What is SEM & What is it for?

June 12, 2021

The world of digital marketing is full of technicalities. If you are wondering what is the definition of SEM, and you would like to know if this digital marketing strategy could help you boost your project or company.

What is SEM or Search Engine Marketing?

Generally, when we talk about SEM, we usually refer to paid ad campaigns in search engines. However, Search Engine Marketing or SEM encompasses all online marketing strategies that help position a website within search engines, whether paid or not. 

For most, SEM, also known as search engine marketing, paid search, or PPC (Pay Per Click), is a payment technique that allows companies to reach their potential customers through search engines, such as Google.

But not just Google. Actually, this term can be used to refer to advertising in any of the search engines (Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Amazon, Google Maps, Yahoo, etc.), in which it is also possible to create sponsored ads and bid for that a web appears among the first positions.

These ads usually appear at the beginning and end of Google’s results ranking, a strategic position for advertisers since it is where users click most frequently when entering their keyword in the search engine. In order to use this channel, it is necessary to create ads in tools such as Google Ads, Google’s advertising creation service. 

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What is SEM?

But, how can you appear in the first position with an ad? Bidding on keywords. The company that is willing to pay a higher price for each click on their ad will stay in the first position. 

What benefits does SEM can bring to your business?

One of the main advantages of search engine advertising or SEM is its immediacy: if you pay, you appear. For this reason, many companies use this technique when they launch a project or want to reach a greater number of clients in a short space of time. These are the benefits that SEM can bring you:

  • Instant visibility. Your potential customers can quickly get to know your brand by searching for your product in search engines.
  • Quality users. The quality of traffic you will attract will be high, as only the clients interested in your service will land on your website.
  • Segmentation. In addition to targeting by keywords, you can segment by geographic area, language, device, retargeting, etc.
  • Quick and measurable results. You will see results quickly, so you can check and measure the evolution of the campaign. 
  • It does not require a large investment. You do not need to make a large initial investment to start bidding since you can adapt the budget to your possibilities. For this reason, an SEM strategy is suitable for both small and large companies and, especially, for those who are starting in the online world.
  • Position alongside your competitors. It allows you to appear alongside your biggest competitors and, even if your potential clients do not click on your ad, they will gradually associate your brand with their search need.
  • Generate conversions. You will attract users to your website, so the chances of getting more sales or conversions increase. 

And what are the disadvantages of SEM?

As you have seen, there are several advantages of creating an SEM strategy. But, what are the drawbacks of this traffic attraction channel? We tell you about them:

  • No, it is free. Keep in mind that you will only appear when you invest. If you stop doing it, your website will not be shown.
  • You depend on the budget. The moment you reduce your budget in SEM, you will see how your results will also be lower.
  • You need a professional. If you want to obtain the best results, you will most likely need to turn to a professional who can take care of your web positioning strategy through SEM. They will know how to manage your budget.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

You already have an idea of what SEM is. Now, we will briefly tell you what SEO positioning is.  Search Engine Optimization, popularly known as SEO, is all the techniques or actions used to increase the organic traffic of a website by improving its positioning in search engines. 

Taking a quick look at what Google shows when conducting a search, you can see that sponsored ads are shown in the first positions, and then organic results (those positioned naturally and without the Ad tag). 

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Diferences between SEM & SEO

Therefore, in Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page ), two types of results coexist when you perform a search using a keyword: advertising or paid results and organic or SEO results.

These are the main differences between SEO and SEM. Be careful with:

  • The costs. SEO does not have a direct cost since you do not have to pay to appear in the search results. However, it is not a free strategy. It takes staff, time, effort, and knowledge to appear among the top positions. It is an investment that pays off over time, while SEM is a strategy that does have a constant cost for the advertiser since they will have to pay for each click that a user makes on their ad.
  • The position in the results. As you can see in the image, the ads tend to appear before the organic results, so they have an advantage. They also appear at the end of the results, on the right side of the screen, or in the tabs of Google Shopping or Google Maps.
  • The type of content. Pages created for Google Ads are often called landing pages. These are pages very focused on conversion (get a registration, a call, a download, a sale…). They are very clear and with the right and necessary elements to lead the user to the conversion. In SEO, things change. In addition to a commercial approach, the contents usually contain more text and tend to answer user questions with relevant content.
  • The guarantees. With SEM, you have the guarantee that if you pay, your potential clients will be able to see you among the first positions in the results ranking. But it is not the same case with SEO. Nobody guarantees you to appear on the first page of Google as soon as you launch your project since it will depend on several factors.

