What Is SEM & Paid Search Marketing?

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What Is SEM?

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines.

Related SEM Synonyms & Acronyms

“Search Engine Marketing” was once was used as an umbrella term to encompass both SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search activities. Over time, the industry has adopted the SEM acronym to refer solely to paid search.

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. Below are some of the most common terms also used to refer to SEM activities:

  • Paid search ads
  • Paid search advertising
  • PPC (pay-per-click) *
    • PPC (pay-per-call) – some ads, particularly those served to mobile search users, may be charged by the number of clicks that resulted in a direct call from a smartphone.
  • CPC (cost-per-click) *
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) *
    • Most search ads are sold on a CPC / PPC basis, but some advertising options may also be sold on a CPM basis.

SEM For Beginners

Google AdWords is by many measures the most popular paid search platform used by search marketers, followed by Bing Ads, which also serves a significant portion of ads on Yahoo.

Beyond that, there are a number of “2nd tier PPC platforms” as well as PPC advertising options on the major social networks.

In addition to covering general paid search trends, you can find the most recent news about SEM and helpful tips to get started with PPC ads on the major search marketing platforms below:

Each platform offers its own getting started guides and helpful tutorials. Another beginner resource is Google’s Insider’s Guide To AdWords (PDF). Since the guide was last updated in 2008, the Google AdWords UI (user interface) has changed, along with several features, but the guide may still offer a useful introduction.

In 2014, Google AdWords released a new video about how AdWords PPC auctions work:

Pay Per Click Advertising Tips & Tactics

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

  • All PPC News & Articles includes verified product features and announcements from the major search advertising platforms covered by our editorial staff, plus expert analysis and real-world advice from our contributor network.
  • How To: Paid Search is our section that is devoted to practical tips and tactics about paid search ads.

Search Ads Archives: This area of Search Engine Land provides a collection of all stories we’ve written on the topic of paid search. There, you’ll find additional sub-categories for special topics in paid search marketing including:

More Search Marketing Resources

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At our sister editorial site Marketing Land, we cover related topics in digital marketing, social and search based advertising, including:

At Digital Marketing Depot, the research arm of our parent company, there is an archive of PPC / Paid Search presentations available webcasts on demand, to anyone, for free.

You can also learn beginner to advanced PPC techniques at our paid search marketing workshops and general sessions at our conference series, Search Marketing Expo.

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