Search Engine Marketing Applied

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Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an effective paid advertisement strategy for targeting prospects on search engines and reducing acquisition costs. As a strategy enterprises often use SEM to increase their website’s visibility in search engines.  It is also referred to as PPC (pay per click) advertisement as the advertiser pays the advertisement amount only when someone clicks on their ad.

SEM is a critical element of many digital marketing strategies, given that people searching for a specific product or service on search engines are genuinely most likely interested in considering the product or buying.  Although more costly and direct as a strategy than SEO activities in the short term, it makes SEM very effective as advertisers can attract high-quality traffic to their website, increasing the chances of profitable action.

Difference Between SEM and SEO

Search engine marketing and search engine optimisation are different and can be best understood by considering that SEO relates to organic search results while SEM is based on paid search results.

Organisations use SEM to attract prospects quickly, whereas SEO requires time to take effect.

Both these digital marketing strategies are effective and are often delivered simultaneously in campaigns. If a company wants to build its reach quickly, SEM is a more suitable option. However, working on SEO while you run SEM campaigns is important as it has several benefits, not least to leverage the extra traffic generated through PPC to increase ranking.  

People using search engines to find something are shown corresponding results, yet search engines know which results are relevant when good SEO has been engineered into the content. SEO is the vehicle used to tell search engines crawling websites that the content is most relevant to the searched term.  

Benefits of SEM for Enterprises

Instant Search Engine Visibility

In contrast to SEO, SEM is a more direct route to clients, usually through PPC. Even if a website is not ranking anywhere near the first page in a search engine, a paid search engine marketing campaign can place it at the top of the first page.

Quick Revenue Generation

One of the critical opportunities through such pay per click marketing is that organisations don’t necessarily pay unless someone visits your ad (there is of course other forms of paid advertising such as for impressions which can work for awareness campaigns in particlular. Therefore thiss makes SEM quite impactful.  Particularly as people who click on a such advertisements are usually interested, and therefore chances of a conversion are higher.

Search engine marketing is an effective way to increase sales but it relies on marketing teams to be able to write compelling ad copy and follow a clear and defined strategy of finding the right channels to reach the target personas efficiently.

Targeted Traffic

It’s important to attract relevant traffic to a website if conversions are the main objective. With SEM, organisations can target people based on what they are searching.


The geo-targeting feature of SEM allows enterprises to advertise their products or services to any location. Moreover, companies can now use any language in their PPC ads, allowing them to reach any specific group online.

SEM Bidding and Relevancy

Search engine advertisement works on the bidding model. Advertisers bid on a specific keyword for the top position of a search engine.

While the bid amount is a major criterion for an ad to win the top spot in search engines, your ad’s relevancy to the keyword also plays an important role.


This was a brief introduction to search engine marketing. Below are some great resources where you can learn in detail about search engine marketing.

  • Here is a course on search engine marketing by Google
  • Learn how artificial intelligence will impact search marketing here


  • Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, E. (2016) Digital marketing: strategy, implementation, and practice. 6th ed. New York: Pearson.
  • Chaffey, D. and Smith, P. R. (2017) Digital marketing excellence: Planning, optimizing and integrating online marketing. 5th ed. London: Routledge.
  • Ryan, D. (2020) Understanding digital marketing: marketing strategies for engaging the digital generation. Kogan Page Publishers.


  • Aswani, R., Kar, A.K., Ilavarasan, P.V. and Dwivedi, Y.K. (2018) Search engine marketing is not all gold: Insights from Twitter and SEOClerks. International Journal of Information Management38(1), 107-116.
  • Hassan, A. and Dadwal, S.S. (2018) Search Engine Marketing: An Outlining of Conceptualization and Strategic Application. In Digital Marketing and Consumer Engagement: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications, 843-858.

Published by Dr John Bustard

I am currently a Lecturer in Digital Transformation within Ulster University Business School, specifically within the school's largest department: Management, Leadership and Marketing. Previously, as a researcher, lecturer and doctoral candidate I focused on digital events and delivered classes to MSc & BSc level. My duties have included coordinating and guest lecturing on Marketing Communications, Enterprise & New Venture Creation, e-Business Strategy, Research Methods. My particular passion is through exploring Digital Marketing approaches which enhance student awareness and appreciation of the impact of digital and an enquiring mind to understand future technology applications. *All views are my own*

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