Search Engine Marketing (SEM): What Is It?

  • 6 min read



Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of getting website traffic by buying ads on search engines. For many customers, the journey from getting information to buying a product begins on search engines.

They have a question they need answered, and so they type their search query in search engines.Since the first 3 positions on search engine page results (SERP) get more than 60% of all clicks (source), it’s obvious that ranking high in Google is one the biggest priorities for any online business.

One of the ways to make sure you rank high is to focus on search engine optimization (SEO). Search engine optimization can bring great results to any business, but sometimes it’s not enough. If you focus only on SEO, you can still be outranked by competition.

The thing is, although Google ranks optimized websites high, there’s still one category that is ranked even higher in SERP’s. And that’s paid ads.Instead of optimizing your content and promoting it, so you eventually show at the top of organic search results, you can pay your way to the top.

Before you begin

SEM is a great way to advertise your products or services. It offers a clear and easy way to get your message in front of your customers. It also has great return on investment (ROI) –

Google has published various case studies like this one, where advertiser has increased her conversion by 35% by using Google ads.However, using search engine marketing can get expensive, especially if you bid on competitive keywords. These are the keywords that a lot of people are bidding on.

This bidding is based on the fact that many internet users are searching for those terms.Since a lot of people are searching them, their price (cost per click, or CPC) can easily skyrocket. Some can even cost as high as several hundreds of dollars.

The key to successful search engine marketing campaigns is to make sure you can immediately cover your advertising costs. Let’s say €20 for a click on a specific keyword. That may seem a lot, but if someone buys the product you’re advertising and the sale is worth €100, it’s well worth the investment.

But you have to make sure that you:

  • Offer a paid product or service (so you can immediately get return on investment)
  • Make sure you target the correct keywords and eliminate irrelevant clicks

The most common payment model in SEM is pay-per-click or PPC. What this means is that you (the advertiser) pay only for each click on your ad. It doesn’t matter how many times your ad is shown (impressions), you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad.

Why is this important?

Since CPC on some keywords is quite high, and you usually have limited marketing budget, it’s crucial that you research your target market and create ads that convert well. This way you eliminate irrelevant clicks. These are the clicks from people who click the ad since they think it might offer something relevant to their search query, but it turns out it doesn’t, so they leave.

But, if you create greats ads and show them to the right people, you can make a lot of money with SEM. That’s why market research and creating a compelling offer with your ads is so important.

If you need help with it, contact us today and request your free consultation. We’ll help you define your marketing objectives, and recommend the best way to achieve them.

If you’re still in the phase of building your audience and testing your market, SEM might not be the best approach for you. But, if you already have paying customers and a product or service to sell, you can use search engine marketing to great effect.


SEM vs SEO: what’s the difference?

In a way, search engine marketing (SEM), and search engine optimizations (SEO) could be grouped under the same umbrella term “search marketing”. Actually, up until recently SEO was considered a part of SEM, but lately there’s been a distinction between the two.

Generally speaking, search engine marketing refers to paid search marketing. It’s a system where businesses pay Google to show their ads in search results.

Search engine optimization refers to the system in which businesses don’t pay for traffic and rankings. Instead, they earn their SERP positions by optimizing and promoting their content.Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and both should be a part of any good marketing strategy.

How to start with SEM

Keywords are the foundations of search engine marketing. Search engines aim to deliver exactly what a searcher is searching for.

Creating a good SEM campaign depends on:

  • Understanding your target audience
  • Setting measurable goals
  • Choosing the right keywords to target
  • Writing compelling ads

You have to choose the best keywords for your campaign. These keywords must be relevant (related to your offer) and have a good search volume (people should be searching them).

There are two types of keywords:

  • “Short-tail” or “head” keywords. Usually just one or two words in length, these are common words that people search for. They are usually very broad in meaning, for example: dog food, swimming or guitar.
  • “Long-tail” keywords. These keywords are longer phrases, usually around three to five words in length. They are more specific, for example: buy dog food online or cheap guitar lessons in Geneva.

You have to create a list of keywords to target, and then use that list to create your paid campaigns. Your ads will be created around the keywords you choose, so it’s important to choose the best keywords possible to maximize ROI.


Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a great marketing strategy. It can bring measurable results to your business, and it can be done fast. It requires some investment, though, so it’s recommended to use it when you already have a product or service to sell.

If you need help with SEM, contact us today for a free consultation, and we’ll help you determined what’s the best approach for your business.


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