What Is SEM? PPC & Paid Search Marketing Explained


SEO, SEM, PPC, ROI, SERP. It seems there are endless acronyms when it comes to digital marketing. But one that seems to get less attention than the others is SEM. So, what is SEM and how is it effective at growing your business?  

With online competition being fiercer than ever before, and as consumers head online, there’s never been a more crucial time to understand SEM. This post will help you to learn about the basics of SEM along with some tips for doing it right!

What is SEM?

The first question to answer is what is SEM? 

SEM stands for search engine marketing. It is the process that goes into marketing a business through paid advertisements. These advertisements appear on search engine results pages (SERPs).

To get paid advertisements onto these search engine results pages, advertisers have to bid on keywords. These keywords are related to their products or services and the search phrases search engine users might enter to get specific results. 

If an advertiser’s bid is successful on a particular keyword, then their ad will appear as the results for those search queries. 

This is commonly known as pay-per-click advertising (PPC). PPC is essentially the same thing as search engine marketing (SEM). It is the most important part of SEM.

You can expand your knowledge of PPC and how paid search marketing works in this blog post.

PPC ads come in all different shapes and sizes, but the thing they have in common is the opportunity they provide to advertisers. Targeted ads can be placed right in front of the eyes of those who are already searching for those specific products or services.

That’s what makes search engine marketing so powerful!

What is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is different from SEM in that its approach is more organic. A website that is search engine optimized will earn a spot in search results. Optimization happens by including keywords in the content of the website. 

SEM, on the other hand, includes a paid approach. Advertisers pay search engines in order to have their ads displayed on their desired search results page. 

While SEO works to drive traffic and gain awareness, SEM targets customers who are ready to make a purchase. That is why SEO and SEM are so powerful when used together! 

Why is it Important to Know the Difference?

You might be thinking all the jargon is too much to worry about. But understanding the difference between SEO and SEM is important. The main reason for this is having consistency between your digital marketing terms and abbreviations.

It’s all too common for marketers to get their wires crossed when it comes to these terms. In turn, this leaves the true meaning of those terms and abbreviations completely lost.

Keeping the meaning of these terms clear and consistent is the best way to keep information organized. That goes for marketers everywhere.

When certain terms remain clear, we are better able to use them to explain strategies and collaborate on our thoughts and ideas. 

Consistency in marketing will always be important!

Tips for Creating an SEM Strategy

Clarity on the difference between SEO and SEM is important. So, once you have that part sorted out, how do you get started on SEM?

Here are some of the best tips for creating an effective SEM strategy.

seo agency success

Keyword Intent

In order to have a PPC strategy that works, you need to have the proper keywords in place to bid on. To get the proper keywords you will need to complete keyword research.

Start by thinking about what search queries you would like your business to show up for. 

For example, a florist in Stuart Florida would likely want to show up for a search query such as ‘florist in Stuart Florida’. 

Think about the terms that have to do with your brand, or that describes your product or service. There are all kinds of tools available as well for helping you complete keyword research.

Once you have completed your keyword research, you’ll have a list of keyword terms you can bid on as a part of your PPC campaign.

Click here for your go-to guide for keyword research.

Keyword Cost

To determine where your ad is placed, search engines like Google will look at the bid you placed on the keyword and the quality score that has been given to your ad. This means the higher you bid and the higher quality score you have, the more likely you are to receive good ad placement.

It’s not necessarily bad to bid lower, but you will want to keep in mind the process can be competitive. Make sure you bid accordingly.

Keyword Volume and Competition 

Evaluating competition on your chosen keywords is an important part of your SEM strategy. Keywords with the lower competition are going to be easier to show up for on SERPs.

While this is great news, the chosen keyword could have lower competition because no one is searching for that particular keyword.

As you complete your keyword research, try to look for keywords that have a high search volume with low competition.


It’s simple but it’s true. Great copy makes for a great ad.

Even with paid advertising, you need to remember your dollars won’t do the work for you. It is up to you to create ad copy that will entice users to click and make a purchase.

Think about what it is your users are searching for and what will make your offer more attractive to them. This will require an ongoing effort on your part to make adjustments and evaluate what is and isn’t working.

Ready, Set, SEM

Now that you have the low down on SEM, and are equipped with some of our best tips, it’s time to get started! SEM could be just the push your business needs to get your products or services in front of valuable customers.

If you’re looking for help in getting the job done right, Blue Water Marketing in Stuart, FL can put together an SEM strategy built to deliver. Give us a call today to chat and get the expert help you’re looking for!


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