What Does SEM - Search Engine Marketing Mean?

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, also known as paid search. By definition, SEM is the utilization of Digital marketing strategies and ads to improve visibility and bring traffic to a website or page.
Zaid Abdullah
min read

What does SEM mean?

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, also known as paid search.
By definition, SEM is the utilization of Digital marketing strategies and ads to improve visibility and bring traffic to a website or page.

Where is SEM used?

SEM is one of the primary Digital Marketing methods for website promotion through paid online advertising. It is used to improve online presence and boost website visibility on search engines.
Through SEM, companies can set and run ads directly on the results page, which are displayed above organic results.

How SEM works?

Search Engine Marketing is a viable way for businesses to pay in order to be displayed as a top result on the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Brands use target keywords (SEM keywords) to run their ads and if their keywords match a user search, the user will see the listing. Usually, businesses get charged per user click on the ad.
Just like organic results, there is competition between each paid search result (Ad Auction).
To determine which ad to show as more relevant, as well as when and where to display an ad, search engines look for SEM keywords to match the user query.

What are the types of SEM keywords?

The most reliable SEM keywords are definitions, words, and phrases which describe the product or service that is about to be advertised.

There are four types of SEM keywords:

  • Exact match keywords: Closely related to the main target keyword, for example, misspellings, reordered words, plural forms, abbreviations;
  • Phrase match keywords: Exact word or phrase you wish to target, along with any additional words that might come before or after;
  • Broad match keywords: Variations of a term, synonyms, and similar phrases;
  • Negative keywords: Terms you wish to exclude from targeting, such as certain variations of the keywords that are not relevant.

For best results, make sure to add all types of keywords when setting your SEM campaign.

What is the Ad Auction?

SEM is not a magical tool that will display your ad to everyone on the internet, who searches for the related keywords.
For maximum relevance, the SEM system (Ad Auction) will define how the ad competes with other brands targeting the same keywords. It automatically determines when, where and to whom to display it.
Ad Auction makes those decisions, based on these factors:

  • MAX CPC Bid
  • Ad Rank
  • Quality Score

MAX CPC Bid is the maximum bid you are willing to pay for a user click.

Quality Score is a rating, auto-assigned to your ad by the SEM platform but there is no official public formula to pre-estimate it. Experts believe Quality Score is based on determinants such as click-through rate (CTR), keywords relevance, landing page relevance, and previous ad performance.
Ad Rank is another type of rating assigned by the SEM system. It determines where the ad would be shown on search result pages (higher Ad Rank means better ad placement).

How can you calculate SEM?

There is no direct way to calculate SEM, as it is not a number by definition.
What you can do, though, is determine if an SEM campaign was successful by calculating its click-through rate or additional marketing metrics that correspond with your campaign goals.

How to determine your campaign's CTR - Click-through Rate?

To calculate the click-through rate, take the number of clicks your paid ad generated and divide it by the number of times the ad was shown.
Use the standard CTR formula:

clicks / impressions = CTR

Multiply the result by 100 to get the relevant percentage.
For instance, if your ad was clicked on 10 times but was shown 200 times, then 10/200=0.05 CTR. Same number in percentage: 0.05100 = 5%*.

Why is SEM important?

SEM is important because it is a conversion-focused traffic source that boosts brand awareness and allows small businesses to compete with bigger brands.
At the same time, it improves local visibility, brings quality leads, provides competitive data, and generates results fast.
Without SEM, small firms with no budget for technical search engine optimization (SEO) would be forced to stay undiscoverable on the result pages.

What is a good SEM for ads/content?

Good SEM content brings traffic to your website and stands out with a high CTR score.
The best way to ensure an effective SEM is to examine the offer, the target, and the competition, and then test the performance of different content variations to define and implement the ultimate content strategy.

Example usage of SEM in a sentence

Our SEM campaign was more effective in terms of generated traffic than our social media promotions.

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