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What Is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

Aug 10,2018 | Jeff Jensen

What Is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)? SEM or Search Marketing is the course of acquiring traffic and visibility from search engines such as Google by paying for traffic and using organic efforts. The term was originally coined by Search Engine Land in 2001 to include both organic and paid search. Now, some profession organizations only see the term as being in reference to paid search. The organic efforts consist of SEO, which is getting traffic by adding content, optimizing your site for organic results etc. (See on article on What is SEO? for more details) SEM is the process of paying for traffic through platforms such as Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.

There is a long list of aspects to SEM including Pay Per Click (PPC), Cost Per Click (CPC), Retargeting, Geotargeting, Mobile Search, Keyword research, Enhanced Campaigns, Adwords, Bing Ads, Product Listing Ads (PLA’s) for e-Commerce, Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), Content Writing, and more. Many of the terms such as PPC, CPC, and CPA are all related to paying traffic, but for different results. If you talk to a consultant and they recommend campaign for impressions it should be for brand awareness while if you are trying to get a sale you want to calculate the cost per acquisition.

Some other ideas for SEM include paying influencers to talk about your product or service, driving traffic from social media ads or paying for an ad on a blog site with your target customer on it. For me this could be paying for a listing in an high ranking SEO forum. This also could include paying for a bunch of listings to get created for your business. As an example Yahoo Business Listings gets you on 80 – 200 directories (they keep changing how many they promise for the price). The decision on whether SEM should be part of your strategy depends on competitors success with ads. If they have ads running that are working well to get customers, you would know based on ads being continuously run, then you should try to get customers through this process.