A Guide on Search Engine Marketing

If you are on the lookout for the best place to learn about Search Engine Marketing (SEM), then you have definitely come to the right place. This in-depth SEM guide introduces you to everything you must know about this digital marketing practice. 
Zaid Abdullah
min read

A Guide on Search Engine Marketing

Google search engine

If you are on the lookout for the best place to learn about Search Engine Marketing (SEM), then you have definitely come to the right place. This in-depth SEM guide introduces you to everything you must know about this digital marketing practice. 

This guide is curated to discuss the vital aspects of SEM that will help you boost your site's traffic and drive more sales. 

Moreover, the Search Engine Marketing industry is widely complex and always changing. However, suppose you understand SEM basics and are knowledgeable of the key elements. In that case, you will definitely reap the benefits of successful Search Engine Marketing. 

How Does Search Engine Marketing Work?

SEO in letters

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are considered two of the most vital parts of digital marketing. This is because the algorithms that control search engines become more complex over time. 

In this guide, you will be introduced to the basics of SEM and understand how it works. 

With Search Engine Marketing, advertisers and digital marketers attract visitors to their sites by paying for clicks. This tactic is also known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. The goal of SEM is to promote your content to the users that need it the most; thus, making PPC ads one of the best quality ads as they are less intrusive. 

Overall, a well-organized SEM game plan can also further your site's SEO by driving high-quality traffic. Moreover, having high-quality traffic is also a solid way of proving to search engine platforms such as Google that your site is a reliable source, and as a result, your rankings are boosted. 

Search Engine Marketing Versus Digital Marketing

Apart from Search Engine Marketing, there are tons of other digital marketing practices out there as well. 

SEM is essentially a digital marketing tool or strategy that aims to boost a website's traffic through paid advertising. In other words, SEM is a digital marketing tactic that is utilized to boost a website's visibility in SERPs or Search Engine Results Pages. 

On the other hand, Digital Marketing aims to promote a specific brand through different digital channels, including social media, websites, emails, etc. 

Search Engine Marketing Versus Display Advertising

In Search Engine Marketing, digital marketers boost their website's visibility by paying for a targeted advertising campaign. The main goal of SEM is to boost a web page's SERP ranking through sponsored ads. 

On the other hand, in Display Advertising, digital marketers use banners on various sites with audiences that may be interested in their products or services. 

The search ads in SEM use bidding and quality score as the two main elements that determine how often search ads are displayed, its cost per click (CPC), and its SERP ranking. 

Search ads only appear to audiences who are on the lookout for your services or products. On the other hand, display ads push paid ad placements through various targeting factors. 

The Different Types of Search Engine Marketing

Listed below are the different types of Search Engine Marketing used by advertisers:

Pay Per Click Advertising

When it comes to SEM, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is one of the first things to come to mind. PPC is an online advertising strategy wherein the advertiser gets charged every time a user clicks on their online ad. PPC advertising is also commonly known as Sponsored Search or Sponsored Ads. 

A common misconception of PPC is that advertisers who pay more money will have their ads displayed more and will get more leads than those who spend less. Search engines utilize an automated system that ensures only relevant and reliable ads are displayed on SERPs. In other words, the ranking of your paid search ads will heavily depend on how relevant and solid the information is in it based on the user's search query. 

PPC advertising uses Ad Auction, which is an automatic bidding system that uses complex algorithms. To be considered for the auction, digital marketers must pick search keywords and bid on them to display their ads alongside the relevant web search results. 

Having a higher ad investment will help you put a bid on the most popular keywords. However, the quality and relevance of your ad are still the main determining factors of your ad's SERP ranking. 

The Pros:

  • Paid ads are usually displayed quickly and are easily noticeable in web searches.
  • PPC ads help advertisers target a specific audience based on specific parameters such as geographic location, gender, age, language, etc. 
  • With the help of Google Analytics, you can analyze and make adjustments to your digital marketing strategy to boost the effectiveness of your ads. 

The Cons:

  • PPC advertising might not be the best option for advertisers who are on a budget. 
  • A huge number of web users skip paid ads when using search engines. 
  • Your ad will no longer be displayed once the payment for it stops. 

