Apr 30

What is SEM ?

Most businesses in Australia are familiar with the value of SEO, or search engine optimisation. SEO is the science and art of designing a website and its copy so that it is visible to people who are searching for specific relevant keywords and terms.However, merely having a well-optimized website is no longer enough to be successful in any kind of online endeavor. The new generation of consumers is spending almost a third of their time online interacting with social media platforms. As a result, online businesses are competing for an ever smaller amount of attention from their target audience.

It is crucial to be as visible as possible. In most cases, the most visible ads are the paid search ads that appear at the top of every page of results. How can businesses use online marketing in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible? This new form of optimization is known as search engine marketing or SEM.

SEO has traditionally been viewed as a subset of search engine marketing. In modern times, however, optimizing your site for organic and paid searches requires two different approaches. As a result, many internet behaviour analysts have begun referring to SEM solely when discussing strategy for paid marketing.

Intrest between SEO and SEM at Google Trends

SEM generally refers to PPC, or pay per click, ads, such as those you see in the Adwords bar at the top of every Google search. The term is not generally used for paid social media advertising, as this depends on a different algorithm.

Paid ads are becoming an increasingly important part of business marketing. They offer more versatility than organic searches, as companies can determine both the appearance of the ad and its precise landing page. Although these ads are often text-based, they also can be visual and offer an expanded range of information.

The real strength of SEM is that it combines traditional ad-based marketing with the reach and immediacy of the internet. A well-placed ad will put your name and products in front of potential customers at the exact moment in which they are prepared to buy. This is not the case with television ads and other traditional media marketing.

Unlike traditional media, big marketing budgets are not necessary for success in SEM. While a huge marketing budget will always win over a small one when all other factors are equal, there is a great deal of strategy in SEM. Major internet ad companies, including Google AdWords, use an ad auction that can give the smaller fish in the pond an equal chance if they play their cards right.

You should also test your ads and content to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. A great book to test your hypothesis on SEM is teh scientific advertising by Claude M Hopkins. Download Here.

SEM Success

An ad auction is simple: businesses that want to advertise bid on certain keywords or keyword combinations. Your bid is the amount you are willing to pay for a click resulting from an ad shown to someone who searches for that keyword. After all, there is not enough space to show all of the ads for any given word or phrase.

While the auction can drive prices high for common keywords, the price is very reasonable when you get more creative. Thus an important part of SEM strategy is identifying less common keywords that will bring in a similarly well-targeted audience.

Your bid is not the only factor in whether your ad makes the cut. Google and other major search engines also use a quality score, which is a measure of how relevant your ads are. Quality scores are crucial in SEM, as they are about 50% of what Google considers when deciding in that split second which ads to show for any given search. If you have an eCommerce store ( Ecommerce SEO ) and target product with an accurate title that is descriptive of the type of product, your paid marketing will have a much more impact.

In general, a quality score takes the following factors into account:

  • The relevance of the text in your ad
  • The quality of your landing page
  • Your previous click-through rate
  • How your prior ads have performed

If you have a high-quality score, Google and other platforms will reward you richly with better placement at a lower cost. That’s right: businesses with higher quality scores are actually charged less per click or conversion. After all, these companies are in the business of giving search engine users what is most relevant to them.

If you are interested in learning more about how this system works, and how you can use it to your advantage, Google’s Chief Economist gives a longer explanation in this video.

Similarities Between SEO and SEM

It is easy to see the similarities between SEO and SEM – after all, they were almost synonymous a decade ago. Both are strategies intended to help you reach your target audience on the great world wide web.

In addition, both are highly dependent on choosing the right keywords. You will have to choose keywords for your SEM campaign, and they often will be similar to those you are using for website optimization. In fact, they should generally be almost identical.

In both cases, it is generally best to choose keywords that have high volume but less competition. You cannot outbid huge corporations. As a result, you will sometimes be using specific word combinations that are less common or even misspellings of the most common keywords, just as in SEO. This will not only help you to get more conversions but will drive up your quality score.

The last similarity between SEO and SEM is that you have to use your resources wisely. Choosing the wrong phrases for SEO is a wasted opportunity; using the wrong phrases for SEM is wasted cash. AdWords and other major search engine ad companies have performance metrics that will help you to see the results of your campaigns almost immediately. You can see clicks that did not lead to conversions, the average click-through rates, and quality scores of your chosen keywords, then adjust your strategy accordingly. Most businesses benefit from regular fine-tuning to ensure high visibility and optimal cost-effectiveness.

