What is SEM?

SEM Search Engine Marketing

What is SEM?

SEM – or Search Engine Marketing – was once a term used to describe both paid searches and SEO (search engine optimisation). These days, however, SEM is used only in reference to paid search activities. This could include:

  • SEM Spend imagePaid search adverts
  • Paid search advertising
  • PPC (pay-per-click)
  • CPC (cost-per-click)
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions



As mentioned above, SEO used to be listed under the term SEM, however, both terms are complex pieces of marketing, so they were split into two categories. What’s the difference, though?

Well SEO is all about improving your website in order to improve search engine results organically. This is done in a number of ways, including link building, keywords and meta data. All of which make you more desirable to Google and place you higher in search results for certain keywords, so more people will find and click through to your website. The problem is, SEO can take a long time to gain results.

When it comes to SEM, though, you will pay in order to get people to click through to your website. This can be in for form of paid search results or showing your adverts to people who have been searching for your chosen keywords. This can give much faster results than SEO.

Which Works Better?

SEM Question MarkOften business owners will ask whether they should opt for SEO or SEM. Well, that’s totally up to you, but for optimum results, it’s actually best to run both SEO and SEM marketing campaigns.

For one, SEO might take a long time for results and, yes, it can be time-consuming to set up. When done successfully, though, SEO will bring you natural clicks to your website that are free. Which is something every business owner wants.

SEM isn’t free, in fact, with PPC you will even pay for every click that reaches your website – all without the guarantee of someone buying into your product or service. That shouldn’t be off-putting though, as SEM is a superb investment that will significantly boost your website views and customer numbers. It’s particularly favoured for its ability to introduce you to your target market in a short amount of time, which with increased sales, should pay for your SEM campaign in no time at all.

Do Keywords Matter for SEM?

Just like in SEO, keywords are everything. Without utilising keywords that are relevant and valuable to your target market, you won’t be successful. For instance, if you are a hairdresser in Torquay, you would be silly to look at an SEM campaign based on the keywords “pizza delivery Manchester”.

Rather, in-depth keyword research is imperative to a successful campaign. The hairdresser above would want to look at terms such as: blow dry, hair colouring, hair cutting etc. in their area of operation. If this is done successfully, they could beat their competition in search engine results.

Choosing your keywords can be daunting, generally you will want to strike a good balance between the most popular of search terms in your business (which will cost more) and more unusual terms that will be priced far more competitively.

Overall, SEM is a quick and simple way to boost your website traffic. It can be used independently, or in conjunction with SEO to introduce your business to your target market and is – when used optimally – very successful for businesses. 

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