What Is Search Engine Marketing? SEM Explained

What Is SEM (Search Engine Marketing)?

The term “SEM” (search engine marketing) is an online marketing strategy that is designed to improve the presence of sites on search results webpage (SERP).

It usually takes the form of search advertisements that appear above the organic or non-paid results.

Here’s how it appears:

This article will discuss:

  • How does search engine marketing work?
  • How to do ad auctions function
  • SEM best practices

Let’s get started.


SEM is a digital strategy that helps increase your website’s prominence in the results of a search. It can be a combination of organic and paid (SEO) strategies.

Although SEM generally refers to more than paid marketing, It is also often known as pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. This business model allows marketers to earn a commission each time a user clicks on their ad.

SEO, however, refers to natural results–i.e., “free” traffic resulting from providing valuable, relevant content that ranks highly on Google.

A successful search engine optimization strategy will help you gain long-term traffic, and advertising on search engines can increase your visibility and acquire clicks from those ready to purchase your product.

Although SEM is a complex term, we’ll use it to refer to paid search strategies from now on.

How Does Search Engine Marketing Work?

SEM is a great way to connect with new customers and generate sales because it ranks your site higher than natural outcomes on the search results page (SERP).

Take a look at the search results that you can see for “meditation apps.” Headspace ranks first in organic search results and also holds the highest Google advertisement position:

You might wonder why advertisers are bidding for the exact keyword if they already have a natural ranking.

The reason is straightforward: they can take up more space on the SERP with this method. However, even when their organic rankings change, they are likely to be in the upper tier of search results.

It’s essential to entice users to the highest position on the SERPs if they want to purchase. If not, they’ll opt for the most straightforward, most apparent alternative (which could be a competitor’s advertisement).

To be listed on the first page of SERPs, you’ll have to win an auction for ads.

How Ad Auctions Work

Advertisers compete on keywords to get the sought-after ads that are paid for on top of the SERP. The winner of the auction will get the first spot.

In this case, we’ll discuss how bids work inside Google Ads.

To participate in an auction for ads, it is necessary to know two crucial things:

  1. The keywords you’d like to sell
  2. How much you’re willing to spend per click on each keyword

The best price will be contingent on the industry you work in. For instance, the median CPC for legal and insurance is more expensive than those in less competitive niches such as gardens and homes.

Learn more about the most expensive industries here.

When Google determines that the terms you bid on show up in users’ search results, Your ads will then be included in the auction.

Ads will only be displayed in searches with a commercial intention (i.e., the users are ready to purchase). Like the ad for Headspace above, users are prepared to buy a subscription.

While informational searches such as ” what is copywriting” are only organic results:

Various aspects determine the likelihood that your advertisement will be successful in winning bids, regardless of whether it’s an appropriate match with the keyword.

Here’s how Google determines which ads will be the winner.

How to Win an Ad Auction

According to Google Ads guidelines, There are five primary factors they take into consideration when conducting an auction:

  1. Maximal bid The highest amount you’re willing to pay for the chance to click on your advertisement
  2. High-Quality Score The formula Google Ads uses to determine the quality of your ad and how beneficial it is to the user.
  3. The impact of ad extensions Additional information that you have included in your advertisement (phone number, hyperlinks to specific pages, etc.)
  4. Ad rank results from your bid and the overall quality of your advertisement and the landing page. Google will require ads to have a minimum level of quality for them to show in a higher rank.
  5. Context of the advertisement When calculating an ad’s rank, Google takes context into account. The context includes search terms used in the search, the location of the user as well as the moment of searching, the device used, and so on.

Tips for success It is possible to monitor and strive to improve your Quality Score on the account you have created with Google Ads. Google Ads account.

The maximum bid results from Google’s bidding algorithms, which you are in total control over. Similar is the case for extensions to ads that could affect your ad’s performance.

The Quality Score is a numerical value between 1-10 by Google. Your advertisement is only successful in auctions based on relevant keywords.

It is known as the Quality Score. This Score acts as a keeper of PPC advertising. It makes sure that the ads displayed to users are relevant and helpful.

If your advertisement is matched with more than a few irrelevant or general queries, The cost of your paid search will increase dramatically.

This could affect the return you get from investing (ROI) and will likely yield different results than you’d like.

SEM Best Practices & Helpful Tips

To create a successful advertising campaign, you must effectively organize your campaign, select the appropriate keywords, create a solid advertising copy, and then analyze your competitors’ ads.

Here’s how to start:

Set Up Google Ads Account & Campaign Structure

Use these instructions on Google to establish the Ads account. However, take your time with your first campaign.

By planning your campaigns carefully, get the most value from your budget for paid search. The four components of an ad you must be familiar with:

  • Campaign: A set of ad groups with the same budget, target location, and various other settings
  • Advertising group Keywords: Groups of keywords organized by thematic
  • Keyword The terms you’re bidding on
  • Ad: Copy that the user is likely to see when the advertisement is activated

Create your ad groups to ensure they focus on particular keyword clusters that be a hit with your target audience. The act of bidding on keywords randomly can eat up a significant portion of the money you have.

Here’s an excellent example of what a properly-structured Google Ads account looks like:

The ads are placed to make sure that bids are strategic.

For information on how to locate relevant keywords, keep reading.

Choose the Right Keywords

A thorough Keyword research is the initial stage to running success with your SEM campaign since it allows you to focus on the appropriate people.

In addition, have your links placed in front of the correct audience–i.e., those willing to purchase more sales and clicks.

What the “right” keywords for your campaign will depend on various aspects, including the intent of your search, the volume of competition, and the cost per click.

If you’re beginning with paid keyword research from scratch, go on the Keyword Magic Tool.

Select a keyword pertinent to your business, and browse the results to consider ad groups.

Use the available filters and select keywords that you want to avoid (this is a simple way to add negative keywords, which we’ll talk about in the future).

Here are the most important aspects to take into consideration when choosing the keywords you want to target:

Keywords to target with Commercial and Transactional intent

Google’s algorithm is based on the intent of search and language into consideration and delivers the results it believes are the most appropriate matches.

The search intent is divided into four major categories:

  • The ability to navigate (looking for something particular)
  • Informative (learning about a specific topic)
  • Commercial (investigating products, brands, or services)
  • Transactional (intending to purchase)


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