What Is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the practice of paying for online advertisements to increase the visibility of a company’s brand and website.

Written by Matthew Urwin
Published on Dec. 16, 2021
What Is Search Engine Marketing?
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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Kate Heinz | Aug 11, 2022

Paid ads are visible at the top or side of a search engine results page (SERP) after a consumer enters a query or phrase, known as keywords, into a search engine. Because search engines undergo constant change, marketers rely on resources like Search Engine Land and other tools to stay on top of the latest developments.

What are the benefits of search engine marketing?

  • Search engine marketing provides a quick and cost-effective way to increase the likelihood of consumers interacting with a company’s digital presence.

Comparing the work put in and the returns it delivers, SEM serves as a rewarding strategy for businesses looking to boost online brand awareness. SEM leverages the specificity of keywords, which narrows down the audience to consumers with niche interests. Since people are already looking for related products, paid ads appear at a time when they are most relevant to potential customers. 

In addition, companies only pay when consumers follow ads to their website instead of whenever their ads appear in a search, which is known as a pay-per-click (PPC) method. With these advantages in mind, SEM becomes an efficient approach for converting consumers into customers.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

  • While search engine optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) share much in common, there are crucial differences between the two.

SEO is often associated with SEM because it is a subcategory of SEM. The former seeks to raise awareness of a company’s online presence through organic methods. Meanwhile, SEM includes both organic and paid strategies for reaching consumers. Because of this divide, SEO focuses on facets like content, site performance, and site structure to improve a business’ search engine results.

Although SEO still falls under the umbrella of SEM, it’s important to note that SEM has come to refer to paid methods almost exclusively. Still, marketers need to consider factors like site performance as part of their search engine strategy. In short, SEO and SEM complement each other and are both essential for attracting new customers through online searches.

How do you develop an SEM strategy?

  • Search engine marketers need to manage a range of details, from overall project goals to the organization of site pages.

A thorough search engine marketing plan begins with the larger picture before working its way down to the minutiae. Marketers should articulate what they want to accomplish, whether it be increasing site visitors or increasing conversions. Analyzing competitors, selecting a PPC platform, and determining keywords are also critical steps teams should take before producing content.  

Of course, search engine marketers still need to monitor their website construction and performance. Depending on how complex a site becomes, teams may need to implement a website search, sitemaps, and other backend optimizations to enhance their search engine results. With the right technology and mindset, marketers can design an effective search engine strategy that draws in more consumers and provides them with an exceptional experience.

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