Search engine marketing (SEM) is an umbrella term for the paid strategies businesses use to gain visibility and drive traffic from search engines. It allows a brand to create sponsored ads that appear on the side or at the top of search engine results pages. These ads appear alongside other search listings that match a visitor’s search query, making it likely that they will click through. Search engines rely on sophisticated algorithms to ensure visitors see the most relevant results for each search, including ratings and other available information.
Search engine marketing is done through networks that deliver the ads to search engine users. The most popular network is Google Ads, consisting of search-based websites hosted by Google, plus other properties like Gmail, YouTube, and Blogger. SEM networks allow for self-service, meaning that brands can design and publish a campaign without requiring much support.
When building a campaign within an SEM network like Google Ads, a brand will be prompted to:
- Perform keyword research and choose a handful of keywords related to their product or website
- Pick the geographic location they want the ad to be displayed within
- Create a text-based ad, where they enter a headline, short description, and a call-to-action
- Bid on the price they are willing to pay for each click on the ad