What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Introduction: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a comprehensive term that covers all aspects of marketing a business on Search Engine Results Pages. In the digital era, it’s one of the most important marketing techniques for businesses.

Updated on: 2022-03-17

Name: Search Engine Marketing

Referred to as: SEM

Category: Paid Marketing

Correct Use: n/a


Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a broad digital marketing term. It has two main branches – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-Click advertising (PPC). In general, SEM focuses on promoting businesses/brands through media platforms discoverable on search engines like Google.

Search Engine Marketing
SEM = Search Engine Marketing

Our take:

Generally, the term “Search Engine Marketing” is used to describe paid search marketing. In this marketing system, businesses pay search engines like Google to display their advertisements in the search results. Search Engine Optimization is part of SEM because it too involves the use of search engines to gain brand exposure.

But, SEO is completely different than paid search marketing. In SEO strategies, businesses don’t have to directly pay search engines for web traffic or clicks. Businesses can earn top spots in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) by optimizing their websites for target users.

Both SEO and paid search marketing should be critical parts of a modern-day business’s digital marketing strategy. SEM is the exercise of bidding on keywords that your brand’s target users may enter when looking up relevant products/services. “Keywords” are the most searched terms (related to specific topics) on search engines like Google and Bing.

To kickstart a successful SEM campaign, your company should bid on the keywords your target users are likely to use. Then, you will get the chance for your advertisements to appear alongside the results for those specific search queries. These advertisements are called Pay-per-Click ads. Hence, the name PPC marketing.

Search Engine Marketing: Key Strengths

SEM’s key strength as a marketing technique is that it gives advertisers the chance to create highly targeted ads. With the right SEM strategy, your PPC ads will only appear in front of target customers who are already motivated. They’re motivated enough to look up products, services, or topics that are relevant to your brand on search engines.

If they see your company’s paid ad at the precise moment they’re looking to make purchases – you gain customers. No other advertising medium allows brand leaders to target potential customers with such precision. That’s why SEM is one of the most effective techniques to grow a modern-day business/brand.

The Fundamentals of Search Engine Marketing

Since Google is by far the most-used search engine, most SEM campaigns are Google-centric. Hence, the first step to launching an SEM campaign is creating and structuring your brand’s Google Ads account. A Google Ads account should be structured to comprise of five key elements –

  • Ad campaigns
  • Ad groups
  • Keywords
  • Well-crafted ad text
  • Optimized landing pages

A strong Google Ads account structure that covers all these aspects can help improve your SEM campaign’s overall quality. It can lead to lower cost-per-click and higher click-through rates. To optimize your Google Ads account structure, you need to take multiple steps such as –

Conduct Keyword Research:

The most important aspect of launching SEM campaigns is conducting keyword research. It’s the process of identifying keywords that are relevant to your brand and target audience. Understand what terms potential customers are likely to use when searching for products/services on Google that your brand sells.

Campaign leaders must assess the search volume for each target keyword in Google. The greater/bigger the search volume of a keyword that’s relevant to your brand, the more people are searching for it. That means this keyword is also very competitive. Other brands conducting their own SEM campaigns will also discover using high-volume keywords.

Bid on the Right Keywords: 

Having a substantial marketing budget helps with this step. That’s because when you’re targeting highly competitive keywords, you have to bid higher. But, brands with the largest advertising budgets don’t always win.

That’s because Google’s automated ad auction/bidding process considers numerous factors before placing ads on their SERPs. The Quality Score of your company’s PPC ads will also determine their ability to win auctions.

Quality Score: 

Google gives special treatment to ads that are the most relevant to user queries. Quality Score is a metric that reflects the overall quality of your paid advertisements. High-Quality Scores help companies achieve higher ad ranks at lower costs and win Google’s automated ad auctions.

Do: Target lower volume higher converting terms with clear intent and less competition

Don’t: Overspend on bids.

Tip: Conduct strategic research and focus on improving your ads’ Quality Scores. Persistently performing these two steps will yield long-lasting SEM success for your brand. 

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