What IS search engine marketing (SEM)?
Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy used to increase the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs).
While the industry term once referred to both organic search activities such as search engine optimization (SEO) and paid, it now refers almost exclusively to paid search advertising.
Search engine marketing is also alternately referred to as paid search or pay per click (PPC).
HOW DOES SEM WORK?
Search engines use complicated algorithms to ensure the most relevant results are returned for each search, including location and other available information.
In paid search advertising, sponsored ads appear at the top of and on the side of search engine results pages to gain more visibility and prominence than the organic results.
Let’s say that you are a customer looking for a product or service online. You go to a search engine and type in your search terms (also known as keywords).
In your search results page, you will come across various company ads whose keywords match the keywords in your search.
These ads appear in prominent locations on the page – along with the other search listings that match your keywords.
The paid listings are highly relevant to your specific search, making it likely that you will click on them.
Now let’s take a look at how SEM campaigns work from the marketer’s perspective.
SEM networks are self-serve operations. Once a marketer selects a network, they can get a campaign up within a short period of time.
When setting up a campaign within an SEM network, the marketer is prompted to:
Conduct keyword research and select a set of keywords related to their website or product
Select a geographic location for the ad to be displayed within
Create a text-based ad to display in the search results
Bid on a price they are willing to pay for each click on their ad
Text-only ads are easy to produce. Marketers enter a headline, text for the body of the ad, a call-to-action and a URL for the hyperlink.
Search engine marketing is considered by many to be the most efficient way to spend marketing dollars.
EXAMPLES OF SEARCH AD NETWORKS
The two primary search networks that SEM professionals target are Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) and the Bing Ads.
Google AdWords is actually two networks: Google Search Network and Google Display Network. The first network consists exclusively of search-related websites owned by Google, while the second includes properties such as YouTube, Blogger and Gmail. The Bing Ads allows customers to buy ads on both Yahoo’s network of websites and Bing’s network.