To the uninitiated, the world of digital marketing can sometimes feel like swimming in alphabet soup—SEO, SEM, PPC. There’s a lot of acronyms, all meaning different things. And all you know is that you need your site to rank if you want your business to thrive.

So, we’re taking a look at one of the basic components of your digital marketing strategy: search engine marketing, or SEM. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is the practice of marketing your business on search engines using paid advertisements, similar to how you would bid on advertising space on TV. Except in SEM, advertisers bid on specific keywords.

In doing so, the winning bidders guarantee that their ads will appear in search engine results alongside organic search traffic.

It is not to be confused with search engine optimization, or SEO, which is a set of tactics designed to help you get free traffic from search engines by getting your web pages to rank well organically. SEM, also called pay-per-click advertising or PPC, is distinguished by the need to pay for your space.

The Importance of SEM

While SEO gets the most attention and is essential for your site’s long-term performance, the critical role of SEM cannot be overlooked.

SEM accomplishes two critical things for your site. First, it guarantees that your site will be seen for a specific keyword (if you win the keyword bid). Second, it allows for greater visibility if your site falls on the later pages of search results, which is critical for smaller sites that may not be able to get to the first page.

That said, many users give precedence to organic search results brought to them by SEO, since these are the results the search engine believes provide the best possible answer to their query. The moral of the story is that you need both SEO and SEM, just like you need both brick and mortar.


The good news is that some of the basic strategies for SEM are similar to those used in SEO, like keyword research. After that, though, the two paths diverge.

That’s because SEM is paid, which means you have to craft an ad and go through the ad auction process. The key is to create an ad that makes people want to click while also bidding strategically on the keywords that best suit your needs.

Making SEM Work for You

If you’re new to the whole process of search engine marketing and the process above sounds like a frightening hassle, here’s the good news: you can hire experts to lend a hand. More importantly, you should hire experts to handle your SEM campaigns (especially if you’re serious about strong site performance).

We’re a Google Premier Partner, and we know what it takes to perform well on the biggest search engine in the world. Our job is simple: to give you the tools to understand your marketing strategy options and let you take control of your site’s narrative. Sound like a good deal? If so, get in touch today to let us know how we can help.

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