When the term SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, was introduced into business lingo just over a decade ago, it was used as a blanket term for any kind of marketing or targeted advertising that would allow companies to expose their websites to a wider audience on search engine results pages. Now, however, the term has expanded and evolved to mean something slightly different.
Now when we speak about SEM, we take it as referring to the practice of utilizing paid advertising, such as Google’s ‘AdWords’, or Bing Ads. These products allow companies to target keywords and other statistics such as frequency of searches, location based searches, and more in order to have adverts and links to their websites and pages appear within the search results on popular search engines.
In most cases, search engines will charge a minimal fee in order to host the advert, and an additional fee based on how many times the link is actively clicked from the search results page. In this sense, advertisers pay more for their advert if it does well, but that is supplemented by more traffic to their site, and therefore potentially more sales and exposure.
Search Engines usually have two different sections on their search pages available for advertising – a designated bar at the top of the page, allowing users to clearly see that what they are being presented with are adverts, and those that are integrated into the list of results itself. While these look like regular search results, and are usually always relevant to the search terms that were entered, they do have a disclaimer showing that they are paid advertisements.
While in the past, SEM was a term used to refer to both paid advertising and SEO (Search Engine Optimization), these days, the two are, if not completely independent, at the very least close relatives. It is important for businesses to learn to get the SEO basics right even if they’re not going to delve into paid advertising, because this will at least give them a chance of being featured on the first search result page. SEO, as opposed to SEM as a general term, allows business owners to make their sites more user friendly and to provide relevant and exciting content for visitors, encouraging them to return to the site, which will in turn increase their popularity rating and give them a higher position in the search results.
So depending on who you talk to, SEM might include SEO as one of its overall features, but as it is understood these days, it is used as a way of referring to search engine advertising and tracking of keywords and analytics to make sure the adverts reach the right people – the people who search for keywords relevant to the advert itself.