Search Engine Marketing Fundmentals to know before getting started

If you want to know more about SEM and how it differs from SEO, you are not the only one! Many digital marketing terms sound similar but have different meanings. In this article, we will clear up all of the confusion.
Are you ready to dive deep into the meaning of search engine marketing, the differences and the similarities of SEO and SEM, and so much more? Keep reading!

What is SEM?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a marketing strategy used by businesses involving paid advertisements. Those paid advertisements appear on search engine results pages to attract visibility, attention, engagement, and site traffic.
A paid search engine marketing campaign includes

  • setting up and optimizing advertisements
  • setting a budget for the placement of those advertisements

These ads come in a number of formats:

  • Some of these formats include small advertisements that are mainly text-based.
  • Others include shopping advertisements (commonly known as product listing advertisements). These ads are more visual and product-based, grabbing the user’s attention.

Search engine marketing is so effective because it allows SEM experts to put advertisements in front of customers who are ready to make a purchase.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) uses unpaid marketing tactics to gain organic visibility in search engine results pages.
SEO includes several tactics that can help a business increase its rankings. The SEO techniques can mainly be grouped into the following categories:

1) On-page SEO

On-page SEO includes optimizing each page individually in order to target a particular keyword that would help a website rank higher on search engines.

Some of the on-page SEO techniques include

  • Keyword research
  • Content creation
  • Keyword optimization

2) Technical SEO

Technical SEO includes using a website’s non-content elements and the website itself to improve the experience for customers when they do visit the website. This includes improving the website’s backend framework.

Some technical SEO strategies include

  • Website speed
  • Mobile-friendliness of a website
  • Website crawlability
  • Security
  • Structured information
  • Site attractiveness

3) Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO improves a website’s reputation by connecting it to other trustworthy websites. When several websites link to a particular business’s website, it shows search engines that the brand is reliable, and thus, search rankings for that website improve.

Some of the off-page SEO techniques include

  • Acquiring high-quality backlinks
  • Managing local listings
  • Managing directory profiles

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SEM and SEO – What are the similarities?

1) Both help a brand appear higher on SERPs

One of the similarities between SEM and SEO is that they both help a business appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). Both are designed in such a way that they help a business show up in search results when customers search for particular keywords related to the brand’s niche.

2) Both drive traffic to a site

The main goal of both SEO and SEM is to drive more traffic to a website and to gain visibility on search engines. The purpose of both is to increase the click-through rates (CTR).

3) Both require knowing your target customers

To successfully incorporate optimization techniques, it is necessary to know and understand your target customers and their behaviors.

By using segmentation techniques, you can get to know your audience better. You can also understand their wants and needs and what they are looking for. After learning that, you can curate content that will interest your target audience related to your brand.

4) Both require keyword research

This goes without saying: SEO and SEM both require the use of niche keywords. The research phase, no matter which one you choose, will require you to determine keywords that are popular among your users.

Keyword research also includes looking at keywords that your competitors are using and targeting the same keywords to compete with them.

SEO vs. SEM – What’s the difference?

1) SEO vs. SEM – SEO provides lasting results; SEM does not

One of the biggest disadvantages of SEM is that you will only appear on search engines for the limited amount of period that you paid for. As soon as your campaign ends, you will no longer be able to enjoy the advantages. In comparison, SEO is for the long run and will provide you value over time.

2) SEO vs. SEM – SEM provides immediate results; SEO does not.

Your advertisement will show up in search results as soon as your SEM campaign starts. However, SEO can take time and is often a continuous process. It can even take months to implement your SEO strategies before your business begins to rank on search engines.

3) SEM vs. SEO – They appear differently on SERPs.

Yes, SEM and SEO look different on search engine result pages. If you are using SEM, the search engine will mention that your placement is an advertisement. However, organic search results are not marked in the same manner.

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4) SEO vs. SEM – SEM is paid; SEO is not.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is that SEM is paid, whereas SEO is not. With SEM, you have to pay every time a person clicks on your advertisement but you don’t have to pay when a user clicks on an SEO result. As you are required to pay by click, it is necessary for your business to have a marketing budget.

The most significant advantage of SEO is that it provides you with a higher spot on search engines organically and is unpaid.

5) SEO vs. SEM – SEM lets you select the target audience; SEO does not.

SEM campaigns let you select your target customers, whereas SEO does not give you the same option. Through SEM, you can add different filters, such as age, income, location, and habits. However, with SEO, you cannot specify which audience you want to target.

SEO vs. SEM – Which one is better?

