Search Engine Marketing (SEM): How It works!

SEM is a strategy designed to have your website listed on the first page of the SERPS through paid advertising campaigns. In truth, there will be times when your website won’t appear on the SERP despite your efforts. Regardless of the time and money invested in keyword research and SEO, the results might still not be satisfactory. There could be several reasons behind that; one of them being severe market competition. Especially in the initial stages of your business, competition is always intense. In such circumstances, SEM is the only way out. It will not only help your website be visible on the SERPs but also boost your sales. Plus, SEM is a lot faster than SEO.

SEM - Search Engine Marketing


When it comes to digital marketing, SEM is often confused with SEO. Many people are still unaware of the unique nature and functions of these two. Despite being closely connected and falling under the same category, i.e., “search marketing”, SEO and SEM are two distinct concepts. While SEO focuses on generating organic leads for the business, SEM uses paid advertising to do the same. The goal is the same, i.e., the website’s visibility on the SERPs, but the approaches differ. However, both of them serve as essential components of an efficient business marketing strategy nowadays.

SEO involves the use of some of the best optimization practices and rules to improve a website’s visibility. These rules and practices are in accordance with the ever-changing nature of Google’s algorithms. Through these practices, SEO aims to make a business’s website appear on the first SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

All the leads and clicks earned through SEO are organic, i.e., you don’t have to pay for a spot on the SERPs. This process, although quite beneficial in the long-run, is not only time-consuming but also requires a lot of effort. Contrary to that, SEM requires more money and less effort. You pay to have your website’s ads appear on the relevant SERPs.

SEM is the direct and short–cut solution for your marketing goals. With SEM helping you get the same results in a shorter amount of time, you can skip through certain steps of the optimization process. The major difference lies in the fact that one approach is paid (SEM) while the other is unpaid (SEO).

What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM): All you need to know

If you are still confused about what SEM is, let us break it down for you. We can explain it in two words, i.e., paid advertising. Paid advertising is an essential element of SEM. It is exactly what it’s called, i.e., paid advertising campaigns being run on certain paid search platforms. You bid for a keyword that is most likely to be used by your ideal customers to search for your brand online. Once you acquire that keyword, every time someone would run an online search for that keyword, your ads will show up on the SERP. Paid advertising helps you keep your ads listed at the top of the first SERP. The payment plans vary depending on the kind of paid advertising a company plans on investing in. Speaking of paid Search Engine Marketing ads, there are certain terms that you must be well-acquainted with to understand SEM. These terms are given below:

  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

    Search Engine Marketing comes in all shapes and forms some of which are quite popular while others aren’t well-known. PPC (pay-per-click) advertising falls under the category for the popular ones. In truth, it stands at the top of that list. It’s not only highly efficient and effective but also quite popular in the world of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). PPC campaigns are exactly what they’re called, i.e., pay per click. The advertiser will only have to pay for the clicks they get on the ads.

    If there are no clicks on the ads, no matter how many times the ads show up on the SERPs, the advertiser will not be charged for that. This is quite an economical option for most businesses because the cost-per-click is lesser than the ROI earned through each click. For instance, suppose the cost-per-click is $2. Your ad gets clicked on, which, in turn, results in a sale of up to $200; thus, you end up earning $198. If $2 is your investment, then $198 is your potential return on investment (ROI). Hence, the $2 fee is money well-spent.

  • Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA)

    Divide the total cost of your (pay-per-click) campaign by the total number of conversions secured by you, the result will be your CPA, i.e., cost-per-acquisition. Your CPA helps you assess and verify the profitability of your SEM strategy. It helps you understand how your marketing campaigns affect your finances. The best way to do this is to compare your actual CPA with an acceptable CPA (cost-per-acquisition). You can come up with an acceptable CPA (cost-per-acquisition) for your business by calculating your business’s CLV, i.e., Customer Lifetime Value, and the AOV, i.e., Average Order Value.

  • Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

    It is the cost a PPC (pay-per-click) marketing campaign requires you to pay for every click you receive on your PPC ads. It can also be defined as the average of the bids you place against your competitors during a certain period. Your cost-per-click (CPS) will either be lower than your maximum keyword bid or equal to it. You can calculate it by dividing your Competitor Ad Rank by your Quality Score, plus $.01. Being able to understand your cost-per-click would go a long way in helping you determine the ideal bidding amount. $2 is the average cost-per-click (CPC) for all of the industries. Using a cost-per-click (CPC) calculator will give you a clear idea about your standing in the industry.

  • Cost-Per-Mille (CPM)

    The word “Mille” translates to one thousand which is why CPM is also known as cost-per-thousand-impressions. It refers to the cost incurred by a marketer for every 1,000 advertisement impressions on a webpage. For instance, a CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) of $3 implies that you will have to pay $3 for every 1,000 advertisement impressions on the website. The alphabet “M” is used to represent the number “1,000” in Roman numerals. CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) is the most frequently used pricing schemes for website advertisements. By analyzing your CTR (click-through-rates) and comparing the number of clicks on your ads with the number of impressions would help you determine your CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) campaign’s ROI (return on investment).

Although your SEM strategy might change following the changes in your advertising goals and budget, your paid SEM never will. All of your paid SEM campaigns will forever be dependent on your keyword research. Paid SEM requires you to bid on the keywords that are the most suited to your brand. These keywords, once acquired, will serve as the trigger for your ads. This means that every time someone will use these keywords in their queries, your ads will appear on the SERPs. For instance, to show up in the search results for “digital marketing firm”, you will have to bid on these specific keywords. Hence, you cannot run a successful paid search advertising campaign without mastering the art of keyword research and bidding.

