Search engine marketing is a general term that refers to gaining online traffic through the search engines. Originally it was used as a very general term that included search engine optimization (SEO) as well as paid advertising options, but generally speaking now, search engine marketing (SEM for short) only refers to paid ads that are bought from the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
The point of SEM is to get interested visitors to a website, often to take an action like giving contact information or making a service call or buying a product, and the people using SEM are willing to pay good money for the ads to bring them in. Paid ads are a way to get attention if your chosen website or splash page doesn’t have a top organic search ranking.
Also Known As Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Another phrase for SEM is pay per click advertising (most often referred to as PPC), which describes the process of buying ads and how they are paid for. The most famous example of this is Google AdSense. Each time one of these advertisements is clicked the person advertising gets the benefit of additional traffic, but they also get charged for every single one of those people that get funneled to their online presence of choice. However, this is a powerful way to guarantee a steady flow of traffic to the business.
Search Engine Marketing Is Effective
One of the primary reasons that SEM is so popular is that there are many ultra-competitive markets (think Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City) where getting in the top 10 is all but impossible, especially for smaller to medium sized businesses. However, the ability to buy ads in premium space means that they can appear on the first page for any search term they want that they have the budget to pay for.
Having ads on the first page for any search team means guaranteed traffic that would otherwise never find those websites. Often this means more customers, more clients, more money. While many forms of advertising and marketing are a pure guessing game when it comes to sheer effectiveness (or if they are even doing anything at all), one of the major benefits of SEM is the fact that the numbers are all there. A buyer knows exactly how much they spent, how many clicks they received, and depending on the program and what analytic tracking scripts they chose during the web design process, they may know how many people called and might even have an idea of how many of those clicks became customers.
That type of direct return information is rarely available with any other kind of advertising or marketing, and can help explain why it is so popular. It’s the digital version of having qualified sales leads, and in most areas and topics it is a much less expensive form of getting the pre-qualified traffic necessary to get some sales or new clients.
Negatives Of SEM
There are some potential negatives to SEM. One is the budget compared to SEO. In most niches, once a website is on the top of the first page for their primary keywords, it is relatively easy to stay there. That’s free traffic that doesn’t have to be paid for and is going to bring in more potential visitors than all but the biggest of actual SEM advertising budgets.
Once the advertising budget is out for a month, then that’s it. The ads stop which can mean a lot of uneven ad time throughout the month, especially for small budgets and causes some issues with smaller accounts.
While these need to be taken into consideration, there’s no question that for many businesses the pros outweigh the cons. SEM is a powerful tool and it works so well with SEO and other online marketing programs to help you pull in the traffic you need.
There are many ways to get attention online. No matter how beautiful a website, a YouTube video page, or a social account, it doesn’t do any good if no one can find you. While search engine optimization will likely keep the primary focus of conversation when it comes to online marketing, those taking advantage of the benefits of SEM have a definite edge over those who don’t.