SEM Crash Course 1st Edition: The PPC Introduction You’ve Been Searching For


Search Engine Marketing, or SEM for short, is one of the most powerful digital marketing methods out there.

For businesses, there’s no better way to reach their target audiences than search engines. This is in no small part due to the fact that over 70% of new site visitors locate websites via search engines.

With an extremely competitive online landscape, brands are always fighting for search engine territory. SEM gives you more wins in these battles by helping your website to achieve more clicks, more leads and of course, more sales.

Statistics show that businesses receive a whopping $2 of revenue for every $1 spent on SEM platforms like Google Ads. With that kind of potential for ROI, it’s no wonder business owners are scrambling to get their SEM strategy right.

If you’re curious about how SEM works and what it can achieve for your brand, then read on for the ultimate introduction to SEM in this first edition of our Crash Course series.

What Is SEM?

SEM is an umbrella term used for Paid Search marketing methods. It consists of all the paid methods you can use to reach your brand audience through search engines.

While SEO can also be considered SEM because of its focus on search engines, SEM more often refers to the pay-per-click (PPC) digital marketing methods. When you see sponsored ads at the top of your Google searches, they have achieved that position through SEM, whereas the non-sponsored results below have achieved their ranks through SEO.

Their distinction lies in that SEO’s focus is on unpaid methods that boost websites’ search engine rankings based on user experience, quality and authority, while PPC ads’ positioning is based on bids.

There are many types of SEM techniques, but what they all have in common is that you only pay on the bid you placed when someone clicks your ad. Sounds good, right? Of course, it does – but how exactly does all this play out?

How SEM Works

We mentioned that a paid ad’s position is determined by bids. But what exactly are you bidding on? Keywords. These keywords are selected based on what searchers would enter to find your business. The more competitive the keywords, the higher the bid cost will be.

It’s been shown that about 3/4 of internet users don’t go past the first page of search engine result pages (SERPs). SEM adapts to this tendency by displaying ads in prominent positions where those with fleeting attention spans (A.K.A. almost everyone these days) can easily find them.

Your ads’ positions are determined according to bid. If you’re the highest bidder, you’ll get the number one spot, the second highest will claim the second place and so on.

The quality of your ads also factors into how and where they show up on SERPs, with a quality score used in combination with your bid to determine ad rank. That means you can’t just “throw money at the problem” – you have to back it up with relevant ad copy, links and more.


What SEM Ads Look Like

An example of search results featuring Search Ads in the top spots.

SEM ads take a variety of appearances. The most popular are Google Ads in all their forms, which include:

1. Search Ads

These are text-based ads that rank highly on SERPs, as pictured above.

2. Display Ads

Also called banner ads, these are like online billboards featuring promotions which line the borders of certain websites.

3. Google Remarketing

Ever seen those picture-based ads that follow you around the internet? That’s remarketing in action.

4. Google Shopping

This ultra-convenient ad format lets searchers see the must-know aspects of your product: from pictures to price and shipping info, Shopping Ads have it all.

SEM Helps You Grow

The best thing about SEM is that it gives brands a chance to advertise to potential customers in the exact moment they need their service or product. To sum up SEM in one word, it’s opportunistic. And it works.

Speaking of opportunity: SEM gives smaller businesses a chance to compete with the “big boys”, such as multinational corporations. Because you only pay when you click, SEM ads are basically free exposure. Where else can you get that sort of luxury?

If you want to know more about your target market, SEM is perfect for you. Through all its different channels, you can get unrivalled insight into your prime demographic. This helps you develop better and more effective engagement strategies, all the while enabling you to cater to them better than ever before.

SEM lets you satisfy searchers’ need for instant gratification by conveniently placing your ads where they need to see them the most, in highly visible positions. It really goes to show, as we always say: your target market is already searching for you – they just need to discover you!

We hope this introduction to our SEM Crash Course series has cleared up any confusion you may have had. For more digital marketing introductions, why not check out our SEO 101 Series to hone your organic strategy? If you want tailored advice on your very own SEM strategy, get in touch with First Page Digital today