Ultimately, search engines like Google reward the web pages that best respond to the user’s search intention with the best positions in organic results. 

And, how does the search engine recognize them? To find out which web pages best suit users’ search intent, Google (or any search engine) uses its algorithm based on different parameters such as content quality, web design, user experience, or the authority of the web domain among others.

SEO or SEM, which is better?

Both strategies will help you get visits, which you need to give visibility to your product or service and get more sales opportunities. 

While with a web positioning campaign through SEO, you need between three and eight months to position yourself, with the SEM, you can start to be present in the first results from day one. From Kala Agency, we advise combining SEO with SEM if you are starting in the online world to be present in search engines at all times. 

Keep in mind that, both when investing in SEO and SEM, you will have to be clear about your objectives and create a strategy for each channel to attract traffic to squeeze its full potential.

And remember that you can not only advertise from Google Ads, you can also do it through other services such as LinkedIn Ads or Facebook Ads. Choosing one channel or another will depend on your project and your target audience. 

How much does it cost to invest in SEM?

The cost will depend on the objectives you have set for yourself. If in your case, you have set ambitious goals, the cost of the investment will be higher. 

For example, when creating SEM ads in Google Ads, the maximum daily budget is set by you. However, if you do not have experience in SEM advertising, you should get professional advice from someone who can help you design your campaigns.

As we have already mentioned, you will only pay when a user clicks on your ad. This model is called Pay Per Click or PPC, and its cost will depend on some variables:

  • The competition of your keywords. The greater the competition in your industry, the more you will have to pay for each click. If you use very generic keywords, you will pay more each time a user clicks on your ad. For example, the CPC (Cost Per Click) of a keyword such as “car” will be higher than that of “women’s shoes online.”
  • The level of quality or Quality Score. Google rates your ad. Through the QS or the “quality score,” your ad will have a rating between 1 and 10 and, the higher the score, the less you will have to pay for each click on the ad. Google positively values the CTR, that is, the percentage of clicks the ad receives over the total impressions, the loading speed of the landing page, or the match between the ad and the landing page content.
  • The position you are looking for. The higher you want to appear, the more you will have to pay for each click.

To start bidding, you will have to tell Google how much you want to pay the maximum for each click, and from there, the auction begins. But how do you know what to pay for each keyword? Google will give you an approximation of the price you should bid for each keyword.

When will I start to see results in an SEM campaign?

Quickly. This is one of the most prominent advantages of this search engine marketing technique. 

Through an SEM strategy, you can start to see results from day one. But, be careful, remember that for everything to work, your landing page has to be optimized for conversion since you are investing money to get more sales, more calls from your customers, more downloads, or whatever you have set as a goal. 

In short, after getting the user to click on your ad, you will have to convince them that your product meets their need. For this, the usability and the CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) of your landing page play a crucial role. 

Should you hire an SEM agency?

Launching with SEM without prior training or experience can be a challenge. Still, it is a somewhat complex marketing strategy that requires controlling various variables, spending time, and continuously optimizing campaigns to obtain the best results. 

Companies usually delegate the SEM to a specialized agency that can advise and carry out the strategy from start to finish. That is, they are in charge of performing tasks such as the following:

  • Define your goals, budget, campaigns, and ad groups
  • Research which keywords are interesting
  • Create ads that are as attractive as possible to attract the click of potential customers
  • Monitor results and optimize campaigns
  • Manage budgets and bids
  • Optimize the conversion of both the ad to get the best possible return for the customer

SEM ads can be the ideal showcase for your business if you know how to extract its full potential. If you do not do these types of strategies, surely your competition will. By getting more visibility, it will be easier for you to achieve your goals. Ensure your presence on the Internet.

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