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What is SEM/Search Engine Marketing?

Updated: Nov 9

The term SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, is the act of using paid strategies to increase search visibility on search engines. In the past, search engine marketing was a term used to describe both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search. But now, it almost always refers only to paid search marketing.


Wikipedia Definition of SEM -


"Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising.[1] SEM may incorporate search engine optimization (SEO), which adjusts or rewrites website content and site architecture to achieve a higher ranking in search engine results pages to enhance pay per click (PPC) listings.[2]"


In other words, it’s an all-encompassing term that includes pay-per-click advertising and search engine marketing. SEM can include local online marketing as well as global online marketing. Marketing through Google, Bing and Yahoo, and online marketing for both B2B and B2C.


With SEM, brands pay for ads to appear as search results on search engine results pages (SERPs). They target select keywords so that when a user searches for those terms, they see an ad from the brand. The brand is charged only if a user clicks on the ad.


Paid search ads can be found on almost any search results page. These paid placements are typically located at the top and bottom of the page. They include an “Ad” designation to let users know that it is a paid placement.


Some paid search ads may also appear as products in a featured carousel.



Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing

While trying to answer the question, “What is SEM” another most popular term you will encounter is pay-per-click or PPC.


Difference between the SEM & PPC?

PPC is a paid marketing strategy where a brand creates a digital ad and is charged each time when a user clicks on it. When PPC ads are shown in search results, this is considered SEM. But PPC isn’t always related to SEM.


When PPC bid strategies are used on other channels apart from search, then it is not considered SEM. For example, PPC can be used on sites that support digital ads like Promoted Tweets or Facebook Ads. PPC also includes Google display ads, where brands are charged when a user clicks on a banner ad on a website.


To conclude "So while PPC is an SEM tactic, it can also refer to a type of social or display ad marketing".


Popular SEM Platform

An SEM platform is a search engine where a brand can place search ads that are displayed when users perform a search. The most common SEM platforms are Google and Bing.

  • Google Ads is the most widely used SEM platform. Billions of Google searches are performed a day, so it can help you get in front of the largest online audience.

  • Bing Ads claims to connect with 3 million searchers that Google can’t reach. By serving ads on partner sites such as Yahoo and MSN, Bing Ads help you connect with searchers who aren’t exclusively using Google for search.

Types of SEM Keywords


SEM keywords are the terms and phrases that you target in your search engine marketing campaigns. When users search for those keywords, they see your ads. There are five types of keywords you can use in your SEM campaigns.


1. Exact Match

An exact match is the most specific of all types. When this is applied, your ad will only show if the person is searching for your exact keyword, or a close variation of it, such as misspellings, singular and plural forms, stemming, acronyms, and abbreviations. If the exact words are used in the search query but in the wrong order (or if the search includes extra words), the ad will not be triggered.

Examples for [mobile marketing]: mobile marketing, mobile marketings


2. Phrase Match

A phrase match is more flexible than an exact match, but still highly targeted. When this type is applied to an ad, a person can search for a phrase that includes your keyword, or a close variation. Additional words in the query can be placed before or after your keyword, but not in between.

Examples for “mobile marketing”: mobile marketing in san diego, mobile marketing platform


3. Broad Match

A broad match offers the most reach with the least relevancy. Your keyword will match search terms that are either a variation of it or deemed relevant by Google Ads. This means your entire keyword does not even need to be within the search query. As a result, broad match can sometimes waste a Google Ads budget, which is why it should be used sparingly and with negative keywords. Broad match is the default setting for your keyword if you do not choose otherwise.

Examples for mobile marketing: marketing for mobile, app marketing for mobile


4. Broad Match Modifier

A broad match modifier is similar to broad match but more refined. This typically involves putting a plus sign (+) before each term in your keyword that you want to be within a person’s search query. As a result, the ad will only be shown in the +[keyword] is included within the search.

Examples for +mobile +marketing: mobile & marketing platform, best mobile marketing platform


5. Negative Match

A negative match is used to prevent your ad from displaying for irrelevant search queries that may seem similar. By putting a minus sign (-) before the terms you want to prevent from triggering your ad, you can hone in on specific searchers, contributing to your return on investment.

Example terms for mobile marketing: -cheap, -advertising, -tools




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