What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Search engine marketing (SEM) refers to a digital marketing approach that aims to enhance a website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). Originally, SEM encompassed both organic search strategies like search engine optimization (SEO) and paid methods, but now it predominantly refers to paid search advertising.


SEM, also known as paid search or pay per click (PPC), is crucial in today’s online landscape where more and more consumers are researching and purchasing products through the internet. In fact, the majority of website visitors are acquired through search engine queries.



Why is SEM important?


One of the key advantages of search engine marketing is that advertisers only pay for impressions that result in visitors, making it a cost-effective way to allocate marketing budgets. Additionally, each visitor contributes to improving the website’s ranking in organic search results.


Unlike other platforms like social media where users are not actively searching for specific information, search engine marketing reaches consumers when they are in a mindset to make a purchase. When users enter search queries, they demonstrate commercial intent, making them more likely to convert into customers.


Moreover, SEM delivers immediate results by quickly driving traffic to a website, making it one of the fastest methods to generate online visibility.



How SEM works


The functioning of SEM involves search engines utilizing complex algorithms to display the most relevant results for each search, considering factors like location. Paid search advertising involves sponsored ads appearing at the top or side of search engine results pages, gaining higher visibility compared to organic results.


To understand how SEM campaigns work from a marketer’s perspective, let’s imagine you are a customer searching for a product or service online. After entering your search terms (keywords) in a search engine, you will encounter various company ads that align with your search keywords.


These ads are prominently displayed alongside other search listings matching your keywords. The paid listings are highly relevant to your specific search, increasing the likelihood of you clicking on them.


From a marketer’s standpoint, SEM networks are self-serve platforms that allow quick campaign setup. Marketers select a network and can promptly launch a campaign. During the setup process, they are prompted to:


  • Conduct keyword research and choose relevant keywords related to their website or product
  • Select a geographic location for displaying the ads
  • Create a text-based ad to appear in the search results
  • Bid on a price they are willing to pay for each click on their ad


Text-based ads are straightforward to produce, requiring a headline, ad body text, a call-to-action, and a URL.


Many consider search engine marketing the most efficient way to allocate marketing budgets, thanks to its effectiveness in driving traffic and delivering results.