What is SEM
Updated on 24th Jan, 22 578 Views

In the world of paid marketing, you might have observed that there are a lot of acronyms, be it SEO, SEM, CRO, PPC, or even SMO. Let’s be honest here; it gets a little confusing to keep track of these, correct? Search Engine Marketing, or SEM marketing as it is called, is an efficient way to reach out to new customers and eventually help drive revenue. It is proven to be one of the most effective ways to grow your brand and scale your business online.

In this blog, we will discuss everything there is to know about SEM and we will be looking in-depth at the following aspects of it:

Let us begin this ‘What is SEM?’ blog by starting out with an introduction.


Introduction to SEM

As mentioned, SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. Even though the term feels like it has a broad meaning, it actually has a very specific use; it has to do with search engines, paid search techniques to be precise. Out of the many paid search tools, the most common one is Google Ads. Other sites such as Yahoo or even Bing can be used if need be.

Check out our SEM video tutorial on YouTube designed especially for beginners:

What SEM does is, make full use of the power of a search engine (e.g., Google) to ensure that the marketing content reaches customers at the right time of requirement to help convert a prospect into a sale.

IF you are wondering what is PPC then here is something interesting!

SEM goes by many names, and here are some of the most used ones:

  • SEM (of course!)
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC Marketing)
  • Paid Search Advertisements

These terms can be used interchangeably, and the meaning does not alter. When discussing SEM, there are many other terms as well that you need to understand. The following are the important ones:


The number of times your advertisement is visible on a search engine. This does not include if people saw it or interacted with it.

CPC (Cost Per Click)

Cost per click or CPC indicates the amount paid when a person clicks on your advertisement that is posted online.

CTR (Click-through Rate)

CTR is the number of times customers landed on your website after seeing the advertisement. Note, there is no compulsion that the customer should have clicked on the advertisement to get onto your website. Just seeing the advertisement and landing on your page by other means also adds up to CTR.

CPR (Cost Per Million)

CPR is a way to pay for the search engine advertisement you have put up with. Amidst a lot of factors such as budget, reachability, and goal, CPM is used to calculate the amount you pay to have a million impressions on the advertisement.

Next up on this ‘What is SEM?’ blog, we can check out the comparison between Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Social Media Paid Search Advertising.

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Search Engine Marketing Strategies vs Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising and SEM are two different concepts. In social media advertising, ads are customized and shown to each of the customers separately. This will help in adding a lot of value to the brand by:

  • Being an easy means to target potential customers based on their needs
  • Catering to customers’ interests
  • Provisioning products/brands to the customers’ location
  • Analyzing and understanding customer buying behavior

On the other hand, SEM mainly works on the concept of keyword phrases. These phrases are used to cater to a specific set of customers whenever they make a search on any of the search engines out there.

It is important to know that SEM and social media advertising are not the same. However, they can go hand in hand and help drive more revenue, as well as boost brand awareness. Once your brand is established, it should come as no surprise that people will see your social media advertisements and click on them because, now, they are aware of your presence.

The other way might work too—customers see your ads on social media and end up on your page by the means of targeted keywords. Hence, this is an advantage when working with SEM; it makes it easier to incorporate other methodologies as well to effectively help drive the digital marketing campaign forward.

The next important comparison will give you some clarity with regard to the confusion that occurs when one talks about SEM and SEO.

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Next up on this ‘What is SEM?’ blog, we can check out the comparison between SEM and SEO.


Search Engine Marketing Types vs Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, or SEO as it is called, is another set of methodologies used to drive traffic to your website by helping it rank higher on the search engines. SEM and SEO are different from each other, but you must know that they can also work together to achieve the common goal.

Let us consider the situation where a person searches, ‘how to learn Python.’ If searching on Google, it uses an algorithm that finds out the best websites to display for this keyphrase and ranks them from best to better to good.

SEO is all about putting your website at the top of the search to make Google determine that your page is the best to answer the question searched for.

If you have a web page that has content developed around a keyphrase and if it ranks among the first few items on the first page in a search, it means that you have good content and that the audience likes the work, among many other things. You might be wondering about the other factors that go on to play a role. Refer to the following:

  • The time it takes to load the website completely
  • Analysis based on users clicking on the website
  • Interaction of customers with your website
  • How long do people stay on your website?
  • Are you completely catering to the search?
  • Analyzing if your website is trustable?

The concept of backlinks is used to determine if Google can trust your website or not. Here is a simple explanation of backlinks. Website X has an external link to Website Y. This means that Website Y has a backlink from X. This link can be in the form of an image or an anchor text link or more. This is organic, which means that you are not paying anything for it.

