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Exactly What Does SEM Mean For Your Business?

What Is the Definition of SEM?

SEM is short for “search engine marketing” and is a very often misunderstood yet crucial facet of online marketing. SEM is the tactic of promoting a website through various methods to rank the website higher in search results which includes SEO, PPC, paid inclusion and banner advertisement.

Fundamentally, SEM represents paid methods of advertising on websites, website networks and search engines.

Well then, should SEO be considered part of SEM?

It depends on how you look at it but yes, there is definitely reason to believe SEO is part of SEM. However, in the strictist sense SEO is NOT paid advertising on search engines. So, the argument can easily be made that SEO is exclusive and not inclusive. A very obvious example that SEO is part of SEM is paid inclusion in online directories like BOTW and Yahoo’s own Directory which have been infamous for years and years for the SEO advantage they offer for websites (though, not so much anymore) that have been accepted after having paid a nominal fee.

How SEO is not similar to SEM is simple: SEO includes any and all methodology to increase a website’s ranking, free or paid. SEM is limited to advertising directly through search engines and some directories and websites. SEO can include campaigns that involve no money being spent. While, on the other hand, SEM will never include any tactics that are free (unless you find and redeem a free Adwords coupon).

As most know, PPC (and impression-based advertising) represents the majority of the way search engines make money. More than 90% of revenue that Google generates comes from their PPC business. Signing up for and advertising using PPC can have some great results. (See more about PPC by going here). Google’s method for offering SEM to individuals and businesses is called Adwords. Microsoft/Bing and other search engines and even Facebook have their own versions that basically do the same thing.

So, How Does SEM Work?

As an example, let’s say we have a website dedicated to selling “red widgets”. After we sign up on Google’s Adwords we setup our campaigns, keywords and ads and start spending our budget for ads (again, want to learn more about PPC? Then click here). We can typically expect our ads to show for searches for keyword phrases like “red widgets” and “what kind of colors can you get in widgets?”. Our ads should also show on websites that take part in Google’s Adsense. So, a visitor could visit a website, blog or forum that has content related to “red widgets” and see a textual or banner ad pointing back to our “red widgets” website.

SEM is the art of showing as high as possible and as many times as possible in search results, while spending as little time and money as possible through search engines, directories and some specific types of websites. It’s possible to use SEM to show for results in several different places on the first page of search results. Using SEM effectively and efficiently can result in coming up on the first page and getting traffic from people searching for news, images, videos, on social networks, organically and via paid banner ads.

Is advertising on social networks considered part of SEM?

YES! Advertising on social sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube is considered SEM because each of those sites is considered to have their own search engines. Believe it or not but as much as 30% of all searches are done on social networks. So, advertising on popular social networks should be considered an effective tactic and part of the ad spend for your company. Plus, Google uses markers from social networks to fill in it’s own search results. Performing a search in Google for “red widgets” could very well return News from Facebook and Videos from YouTube on the first page of results! Some would consider this to be SMM or Social Media Marketing but it’s just another name for SEM.

What are some Best Practices for SEM

Best practices for SEM are constantly evolving. Search engines routinely make tweaks to their algorithms and markets shift and change over time as does consumer habits and interest. SEM takes constant vigulance, research and analysis of data. One should have a good understand of Adwords for advertising on Google and lots of experience in how to tweak and optimize campaigns and their ads for greatest click through and exposure. Look for an article soon on SEM best practices that will cover this and a whole lot more.

Effective SEM results in targeted traffic to your website and often, lots of it. Optimizing your marketing spend and running effective ads in search engines can have some truly great results. Spending money on search engine marketing can help build your brand. Visitors to your website are everything so SEM is one of the most important forms of marketing for any business.

What’s your say? Got some experience in SEM that you’e like to share? Comment below!

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I design with an eye towards the aesthetic and I approach every project by asking "what's the best way to attract the most qualified visitors?" Every project I complete follows web standards and best practices for ensuring eventual top rankings for relevant keyword terms. Ask me about my las vegas seo, boca raton seo and los angeles seo services.
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