SEM Keyword Research

SEM Keyword Research: A short how-to guide!

Before getting started with your SEM strategy, you should first be well-aware of the right keywords for your business. This is of the utmost importance. If you cannot identify the keywords ideal for your business, your SEM campaign is bound to fail. This is because bidding on the wrong keyword would have a severe effect on your website. Thus, be very careful when choosing a keyword to bid on. If you are new at this, Keyword Research might be quite challenging. That’s how it is for most newcomers. However, with time, you will be able to understand how it works. Plus, the various keyword research tools available online would make it easier for you to handle.

The first step to keyword research is brainstorming. Think of the words that are the most relevant to your brand. Write them down. Divide these words into the four major keyword categories, i.e., brand terms, generic terms, related terms, and competitor terms. Create lists accordingly. Look at these terms through the eyes of your target customers. Ask yourself, “If I were a customer, what words or phrases would I use in my search queries?” The answer will help you identify the most suitable keywords for your brand.

Once done, the next step is to jump headfirst into the depths of what we call “Keyword Research”. The best way to do it is through an efficient, effective, and reliable keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner. Use the keywords on your list to look for other relevant keywords through the keyword research tool. The tool will not only show you additional keywords but also provide you with the search volume for each of them. In addition to this, you will also be able to get a clear idea about the severity of competition for each keyword. This refers to the competition you may have to face when bidding for a certain keyword.

We all know how auctions work. People offer a price through bids for the product being auctioned and the bidder offering the highest price wins. The same goes for keyword auctions as well. The higher the competition, the greater the bidding amount will be. A wiser approach is for you to look for a keyword with low competition and high search volume. Not only will you get the keyword while staying within your budget but also succeed in reaching your target audience.

Choosing The Right Paid Search Platform For Your Business

The true success of an SEM campaign depends on the paid search platform it’s being run on. Every business has its own unique set of marketing needs. Hence, not every paid search platform will be ideal for every business. Choosing the right platform (s) for your SEM campaign is crucial to its success. Google Ads is the most popular and trusted platform that offers free registration and immediate participation in internet keyword auctions.

There are no minimum budget requirements for participation in the auctions. In other words, anyone registered with Google Ads, regardless of their budget limitations, can bid for their desired keywords. What’s more, Google Ads will require you to pay if, and only, if someone has either engaged with your ads or clicked on them. Apart from Google Ads, there are two other paid search platforms ideal for your SEM campaigns, i.e., Bing Ads and Facebook Ads.

  1. Bing Ads: The Search Engine Marketing solution offered by Bing will display your ads on its own network that handles more than six billion searches each month. Moreover, there is no such thing as a minimum fee for you to pay before launching your SEM campaign. You will only be required to pay once your ads have either been interacted with or clicked on by a user.
    This allows you to check out different bids and keywords and evaluate them. Consequently, you will be able to figure out which keywords and bids will ensure the maximum boost in your ROI (Return on investment). Fun fact: Bing Search Ads and Yahoo Search ads run on a shared network.
  2. PPC advertising options offered by social media channels: Several social media channels have been offering SEM advertising campaign options to businesses for years. This is because millions, if not billions, of people from around the world use at least one social media platform every day. Running an SEM campaign on such platforms allows businesses to get in touch with these people. One such platform is Facebook. Its paid advertising feature, Facebook Ads, helps you run your SEM advertising campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and several other websites and applications included in the Audience Network.What’s more, the process is pretty simple. You just have to bid at the auction after choosing your budget and the format of your ads. The members of your preferred social network will see your ads every time they would log in.

We have already established that not every paid search platform is the right platform for every website. The question is: why is one platform “right” for a business’s SEM campaign while others aren’t? The answer depends on several factors.

  • How much are you willing to invest?
  • How much can you afford to invest?
  • What are the specific marketing needs of your business?
  • What targets are you trying to achieve through this campaign?

To choose the right paid search platform, you must answer these questions and evaluate each platform accordingly. However, choosing a single platform is not necessary. To ensure maximum visibility and coverage, you could choose to run your SEM campaign on multiple platforms. You could also choose the right spots for your ads’ placement considering the marketing goals you want to achieve or the specific customer demographic you want to reach.

Let Our Professionals Help You Build Your SEM Strategy

Paid search engine marketing has the power to completely revolutionize your business. Your website will rise to the first SERP directly from the 4th or 5th page of the search results. SEM can be implemented regardless of your financial limitations.

Not only is it effective but also quite affordable. You have the option to build your SEM strategy in accordance with your budget. Paid search ads also result in enhanced brand visibility as well as improved conversion rates, website traffic, and click-through rates. In addition to this, paid search ads will eventually end up helping you acquire organic recognition as well as growth.

Hire Marketing By Ali today to get our professionals to assist you in developing your SEM strategy and PPC advertising campaigns. Our services under Paid Search Program Management include expert guidance on achieving the highest ROI on Bing Ads, Google Ads, and several other paid search platforms. Reach out to us today to get more information on our Monthly PPC (pay-per-click) management service. Allow us to help you build the ideal SEM strategy for your website.

SEM Strategy