What Is Search Engine Marketing?

Search Engine Marketing, also referred to as Search Marketing or SEM, has become an integral part of digital marketing. Despite being so commonly used, it’s sometimes a bit difficult to pin down exactly what SEM is.

We’ll talk about what the definition of Search Engine Marketing is, it’s two major components, and how you’re already using it for your own business.

Let’ s begin!

The Definition of SEM

The basic definition of Search Marketing is a bit cheeky, being any form of marketing that involves a search engine.

Why is the definition so broad?

Because Search Engines, like most of the web, are constantly changing. What exists right now in the world of SEM may not be the same in 5 years time, and with the exponential strides that technology often makes, we aren’t even sure what those changes could be.

Currently, this definition of search marketing creates two major channels that are often focused on, Paid Results and Organic Results.

In addition to these two major branches, there are dozens of smaller, more niche forms of marketing that fall under SEM or as subsets of the two major channels, but change between each Search Engine.

Let’s take a look at these two prominent channels more in-depth, and explore their available subsets.

Two Major Components of Search Marketing

As we mentioned earlier, Search Engine Marketing has two main categories, Paid Results and Organic Results.

Paid results are typically associated with the direct payment for engagement from a search provider, often called Pay Per Click Advertising, or PPC. You’ve likely even heard of two of the biggest players in the field: Google Ads and Bing Ads.

Organic results are a little trickier, since there is no clear, pay $X for X visitors equation. Organic results are often shown based on what the search engine thinks is the best answer to whatever the searcher is asking. This method is more indirect, and often pays off on small and large scales, but leaves a gap in the middle. These results are often adjusted by Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.

Pay Per Click Advertising

If you’ve used a search engine before, then you’re likely familiar with paid results.

These results often show at the top of your, in groups of 1-4 depending on the search engine, and show a small “ad” text to denote that they were paid for. These paid results are referred to as Pay Per Click Advertising, and are often sold directly through the search provider themselves.

These paid ads are a large part of how search engines generate revenue. For businesses, these ads are available to purchase in a defined way, paying $x for each individual that clicks on your ad. This method of ad purchasing makes it a favorite of small and large businesses alike for three main reasons:

  • You can pay for as little or as much traffic as you want
  • Your ads can be instantly placed at the top of search results
  • This type of advertising is easily measured compared to traditional marketing

These ads can provide a consistent return as long as they’re ran, but often have an average Return on Investment. While you won’t see extraordinary returns without a lot of extra work, PPC promises a solid return for almost any campaign or business.

Search Engine Optimization

While PPC takes care of the paid results, there are still a number of organic results shown on the page as well. The search engine picks these results from an archive of millions web pages, using complex algorithms to retrieve what it hopes are the answers to a searcher’s questions.

These listings can’t be directly affected in the way that PPC can. SEO instead relies on creating content that answers the user’s query, and making sure that search engines can access and interpret that content effectively.

Because of this, Search Engine Optimization contains additional components of competition with other site’s content, interpretation of what user’s want when they search, and a high variability when it comes to results.

Pay Per Click Advertising provides consistent results, while its counterpart can provide an extremely high Return on Investment if your campaign is dominating a few keywords, or a non-existent return if enough care isn’t taken, for instance if you are completely wrong in what your customer actually wants.

While the returns are variable, SEO does bring with it the unique advantage of being an incremental form of marketing. Each month (or quarter, or campaign) that you utilize this channel, you build upon your previous successes, moving up the keyword rankings and acquiring more traffic than the month before if things are going well.

Using Search Engine Marketing For Your Business

With more user starting the research and shopping online than ever before, making sure that your business is represented is crucial.

When adding SEM to your marketing mix, remember that diversification is key! Many agencies or online gurus will push a single branch of Search Engine Marketing (likely whichever they’re selling). But just like investments, it’s important to spread your marketing resources between both of them, pairing the stability of PPC with the potential rewards of SEO.

Have any further questions about Search Engine or Digital Marketing? Let us know, or feel free to leave a comment below!

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