A man holding a tablet with a search icon above the tablet

The Ultimate Guide to SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

Here's what we'll cover

Growing a business is currently more challenging than ever. The marketplace is more competitive, and everyone is trying out a new digital marketing concept that they don’t fully understand. However, have you thought of search engine marketing? Unlike conventional SEO where you need to write high-quality articles then optimize them for search engines, SEM involves paid advertising on search engines.

Today, let’s focus on search engine marketing or SEM.

SEM is a proven method of increasing your online visibility, promoting your products, and growing your business.

For you to take full advantage of SEM there are a few basics you must understand.

Download Now: Free SEO Checklist For 2020

What Is SEM–Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing involves using paid advertisements that appear on SERPs (search engine results pages).

Before you get started, you need to find keywords that are commonly used by potential customers when searching for your products and services on major search engines like Google.

These keywords are the key to your advertisements appearing alongside results for targeted search queries.

Search Engine Advertising is also known as pay-per-click advertising.

PPC advertisements come in different formats, and while some are small and solely text-based, others are more visual PLAs (product listing ads).

Even though visual PLAs provide more information at a glance, both PPC advertising formats give your business a chance to put its Ads in front of targeted and motivated customers.

The targeted audience is likely to be prepared to buy what you can offer at the precise moment they see your advertisement.

This is what makes SEM highly effective.


SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are two different things.

How is that?

The latter involves paid search marketing where you pay Google to show your advertisements in targeted search results.

The former, on the other hand, consists of using relevant keyword-rich content to earn a better rank on Google.

Both SEM and SEO are fundamental parts of any practical online marketing strategy.

Do You Need SEM?

This is a very common question asked by most digital marketers.

The internet is a goldmine. Every day, you are almost guaranteed that thousands of people will be online researching and shopping for the products or services you sell.

There are enough goodies to go round, but only for the businesses with reasonable online visibility.

The only way your business will get a piece of the pie is if it increases its online reach through SEM.

Your marketing dollar will only be spent on impressions that lead to your website visitors.

As a bonus, each visitor your website receives increases your ranking in organic search results.

Iin addition,

SEM is more effective than the majority of search engine advertising campaigns, including paid social media advertisements.

This is because consumers enter search queries to find specific information and are in the perfect state of mind to spend money on your goods or services.

In all other forms of advertising, the consumer will highly unlikely be openly searching for something.

The advertisements may, therefore, feel intrusive and perhaps even interrupt the tasks they have at hand. With SEM, the results are almost immediate.

Arguably, search engine marketing offers the fastest way to direct targeted traffic to a website.

How SEM Works

Google and other major search engines use complex algorithms for the most relevant results to get a top rank.

With each search, aspects like keywords and location are taken into account.

Sponsored PPC ads, on the other hand, appear on the top as well as on the side of search results.

This gives them more prominence than organic results, and your site will, by design, be more visible.

Targeted consumers have a good chance of clicking on your advertisements, visiting your website, and buying from your company.

To get your SEM campaign up and running, here are the steps you should take once you have identified a suitable SEM network:

  • Conduct Your research to identify the most relevant keywords to use (for more accurate results, use SEM tools)
  • Choose your geographic location
  • Create a compelling text-based/visual advertisement to display in search results
  • Bid on the amount of cash you can spend for each click on your ad

Search Ad Networks

The two main search advertising networks are Google Ads and Bing Ads.

Google Ads comprises of two networks: Google Display Network and Google Search Network.

The former includes a range of properties, including Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube, while the latter exclusively consist of search-related sites owned by Google.

Bing Ads allows advertisers to benefit from search engine advertising on Bing’s network as well as Yahoo’s network.

Google Ads is the larger network, although its pricing is lower when compared to Bing Ads.

Through either network, your business can benefit from better online visibility for competitive keyword phrase searches.

Best SEM Tools

Certain tools can help you use search engine marketing to effectively advertise your products or services on search engine results pages. They include:

  • SEMRush
  • Google Trends
  • Keywordtool.Io
  • Google Ads Keyword Planner
  •   SpyFu


This tool is designed to help you conduct in-depth keyword research. You can also use it for website traffic analysis, site audits, and keyword rank tracking.

This is a fantastic tool that can also come in handy when trying to learn where your competitors are focusing their marketing efforts.

SEMRush can help you keep pace with other dominating companies in your industry.

With this tool, you can track the search volume of a specific keyword within a particular time frame, location, or language.

This makes it easier to identify search terms that are trending and those that are decreasing in popularity.

Using Google Trends, you can know which keywords can complement your SEM efforts.

Furthermore, this tool will help you gauge the interest in your company’s products or services within a particular geographical area.


This is a powerful tool that can tap into Twitter, Google, YouTube, Bing, Instagram, Amazon, and the App Store.

You can, therefore, segment your keyword research through different channels and achieve better results.

Keywordtool.Io can also analyze Google search trends to help you unveil the most desired keywords for your SEM campaigns

Google Ads Keyword Planner

Choosing the most relevant keywords for your business is much easier when using Google Ads Keyword Planner.

This tool can help you keep track of the performance of specific keywords over time.

The keyword planner will also suggest to you the bid estimates of different keywords for you to choose a package that suits your advertising budget.


For you to get a bigger piece of the pie, you need to be ahead of the competition.

SpyFu allows you to spy on your competitors and know which keywords they have bought on Google.

You can also spy on all the Ad variations they have used within the last 12 years!

These tools are designed to complement your SEM and help you stay ahead of the game.



How do I start an SEM?

The first step is looking for the perfect search engine, start small with your SEM strategy, start with your most important keywords, be consistent with your ads, ensure your landing page is perfect, and then ensure you do a daily review.

Which is better SEO or SEM?

Both are important when it comes to marketing a brand online. However, SEM has a wide reach because it is more targeted as compared to SEO.

What are the benefits of SEM?

SEM will help you increase your brand awareness, visibility and increase the number of leads.

Scroll to Top