Differences Between SEO and SEM

Although there are several important similarities between SEO and SEM, there are key differences. First, there is a fundamental difference in approach. SEO looks mainly at improving your website in various ways. You are probably familiar with a variety of strategies, such as keyword placement, building internal and external links, and optimizing metadata.

In SEM, there is more of a “pay to play” approach. Although your keywords and your quality score both matters, you ultimately will be paying for your visibility. There is no need to woo web crawlers, although you still will need to have demonstrable effectiveness in the form of a high click-through rate and a reasonable amount of conversions.

SEM is also more accessible to small businesses than SEO. A smaller website will never have the site authority – an important metric in ranking – that a multinational corporation in the same niche enjoys. It is much easier for a smaller website to improve its quality scores than to build site authority that outranks established businesses.

Small business ranking for generic term

A last important difference is in the customer behaviour that you are trying to encourage. SEO generally aims to bring customers to your page and to keep them there – hopefully until they convert. SEM, on the other hand, is about getting customers who are already willing to buy your product to choose you out of a lineup at the top of their search engine results.

Although the keyword strategies for SEO and SEM are similar, that is where the similarity ends. The intention and the desired effect are very different. For this reason, many experts recommend using both strategies in tandem as part of a coordinated marketing campaign. But is this approach necessary? Is it worth the money and effort?

Do I Need Both SEO and SEM?

Both SEO and SEM require investment, whether in time or funding, as well as a very specific approach to all materials that you post online. This leads many online entrepreneurs to wonder if using both approaches is necessary.

The short answer is no. A handful of businesses are indeed able to be successful with one or even neither of these. The long answer is more complicated. It is rare that a modern business can succeed without both SEO and SEM. Utilizing both approaches will give your endeavours a higher chance of success in a tight market by ensuring that you are seen by potential customers in large quantities. Having good copywriting will complement both your paid and organic strategies.You can use the Market Finder to even find more opportunities in different countries.

All websites should be search engine optimized. It is the bare minimum needed to have a functioning online business of any kind. In addition, good SEO will actually improve the quality of your pages and their perceived value to customers, which is always a win-win.

Once your page is optimized, it will bring in a certain amount of clicks and conversions organically. This lays the basis for a successful business and reduces the amount that you are obligated to spend on marketing such as SEM.At this point you should invest in improving the speed of your site. Website speed is crucial to improving your SEM campaign.

Test Your Site

Google also has a great tool for speed impact that measures business revenue lost.

Test the tool here.

SEM, on the other hand, offers its own unique set of advantages. This approach often gives more visibility and faster results. It also can be a powerful driver of sales and conversions. SEM places your brand in front of people who are actively searching to buy right now, in a clickable form. If you do not appear in their searches, these customers will choose whoever does appear. Although it is possible to be successful without SEM, you will be losing sales – and your competitors gaining them – every day that you go without it.

In many cases, high-quality SEO and SEM campaigns can complement each other and amplify results. Having a well-optimized page will make SEM-driven customers more likely to find what they want quickly and buy it. This, in turn, will drive up your quality score, increasing visibility and reducing cost per click. In addition, both SEM and SEO rely to a huge degree on the same algorithm. SEO is a low-risk way to test new keywords and new strategies before making them part of an SEM campaign.

Online businesses often are most successful when they use both strategies in a flexible, varying ratio. When your organic search engine sales are high, you can pull back a bit on SEM or try new approaches. After all, why pay for visibility when you can get it for free? When you need to promote your brand or a new product, on the other hand, pouring more resources into SEM can yield fast results.

Ultimately, most businesses do best when they diversify their marketing and publicity efforts. There is no need to choose between these two strategies when the overwhelming majority of online businesses will see the most success using both.

Top Platforms for SEM

Are you ready to dip your toe into the SEM pool? There are several options for pay-per-click and other types of search engine marketing. The most popular of these is Google AdWords. Google is currently the king of search engines, claiming two-thirds of PC search and an astounding 83% of mobile search.

However, there are downsides to using AdWords as well. Because it is so popular, there is stiff competition. When you are just starting out and have a lower quality score or a less honed marketing strategy, you may not get the visibility you seek. Many people thus choose the ads of other popular search engines, particularly Bing Ads and Yahoo Search Ads. Again, SEM does not address social media ads as they are targeted differently, funnelled to customers that have looked at the similar material in the past rather than those who are searching for particular words at this moment.

