What Is SEM in Digital Marketing? How To Use SEM For Marketing?

In an age of cutthroat competition, developing strategies to help your business gain an edge over competitors is important. Several companies sell the same products and offer similar services. In such a scenario, the companies need to focus on advertising their products and services uniquely to attract the immediate attention of the customers. 

SEM is a strategy in digital marketing that aids businesses in gaining an edge in the competitive marketplace. For anyone wondering, This blog will answer basic queries like what is SEM or what is the full form of SEM and shed light on its importance, working structure and much more. 

What Is SEM in Digital Marketing?

SEM in digital marketing is a technique of advertising and marketing a business with the help of paid advertisements. Through such techniques, businesses can make themselves visible on the top of the search engine results pages or SERPs. 

A lot of planning goes into making your business acquire a top rank. For instance, advertisers must conduct thorough research and look for the most searched keywords on search engines like Yahoo and Google. This way, advertisers can curate their ads alongside the results for the given queries. 

Such advertisements are often known as pay-per-click advertisements. The most powerful thing about SEM is that it offers businesses the chance to advertise their brands in front of potential customers at the precise moment when they are planning to purchase it. 

The following section discusses what is SEO and SEM and how the two are different from or related to one another.

SEM vs SEO: How Is Search Engine Marketing Different from Search Engine Optimisation

Briefly put, search engine marketing is paid search marketing. It is a strategy in which businesses pay a search engine an amount to display their advertisement on the search engine results page. On the other hand, search engine optimisation does not require businesses to pay any amount to generate traffic. In the case of SEO, it is the keywords that take precedence. SEO helps businesses earn a spot in Google SERPs by analysing the most searched queries.

SEM is not simply a kind of paid marketing; it is mostly referred to as PPC (pay-per-click) marketing. In this business model, marketers pay whenever potential customers click on their advertisements. SEO, on the contrary, provides content based on relevance. Although the concepts differ, SEO and SEM in digital marketing are extremely important to boost a brand’s visibility.

SEM vs SMM: Knowing the Difference Between the Two

Given that we have already covered SEM let us look at what SMM or social media marketing is. Although they are entirely different, SEM and SMM complement each other and help build a robust business marketing plan. 

With approximately 60% of individuals using the internet being active on social media globally, social media marketing is a handy tactic that helps businesses expand their reach. Social media marketing targets the three core areas of marketing — creating connections, establishing user interaction, and gathering and analysing customer data. Social media marketing helps create brand awareness, maintain engagement, and develop customer loyalty. The popular social media platforms used in this context include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

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The Working of Search Engine Marketing

Digital marketing in the present era of rapid digitisation is paramount to ensure business retention. SEM is highly effective in generating and driving leads to your business, allowing it to gain more popularity. 

The SEM techniques aim to increase the website visibility on SERPs. This combines paid advertising through pay-per-click ads and organic search engine optimisation. Through organic SEO, websites can automatically acquire a high rank in the SERPs, increasing their chances of being clicked on by potential customers. This is done by using the right keywords or building high-quality backlinks. 

Paid advertising is a technique in SEM with the help of which businesses can place their advertisements on the results of the SERPs. Clicking on the advertisement will direct the user to the business website. This effectively drives traffic to a website and increases its visibility.

Understanding Auctions

A common misconception in the ad world is that businesses that spend a heavy deal on advertisement are more likely to sustain the cut-throat competition. Although this is true to some extent, it is not a requirement for search engine marketing strategies to emerge successfully. 

This is mainly because the advertisements have to go through a process called ad auctioning before they are made to appear alongside the results on the search engine results page. 

The next query that immediately strikes the mind is- how do these auctions work? This is a repetitive process that takes place every time a user enters some query into Google. For the process to be initiated, the advertisers must first identify the keywords they feel are the most profitable to bid on. They then state how much they are willing to spend on a click so that the advertisement can appear alongside the results from the keywords. 

The Google algorithm then determines if the keywords that a marketer is bidding on are a part of the query entered by the user. This way, the ads make their way into the ad auction. 

Many factors are important in determining which advertisement will be placed on the SERP. In this case, the two most important factors are the advertisements’ quality score and the maximum bid. 

While the quality score determines the overall quality of the advertisement based on certain parameters, the maximum bid refers to the maximum amount specified for a single click. 

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What Is the Cost Incurred for SEM?

