SEM: Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an Internet marketing strategy aimed at increasing the visibility of your website in search engine results pages (SERPs) by purchasing ads on search engines.

A notable example of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is Google Ads, where businesses bid on keywords to display their ads at the top of Google search results. With the rise of AI, Google is using creative methods and experimentation to serve ads to its users well.

Another common example of SEM is Bing Ads, Microsoft’s advertising platform that allows businesses to place ads on the Bing search engine.

There are two primary ways to increase your website’s visibility in SERPs.  One is through SEM and the other is through SEO or search engine optimizationSEO used to fall under SEM, but since both have become intricate, they are now being treated and referred to differently.  


So what is the difference between SEM and SEO?

SEM is when you pay search engines, such as Google, to show your ad (website content) in the search results.  As an advertiser, you have to pay Google every time someone clicks your ad.  Such advertising used in SEM are often referred to as paid search advertising, paid search ads, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and sponsored ads.     

SEO, on the other hand, is free, but you have to earn your spot in the search results.  With SEO, you need to improve your site and your contents in order to augment your organic search ranking.  Now there are also two types of SEO – organic and local.  They are both unpaid and your contents need to be relevant in order to appear in the SERP.  The only difference is that with the local SEO, you focus on getting your company listing to appear in the google maps result. 

Which is better – SEM or SEO?

Both SEM and SEO have their own advantages and drawbacks.  Depending on your circumstances, your needs, and your resources, you can decide which is best to utilize.  While SEO is free, it takes time to get a good ranking on SERPs.  SEM, on the other hand, is paid,  but it can quickly bring you to your target audience and build up your brand

You may want to consider paid advertising for immediate results on the following circumstances:

  • If your business is new
  • If you are launching a new product or service
  • If you are making a time-sensitive offer
  • If you want to test your product, service, idea, or a new marketing tactic
  • If your website is not SEO-ready

SEO can also be used under the following needs and circumstances:

  • If you want consistent results over time
  • If you want to increase your website’s value
  • If cost-per-click is high in your industry
  • If you have an established website 
  • If you are already doing well in organic ranking

Again, it all depends on your needs and the situation you are in.  You can always implement both paid advertising and SEO to increase your online visibility and increase your sales more effectively.

What SEM platform can you use?    

The most popular platform you can use for your SEM is Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords).  You can also use Bing Ads, which is being used on both Bing and Yahoo search engines. 

What about social media platforms?

Well, social media  platforms  like FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are great places to advertise your website and your content.  While you pay for those ads as with SEM, it is different from how SEM works.

SEM places your ads on SERPs directly positioning them in front of your target audience as they make a search.  Social media advertising places your ads in your chosen social media platform with an audience targeted based on certain demographics, such as interests, hobbies, professions, etc., and not necessarily your specific target audience.    

Where can you find your ad on the SERP?

Your paid advertising will appear on top of the SERP of the SEM platform you used.  It is located in the “ads” or “sponsored” section before the local and organic search results are being displayed.

How does your ad appear in the search results?

With Search Engine Marketing, you can bid with ad auction in Google Ads’ certain preset search queries, keywords, or trigger words for a certain amount of money.  The triggers will cause your ads (content/website) to show up in the sponsored search results portion of the SERP once you “win” the ad auction.  

The question now is how can you win the bid?   

Let us take a look at the important factors affecting your positioning in the SERP

As you bid with ad auction in Google Ads, having relevant keywords does not automatically assure you of winning an ad space in the search results.  Google needs to determine your ad rank in order to win an ad space in the SERP.  This is how the process goes:

Ad auction process

  1. You identify keywords or trigger words you want to bid on.
  2. You identify how much you are willing to pay per click in order for your ads to appear in the keyword search results.
  3. Every time someone enters a search query in Google and Google determines that the keywords you have bid on are in the user’s search query, your ad will be entered into the ad auction.
  4. Google will determine your ad rank to see if your ad “wins” a place in the sponsored search results.  Ad rank is determined by multiplying your maximum bid and the Quality Score of your ad. Maximum bid is literally the maximum amount you are willing to pay for each click of your ad as you have indicated.  On the other hand, Quality Score refers to Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of your ads and your keywords.    

 Take a look at the illustration below to see how ads win placement in sponsored search results.

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Source: Disruptive Advertising

Benefits of Search Engine Marketing

SEM is a valuable marketing and advertising tool that offers many benefits, including the following:

  • Generates instant and quick results;
  • Promotes visibility and brand awareness, helping increase website traffic;
  • Allows you to carry out location and language-based ads;
  • Provides competitive advantage;
  • Targets the right audience with the use of keywords;
  • Lets you pay only when audience clicks on your ad;
  • Easy to set up, implement, and manage;
  • Performance may be evaluated based on data provided by search engine platforms; and
  • Generates greater Return on Investment (ROI) compared to other advertising media. 

Read: Great Benefits of SEM (Search Engine Marketing)






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