An important thing to consider is what type of device you expect your target audience to primarily use. Google has a huge market share of smartphones, so businesses that market to millennials cannot afford to ignore it. Older generations are more PC reliant, so another search engine may yield great results.

Regardless of the search engine ad network that you choose, SEM can change your online business. It offers a unique set of advantages that can lead quickly to higher visibility and higher sales. Although it requires a financial investment, the right campaign will more than compensate for this. Are you ready to take your business to the top of the search page? If yes, begin developing an SEM campaign today.

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers and has been involved with SEO for over 12 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

33 Comments

  1. Merry
    May 3, 2018 at 4:05 pm · Reply

    I hadn’t even ever considered the idea that there would be a QUALITY component to a company like Google AdWords. AdWords was something that I brought up to my colleagues in diversifying our marketing. I work at a company that is expert at what we do, but doesn’t have the brand recognition as some of our competitors. I wonder if there’s some inherent value in recognizing your core demographics as well – when it comes to SEM across brands, are older people for example more likely to use Bing? Are younger people more likely to use Google? I’m glad that there’s actual research (and a nice research recommendation!) to back up this article.

  2. Sam
    May 3, 2018 at 4:39 pm · Reply

    Wow! This is all new and fascinating information for me!

  3. James vagaBond
    May 3, 2018 at 5:36 pm · Reply

    Before reading this article, I was familiar with the concept of SEO and had even implemented its use in a website or two I had developed, but I must say SEM is entirely new to me. I’m thankful that the author of this article outlined both their similarities and differences as well as their applications in order to help those like myself who are unfamiliar with it have an idea of what they could do with either of them or both as the case may be.

  4. Ryley
    May 3, 2018 at 6:07 pm · Reply

    I thought this was a fantastic and pretty interesting read. I’ve always been interested in search engines and how they work so I’m glad that someone put in time and effort to make something that can help businesses work towards their goals of having an increased presence online is available to them. It truly is amazing the world we live this day and age with how complex some of these things can get even if they are a simple concept at a base level.

    • Dave
      May 4, 2018 at 7:12 am · Reply

      Most businesses are familiar with the value of SEO, or search engine optimization. SEO has traditionally been viewed as a subset of search engine marketing. In modern times, however, optimizing your site for organic and paid searches requires two different approaches. Unlike traditional media, big marketing budgets are not necessary for success in SEM. While a huge marketing budget will always win over a small one when all other factors are equal, there is a great deal of strategy in SEM.

  5. Vasile Cojocaru
    May 3, 2018 at 7:37 pm · Reply

    Search engine marketing is just another result in today’s effect of internet over everything, including business. Twenty years ago, the means and hows were extremely different when talking about marketing but things have severely changed especially after 2010 when the importance of social media for youngsters has dramatically changed. In any case this article is a must-know for any business owner. Thank you.

  6. Dairo Elijah
    May 3, 2018 at 7:43 pm · Reply

    The author is rigorously thorough imo. A must read for bloggers, website admins, and any one who wants to harness the web to make a fortune. Much, much needed when you realize that search engines are the King of the internet. Harnessing its great strength could skyrocket conversion when you think about the number of page views and impressions websites and blogs receive in just one day. Getting an ad space on adwords (google), bing adwords, Yandex, and the likes pretty much sum up SEM. The author goes on to differentiate it from SEO which is up optimising and crawling the website for search engine robots. Nice job!

  7. James
    May 4, 2018 at 1:36 am · Reply

    This is super great information! I really enjoyed reading this site! People should take a read into this site more often. I think the key to that is getting the word out and sharing this site among our friends and other social groups. This would then spread the word like wild fire and we would have a much better time getting it out!

  8. Dallas C
    May 4, 2018 at 6:37 am · Reply

    With an ever changing and increasingly digital consumer base it is crucial that any business or NGO creates an online presence. Everyday more and more people are spending more time interacting with social media and online services. This means that business must adapt and devise more effective ways to spend their advertising dollars in order to reach out to an increasingly mobile and social media connected consumer base. The article does a good job of introducing one to the effectiveness of search engine optimization and could be an important step towards reaching out to more online consumers.

    • Creda
      May 4, 2018 at 7:13 am · Reply

      Business use SEO or Search Enginge Optimization. Now a days well optimized websites are no longer just what you need. More and more people are swtiching to social media to interact with consumers. It pays to be visible everywhere and most of these ads are on the websites at the top of your page. SEM is a pay per click option that has been gaining more nad more popularity. The real strength of SEM is that it combines traditional ad-based marketing with the reach and immediacy of the internet.

