Different from SEO, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a strategy that uses paid tactics to gain visibility on search engines. It is also known as PPC (pay-per-click).

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As opposed to using tactics that help a website rank organically, SEM uses PPC advertising platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads to use the available ad formats to reach your target audience.

And, as a tactic, it involves everything from setting up and optimizing paid ads, to managing the account to increase conversions and returns.

SEMs will usually begin a campaign with comprehensive keyword research and competitor insights to create targeted campaigns that place their products and services in front of a target audience.

These campaigns include the likes of:

  • Search Ads (text ads)
  • Shopping Ads
  • Display Ads
  • Gmail Ads
  • YouTube Ads

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These are all different formats available within Google Ads — all of which can help you to reach your target audience.

When users search for specific terms that the advertiser is running ads against, they will see a custom ad, usually at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Or, in some cases, shopping ads. Every time the ad is clicked, the business pays for this.

The Benefits of SEM

While with SEO, it can often take months to see real results, with SEM, you can be driving clicks and conversions in a very short period of time.

You can take full control over when ads show and who they show to, making the channel perfect for testing out new strategies, sending traffic to a sale, or for accelerating traffic during quieter periods.

The reality is that SEO and SEM shouldn't be seen as channels in isolation and, ideally, should be seen as two parts of a larger digital strategy that drives visibility, traffic, and conversions from the search engines.

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