SEM, or search engine marketing, is the act of using paid strategies to increase search visibility. In the past, search engine marketing was a term used to describe both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search. But now, it almost always refers only to paid search marketing.
SEM, or search engine marketing, is the act of using paid strategies to increase search visibility. Brands pay for ads to appear as search results on search engine results pages.
With SEM, brands pay for ads to appear as search results on search engine results pages (SERPs).They target select keywords so that when a user searches for those terms, they see an ad from the brand. The brand is charged only if a user clicks on the ad.
Paid search ads can be found on almost any search results page. These paid placements are typically located at the top and bottom of the page. They include an “Ad” designation to let users know that it is a paid placement.
Difference between SEM and SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization, or SEO, uses tactics that improve organic visibility in search. Unlike SEM tactics that pay for placement on SERPs, best practices for SEO aim to attract search engines and earn prominent organic search placements. Organic search results don’t have an “Ad” designation on their results. They are not paid for; they are earned.
SEM is the wider discipline that incorporates SEO. SEM includes both paid search results (using tools like Google Adwords or Bing Ads, formerly known as Microsoft adCenter) and organic search results (SEO). SEM uses paid advertising with AdWords or Bing Ads, pay per click (particularly beneficial for local providers as it enables potential consumers to contact a company directly with one click), article submissions, advertising and making sure SEO has been done. A keyword analysis is performed for both SEO and SEM, but not necessarily at the same time. SEM and SEO both need to be monitored and updated frequently to reflect evolving best practices.
Targeting keywords tells a search platform when to show your ads. SEM targeting takes it one step further. Through targeting, you set additional parameters for when your ad should show and who it should show to.
- Location targeting sets ads to only show to people who are within a certain ZIP code or geographic area.
- Ad schedule targeting sets ads to only show at certain times of the day or during specific days of the week.
- Demographic targeting sets ads to only show to people who fit certain demographic categories based on age and gender.
- Device targeting sets ads to only show to users on specific devices such as mobile phones, desktops, or tablets.
- Highly measurable. Tools like Google Ads give you highly detailed reports of the evolution of your campaign, so you can always know what is happening with your ads. In addition, you can take advantage of the integration with Analytics to have everything controlled to perfection.
- Real time monitoring. The analytics interface allows you to see what is happening at each moment and corrects the course to the moment if you do not get the results you are looking for.
- Pay per click. With this, you will only pay if you get results. You can control the maximum daily budget that you are willing to invest as well as the maximum cost per click you can pay. This way, you make sure that the campaign is profitable.
- Speed. Regarding other techniques such as SEO or content marketing, search engine advertising allows you to achieve relatively fast, large-scale results.
- Within everyone’s reach. Since budgetary investment is scalable, this solution works for both large companies and SMEs. They all compete in equal conditions to reach the first positions for keywords.
- Higher long-term cost. To be clear, SEM only works while you pay. Although over time you can optimize your campaigns and reduce costs per click, you will have to continue paying for each of the visits you get.
- High level of competition. Search Engine Marketing has become popular and there are many companies that compete to position themselves for the same keywords. This competition causes costs to rise and sometimes it can be difficult to get a good ROI.
- It’s interruptive. As opposed to other solutions like native advertising, SEM involves “invading” the user’s space with content that they didn’t seek out. In fact, if the user you are targeting has an ad blocker, they may not see your ads.
SEM Dictionary: Top Terms to Know
To finish, let’s review the basic concepts you need to move through the world of search engine advertising. Since we use Google for the vast majority of searches, we are going to base ourselves on the terms that are used in Google Ads.
- Keywords: keywords are the basis of all search engine marketing. Keywords are the words, groups of words, or phrases that will make your ad appear to users.
- Text ad: the standard ad type that is shown in search engines. They usually have a title, two lines of text, and a customizable link.
- Ad group: Ad groups are ad sets and keywords. These are grouped into campaigns, in which you can define the daily budget and the countries or territories where the ads will appear.
- Search network: the part of the search engine where your ads can appear. The simplest thing is to work with text ads on the top and right of the results page but you can also show ads on other sites such as Google Shopping or Google Maps.
- Impressions: the number of times an ad is shown
- Clicks: the number of times an ad has been clicked on
- CTR: the percentage of impressions that generate a click.
All in all, it cannot be denied that, the advantages of SEM outweighs its disadvantages. Thus, we should use this powerful way of marketing to boost our visibility and increase our commercial success throughout the journey.