  9. Dave
    May 4, 2018 at 7:15 am · Reply

    The power of social media marketing is demonstrated by the wealth of people who have created whole empires that would have otherwise struggled to gain attention in the old world of newspaper and TV marketing. It’s clear that people like Gary Vaynerchuck could not have achieved what they did without utilising social media as a way to reach an audience which would have been otherwise inaccessible to them without huge financial outlay. Social media is an opportunity for everyone with a dream and a skill to promote themselves and their ideas.

  10. Jhon
    May 4, 2018 at 9:58 am · Reply

    Its an amazing article. Ilkied it very much. Thanks for writing such a nice article. I came to know about SEO is the science and art of designing a website and its copy so that it is visible to people who are searching for specific relevant keywords and terms. I am very happy to know about SOE in this article.

  11. UMA
    May 4, 2018 at 10:39 am · Reply

    In modern period search engines which are the vital of the internet also one of the important aspects which most of business people are not fully awarded. For SEM it is not necessary for big marketing budget. In this article it is clearly explained about SEM and one must read it and understood.

  12. Rob
    May 4, 2018 at 11:20 am · Reply

    I am a web developer, but I have been out of the loop for a few years now. I am very familiar with SEO, but this information on SEM is mostly new to me. Trying to catch up on the many technologies, languages, concepts, and practices that have been introduced or have evolved over the past few years is very difficult at times. Articles like this make it easy for someone in my position to “get up to speed”. The section that details the differences between SEO and SEM was particularly useful. Thanks so much! Keep the information coming!

  13. Matt
    May 4, 2018 at 11:48 am · Reply

    Not sure I really agree with how that was put.

  14. Judy Workman
    May 4, 2018 at 12:17 pm · Reply

    SEM is new to me. I heard of SEO and read about it before. It would take me a while to get used to it. People would probably click on paid ads before they would others, so it would pay do paid ads. Choosing the right keywords is the key in getting results. This is a pretty interesting article.

  15. Greg
    May 4, 2018 at 2:32 pm · Reply

    I can’t say I full confidence that the source of this information is correct. where are your sources?

  16. Gredi
    May 4, 2018 at 4:11 pm · Reply

    This is truely a wonderful website that deals with with a very important subject in the year 2018 And that is simply; social media marketing. Social media has taken the world by storm these days! And many people are using social media to market there products . This is an informative website that deals with this very important subject!

  17. mosaddek
    May 4, 2018 at 7:47 pm · Reply

    I have read about the SEO in the internet. But first time i read about the term SEM. I think it is a good reading for me to understand the seo things. So SEm means search engine marketing. I think it is a very well timed article as we know that now a days most business are associates with the marketing. If we can improve the website rank by any means that will be our asset. I don’t know about it. Thanks for sharing us these information.

  18. Gopi(required)
    May 4, 2018 at 9:04 pm · Reply

    though the authenticity of the full parts of the content is debatable, there were really some valid points to know.

  19. Name (required)H Richard
    May 4, 2018 at 9:14 pm · Reply

    I believe SEO and SEM both still have relevant use in the business world. As a consumer SEO is more likely to help me personally. Perhaps business should decide which resource to use depending on market group. I personally use social media, but do not look at ads at all. If I am interested in a service or product I go to google.

  20. NIPIN KOZHENCHERY
    May 5, 2018 at 12:25 am · Reply

    Thank you for the interesting article.I am a member of most of the paid to click sites and hence this article was helpful to me.I made a good amount of money from some sites and some other sites gave me loses.But any how as stated there will be positive and negative points in the use of social media and ad marketing.Every body needs money and these are some ways to get some passive income.Google ad sense is a good programme .And there are some other paid to click sites worth joining.

  21. Frank
    May 5, 2018 at 12:33 am · Reply

    Great website and article with loads of information I had no clue about prior to checking this out. I can’t wait to implement all these new strategies into my own business page. I believe you need to take advantage of all tools in the digital marketing age!

  22. Frank
    May 5, 2018 at 12:38 am · Reply

    Also want to mention that having looked through the entire site more thoroughly, there are so many tips and tricks to take advantage of, I can only imagine what a boost their actual service would provide. There is so much value in optimizing your page in which ever niche you’re involved in through SEO and SEM it really would benefit you to get familiar with all the ins and outs of online marketing.