As of 2021, according to Internet Live Stats, Google gets approximately 5.5 billion searches on a daily basis. That equals to about 63,000 Google queries per second.

Most brands know how search engines can drive massive traffic to their website, and not just any traffic; people actively look for products on search engines that they want to purchase. Thus, the traffic from search engines can easily convert to sales and leads.

Ultimately, every business person faces this one dilemma about whether he should focus on SEM or SEO.

If you really care about creating and maintaining an online presence, then you need to balance both SEO and SEM together as both of them are beneficial for a business, for the long-term and short-term – truly the best of both worlds!

By balancing both SEO and SEM, you will be able to reach more customers and increase your brand visibility. All of this will lead to better returns and brand awareness.

However, you need to remember and consider a few things listed below:

  • Collect your SEM campaign’s conversion-related data and use it to convert your organic results better.
  • Make a list of keywords that proved to be beneficial for you in your SEM campaign and use them for SEO purposes.
  • Balance both organic listings and paid advertisements to increase the traffic on your website and to rank higher on SERPs.
  • For SEO, incorporate keywords that are too expensive to bid on or keywords that are currently not delivering a lot of traffic. This way, you can invest in keywords that will provide you with a better ROI a.k.a rate of investment.
  • Test different keywords through A/B testing for SEM advertisements before investing in them.
  • Perform a complete competition analysis before trying to compete with other companies. Research terms that they are ranking for, both paid and unpaid.
  • If you aren’t sure about how the public will react to your campaign, you can create a small SEM campaign to test your product, idea, or services. It will help you better understand your target audience and their preferences.
  • Evaluate the type(s) of products that you stock – if you mostly have low-involvement products that do not require a lot of decision-making, then your business may profit from SEM ads as it will take customers directly to your website. High-involvement products require a lot of decision-making and comparison; thus, your campaign might not perform well with SEM as customers do not buy high-involvement products right after seeing the advertisement.
  • Research how much you need to spend if you decide to invest in SEM. If your cost-per-click is low, it might be a good idea for you to invest in those keywords. However, if your cost-per-click is very high, it might be a better decision to focus on SEO. Before deciding that SEM is suitable for your business, research and consider how much you’ll need to spend to show in paid search results.
  • If you recently launched your brand, it will probably take you some time to fully incorporate SEO and appear in searches organically. So, until you appear on search engines organically, try focusing on SEM.

Search Engine Marketing Consultant – 3 Reasons to Hire One

Imagine paying for an advertisement that doesn’t get you the right kind of traffic?

Mistakes like that have the power to seriously hurt your business and will drain your marketing budget very quickly.

On the other hand, a successful search engine marketing campaign can skyrocket your sales and deliver highly targeted traffic, but it takes a lot of knowledge and experience to do it properly. That is why hiring an SEM company can help you achieve a high ROI.

A credible search marketing agency will save you both time and money, because you will reduce wasted advertisement expenses and won’t have to hire employees in-house.

Here are three reasons why you need to hire an SEM company:

1) Effective A/B Testing

It is necessary for your brand to conduct A/B testing campaigns. Different words, terms, phrases, punctuation, and even capitalization can impact your campaign’s success. Paying attention to detail and optimization during a campaign is just one of the services provided by search engine consultants.

2) Immediate Results

Having a paid search advertisement up with relevant keywords and bids can provide you with a fantastic opportunity of being on top of the search engine results page.

Search engine optimization is essential and helps get a business organic traffic, but it can take a business several months before it starts to pay off.
A search marketing agency can get your advertising campaign up and running in barely any time.

SEM can get your business short-term but immediate sales. Depending on your advertisement, you can see traffic on your website within a few minutes of your campaign being launched.

3) Keyword Research

Using several keyword tools can help you understand and select relevant keywords. Keyword analysis can help marketers understand consumer behavior and how they will react to future marketing campaigns.

Through different paid and unpaid keyword analysis tools, your search engine marketing consultant can identify keywords according to your brand, its niche, and what your target audience is looking for. After you know what your customers need, your paid advertisement can compel the customer to buy your products.

An SEM agency can also provide you with insights regarding your competitors.


Search engine marketing involves using paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages to attract visibility and site traffic.

It is vital for every business to have digital marketing-related short- and long-term goals; thus, to achieve those goals, it is crucial for your business to focus on both SEO and SEM.

This, obviously, differs from brand to brand, but for a company to truly succeed, it is important to have a search strategy that balances both SEO and SEM.

There are a lot of similarities and differences between SEO and SEM, and we hope that after reading our article, you are now better equipped to decide how both SEO and SEM can help your brand achieve its goals.

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