SEM - Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing Explained.

Search Engine Marketing Explained
Let search engines help you market your business. Credit: Teekid | Getty Images

Definition of SEM:

SEM is an acronym for search engine marketing, which involves tasks that help search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, find and rank a website 

Two Major Search Engine Marketing Strategies

There are two primary forms of search engine marketing:

  • SEO (search engine optimization) uses techniques to increase search engine ranking in natural search (unpaid search results). Many people know which search results are paid versus natural and often give precedence to natural search options. Website owners can increase their website ranking by using meta tags in their website code, offering relevant content, and connecting to and from quality resources. 
  • Paid search marketing - PPC (pay per click) or PPA (pay per action) involve having search engines display your website offer in search results and you pay when your ad is clicked. For example, Google's Adwords program will display your ad at the top or right side of the search results page (placement depends on many factors including keywords and quality of ad). Google will also feed your ads to websites running its Adsense program. There are other types of PPC marketing, such as Facebook Ads. Paid search differs in that your goal is to have your website or offer displayed higher in search results.

Search Engine Marketing to Market Your Business


Although you don't want to rely on search engines alone to bring you clients and customers, they shouldn't be ignored either. About 30% of traffic to my business comes from organic search on Google. That's enough to motivate me to pay attention to keeping listed on search engines.

The good news is that many marketing activities contribute to Google's analysis when it ranks web pages. For example, your social media activity, appearances on other sites through interviews or guest blogging, and being listed as a resource on another site all increase your standing in Google's eyes.

However, if you try to game the system, as was common practice for many years, and which Google, in particular, has been working hard to stop, can hurt your rankings. So make sure you understand SEO before using it in your search engine marketing strategy.

Paid Search
The advantage of paid search is that you can have your website listed on the first pages in a prominent spot on Google and other search engines. However, showing up is only part of the process. You need to create an ad that not only leads to clicks, but to sales or whatever result you're looking for. If you don't know what you're doing, it's possible to write an ad that people are drawn to and click on, however, you don't make sales. Since you pay per click, and clicks can add up quickly, you can lose money. For example, if you pay 50 cents per click and 100 people click the ad per day, that will cost you $50 for the day. If you let the ad run for the month, you'll pay $1,500 for those clicks. The point is to make sure your paid ad not only gets clicks but those clicks turn into income.

Search Engine Marketing Services as a Home Business

If you master SEM techniques, there are other businesses that will pay you to help them.

Running a search engine marketing service can be a lucrative home business. The key to getting started is to be able to show proof of your results, including organic search ranking for keywords, as well as income or other results from paid search. 

Also Known As: SEM, search marketing, paid search

Common Misspellings: search marketing

Examples: Her company uses a variety of search engine marketing techniques that resulted in her website frequently being listed on the first page of Google search results, both for paid search listing and for organic search listings.