  23. Edgar Martinez
    May 5, 2018 at 3:12 am · Reply

    Wow, this article was not only interesting but very helpful to me, actually reading and seeing the google trends bar, makes me think about the time I almost waste in those sites, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose but at the end is the time I invest in those sites the important part, thanks for the article!

  24. Maike Mane
    May 5, 2018 at 10:19 am · Reply

    While search engine marketing is an effective tool to go along with SEO, it can lose its value because a user who see those top ads will generally not click them because, knowing that they are ads, will be disinclined and less trustworthy of them.

  25. A Duncan
    May 5, 2018 at 10:21 am · Reply

    I have never thought about or heard of SEM until now. I am glad to know what actually is happening when you click on an AD or when you search for something. I think everyone can agree that we rely on the internet for most things. From finding a recipe to online shopping. I thank the Author of this article and really taking the time to put in perspective of what actually happens. I will now take the time just to click on an ad because some people truly rely on people clicking on their ads so they can live.

  26. Caroline
    May 24, 2018 at 5:56 am · Reply

    This is an awesome article. I did not know much about SEM until I read this. Thanks a lot for the information. I have also downloaded the book by Claude M Hopkins. I am enjoying the insights in the book as well. I believe SEO and SEM can both help web owners to increase their conversion rate. Both techniques are great for target marketing and are more effective compared to the traditional approach to marketing. SEM is proving to be a cost-efficient way of reaching potential clients who are ready to make a purchase. When done properly, SEM appears easy to implement. I hope I will get the chance to learn more about this new from this website. Thanks.

  27. Sandra
    May 24, 2018 at 9:12 am · Reply

    Reading all of these articles I was always asking myself when will come time to put some cash into business and here it comes. Thanks for letting me know little more about SEM. After reading this I think that there is no success if you don’t put some extra money into business. That probably means that you’ll earn much more extra money and it’s great, go for it. Running your own business is hard, but I’ll keep in mind this site for all my friends that are interested in founding their own business, all those articles will help them a lot with it.

  28. Maria Han
    May 24, 2018 at 4:52 pm · Reply

    I concur with you Sandra, spending some money on ads and ensuring the business is visible enough for the target audience is critical in any venture capital business. The web has provided great opportunities for business to showcase their products and services at the convenience of their premises. The hustle that came with running road shows, media campaigns and posters is slowing deteriorating and there is a clear shift towards the internet. Information is key and without SEM it can be hard for businesses to gain visibility in this competitive world. Thanks, Ajay for the informative article. I appreciate the great insights and knowledge of the topic.

  29. Hernan A.
    May 25, 2018 at 9:31 pm · Reply

    A couple of years ago, I was researching about SEO and I happened to read an article that said that the top three top-ranking websites on the SERP usually shell out money and pay for those top rankings. Seldom would a website, according to that article that I had read, would reach the top three rankings without paying for those rankings. Hence, based on that article, organic results do not factor well for the top three rankings. Moreover, your website will never really reach the top three rankings in the SERP without shelling out money. I wish then that what that article had conveyed was wrong for I am still convinced that by relying on honest-to-goodness SEO practices, a website can reach the top rankings. I hope I am right in my belief, and I hope SEM is not really necessary for a website to reach the top three rankings of the SERP.

  30. Dan A.
    May 25, 2018 at 9:58 pm · Reply

    I was researching about SEO, a couple of years ago, when I happened to read an article that said that the top three top-ranking websites on the SERP usually pay for those top rankings. Seldom would a website, according to that article that I had read, would reach the top three rankings without paying for those rankings. Hence, based on that article, organic results do not factor well for the top three rankings. Moreover, your website will never really reach the top three rankings in the SERP without shelling out money. I wish then that what that article had conveyed was wrong for I am still convinced that by relying on honest-to-goodness SEO practices, a website can reach the top rankings. I hope I am right in my belief, and I hope SEM is not really necessary for a website to reach the top three rankings of the SERP.

  31. Raquel
    May 29, 2018 at 5:50 pm · Reply

    I’ve been using pay to click websites but stop since some of this websites don’t pay much though it now started gaining popularity to all users all over the world. SEM is a new one for me so reading this article helps me know more about it. The author defines this clearly and understandably. I have been interested in search engines and how they work so its really good that someone exert their effort to make an article like this that will surely help other website owners became successful on this business. I would definitely recommend this article to my friends.

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