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What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Learn all about digital marketing, we have built this glossary to help you understand everything to thrive in online marketing and promoting your website or business.

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing technique employed to enhance website visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEM generally involves paid advertising (pay-per-click or PPC, most notably Google AdWords) and search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to achieve better search rankings. Through SEM, businesses can directly reach out to consumers who are actively seeking their products or services, making it an effective online marketing strategy.
SEM works by associating keywords with your content. These are the words and phrases users type into a search engine. When you optimize your content around these keywords, it increases the chances of your site appearing in the SERPs. Paid advertising, on the other hand, involves buying ad space on these pages to gain visibility.
Effective SEM can lead to improved website traffic, increased brand exposure, and greater online sales. It's a key strategy for any business looking to grow its online presence.
SEM's Role in Digital Marketing
SEM's core role in digital marketing is to increase visibility on search engines, which subsequently drives more traffic to your website. With millions of businesses competing online each day, visibility on search engines like Google is ever crucial. Businesses invest in SEM to get their products and services in front of the right audience, at the right time.
SEM is often used in combination with other digital marketing techniques like content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing as part of a comprehensive digital strategy. This multi-channel approach helps businesses reach their audience wherever they are on the web. SEM specifically aids in capturing those users who are actively seeking certain products or services, making these leads more likely to convert.
Beyond driving higher quality traffic, SEM also offers valuable insights on customer behavior, keyword effectiveness, and competitor tactics. This data can be used to improve other facets of a wider digital marketing strategy.
SEM Examples
Let’s discuss a few examples of Search Engine Marketing. Companies often implement a mixture of both SEO and PPC. A business selling handmade soaps, for instance, might use SEO to rank for organic keywords like 'organic handmade soaps', or 'natural bath products'. The aim would be to appear organically when users enter these terms in search engines.
For PPC, the same business might run a Google Adwords campaign, targeting similar keywords to appear in the ads at the top of the SERPs. This is a way to immediately increase online visibility and achieve rapid results, compared to waiting for SEO strategies to bear fruit.
Another example would be a localized SEM strategy for a restaurant. Here, the restaurant might target local keywords to attract diners from a specific geographical location. They could also use geo-targeted PPC ads to appear in searches from people in their locality, increasing the likelihood of attracting local customers.