What Is SEM?

what is sem

Short Answer:

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, and refers to any form of online marketing that focusses on improving a website’s visibility in search engines like Google. That means it encompasses both SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and AdWords, which are two related but very different forms of marketing.

So how does SEO and AdWords work? 

Long Answer:

As already mentioned, SEO and AdWords are the two main elements of SEM, and can basically be seen as organic and paid marketing respectively.


Search Engine Marketing refers to marketing used to try and influence organic results (i.e. anything that isn’t an ad) that show up when you search for something in Google or another search engine. There are many factors that go into trying to positively affect a website’s SEO, and the rules for best practices has evolved greatly over the years.

At a basic level, elements that someone should consider when optimising a page for organic search engine results include:

  • Optimised content – including keywords and quality, informative copy
  • Links
  • Site Maps
  • Websites free of malware issues
  • Google Maps for local listings


AdWords, sometimes referred to as Pay Per Click (PPC), refers to the advertisements that show up at the top and along the side of organic results in Google. To actually have your ad appear in results isn’t as simple as it may seem, and actually requires some careful planning and managing of your AdWords campaign.

First of all, you’ll have to determine what keywords you’ll want to show up for. Then, you’ll need to bid on those keywords to try and get your ad to show up, and to rank highly amongst the other ads. Google determines your ad’s importance by multiplying the score of the following two factors to get your total Ad Rank:

  1.  CPC Bid: this is the maximum amount you will be willing to bid on that specific keyword. You can get an idea of how much the keyword is worth using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool.
  2. Quality Score: this is determined by how relevant and useful your ad is to the user, calculated by the click through rate of the ad, how relevant the ad is to the particular keywords you want to show up for, and the information displayed on the landing page that users click through to

AdWords is most effectively utilised by routinely revisiting the keywords you’re bidding on and trying to improve your quality score.


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