A Quick (Beginner's) Guide to Search Engine Marketing

This quick, easy-to-understand, and effective guide to search engine marketing (SEM) is designed to give you basic and crucial information about search engine marketing and how to leverage it to make your marketing more effective and purpose-driven. So get ready, dive in, and read.


Search Engine Marketing (SEM) can literally double your website traffic and overall business profit. Yes, you heard it right! It is one of the proven ways to reach and target the right customers at the right time and grow businesses in today's competitive landscape.

Does the statement mentioned above excite you to learn more about SEM? I am sure it does. You must be curious now to read further and know. Aren't you?

All right. I'll not let you wait, then. Whether you're reading this article to gain knowledge about SEM or boost your business's visibility in search engines, it certainly meets all your needs. 

Today, you encounter a lot of people talking about the ever-growing popularity of search engine marketing. In fact, digital growth hackers are suggesting businesses of all niches  leverage SEM to thrive in today's competitive space.

So what's special about this type of marketing? Why is everyone talking about it? Is it even result-driven? Why should you opt for it?

Let stats do the talking and answer all your questions. Sounds fair?

SEM Thought-Provoking Stats:

  • The average click-through rate (CTR) for the first position on a Google search query is 19.3%.
  • 63% of users will likely click on a paid search ad on Google.
  • 66% of distinct search queries on Google lead to at least one click.
  • SEO and PPC ads (when coupled) see 25% more clicks and 27% greater profits compared to results from just one technique.

Seeing today's competition for higher ranking in the search engine result pages (SERPs), you can't just rely on SEO and compete. To achieve a higher ranking in search engines quickly, you need to invest some money strategically to rank higher in Google. That's where SEM enters the game.

We have prepared this simple, quick (yet effective) guide to search engine marketing that will tell you everything about SEM, how it works, its benefits, and a lot more. So without any further ado, let's begin with this guide.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM): A Quick Overview

Search engine marketing (abbreviated as SEM) is the process of advertising to prospects via search engines through paid ad placement. It is the practice of marketing any business using paid ads that appear on SERPs

In other words, SEM is all about using paid ads and ensuring that your business's products/services are visible in SERPs. It is the process of creating paid advertising campaigns that appear in the search engine results.

Basically, in SEM, one targets keywords based on potential customers' search terms. Whenever a searcher searches for a particular keyword, businesses (that have leveraged SEM) appear at the top in search results.

Some Important SEM Terms You Should Know:

  • Advertising Network
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR)
  • Ad Impressions
  • Keywords
  • Campaign
  • Quality Score

How Search Engine Marketing Works

Understanding SEM can be quite daunting because search engines use certain complicated algorithms, including location and other available information. Do you know, Google (alone) employs over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm? Yes, you heard it right. So sometimes, understanding the SEM mechanism can seem intimidating. 

Paid search ads work so that sponsored ads appear either at the top or beside the very first search engine results. This helps give the advertised websites more visibility and prominence over others compared to SEO.

Let's try to understand more about this via example.

Suppose you are looking for a particular product or service online. You go to the search engine and type the specific keywords ( related to what you're looking for ). In the SERPs, you see several ads from different companies whose keywords match the keywords you typed in the search box. 

These ads appear in notable locations on the page along with the other search listings that match your keywords.

The Foundation of Search Engine Marketing: Keyword

Keywords are the foundation of SEM. In fact, you can say that SEM is the game of keywords. Yes, you read that right! Because the very first thing searchers enter in the search bar are keywords to find what they're looking for. 

That's why before you begin your SEM campaign, you need to do thorough keyword research. You need to identify those keywords that are relevant to your business and users are searching for. You can leverage prominent keyword tools available in the market for the same. 

Moreover, to help you find keywords you should be bidding on, thorough keyword research can also help you determine negative keywords - search terms that you should exclude from your campaigns and be as relevant as possible. 

Types of SEM Keywords:

  • Broad Match Keywords (includes similar phrases, singular/plural forms, misspellings, or synonyms of the target term).
  • Phrase Match Keywords (exact phrase, plus any phrases that have words that come before or after the target keyword)
  • Exact Match Keywords (words closely related to the target term. This includes misspellings, singular or plural forms, abbreviations, reordered words, paraphrases, or closely related words)
  • Negative Keywords (broad match, phrase match, and exact match keywords that you don't want to target and use in your campaign)

How Ad Auction Works

One of the biggest myths that need to be debunked about SEM is the one who has the largest ad budget wins. However, that's not true. Yes, a bug budget can certainly be beneficial, especially when it comes to targeting highly competitive keywords, but it doesn't guarantee SEM success. 

Why? Because all ads need to go through a process called ad auction before appearing in the SERPs. 

So the ad auction takes place every time someone enters a search query into Google. To participate in the ad auction, marketers determine keywords they want to bid on and clarify how much they're willing to pay (per click) to have their ads appear. 

Having said that, if Google thinks that the keywords you've bid on are relevant to users' search queries, your ads are entered into the ad auction.

What Are the Benefits of Search Engine Marketing?

1. Increased Branding

Even if your potential customers don't click on ads, you will get noticed. Being listed on the top in SERPs will build a positive image of your brand and will surely generate social proof. The more times a business is seen on search engines, the more reputation it tends to gain. In fact, through SEM, you get free branding because you don't have to pay a penny until someone clicks on your ad. Amazing, isn't it?

2. Consistent Traffic

Driving relevant traffic (organically) to your website is one of the intimidating and tedious tasks of all time. That's where SEM comes as a rescuer. No doubt that Search Engine Optimization is effective, but it doesn't guarantee that your website will gain attention. However, SEM gives all the powers to marketers' hands, allowing them to list the websites on top of all organic listings.

3. Geotargeting

This is one of the most significant benefits of SEM. With SEO, it's impossible to choose who views the search listing; it's all up to the search engine. Well, that's not the case with SEM. Because of its ability to specify the location and demographics, SEM ads can help businesses target and reach their ideal prospects. With SEM, companies can decide their ads to be shown to the targeted audience only, not just anyone and everyone. 

4. Lower Bounce Rates

Owning a website that doesn't convert is painful for businesses. It even hurts the ROI in the long run. Here's good news for you - SEM lowers the bounce rates. How? When you use paid ads, your website appears on top. Consequently, users engage with the websites they see on top in SERPs and engage with them. The more visitors stay on your website, the better it is.

5. Quick Results

This is one of the most significant benefits of SEM over SEO. Did you know that it takes less than an hour to set up an SEM campaign? Yes, you read that right. For time-based offers, promotions, etc., SEO can take weeks or even months to show results. However, SEM can bring results instantly. That being said, it is believed that SEM provides faster results than any other marketing tactic.

6. Higher Revenue

If you do SEM the right way, you can easily generate instant revenues via SEM ads. All you need to do is be a bit cautious while setting a budget, running ads, or even displaying them. If you adopt the right SEM tactics and strategies, you can actually generate quality leads and drive revenue for your business.

Search Engine Marketing: Final Take

That's all for the quick beginner's guide to SEM. This guide to SEM is designed to give you a basic understanding of search engine marketing and how to leverage it to make your marketing more effective and result-driven. I hope this quick guide to search engine marketing helped you understand everything you were looking to learn about SEM.

As now you know about SEM, it's time to implement everything I discussed in this guide and take your marketing game to a whole new level. So are you ready? Get. Sep. SEM. Now.

Pro Tip: 

Once you understand the search intent and the searcher's psyche, you can master the keywords game easily. And once you master the keywords game, voila! You're ready to win over your rivals with strong SEM because keywords are the foundation of effective SEM.