Now, the situation with SEM is a little different. You can bid for the ‘how to learn Python’ keyword phrase, and if you win the bid, your web page will show up on the first page of Google almost instantaneously.

SEO helps make your website fast while SEM is used to make it rank. If your website is not fast or user-friendly, then using SEM will be a waste of money. It is as simple as that! This, alongside Google’s Quality Score, plays a key role in the price. If people who visit your site leave with a bad experience, then Google will charge you higher prices per click.

SEO is a long-term gain that will bring about organic search clicks, while SEM is paid that brings quick clicks and helps you expand your click-based impressions rapidly.

Next up on this ‘What is SEM?’ blog, we should look at the cost involved when working with SEM.

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What is the cost of SEM?

We are pretty sure that many readers here are curious about the pricing when it comes to SEM. Well, it is more complex than it seems.

If your SEM campaign is effective and if customers are liking your product, brand, content, and everything, Google will drop the prices and help you achieve higher visibility at a lower cost.

However, instead of this dynamic pricing, you can go on to opt for a ‘set-and-forget’ pricing structure. Here, Google will issue small increments in the price, and this goes hand in hand with what the other companies are doing. At the end of it, either way, SEM makes it highly effective and drives an amazing value via good return on investment (ROI).

Read our salary study on PPC Analyst in our statistical blog on PPC Analyst Salary.

So, how does one keep the costs low?

The problem is, many small-scale marketers feel that they are paying a lot of money and getting a lot less in return. This could be because of the fact that they do not really understand how they can set a maximum budget for AdWords. Following are some of the important points one must consider when working on keeping the costs low:

  • Avoid overbidding
  • Focus on the right keywords
  • Work on increasing Google’s Quality Score
  • Plan and research on the customer base extensively
  • Get a good campaign management
  • Work on optimizing the user experience

Also Read: Best SEO Tools to Improve Organic Rankings

Next up on this ‘What is SEM?’ blog, let’s take a look at the big benefits of making use of SEM.


Major Benefits of using SEM

There are numerous benefits when it comes to making use of SEM to build an effective marketing portfolio. Here are some of the ways how SEM can benefit your brand:

Immediate Brand Awareness

As mentioned above, SEO and organic social media traffic take some time to show results. With Google, it can take about a year to scale up in quality and rankings.

Using SEM here will give you a guaranteed spot on the first page. Going from less or no visibility to this can attract a lot of attention quickly.

Next up we need to take a look at the Search Engine Marketing benefits in terms of quick revenue inflow.

Instant Revenue Generation

With the correct campaign planning, alongside the right advertisement copy, sales can come in on the same day! Starting it is quick and easy with a service like Google Ads.

However, one thing to note is that it takes some effort to get the right return on investment (ROI) when it comes to SEM.

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Business Growth

SEM is highly scalable, and it is easier even for small-scale marketers to get started. Although, it is vital to see what works and what doesn’t before investing money into SEM.

Gradually, as the revenue goes up, the number of ads can be increased, and this drives the business to success. Further, ads that are not working well can be removed and adjusted for efficiency. A daily budget as low as US $8 can do wonders to brand establishment!

Good Reachability

Think about it, over 3.5 billion people are online, and 92 percent of these online appearances start with a search engine. Search engines are the biggest source to drive traffic to websites than any other.

Without any regard for what the product is or what your brand is, the journey starts online. Making the right use of this will ensure that you can drive more revenue. The demand here is that people come to search engines because they need something. Being there to deliver it and being trustworthy will take you a long way in your goal of brand building and business growth.

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As seen from all of the discussions we had, be it SEO, SEM, or any other fancy three-letter acronym, each of these has a very important role in helping your brand and product. These become powerful entities when used with each other, and this is something important that you should know.

Making use of SEM will effectively give you a head start in launching your platform and getting ahead of the competition. It has been a foundational entity in the uprising of many of the famous products and brands that we have today.

We believe it is high time that people saw the high return on investment (ROI) possible with SEM and jumped onto it to make the best of the establishment and to thrive in this world of competition.

On the same note, it is vital that you understand and establish a plan to use SEM wisely. If done wrong, you might face a situation of more spending and obtaining fewer results. You don’t want that, right? A thorough understanding of SEM is always advantageous as discussed! With this post, we hope we were able to completely answer the question – what is Search Engine Marketing, and what is SEM in Digital Marketing!

If you are willing to become an expert in the field of Digital Marketing, check out Intellipaat’s Search Engine Marketing Certification. Through this certification program, you can work on becoming proficient and an expert in a variety of domains in the vast world of Digital Marketing.

What do you think about SEM? Let us know in the comments below!

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