why search engine marketing is such an effective way to grow a business.

The Difference Between SEO and SEM

A lot of people who are just getting started in the internet marketing industry often confuse SEO and SEM. That’s understandable, because until recently, search engine optimization (SEO) was grouped under the umbrella term search engine marketing (SEM). However, as online marketing has advanced, both have developed and become highly complex, that they are now considered two separate strategies (though they are still very closely linked to one another).

So, what’s the difference? Here’s a look:

  • SEO. Search engine optimization focuses on making improvements to a website or other online content, such as display ads, social media posts, etc) in order to enhance organic search engine rankings. The practice of organic SEO primarily involves strategically placing relevant keywords throughout a website’s content or other forms of content, building links, developing authority for a website, and utilizing meta data that search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo can crawl. SEO increases the search visibility of web pages, thereby increasing brand awareness, authority, and ultimately, conversions.
  • SEM. Search engine marketing involves paying to get placed on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Basically, marketers pay to have their ads shown to search engine users who are actively entering targeted keywords into a search engine query. Once users click on an ad, they are taken to a landing page that encourages them to perform a particular action. A website doesn’t have to be highly authoritative in order for its advertisements to be displayed on the first page of search engines.

Are both SEO and SEM necessary? No; however, they are considered fundamental components of an online marketing campaign. SEO is a highly effective way to drive evergreen traffic to a website, while the advertisements associated with search engine marketing are an affordable way to drive conversions. By using both of these paid and organic methods in your online marketing campaign, you can get significantly more leads and conversions, which translates to greater success.

Platforms Use for Search Engine Marketing

The majority of search engines offer an ad platform that can be used for search engine marketing. The most established and effective platforms that marketers use include Google AdWords (the most widely used), Bing Ads, and Yahoo Search Ads.

It should be noted, however, that though all search engine marketing platforms use the pay-per-click (PPC) model, not all PPC is considered SEM. For instance, ad platforms that are offered by social media sites, such as Facebook Ads, use PPC, but they are not considered SEM. Rather than showing advertisements to users who are looking for similar content (like search ads do), social media sites present your ads to users while they are searching through their newsfeeds.

Keywords are the Basis of Search Engine Marketing

Keywords are the very basis of search engine marketing. People enter keywords as part of their search engine queries to locate what they are looking, which is why they are the basis of search engine marketing ad campaigns. When you run an SEM campaign, you select the keywords that determine which ads will appear on which searches.

openPR-Tip: As such, in-depth and detailed keyword research is vital in order to successfully run an effective search engine marketing campaign. You need to target the best, highest quality terms in order to see real results with your SEM campaign.

Keyword Research for Search Engine Marketing

It’s important to realize that people don’t always use exact technical terms when they are search for particular products or services. For that reason, it’s important that you target keywords that are relevant to your specific product or service, otherwise you could end up missing out on a lot of traffic, a lot of leads, and a lot of conversions.

For example, if you operate a mold restoration company, you might assume that the term “mold restoration” is the only keyword that people use to search for the services that you offer. While yes, many people may use “mold restoration” in a search query, many use related terms, such as “mold removal”, “mold repair”, or “repair mold damage to a business”. If you don’t optimize for all of these keywords, chances are very high that you will lose out on lots of traffic to your website, as well as prospective customers.

Choosing the Right Keywords

The keywords you select can make the difference between an SEM campaign that gets results and one that doesn’t. Obviously, your goal is to see results. The best way to ensure the effectiveness of your SEM campaign is to choose keywords that offer high volume and have a low competition. Doing so will increase the chances that your ads will receive a high ranking and thus bring your cost-per-click (CPC) down.

If you’re thinking “I don’t know the first thing about keyword research!” don’t despair. There are several keyword research tools available that you can use to conduct keyword research for your SEM campaign. These tools provide insight into the search volume and the competition level of keywords, but they can do more than that; most of these tools will also provide you with detailed information regarding the estimated or average cost-per-click for specific keywords. This is of particular importance for marketers who have a limited advertising budget, as this feature will make it possible for you to determine if specific keywords will be worth your investment, or if they will offer a low return on ad spend.

Bidding on Keywords

Choosing the right keywords is certainly important, but if you want your advertisements to receive a high ranking and yield profitable results, so is ensuring that you develop an effective strategy for bidding on those keywords.

All platforms that are associated with search engine marketing are based on a bidding system. Through this system, marketers can place bids on particular keywords, as well as audiences. Since there are countless businesses across virtually every business, the likelihood that business owners are interested in using the same keywords is high. As such, it’s important to place the right bid, as whomever places the highest bid will receive the highest rank.

It’s important to note that you only have to pay an amount that will outbid the next highest bidder. This means that even if you end up bidding $500, if the bid from the next lowest competitor is $12, you will only have to pay out $12.01.

Summing it Up

Since search engine marketing places the advertisements of business owners in the face of potential customers who are searching for what they have to offer, search engine marketing can be an excellent investment for your business. By outranking every organic result potential customers see provides you with a big advantage, even if it means you have to pay for every click.

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