Local SEO

Out of the three types of SEM, Local SEO is the only one that focuses on a geographical aspect. This is because Local SEO marketing's main goal is to have your business listing on Google Maps. Additionally, this strategy also aims to boost the visibility of businesses in a specific geographic area. Essentially, Local SEO marketing ensures that your business can be easily located by your target audience. 

Your business's local search results ranking depends on a number of factors, such as the completeness and accuracy of your business listing, its relevance in the specified business category, the current business competition, and more. 

The Pros:

  • Local SEO ads are highly accessible on online directories, mobile devices, and GPS devices.
  • Local SEO advertising has a more limited advertiser competition.
  • Local search results are considered to be more reliable because search engines utilize strict address reviews and requirements. 

The Cons:

  • A Local SEO ad campaign does not guarantee instant business visibility on SERP.
  • The geographic location of your business may limit its visibility to other users.
  • Given that you are going to make your business's address public when using Local SEO advertising, your privacy can be compromised.

Organic SEO

Organic SEO marketing heavily differs from the other two types of SEM types mentioned previously. Organic SEO's main goal is to push your business on organic search, unpaid, and non-local results pages through strategies including link building, keyword research, copywriting, etc. 

Organic SEO involves generic searches that are not limited by geographical location. In addition to that, digital marketers using Organic SEO will not be charged whenever a user clicks on their website. 

Organic search results are displayed alongside paid search results. Organic search results will often appear below local search results on SERPs. 

The Pros:

  • Organic search results are considered to be more reliable than paid search ads. 
  • Organic SEO marketing is one of the most cost-effective digital marketing strategies for building brand awareness and improving web exposure for businesses. 
  • Unlike paid advertising, Organic SEO delivers long-term results. 
  • Organic SEO attracts visitors to your website who are likely to use your services or make a purchase. 
  • Organic SEO provides your brand with 24/7 internet exposure. 

The Cons:

  • SEO marketing requires advanced SEO knowledge in order to be successful.
  • Due to the intense competition with paid search ads, websites using Organic SEO strategies may have a hard time boosting their site's click-through rate. 
  • SEO efforts may not deliver immediate results and will typically take several months. 

The Advantages of Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing has been proven to be among the most effective digital marketing strategies out there to date. 

Here are some of the numerous business advantages that SEM has to offer:

#1. Boost Brand Awareness

Google's Search Advertising program allows marketers to display their business name in the ad's description, display URL, extension links, or in the headline. This helps business owners improve their brand's awareness, especially if their paid ads are often displayed on the top SERPs. 

#2. Reach Target Customers Efficiently

Because SEM aims to promote websites, products, services, and other web content relevant to the user's search query on search engines, marketers can directly promote their brand to their target audience. 

SEM is considered to be a highly efficient marketing tactic driving immediate visibility to your brand and its products and services. 

#3. Cost-Efficient Advertising

In SEM's pay-per-click advertising, your ads will appear on the SERPs for free, and you will only be paying for each time a user clicks on them. This type of advertising is proven to be very cost-effective, given that you are only paying when a potential customer shows interest in your brand by clicking through your ad. 

#4. Keep Up With Competitors

One of the best tactics to use in SEM is to create ads that are likely to appear on the relevant keywords of your competitors. Doing this brings your brand more exposure and will gain you a better chance of generating leads and driving more sales from your competitors' customers. 

#5. Test and Analyze Your Ads' Performance

You can keep tabs on your ads' performance through your Ads Account page. There you can see the progress of each ad campaign and analyze how to improve them. Google Ads allows advertisers access to comprehensive data that shows the top-performing ads based on click-through rate, impressions, best-performing keywords, and more. 

#6. Increased Website Traffic

Given that high-quality paid search ads usually appear on top of the SERPs, advertisers are able to boost their websites traffic. As an end result, the advertiser's brand gains better exposure and awareness on the internet. 

#7. Manage and Run Ads Effortlessly

Your Google Ads account page is an all-in-one place that allows you to create, run, and manage your ads easily without any hassle. 

#8. Promote Your Brand on Specific Geographic Locations

Suppose you want to boost your business's exposure on a specific geo-location. In that case, Local SEO Search Engine Marketing is the way to go. 

