Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is the method of gaining traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. It is also called paid search and sometimes referred to as CPC (cost-per-click) or PPC (pay-per-click) marketing, because most search ads are sold on a CPC / PPC basis. Like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it relies on keywords that activate your results into the paid advertising section of the search results page.
Many small businesses credit SEM for attracting new customers. Depending on the competition in your business, relying on unpaid SEO may leave your business far back in the rankings. By paying for SEM, you have more control over the specific keywords that will promote you, as well as where you will appear on the search results page.
The largest search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo, each have fairly simple programs to get started. You determine the key words or search phrase as well as the amount you are willing to spend (per click and/or per day). Most of them offer simple programs that require filling out a form and putting a certain amount of money down as credit. Like anything new, start small with paid SEM and add complexity (and budget) as you learn more and see results over time.
SEM has certain strategic advantages over SEO for particular campaigns:
- Boost Promotions or Sales Events: When you need a lot of traffic in a short time, SEM is a good choice because it will raise your exposure for the length of your campaign. You can control costs by the duration of the SEM program.
- Raise Exposure: If you are falling behind with organic SEO or you want to hit the competition, use paid SEM to get your name and your site above the organic rankings.
- Discover Effective Keywords: SEM can help you identify the most effective keywords and phrases to drive traffic to your site. Subsequently, you can use these keywords in SEO by peppering your website with them.
Don’t be intimidated by search engine marketing, it can be a very effective, cost-efficient tool that will bring customers to your site. A big help is that you know you will always be in control of how much you spend. Just take it step by step and explore the results for your business.
Google, Yahoo! And Bing are trademarks of Google, Inc, Yahoo!, Inc. and Microsoft Corporation, respectively