What Is SEM & Paid Search Marketing?

SEM is the process 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.

SEM is short for “search engine marketing,” which once was used as an umbrella term to encompass both SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search activities. However, over time, many adopted the SEM acronym to refer solely to paid search.

Here at Search Engine Land, we generally use SEM and/or paid search to refer to paid listings, with the longer term of search marketing used to encompass both SEO and SEM.

Advice For Newbies

New to paid search ads? Don’t worry! Search Engine Land has the perfect series for you: PPC Academy. This special column began in 2010 and provides a different installment each week to bring you up to speed on paid search.

Another starting place is Google’s “Insider’s Guide To AdWords,” which you’ll find here in PDF format. AdWords is by many measures the most popular paid search platform used by search marketers, so the guide offers a useful introduction.

Of course, there’s much more to paid search than what’s covered in Google’s guide. You might consider some of the many print books out there with advice. Here’s our review of some newer books: A Roundup Of Best Search Advertising Books.

Advice At Search Engine Land

Here at Search Engine Land, we provide paid search advertising information and news in a variety of ways:

How To: Paid Search is our section that is devoted to practical tips and tactics about paid search ads.

Paid Search is Search Engine Land’s column that covers different paid search topics every week.

Search Ads Library Archives: This area of Search Engine Land provides a collection of all stories we’ve written on the topic of paid search. We also have subcategories, including:

In addition to covering paid search generally, Search Engine Land also has paid search areas specifically for each of the major search engines:

Over on Digital Marketing Depot, there is an archive of PPC / Paid Search presentations available webcasts on demand, to anyone, for free.

Continuing Advice & News

Don’t forget to get our free SearchCap newsletter! SearchCap has a recap of all the day’s paid search news from sources all over the web, as well as the day’s news from Search Engine Land and from Search Engine Land’s sister site, Marketing Land.


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