Local SEO advertising allows you to have your business listing pushed at the top of the Google Maps results page. This type of advertising enables business owners to drive more sales on their physical stores by letting people know their business location easily through the internet. 

#9. SEM is Highly Measurable

SEM tools such as Google Ads provide detailed and comprehensive reports of the performance of your ad campaign. This allows you to monitor and assess your ads easily. Additionally, you can use the Analytics integrations to your advantage and have everything under control. 

#10. SEM Suits Almost All Businesses

Whether you have a large-scale business or a small start-up, you can take advantage of Search Engine Marketing for the promotion of your venture. Although pay-per-advertising is considered to be one of the top expensive forms of digital marketing, there are various plans available that allow you to save some money with your ads. Thus, both small and big companies can always promote their brand through SEM. 

#11. Speedy Results

Unlike other forms of digital marketing such as content marketing and SEO, Search Engine Marketing is renowned for delivering results faster. SEM allows marketers to achieve large-scale results within a favorable timeline if done right. 

If you want to see immediate results with your digital marketing, Search Engine Marketing is the way to go. Remember to pick the right SEM tool to use. 

#12. Real-Time Monitoring

Google Ads' Analytics Interface lets you see everything that is happening with your campaign. This helps you assess your ads' performance and make the necessary adjustments if needed. 

Real-time monitoring is extremely crucial to all types of digital marketing as it allows marketers to know whether their campaign is bringing in desirable results or not. 

#13. Negative Keywords Feature

Google Ads offers advertisers an option to select any negative keyword that they don't want their ads to appear for. This feature is helpful to advertisers to be more precise in their campaigns. 

#14. Full Control Over Ad Spending

With paid advertising, you have full control over how you spend your money. Your monthly budgets can be easily adjusted to fit your needs and available assets. In fact, you can adjust your ad spending any time. This helps you ensure that your money is not being wasted on ads that do not deliver the results you want. 

Search Engine Marketing Tools to Use

If you are on the lookout for dependable and intuitive SEM tools to use, consider checking out these ones listed below. 

#1. Google Trends

Google Trends enables digital marketers to track the search volume for a specific keyword across a certain time frame, region, language, etc. This allows marketers to determine the current trending search terms. As a result, digital marketers are not putting money on keywords that are declining in relevance and popularity. 

#2. WordStream

WordStream is an advertisement management tool that helps advertisers research, evaluate, and optimize the performance of their ads. This tool allows you to gain access to cutting-edge features that provide data analysis as well as tools that help create quality ads. 

This also features workflow tools and alerts to help advertisers make better and more efficient decisions about their ad campaigns. 

#3. SEMrush

If you want to rank your content for long-tail keywords the organic way, then SEMrush is the tool for you. This SEM tool allows advertisers to conduct exhaustive keyword research, site audits, keyword rank monitoring, and many more. 

Another cool feature about SEMrush is that it allows you to keep tabs on your competitors by helping you figure out where they are currently focusing on their marketing strategies.  

#4. Keywordtool.io

One of the reasons why Keywordtool.io is among the most sought-after SEM tools is due to its ability to tap into Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, App Store, Twitter, and Instagram. This ability allows advertisers to base their keyword research on the various digital channels and have more targeted SEM efforts. 

In addition, Keywordtool.io enables advertisers to analyze the current Google search trends and ensure they use keywords rising in popularity. 

#5. Keyword Planner by Google Ads

Given that Google is, without a doubt, the largest search engine to date, it only makes sense to use its Keyword Planner tool. This tool comes with all the features you could possibly need to make your Search Engine Marketing a success.

#6. SpyFu

SpyFu allows you to find the keywords competitors are purchasing and using on Google AdWords. In addition, this Search Engine Marketing tool also enables advertisers to monitor their Organic SEO and paid ad campaigns' rankings on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. 


Search Engine Marketing, if done right, can give a vast range of noteworthy advantages to your business venture. The key is to determine your needs, select the right type of SEM for your brand, and pick the most SEM tool that fits your needs. 

Suppose you want to further improve your knowledge and skills in Search Engine Marketing. In that case, you need to check out Triggers Academy. This company focuses on enhancing people's skills in digital marketing. 

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