What Is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

by | November 7, 2018 | Marketing

A Brief Guide To What Is SEM

For a long time, search engine marketing has had an unclear definition among internet marketers. This can be partly attributed to how the digital marketing world is always evolving, and it is no surprise to know that the concept of SEM has greatly shifted over the years. If you are not conversant with SEM and how it applies to your business today, you are not alone. Read below and check out what is SEM plus some of the vital aspects surrounding it;

What Is SEM?

SEM is the process of using paid advertising techniques to make sites appear on the search engine results pages. Most people associate the results on the SERPs with organic SEO, but if you look keenly at them, you will see some results that are sponsored or paid for. The competition for top places on the SERPs is stiff, and at times, businesses cannot appear there through organic methods. This way, SEM offers a way of making them appear on top of the results when customers key in a particular keyword. The websites appear within the yellow boxes among the first set of results before the organic results follow. SEM is not a familiar thing, and it is common to see people confusing it with SEO. In that accord, it is necessary to compare it to SEO and know where the difference comes in.


In the past, SEM was a general term that was used to refer to both SEO and paid marketing techniques. It was used to generalize all the methods one could use to rank highly, both the paid and unpaid ones. However, things got refined over the years, and SEM began to be associated with the paid methods only. Nowadays, SEM refers to the paid techniques while SEO defines the free marketing techniques where Google gives a website a spot on the search engine results based on the relevance of the content and several other factors. Both of these two should be crucial to your internet marketing strategy, but they are not connected in any way.

SEM Fundamentals

Keyword Research

One can easily think that since you pay for SEM, you do not have to do much. Well, SEM is not as straightforward as you might think and it is based on solid keyword research. When users key in their search queries, the search engines select the SEM entries to display on top of the organic results, and you need to know what people are using when looking for your business. That said, it is vital to conduct extensive keyword research as part of your keyword management strategy. First, you need to know the ones that are relevant to your business using a set of tools available on the web. Do not focus on the keywords used to find you but also try and see which are the negative ones so that you can completely exclude them from your campaign.

SEM Advertisement Auction

Like it is in the case with all the paid marketing techniques, a company that invests a lot of money gets the most benefits. This is a common misconception with SEM, and it has some truth in it, especially in instances where the competition for places is high. However, it is crucial to know how it works so that you work smart and not invest all your business resources in a bid to appear on the SERPs.

The auction works every time marketers point out the queries they want to appear for and state the amount they want to bid for plus how much they are willing to spend for every click. Google assesses these applications, and once they determine that the keywords you had bid on are contained within the query, they will enter you into the auction. Entering into the auction is one thing, but winning is an entirely different matter.

Not all the advertisements will win the auction and appear on top of the results since the auction is done based on several factors and not the amount one invested in. The two main factors used by Google are the quality score of the advertisements and the maximum bid in that order. The quality score is a metric that is determined based on the nature of your advertisement, and they calculate it with respect to the maximum bid and develop the advertisement rank. It is vital to focus on the quality of your ads since Google favors content that is relevant to users. Doing this can help you to appear on the SERPs at a low cost.

Benefits Of SEM

SEM is important for businesses in various ways. First, it helps your businesses to achieve targeted reach. It lets you narrow down on a specific audience based on the device used, location, browsing history, and stage in the sales funnel among others. This is ideal for your business since you are sure to be dealing with a relevant category of people who are most likely interested in what you have in store.

SEO is an excellent way of appearing on the top page of the SERPs, but it is very competitive and takes a long time, something that can make it hard for a business to grow within the expected timeframes. SEM is a more short-term approach that can boost your business growth during the early stages of its development so that you do not wait for years before seeing results.

Lastly, it is easy to track your advertisement and know how your SEM campaign is turning out. This makes it simple to change what is not working immediately rather than sticking to it.

If you were still wondering what is SEM, you must have seen that it is an essential part of internet marketing that can be very beneficial especially to a small business that is struggling to get online visibility but is getting frustrated by the big players and stiff competition in their niche. Once customers see your advertisement in the SERPs, they will start to click through the ad, and soon you will see more traffic to your website. The guide to what is SEM has been highlighted and if you want to succeed in it, consider hiring an expert and let them help you to handle the technical aspects of this part of your marketing strategy.

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