In search engine marketing, the two main components are SEO and PPC. By now, we already know that while SEO helps the pages rank organically, PPC involves monetary contributions. Therefore, what could possibly be the cost incurred for effective search engine marketing? 

SEM costs involve everything ranging from the salary of an SEO consultant to the fees of agencies that offer the software and services. Under the aegis of SEO, marketers spend a great deal on creating content and publishing them online to educate and engage the target audience. Some amount might also be incurred as development costs to tweak the site settings, improve its speed and meta tags, and enhance the user experience. 

The PPC costs encompass factors such as salaries of skilled professionals, ad spending, software, digital assets, etc. The PPC tech stack involves tools like Google Ads Editor, Semrush, Wordstream PPC Advisor, etc. that can help smoothly execute tasks such as auditing, landing page optimisation, etc. 

There is no fixed answer to the amount spent on SEM; it depends on the business scale and revenue it generates. 

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Advantages of Using SEM

Listed below are some of the major benefits of using SEM. 

  1. SEM helps to create brand recognition: This is one of the most significant advantages of using SEM. Once you launch a successful SEM campaign, you can make your brand stand out and develop an image for itself, creating public awareness about it. 
  2. Increase in website traffic: Another important advantage of SEM is that it draws traffic toward your website. The better the presence of your business on the internet, the more people will be drawn towards your brand. An improved number of leads will help increase the company’s sales and generate revenue. It also helps attract the attention of the customers. For instance, your visibility will improve if someone is looking for a company that sells similar products/services as yours and your advertisement appears on the SERP.
  3. Quick results: Prompt results are one of the major advantages of search engine marketing.
  4. SEM can be managed easily: SEM is not very difficult to manage. They are easy to manage and can be started or stopped as and when required. It is also very simple to pick the budget and the objectives.

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Improving SEM Results: 5 Ways to Create Powerful Marketing Campaigns

Crafting a powerful campaign is important to draw more traffic toward a website and increase its popularity. Here are some ways marketers can create powerful campaigns. 

1. Keyword Search and Analysis for Your SEM Campaign

Investing time in looking for the most suitable keywords is important. You may be thrilled to use wider keywords encompassing various terms individuals might search for. Keywords are primarily of two types — short-tailed and long-tailed keywords. However, for the most effective results and to ensure that the value of every click is optimised, it is ideal to adhere to the most searched keywords. 

2. Create Compelling Ads 

Get as creative as you want with your advertisement. Make it appear compelling so that viewers are immediately attracted to the advertisement, which leaves a long-lasting impact on their minds. 

This could include using catchy slogans or introducing interesting characters as mascots. 

3. Improve Accuracy by Optimising the SEM Campaign

There are several techniques that you can use to optimise your SEM campaign. Alongside incorporating the right keywords, marketers and advertisers must also pay heed to other aspects, such as ad extensions and geo-targeting, to show the ads specifically to the target audience in particular geographical areas to improve the campaign accuracy. Marketers also need to occasionally perform A/B tests on the campaigns to assess which variation landing page and keyword works best for the SEM campaign. 

4. Add Negative Keywords & Remove Duplicate Keywords

When availing of a service where you pay to generate traffic to your website, you can also add negative keywords to ensure that the advertisements are not placed in inappropriate places. It is a technique to define where your advertisement should not show up. 

5. Analyse Competitors Ads

Although this may not be the first thing on your list, it is important to understand your competitor’s game so that you can strategise your plan accordingly. 

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SEM as a strategy has gained prominence over recent years and has been widely adopted by businesses to thrive in a digitally competitive world. It is important to showcase your brand lucratively to draw the audience’s attention. 

Join the Advanced Certificate in Brand Communication Management from MICA from upGrad to learn more about ‘what is search engine marketing’


What is SEM and its types?

SEM or search engine marketing is a technique that helps generate traffic from SERPs either organically or through paid services. It has two main types- PPC and SEO.

What is the definition of SEM in digital marketing, and how is it different from SEO?

SEM or search engine marketing is a concept that incorporates the use of paid advertising on the SERPs to generate traffic and increase the website's visibility. Although related, SEO and SEM in digital marketing are two different concepts. While SEO generates traffic using organic search techniques, SEM uses both organic and paid search.

Can you explain the role of SEM in the field of digital marketing?

In digital marketing, SEM helps generate brand awareness and promote brand equity in the products and services sold. SEM also helps to increase a brand's visibility and draw more traffic towards the website. Through SEM, brands can also geo-target the audience by showing them their needs and preferences based on their geographical location.

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